Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cabin Fever


An unseasonably warm weekend has kicked my cabin fever into overdrive. Normally, I spend the winter months hibernating from the cold and snow under blankets and dreaming of camping trips to come. It was so warm this weekend, that I actually begged my husband to take me camping. A man of logic, he said no, because it was winterized. 
To add to my desire to be out roaming, we went to visit our camper in storage this weekend. It was a routine check to make sure no unwanted critters had found their way inside. The Bullet and The Rockwood are stored next to each other and both were in great shape. Fourteen short weeks until their first scheduled trip of 2016.
Even though we have not been able to camp, not a day goes by when we are not thinking about camping or The Bullet. During our downtime we took the RV in for routine maintenance. We have purchased new step covers as well as LED flexible lighting. I am shopping around for a new outdoor patio rug as a critter chewed a hole in my current one.
Even routine trips to my favorite craft stores has turned into a shopping spree for the camper. I found these really cute wooden letters the other day and can't wait to put them up in the camper. I wonder how those 3M Strips will be in the camper? My husband is concerned the changing temperatures might effect their bonding.

The Bullet sleeps eleven and has three bunk beds, a queen bed, and a futon couch that makes into a king bed. During this winter hiatus, I scored an unbelievable deal of 1800 thread count sheets for every bed in the camper. I literally chuckle out loud thinking about it. Why? Because everyone needs to camp on 1800 thread count sheets, right?
The obvious winter activity is booking summer trips, and we have been doing our fair share of this activity. After purchasing a new 2016 camping journal the planning began. Many parks will let you book six months in advance. We have all spent hours analyzing satellite photos, studying campground maps, and reading consumer reviews in our selection of the best sites available. We are booked for all holiday weekends and our large summer road trip taking us through July 2016.
I know I am speaking for all seven of us, we look forward to sharing our travels with you. First, we just have to get through this winter.

You can find this post and soon others at our new blog, Roam With Friends. If you are interested in following our camping adventures, head over to Roam With Friends

Monday, February 1, 2016

Addressing My Addiction: Diet Coke

I am an addict. My addiction is not illegal, which on some level means it is not a big deal. But it is. Or I should say it was. My addiction is to a certain diet soda, Diet Coke. I have been addicted to Diet Coke for the past thirty years.



My love affair with Diet Coke, started way back in high school or maybe even late junior high school. My next door neighbor, best friend, running buddy, Page, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 12 years old. After she spent what seemed like an eternity in a children's hospital getting stabilized and learning how to manage her new life style, she returned home and introduced me to Diet Coke. Before she went into the hospital, we both drank Pepsi Cola. All we knew of diet soda was Tab and we both agreed it was awful. Just plain awful. What we did not know what that NutraSweet had replaced Saccharine as the artificial sweetener and when Page assured me it tasted really good, I jumped on her band wagon.

Through out the years, I have had at least one Diet Coke every single day. Some days I have had two. Or three. Yes, and maybe even four. It was the first thing I consumed in the morning and maybe even the last thing in the evening. In the past thirty years I have give up Diet Coke on three separate occasions. The first time was for three months in 1996 when I was pregnant with The Boy. The second time was in 2007 when I was pregnant with The Short Chic. Back then I decided that my body was host to aliens and was rejecting everything I liked. The third time was in 2010 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I stopped drinking Diet Coke for six or more months as everything I consumed tasted metallic and horrible. I should also say, even during these times, I still opened a can on a regular basis and tried to consume it.

Within the past year, I have been listening to the amount of research on how unhealthy diet soda is.  I found myself contemplating giving it up. Let's be honest...I considered it with a Diet Coke in my hand!  Then something happened on a non-important, unidentifiable day in July, 2015. I realized I had been so busy I had not had a Diet Coke in a day.  I started making small goals for myself. "Can you make it to lunch without one?" "How about all through the work day?" Then the goals got bigger. "You went two days, can you go another?" "Can you make it through a weekend?" "How about a whole week?"

