Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thankful 2015

I’ve been seeing a lot of daily posts across social media for the month of November counting people’s thankfulness, and while I’ve enjoyed seeing other people’s updates I haven’t participated myself this year.  That isn’t to say I’m not thankful for many things in my life, because I most certainly am.

I decided I would post a list here of the many things I have been thankful for, and while it will contain a lot of things, I’m sure it won’t be everything.  We should keep thankfulness in our hearts and minds all year, as well as the month of Thanksgiving.

·         My family
·         My friends, and those friends who have stolen so much of my heart they are family
·         My amazing boyfriend
·         Our “pack” (Bugsy and our new kid Bliss)
·         My job, I’m so incredibly thankful for this opportunity, I no longer want to puke at the thought of going to work in the mornings.
·         The house we live in, because even though it’s far (really far) from perfect, it’s home.
·         Applebee’s, Rooney’s, and Cielto Lindo… because without them I might actually have to cook on occasion.
·         That the weather has finally turned some and it’s no longer like sitting on the surface of the sun in my living room.
·         Hyperbole
·         Kindle and all the amazing books I’m able to download and take with me anywhere so I’m never without a book, I even have the app on my iPhone.
·         Technology that keeps me connected to friends and family that I may not be able to see or hear their voices often, I can still be up to date on their lives, or that has brought me new friends that I would have never made without the benefits of social media.
·         That earlier this year my uncle was able to get my car running smoothly again so that it would pass a smog inspection and I didn’t have to empty out my bank account or pull out all my hair in frustration.
·         That Netflix doesn’t charge late fees (sorry about keeping that movie for like 3 months btw)
·         That I didn’t get pulled over when it took me 2 months to put my registration sticker on my car… I paid for it on time, I just didn’t put it on the license plate… because lazy.
·         That even when I’m clumsy and hurt myself or have sinus problems, I’ve been relatively healthy… There is so much sickness and pain in the world, when my nose is runny or I have a headache, it doesn’t even compare to what so many other people are going through.
·         That I have a warm bed to sleep in at night, there are a lot of people in the world (or even our community) that don’t even have a stable roof over their heads, yeah it’s not the best bed in the world, but it’s more than what many people have.
·         That I was able to obtain a college degree without being saddled with tons of student loan debt.
·         That I grew up surrounded by love and privilege.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have to work hard for what I have, or that my family had things handed to them effortlessly, but we live in a country where so much is often taken for granted.  I’ve always had a safety net of sorts.  Not everyone can say that.
·         I’m thankful for the strong role models I’ve had in my life.  There have been lots of lessons to learn over the years, and I’m sure there are more to pick up along the way.  For those who taught me that the only time you really lose at anything is when you give up on yourself.  Play your hardest and to the best of your ability, and even if you don’t walk away with a victory, you can still feel victorious.  For those who taught me to never compromise my integrity.  If you can’t be real, nothing is real.
·         For afternoon snuggles with Bugsy in the lazy boy.
·         For having the opportunity to adopt Bliss this weekend.
·         For “I love you” text messages just because
·         For funny pictures of my friends’ and family’s children doing kid things.
·         For having a functioning washer and dryer at my house so I don’t have to literally lug dirty laundry across town.
·         For all the life experiences and dead ends that eventually led me to this place.
·         For learning that while bee stings are super irritating, I don’t think I’m allergic to them… mostly because while my finger still hurts, I didn’t die from it like the kid in My Girl (it was my first bee sting okay? Who knows what could have happened)
·         For all the people who volunteer at animal shelters.  I don’t think I could do it, just being in the room with all the dogs looking for homes broke my heart.  There were so many times I just wanted to cry for them, and of course take them all home, and give them all the snuggles.
·         For good music, and even for the terrible music I’m embarrassed to admit I listen to on occasion.
·         That when I fell down the other night I just bruised myself and didn’t once again sprain my ankle… even though I cried like a baby.
·         For good movies to entertain us while we don’t have cable.
·         That we finally got a landline so that while we live out in the country we don’t miss important phone calls.
·         That we live in a part of the world where it isn’t unreasonable to be dressed for the beach one day and snow the next.  That the cold we whine and cry about is nowhere near what the rest of the country faces…. Or the heat for that matter.
·         That gas prices are going down.
·         That I had the time and energy to make and post this list.