It was not easy.  Every minute of the day was a conscious decision to not have a Diet Coke. I was obsessed. I would randomly tell people, "I am not drinking Diet Coke any more." Then I would turn around and order one on auto pilot at a restaurant. Thankfully, I would catch myself and change my order. Slowly, the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months.


The day after we dropped The Boy off at college was probably the lowest point in my recovery or in my whole entire year!  I had spent the majority of the day and night crying. When I woke the morning after I just felt the need for comfort. As I sat in my chair the morning after, I just wanted something to feel normal. I remember making a decision to have a Diet Coke. I had been on this journey about a month and a half and I honestly thought, I would start again the day after. As I walked to the refrigerator I remember I had made the decision that I wanted three Diet Cokes. THREE, I knew, is what it would take for me to feel okay in that moment. When I got to the refrigerator, I found there was no Diet Coke. The Husband had cleared all the Diet Coke out of the house. I had not even noticed. There was no emergency back up. It was all gone. At the time I was so heartbroken but in the end, not caving that day was monumental.

So many people told me that I would find my taste buds would change and I would no longer like the taste of Diet Coke. When they told me that I scoffed at them. Never ever would I find the taste unappealing. Then about three months into this journey, I had an opportunity to sneak a sip from The Husband's soda. It did taste horrible! It tasted very similar to chemo-Diet Coke; metallic and chemically.

I always felt I understood addictions. The need to escape pain in our lives. I get that. I get how something can start small and roll into something much bigger than you ever imagined. Since giving up Diet Coke, I have developed a new bigger respect for anyone who has ever beaten an addiction. It is seriously the hardest work.

It has been shy of seven months since that unidentifiable day in July 2015. I no longer get all weak in the knee's when I see my husband's glass of fizzing Diet Coke. I will be honest, the Diet Coke commercials still get to me. I stop like a little a conditioned puppy dog and stare at the television every single time they show that lady on the plane drinking a Diet Coke. I even find myself dancing along. Boy, are they good at advertising!


A lot of people ask me if I feel better. Honestly, I don't notice any physical changes. I did not loose weight, there are no calories in Diet Soda. The biggest side effect I have noticed is I find myself repulsed by most artificial sweeteners and other preservatives now. I tried Sparkling ICE flavored water. I even tried bottled tea. I manage well with a cup of coffee in the morning, numerous glasses of water a day, and maybe a cup of fresh brewed tea along the way.

I do feel accomplished. I never view this as a journey that is finished. As most addictions go, I am managing this one. Right now I am winning. Seven months is a long time, but it is also a drop in the bucket. Every time anyone from my family makes a trip to the convenience store they ask if I want anything. I still answer "Yes, a Diet Coke." Thankfully, they think I am joking. Sometimes I am. But only sometimes.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Best (and Easiest) Steel Cut Oatmeal


Oatmeal is one of my favorite things. I love it in the winter on a cold day. I love it cold from the fridge on a hot day. Thankfully 3/4 family members agree with me. Although The Husband is a fair weathered supporter, he would select eggs, hash brown potatoes, sausage, and toast every day if he could.


I am trying to eat more steel cut oats instead of the old fashioned variety. Why? Steel cut oats have been processed way less than old fashioned  oatmeal (even more true for instant oatmeal). Less processing means more nutritional value. More nutritional value means better for you. Additional bonus, discount grocery store, Aldi, now carries steel cut oatmeal.

The only down side, steel cut oatmeal takes longer to cook. Which means I can't just make a bowl and run off to work, unless I do some advance preparation. One of the little known facts about myself, the person everyone thinks about being a great planner, is that I actually do very little advanced planning when it comes to meals. I rush around every morning trying to throw The Short Chic's lunch together, my breakfast together, as well as my lunch.

One of the things I love the most about this recipe is with very little advance prep, I have a week's worth of steel cut oatmeal prepared and just waiting for me in the fridge. My mornings may still be hectic (why can I never make our lunches ahead of time) but the breakfast portion just got a whole lot simpler thanks to Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal.