So there’s my list, of slightly over 30 things that I’m thankful for this season, and I’m sure it doesn’t even cover everything, but it’s a start.  Thank you for reading and I’ll see you on the next post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Opinions are like Assholes

... but really, everyone has one, and unless it's explicitly asked for, it's really rude to shove yours in someone else's face.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Little Update

I haven't checked in with personal life stuff in awhile and I thought it was time to post a short update.

We'll start with a career change.... 

Today marks the end of my 3rd week at my brand new job, in an industry I never saw myself in... and let me tell you, I love it.

After nearly 15 years in customer service focused jobs, whether that be retail, managing the gym from hell, or car rental, I found myself exhausted and looking for a change.  A friend of mine mentioned a job opening at the company she works for and less than a week later I had a job offer.... one with higher pay, better benefits, a more relaxed atmosphere, and almost zero customer interaction.  Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity, and it might be the best job decision I've ever made.

Moving on to a location change....

In July the BF and I moved from our house in town... to a tiny little map dot about 12 miles east.  It's been a surprisingly easy adjustment... except for all the dirt, seriously, I've never swept so much in my entire life and I still can't keep up with it.  Our dog, however, loves the increase in dirt to play in and stinky things for him to roll in.  We're considering finding a friend for him so that he's not lonely while we're at work all day, but we haven't decided what we want yet... we prefer a small-medium adult shelter dog... but that tends to limit our options to yappy chihuahuas, which neither of us are fans of.

The house has required some work, but it's starting to feel like home, the only thing I really miss is the proximity of grocery stores and regular internet access... I  went from living less than a mile away from a store to living 12+ miles away, and while it's not an impossible journey it makes you think about how much you really want something... and makes you plan to pick up things before you go home at the end of the day.


Those are the biggest recent adventures, and I'll try to do better at writing more as I get opportunities, it's just hard without having internet access at home anymore.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

a heart problem

I feel like we have a heart problem in this one great nation. We let too many things get in the way of loving each other and taking care of our neighbors.  We spend too much time looking down at our phones, at ourselves in the mirror, and not enough time looking at how we can help things get better.  We spend so much time trying to get what we believe is coming to us that there isn't enough time left in the day or money left in the bank to give what our communities deserve.
There are multiple mass shootings just about daily, I saw a calendar posted online today that showed all the mass shooting in the US this year. source  It's staggering.   What's even more baffling is that it's become so prevalent that people aren't even shocked by them anymore unless they hit close to home.  When people try to come up with solutions to all the gun violence they're met with resistance and people screaming about how no one is going to infringe on their Second Amendment rights to own firearms... but we have to do something to stop it, or at the very least find out why people are resorting to such drastic measures.  Is it mental illness? Is it entitlement? Is it just that some people are assholes and want to watch the world burn?  Personally I don't have any issues with stronger background checks and making sure your firearms are registered.  I don't feel like it infringes on your rights at all. You have a constitutional right to vote, but you still have to be at least 18 years old and be registered to cast your ballot, why shouldn't the same rules apply to pulling a trigger?  I understand that criminals are going to break laws, and murder has always been illegal, but you wouldn't let a diabetic toddler run around a candy store unattended, why would it be okay to allow just anyone to have access to items that were designed to maim and destroy? Yes... I also know that not all gun owners are irresponsible or mentally ill or going to go on a rampage, but if stricter laws, or making firearms/ammunition less easily accessible would save one town, one movie theater, one social security office, one elementary school from going though what Charleston, Aurora, Salinas, and Sandy Hook went through, it would be absolutely worth the inconvenience.