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal


2 cups Steel Cut Oatmeal
6 cups Water
1/2 cup Cranberries
1/3 cup Walnuts, Chopped
1/4 cup Ground Flax Seed
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
Agave


In a lined slow cooker add all dry ingredients (oatmeal, cranberries, walnuts, ground flax seed, and cinnamon. Make sure you give the dry ingredients a good stir to mix it all together before adding the water.

Here is the scoop, if you don't like cranberries, don't add them. If you don't like walnuts, don't add them. Get creative and add your favorite add-ins.


 Then add the water.   Then after you add the water, give it another good stir before you you walk away, just to make sure it is all mixed around.


Cook on low for 5 or 6 hours.


The top layers gets all brown and crusty. The inside is soft. Trust me this is good stuff right here!

After your oatmeal is cooked you will want to sweeten it. We all like something different so I do not sweeten the entire batch. I use Agave. The Short Chic likes a little brown sugar. The Husband likes Truvia. We also prefer to add a splash of Almond Milk to our oatmeal. YUMMY!


Here is the coolest tip I can share with you. I learned this little handy tip from my friend Tracy. She is maybe the smartest person I know. I want this recipe hot when I wake up in the morning which would require me to get up in the middle of the  night to turn it on. Instead, I plug my slow cooker into one of those light timers. Then I set it to turn on in the middle of the night and it is ready when I wake up!


Monday, January 25, 2016

Emotional Eating


This is a very personal post for me. I have been trying to put words to feelings for a few weeks now. Every day I log into this blog I see this post, unfinished just sitting in collection. Some of these things are hard to state much less open myself up to judgement of others. Growth does not always come easy or without bumps and bruises, right. So, here I go. Being as authentic as I can be.

I have found that my personal life often effects my professional life and vise versa. This is one of those times. Understanding trauma and it's effect on people has become a major trend in my line of work. {Probably a long overdue need but that is a whole other rant.} The Adverse Childhood Experience study was a large piece of research that was conducted some years ago. It linked childhood trauma to adverse medical conditions in adults; from obesity to diabetes; from substance abuse to heart disease. I recently took the ACE Study Questionnaire, ten questions each worth one point. My ACE score was a significant 5/10.

The study would suggest that I am high risk for physical health related side effects. Other than being overweight, I would argue that I am pretty healthy.  I have low blood pressure, get normal sleep each night, I drink only occasionally, I do not smoke, I do not use drugs, I even gave up drinking diet soda this past year. So when examining the Adverse Effects of my ACE Score of 5, I have to critically analyze the weight.  If I am honest I have to admit that my weight, if not address, will cause me health issues the older I become. My weight is directly tied to the fact that I am an emotional eater.

                                 

Emotional Eating may mean different things for different people but for me eating has been my way of coping with any feeling I have ever experienced.

  • As a young person when I was home alone and felt lonely; I ate. 
  • When I was bored, I ate. 
  • In college when I was stressed out; I ate. 
  • When I did not feel like I fit in; I ate. 
  • Any time I felt scared; I ate.  
  • When I got divorced; I ate.
  • Even in celebrations and times of happiness; I ate. 
Over the past thirty five years I would say that I have dealt with any feeling in the exact same way; I ate. This is emotional eating for me. 

Since I took the ACES study I have forced myself to stare at this with new open eyes. Every time I feel the need to grab a snack, I am asking myself, what are you feeling. Occasionally I am feeling hungry. But more often than not, I am feeling some other emotion. The week The Boy participated in Hell Week was the hardest week ever. Every single night I found myself mentally raiding the refrigerator, the pantry, the freezer an hour or so after dinner.  Every night I would literally ask myself, "what is going on with you?"  The answer was always; you miss your son, you are worried about your son, you feel alone, you are sad, you are mad. It was never, you are hungry.

My long term plan is to substitute emotional eating with some other healthier behavior. Many nights I have physically gotten up and found something to do. It did not have to be a big thing. Several nights it was sweeping the floor. Or doing dishes. Or even moving from one room of the house to another. If the urge to consume something did not leave, I allowed myself a cup of tea. It is amazing how much one cup of tea can help. I should also say the treadmill in our house has been dusted off and plugged back in. It is ready for me when I am ready to substitute eating with exercise. 