There is constant news coverage about people who abuse children, whether that be assaulting them, molesting them, starving them, kidnapping them, taking inappropriate photos of them and them profiting off those photos, what's the deal here? Do people really get off on violating our most innocent and vulnerable?

Websites like AshleyMadison encourage people to cheat on their spouses, and while this may not be the worst thing that could happen, it's still vile. If you don't want to be married, don't be married. If you want to be a dishonest creep, do it on your own time, don't hurt someone who loves you because you're bored.  If you feel like your partner is neglecting you, talk to them and try to figure out if the problem is fixable, if it is, fix it... if it isn't cut your losses and get out.  Maybe things aren't that simple, but that doesn't make creating an account on a site designed to help you be a cheat an honorable thing to do.

People seem to be more impatient and less empathetic than I've ever noticed. We live in a world of instant gratification, and if someone has to wait for more than a couple of minutes for anything they become irrationally irate.  Hey I'm sorry if you have to wait in line for your Big Mac, but those 10 people in line ahead of you got here first, it doesn't matter that you're in a hurry, everyone is in a hurry.  That doesn't mean you get to throw a tantrum because you ordered extra pickles and they forgot to add them to your burger.  Take a look at the Behind Closed Ovens blog on Jezebel's Kitchenette to see the worst of humanity and how they think it's acceptable to behave in restaurants.

Our educational system seems to be broken, in math and sciences we don't even rank in the top 20 based on global assessments. I'm including a graphic that illustrates the rankings, it belongs to a study from 2012 "which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries." source  This study actually shows that we are improving BUT the scores are still so low that it's shameful and wrong. There are so many people in this country that don't value education anymore.  With tuition prices and student debt through the roof fewer and fewer young adults are receiving a college education, and even having that degree isn't guaranteeing any sort of promising future anymore.  I don't know  how to fix this, I think parental involvement is key, your first teachers should be your parents.  They need to teach their children that having a desire for knowledge is admirable.  They need to be taught to ask questions, to make mistakes and to learn from them, that they need to do things for themselves and to not expect anything to be handed to them without effort on their parts, that grades are their payment for the work they've done....you don't get an A because your mom calls the teacher and asks them to change the grade, you get an A when you earn it.

There seems to be more instances of bullying and teenage suicide than in years past, and while this could be due to the prevalence of social media and international news being available 24 hours a day in the palm of your hand, it seems there isn't a week that goes by without hearing about someone taking their own life because people were mean, like really really mean to them.  I hate that our children think that death is the only way to escape their tormentors, and that the people who are torturing these poor souls have no conscience telling them to take a step back.  It doesn't even stop at adolescence though... look at our country's leaders, the politicians running for President in 2016 spend more time tearing each other down than talking about how their going to raise our status back to greatness.  One election year I'd like to see all the mudslinging stop and only hear about what Candidate A is going to do to make thing better.  I don't need Candidate A to tell me anything about Candidates B or C, they can talk for themselves.  Is it even possible to run a clean campaign anymore?  Can we have a hero who doesn't turn their neighbor into a villain?  Is there a way for us to work together despite our differences?

I know I've listed a lot of problems and not a lot of solutions, I've asked more questions than I've answered, but if any one of these start a dialogue to help us get through these dark days, then my words were not wasted.  We have a long row to hoe friends, but I think we have the tools to make it work.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zack, The Man From The Shack

As I was driving to work this morning, a little story popped into my head, it's a little Seuss-y, a little Silverstein-ish, and a lot of whimsy Lauren.


Zack

Zack, Zack, the man from the shack
Gathered all his things and put them in his pack
Said he was going to the moon and never coming back

He travelled down in the valleys
Wandered down back roads and slunk through many alleys

His dream was never far from his sight
It was always nestled among the stars at night

He crossed to distant lands
Met many different people and shook a thousand hands

One day he ran into a wise old monkey
Who asked "if you could be anywhere, where would you be?"
To that he replied "I'd be on the moon, you silly baboon!"

The monkey was worried, "Don't you know up there the air is too thin?
What will you do without oxygen?"
Zack told the monkey "I will hold my breath, as long as it takes
Keep my mouth closed so no air escapes"
The monkey was upset, "that's no way to live, no food, no drink
Please think this plan through, think think!"

But Zack could not be persuaded
Through deserts he walked, and oceans he waded
Mountains were climbed until his clothes were old and faded

Days turned to months, and months stretched to years
But he never gave up even faced with his biggest fears
Would he ever find the way?
Would be be able to get there and stay?

One evening he looked to the sky
With tears flowing down his face he screamed "WHY??"
"Why can't I find you? Why are you so far?"
The Moon smiled down and said "Oh there you are
Don't you know? The only way to get here is by flying car!"
So the Moon sent down her Moon-mobile, it was sparkly blue
Zack climbed in and off into the atmosphere he flew
After all his hard work, his wish came true
But as the earth grew smaller, he wasn't sure what he should do

What if the money was right?
What if the air grew thin and his throat grew tight?
How can a man live on the moon?
Was he really as crazy as they said? Loony as a loon?
The more he thought, the more he fret
Until his shirt was soaked through with sweat

The moon noticed his distress
"Friend there is no need to feel such duress,
Look in the glove box, you'll see a crank
Spin it hard and out will come an oxygen tank!"
He spun and spun, until the crank and sprung
And to his surprise out popped an iron lung.

He found the mouth piece and took a deep breath
"Oh Moon, you just saved me from the brink of death!"

The tank turned out to be endless
and Zack was never found breathless

Zack, Zack, man from the shack
Moved to the moon and never came back.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Here's the thing about heroes....

They come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, all walks of life, they wear different colored capes, and some don't wear capes at all.

Someone may think that Derek Jeter is their hero, while another person thinks that professional athletes are overpaid children playing games for money.  It doesn't make one person's view of Jeter more or less valid, it's just highly subjective.

That's why people getting mad at Caitlyn Jenner being honored as a hero instead of someone else who is "more deserving" irks me.  Is Caitlyn my personal hero? Eh... I think that her decision to transition late in life is brave and scary and that she can be a role model to so many people who just want to be themselves instead of pretending to be what society wants them to be, but I won't be dedicating a shrine to her in my living room... that space is reserved for Kelly Slater... I kid, I kid.

I think you can have multiple heroes, and they can range from someone who lives down the hall to someone on the moon.  If someone inspires you to be a better person, if someone has done great works, if someone has beat all odds and succeeded when everyone thought they would fail... I have no problem calling them a hero.

I don't think that it's fair or reasonable to think that because you don't think someone has reached "hero status" that they can't be someone that other people look up to, or that heroes are mutually exclusive.  Like I can't think that an EMT is a hero because firefighters are the real heroes... that just seems silly.... or another example I can't think that both soldiers and pacifists can both be champions.  Soldiers fight to keep us safe and free, they put their lives in the line of fire so that people like me don't have to, and I love them for that, at the same time I wish that we didn't have to use fists or guns and could instead use our words to get to a more peaceful place in this world.

Maybe my hero is a recovered alcoholic... someone who had demons, fought them, and won, but still feels weak sometimes.  Maybe your hero is your 8 year old niece who can still laugh and smile even though she has cancer.  Perhaps your neighbor's hero is that nice lady who has outlived her entire family and still manages to not be bitter.  There is even the possibility that YOU could be someone else's hero.  Not everyone is strong all the time, and they shouldn't be expected to, even the bravest person occasionally needs a hug and a night light.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Strawberry Pie... or why I like baking cakes

This year for the 4th of July I went to on of my FAVORITE tasting rooms.  Bedford Winery in Los Alamos is really the place to be, from the first time I walked through the doors there almost a year ago, I felt like family.  They host a ton of special events throughout the year, and offer a great selection of wines to sample in their tasting room.  If you love dogs, books, and wine (like me) this place will feel like home.  