Such simple solutions really but you know what, they have worked. Knowing the difference between I am bored and I am sad has helped me develop new responses to my emotions. Eating when I am only hungry has already helped me lose six pounds. 

I am a work in progress. But I do pledge to keep working. 


Monday, January 18, 2016

We Survived Hell Week

Some time ago, I told you all that at the beginning of the school year, The Boy decided to pledge a fraternity.   The pledging process has been both a struggle and a blessing this semester. As a mom I have worried for hours concerned about his living situation, grades, partying, hazing, money and a rather large host of other things. From his perspective he has made some good friends and had a lot of support during this transition to college.


After a month home for Christmas break, The Boy returned back to college a week or so early so he could participate in Hell Week with his faternity. Never having been involved in Greek Life when I went to school, I am not sure exactly what Hell Week entails.  As a Mom, it does not sound like a thing you want your children participating in. Before he left I gave him my best Mom speech: 
"Son, you know I was a GDI (Gosh Darn Independent) in college and it worked well for me." 
"Son, you know you do not have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable." 
"Son, if they ask you to do something that you feel is not a good idea, it is okay to walk away."
"Son, I would rather you walk away and come home than not be able to walk away."

It is probably obvious to all of you that I have watched too many TV movies on Lifetime and that I need a psychiatrist. But in my defense, I am just a Mom who worries about her kids. 

He left a week ago. He promptly sent a text to his father and I and told us he would be completely unavailable by phone for a week and provided an emergency contact number. My heart sank to the bottom of my belly. Every night for this past week I have worried about him. I have missed hearing his voice. Every worst case scenario has run through my head: alcohol poisoning, broken bones, exposure, even branding crossed my mind!  Every single day all week long.


Then six days later, I woke to text message letting me know that he had made it. He called right after that and assured me he was very safe and extremely happy. He also told me never once was he physically hurt. He was initiated this past weekend into Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. 

I am  not sure as a Mom I can stop worrying. That just maybe in my genetic make up. I can be happy for him. He has already shown so much maturity that it melts my heart and gives me some strength to keep letting him go. He has shown commitment to something he wanted. He has advocated for himself, for others, and he even did some negotiating,  So yes, we both survived hell week. Now, he wears Greek letters across his chest and I am six pounds lighter from the stress diet I have been under!





Monday, January 11, 2016

Grandma's Fried Bread



I grew up in  a family with really good cooks; my momma, both of my grandmothers, my aunts, even my daddy. Their food may not have been the healthiest but it was always yummy!   Growing up my Momma made homemade bread every single week. I can still recall her large ceramic crock barely containing the white sticky dough expanding as it rose. I half expected it to explode all over the house like a balloon would do if pushed passed its capacity.  Momma would always cover the dough with a dishtowel and often the bread rose so far that there was a gap between the towel and the top of the crock.


Occasionally as Momma prepared the dough for the oven, she would pinch off small pieces and fry it for us. It was my favorite!  When she called us into the house to present the fried bread, my brother and I knew we were in for a treat! She fried those small pieces of dough in butter and served it with jam or honey. Every single bite  was a mouthful of buttery soft bread that melted in your mouth.


Momma always made bread-making look easy but I recall making homemade bread in high school foods class. My group was less than successful. Bread making became something I felt too intimidated to make until a few years ago I decided I wanted to perfect homemade cinnamon rolls.
I won't call myself an expert but I am no longer intimidated.

 Many things have changed since we were little. Momma no longer makes homemade bread every week. In fact, she recently told me she is not even sure when the last time she made it at all. She visited my home one day when I was making a batch of cinnamon rolls. Momma remarked that she might have forgotten how to make bread! We laughed and agreed it was probably like riding a bicycle. You might get rusty but you do not forget!


We visited Momma's home recently and I was excited to see she was making homemade bread. Giant bowls of dough covered with a tea towel were found by the furnace (the warmest place in her home) completing their second rise.  But instead of preparing the dough for the oven, Momma made enough fried break to feed a small army!



Momma found an eager helper to prepare the Fried Bread. The Short Chic could not wait to assist. As she showed The Short Chic how to prepare the dough for frying Momma told her how her how her own Momma made fried bread for her when she was a little girl. She told me her favorite bread recipe was actually my daddy's grandma. She calls it water bread because it uses water and not milk. I am planning to try it the next time I make cinnamon rolls.



Are you a bread maker? If you are, the next time you make bread, consider pinching off a small ball of dough and stretch it out well, then fry it up and enjoy a treat I grew up with.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas 2015: Just Not Our Year

Christmas has come and gone. It is now one for the memory books. The question remains, was it a good Christmas or something else?  It strikes me as how some Christmases have just the right chemistry and naturally come together and linger in our memories as great Christmases. Other Christmases fall short of that threshold. They were not necessarily bad but they were not great either. This later category is the Christmas we had this year. It is hard to put your finger on exactly why we categorize it in this matter. I can say  this Christmas had two themes: first, the moment your children grow up and lose their innocence can almost be marked on a calendar; and second: no matter how old your children get, sharing custody is one of the hardest things a parent can do. The holidays only intensifies this.

The Boy arrived home from college on a Friday, one week before Christmas. He left five days later to spend Christmas with his dad. Historically, when he has spent Christmas with his dad, we have planned and held a pre-Christmas celebration. This is exactly what we did this year: we had a family celebration the weekend before Christmas so he could celebrate the holiday with us.  The entire family was there along with some very close friends. We had a good time. The Boy requested smoked brisket for our family celebration so we had a good ole southern spread. The Husband smoked brisket, pork ribs, and beef ribs as well. I made baked cheesy grits, jalapeno bacon deviled eggs, collard greens, Texas Sheet cake, and banana pudding. All favorite things of The Boys (well, except the collard greens. I can't get him to touch them with a ten-foot poll!)



We had a nice early Christmas celebration, complete with my sons most favorite foods, all his favorite people, and family moments. I said good bye to him on the eve of Christmas Eve with plans to see him the Sunday after Christmas. The Husband and I moved forward celebrating Christmas with The Short Chic. 

Celebrating Christmas with The Short Chic was different this year.At home, she was excited to count down the days till Christmas. She hunted the house daily looking for her Scout Elf. Outside the house was different.  She refused to go see Santa. After much discussion she let us know the boys at school told her how stupid visiting Santa was. The week of Christmas, she conceded and went to visit Santa.  I think it was based more on the look of pure desperation in her mother's face than anything.  The Husband and I felt the change in the air and really wanted to hold tight to all we have known for at least another year.
  


As parents we get a lot of excitement over finding the most perfect gift for our children. As we watch the little ones open their gifts their joy is contagious. It makes us happy. This was the first year The Short Chic desired larger gifts and with larger gifts comes the side effect of less gifts. I think she enjoyed every moment and every gift the reality was there. Her slight disappointment also had center stage because she was the only one home on Christmas morning.

I took a few photos of the before and after of Christmas. Cookies for Santa. Cookies devoured by Santa. Presents under the tree. The carnage a little girl can make opening presents. On the surface all was good. But somehow I found myself on the sofa Christmas night watching Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors on network television.  Maybe it was the movie, or maybe the loss of innocence with The Short Chic, or maybe it was because The Boy was not with us on Christmas but I can tell you once the tears started they did not stop. 


 The day after Christmas, The Husband asked me if I had a nice Christmas. I answered him honestly. It was a perfectly nice Christmas, I told him as the tears stung my eyes once again. We both agreed, it just wasn't our year.

Even though we have come to accept sharing our time with The Boy, it is something you honestly never become fully accustom to. He is an adult now and I have been very supportive of him negotiating his own path. Part of that is learning to divide time during the holidays.

 As far as The Short Chic, she is growing up faster than her Daddy or I like. Who knows what the next year holds for us. We will keep crossing that path as it presents itself to us.