The event for Independence Day was BYOPFP (Bake Your Own Pie For Prizes), and of course I had to participate (even if there may have been a slight conflict of interest with my BF being one of the judges).  I started thinking of all the pies I love, what I thought I could make, and what would stand out in a crowd.  I immediately thought of my Aunt Josephine's Strawberry Pie, but was a little intimidated because I've never baked a pie before (and I would learn for good reasons).  I took that inspiration and started thinking about what I wanted to make.  BF and I brainstormed a little and we cobbled together a pretty kick ass pie.  It wasn't one of the winners, there were some kinks to work out, but for a first attempt, I'd call it a success... with a teensy bit of side-eye.

The pie story really begins on the 3rd of July, when I went shopping for ingredients. I picked up a pretty pie plate at Target, along with a few other essentials (some clothes, some house hold items... you know, all the stuff you can't live without)... and by dawdling there I missed getting the the berry stand before they closed. BY FOUR FREAKING MINUTES. I knew they would open again in the morning, but I wouldn't have time to let the berries set up if I waited, that meant I would have to buy them at the grocery store. Now for most people, grocery store strawberries are the only option (and I feel really sorry for you), but I live in the strawberry capitol of California, and store bought ones only get purchased out of sheer desperation. So I go to the Albertson's near my house, buy two clamshells of berries and the rest of the ingredients I needed and headed home.  

While prepping the berries the night before (I quarted the regular sized ones, chopped the larger ones into pieces that were close to the others.... roughly 4 cups of strawberries) I realized that it was a stroke of genius to buy double what I thought I needed.... mostly because half of the berries were bruised and rotten. Way to go Albertsons, way to suck. I could have taken them back and complained, but I really didn't have time or the inclination.

that's not a giant bug, it's a mint leaf, I swear! 
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4+ cups of strawberries
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Mint Leaves
  • Basil Leaves
  • Unflavored Gelatin
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips--Melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Vanilla
  • Powdered Sugar

Berries:
  • Quarter roughly 4 cups of berries, they will shrink overnight, you'll need about 3 cups to fill the pie.
  • Mix in a generous splash of your favorite balsamic vinegar, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves.
  • Let sit overnight to get the juices flowing.
  • After the berries have set overnight and created a juice  strain the berries.  Boil a small amount of the juice with the unflavored gelatin until it has thoroughly mixed.
  • Mix the gelatin mix back into the berries and put into the fridge while the crust is getting ready.

Trisha Yearwood, you're a godsend,
this is the BEST pie crust I've ever had. 
For the crust I doubled Trisha Yearwood's Shortbread recipe (because 1, it's super easy to make, and 2. who doesn't LOVE shortbread? It's a clear winner).

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix flour, butter, brown and granulated sugars in an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.  (I mixed the last bit by hand because the mixer wasn't getting the butter just right)
  • Spray the pie plate with your favorite cooking spray (mine is Trader Joe's coconut oil spray)
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • Don't panic if the crust falls/flattens, you can press it back into place with a wooden spoon or use your Pampered Chef Mini-Tart Shaper like I did (seriously, that little gadget kept me from crying and/or burning my fingers).
  • Allow to cool completely before spreading chocolate shell/ganache.


Tollhouse Semi Sweet morsels 
The next step was getting my double-boiler action on.  I tossed about 3/4 of a 16 ounce bag of semi sweet Nestle Tollhouse morsels, but you can use whatever your favorite chocolate is to create the shell.  I wanted to make sure that the berries didn't make the cookie crust soggy, but I didn't really think about how creating a chocolate shell layer would make the pie hard to cut into slices.  The baker at my BF's work suggested making a chocolate ganache, so that you'll still get the chocolate flavor, a barrier between the cookie and berries, AND you'll be able to cut the pie without too much difficulty.




This is how the pie looked before I put the strawberries in, I waited for the chocolate to harden into a complete shell, dumped the berry mixture in, and made some whipped cream according to the directions on the heavy whipping cream carton.




There ended up being roughly 27 contestants at the event, I placed somewhere in the middle, but I think given more practice I could totally knock this recipe out of the park.... if I ever decide to make a pie again, it was so much harder than I had anticipated.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Frankie's Sunday Gravy aka the BEST tomato sauce you'll ever eat

My mom has this amazing cookbook called The Frankie's Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual and one day we (she) found this recipe and it totally changed our lives and how we eat red sauce.

It has just a few ingredients, but it takes a long time to cook... and let me tell you every second and every stir is worth it. FOR REAL.

I copied this recipe from this link they have a lot of input on this recipe as well.  I just wanted to have this in a central place for me to look back at when I'm feeling Italian.

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 13 cloves garlic
  • One 96-ounce can (or, if you can find it, 1-kg) or four 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes (my favorite are San Marzanos fromLa Valle
  • Large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
(seriously, that's it!!)

Directions:
  1. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the garlic is deeply colored—striations of deep brown running through the golden cloves—and fragrant. If the garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or is taking on color quickly, pull the pan off the stove and reduce the heat.
  2. While the garlic is getting golden, deal with the tomatoes: Pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands (it's so squishy and cool feeling). We like to pull out the firmer stem ends from each of the tomatoes as we crush them and discard those along with the basil leaves that are packed into the can.
  3. When the garlic is just about done, add the red pepper flakes to the oil and cook them for 30 seconds or a minute, to infuse their flavor and spice into the oil. Dump in the tomatoes, add the salt, and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium, set the sauce simmering at a gentle pace, not aggressively, and simmer for 4 hours. Stir it from time to time. Mother it a little bit.
  4. Check the sauce for salt at the end. The sauce can be cooked with meat at this point, or stored, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a few months.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Reading List: 2015



I love reading, and while this is going to be a crazy busy summer, I wanted to make a list and try to get through a few books this season.

  • JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
    • I read this book in college and really enjoyed it, even though it was the complete opposite of a quick light read. So far it's proving to be just as long as a read as it was 10 year ago, so I will filter through some other books when this one gets to be too much.
  • Jen Lancaster: I Regret Nothing
    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE her memoirs, and this one was no different. This book takes us through Jen's bucket list and her journey to make her life more fulfilling.  It's hilarious and inspiring. I love how her writing style makes me feel like I'm having a conversation with a friend, not just reading a stranger's story.
  • Dorothea Benton Frank: The Hurricane Sisters
    • I'm going to be honest, I don't really know what this book is about but I love her novels.  They're real and full of life and her characters spring from the pages.  I laugh, I cry, and I get angry when I read her books.
  • Gillian Flynn: Dark Places
    • Reading Gone Girl last summer made me a fan of this author.  She's creepy and entertaining, and I couldn't put that book down, so I'm excited to pick this one up.
  • Sara Gruen: Like Water For Elephants
    • I saw this movie years ago, and have wanted to read it for years before that.  I never got around to doing it before, so this is the summer to do it.
  • Anne Rice: Memnoch the Devil
    • I read this book when I was 15 and camping in Yosemite. There were times I had to put it down and walk away from it because parts of it seemed so wrong and opposite from the world I knew.  I'd like to take a look at it through my adult eyes and see what I think of it now.  I've read Rice's entire Vampire Chronicles and the first time through this was my least favorite of the series, I'd like to give it a second chance.

So this list isn't as long as some of the ones I've seen online at other blogs, but I feel like with what I have on tap over the next couple months (moving, a mini vacation for my birthday, a 40th birthday blow out for my BF, and whatever else life might bring) it's something that is doable (well, I may not finish LOTR, it took me 3 months to read it the last time I picked it up).

What's on your summer list?




Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stay Stay Stay

Dear Friend,

I heard a rumor that you're struggling.  That you're having a hard time hanging on and that you've been thinking that maybe we're all better off without you.

You're wrong.

Hearts heal, and our minds lie to even the best of us.  You need to give yourself the time to sort things out.  The only way to not let time work its magic is if you cut yourself short, so please don't.

The world is a brighter better place with you in it.  Your talent, your intelligence, they're things that need to be shared with the world, and if not the whole wide world, the tiny one here in our community.  Your loss would be greatly felt.  You might feel like an insignificant pebble on the beach sometimes, but if you drop that pebble into a pond it's ripples go on and on and on.

I know that life can feel impossibly hard sometimes, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is often tiny and flickering, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.  Not to sound trite, but things DO get better. It won't be easy, all the best things require work.  Life will never be absolutely perfect, but that only gives you the opportunity to find the beauty in it's imperfections.  There is no magic greater than our ability to adapt and grow, even in shadows.

I feel like we can learn more from failures than successes, we have to teach ourselves how to be better, and our only real competition is the person staring back at us in the mirrors.  You don't have to be better than the person next to you, you have to be better than you were yesterday.

Find an outlet that isn't self destructive, whether that be art, helping others, exploring the world around you, read a book, lose yourself in a movie you've never watched before, spend some time in the great outdoors just watching the world spin around you, look for shapes in the clouds, whatever it takes to calm the voices in your head.

I know you may not be ready to read this, or that it might sound like someone who has no idea what you're going through is just throwing a lot of cliches in your face, but I've treaded shark infested waters myself and was able to swim to shore.  I just want you to know you have someone on your side ready to throw you a life jacket when you feel like you're going under.

You are loved, you are important, the world needs you.

Please stay.

Lauren


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Meghan's Grandma's Stuffed Mushrooms

This is the dish that taught me to try foods that scare me.  No really... it's a true story.

Mushrooms have always squicked me out, they make me feel like the other creature in Green Eggs and Ham.. the one who says "I do not like them in a box, with a fox wearing socks."  But much like that creature, after trying them at the urging of my best friend, my palette exploded and I discovered that they aren't so bad, they might even be better with a fox wearing socks.

Ingredients:


  • 1.5 pounds of round white mushrooms (I used 2 14oz cartons of "white stuffer mushrooms)
  • 16 ounces of cream cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 0.5 pound crispy fried bacon (made into small crumbs)
  • 0.5 cup of Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 stalks of green onions, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
Directions:

  1. Wipe the mushrooms and remove the stems
  2. Put cream cheese (it mixes better if it's softened slightly), garlic, green onions, salt and pepper into a bowl and cream.
  3. Stuff the mixture that you just made into the mushrooms (I transferred the goop into a gallon sized ziploc bag, cut a tip off, and used it as a piping bag).
  4. Dip the mushroom (the goop end) into the breadcrumbs
  5. Place on a foiled cookie sheet and set the oven to 350 degrees
  6. Bake at temperature for at least 20 minutes (depending on the size of the mushrooms)
  7. Remove from the oven and top with Parmesan.

shared with permission from Meghan Field, for more of her tasty recipes check out her blog "Life of Two Fields"

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I don't want to be friends...

Early last week I felt like my head was going to explode from a rage aneurysm.

I learned that some people I considered to be decent human beings are racist scum and I learned that someone I've known my entire life puts more value on professional sports than human life. Real winners here folks, real winners.  The big reveal, however, is that I learned that I suffer no fools on social networks, and I feel no loyalty towards people who are toxic. These were mostly people that I don't have much contact with in real life (for good reasons apparently), but I decided history doesn't have to have a stronghold on my future.

For a moment I started drafting a status update to mass post across all my social networks, it went something like this:

  • If you are someone who considers yourself to be better than others because of your skin color, national origin, the income bracket you were born into, gender, sexual preference, or any other factor that you have ZERO CONTROL over, kindly get the fuck off my newsfeed.  I don't want to know you.
  • If you are someone who equates the Tom Brady/Patriots Super Bowl Scandal with what went on at Penn State and Joe Paterno looking the other way while a member of his coaching staff molested children for decades, see the above paragraph.  You are delusional, misguided, and I don't feel like being updated on your toxic views is something I'm interested in.
  • If you think your religion should give you more rights that other people, you're wrong, go away.  You have the freedom of religion, you can believe whatever you want, you don't have the right to force those beliefs on anyone else.
  • I'm not limiting your speech, I'm limiting your audience. Say anything you want, just don't expect me to listen to you anymore.
 
After spending a few moments thinking about everything I was going to say, I decided that instead of telling to GTFO, I would let their words and deeds help me decide which weeds need to be pulled from my flower bed.  I'd much rather do the plucking and know exactly why I can't/won't be friends with someone anymore than wonder why someone disappeared off the face of the earth.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Team You Do You

Right now my computer (at home) is down so blogging on any kind of regular basis is proving to be difficult (my job doesn't exactly want me writing non-work-related things on the clock... imagine that). 

My hope is to utilize some of the awesome journals I have lying around the house to gather my thoughts until I can find some time and internet access to post for the world to see.  I have so many ideas floating around my head, I don't want them to leak out while I'm technologically out of order.  All that being said, here's the latest:

Team You Do You

It seems like there is a lot of news/social media coverage on abortion rights lately.  You're expected to pick a side of the street to stand on and hold your "PRO-CHOICE" or "PRO-LIFE" signs and never find any middle ground.

Personally I tend to identify with the Pro Choice crowd, simply because I don't feel like it's my place to make other women's medical decisions for them, just like it isn't some stranger's place to make mine for me.  I believe that a woman should absolutely have a choice with what goes on with her own reproductive system and that her actual life trumps any potential life. 

I think her choice should be between her, her medical professionals, and whomever SHE decides to share it with.  If she choses to not notify her parents, the father/sperm donor, local news team, I think that she has her reasons and shouldn't be required to.  I do not think politicians, lobbyists, or random commenters on the internet should have a say in personal medical decisions.

I think that sex education should begin early in life, and be taught often.  It can start at home and lead to the classroom in age appropriate intervals.  People should be well informed about how their bodies work and all options for birth control and disease/infection prevention.  ALL OPTIONS.  Abstinence is something that should be taught along with condoms, hormonal birth control, and whatever else science may bring to the table, including abortions.  Abstinence only education simply doesn't work, and if you think talking to your kids about sex is scary and gross, imagine trying to help your child raise a child or having your kid have to deal with a preventable disease.  Birth control should be readily available at affordable prices, whether or not you have health insurance.  In my mind, an abortion should be a last ditch effort to stop an unwanted pregnancy, but life doesn't always go as planned. Abortions should be destigmatized, and should be looked at like any other medical procedure.

Let's face it.  Condoms break, The Pill sometimes fails, IUDs aren't compatible with everyone, sometimes a person gets caught up in the moment and has unprotected sex.  That doesn't even factor victims of sexual assault.  It only takes one sperm to collide with one egg and BOOM you could be pregnant even if you aren't prepared.  If you choose to continue the pregnancy, no matter the terms, that's your choice. I don't think anyone should be pressured into having an abortion that they don't want either. Your body, your choice. End of discussion.

Thankfully I've never been in a position where I've had to make that choice.  I have felt close once or twice though.  Shortly after college I found myself 30+ days late and I was terrified.  What would I tell my parents?  Would I be able to keep my job, or would my super religious bosses make things so uncomfortable that I would have to leave? I didn't have health insurance, how would I pay for anything?  Then the light bulb went off over my head and I did a Google search for the nearest Planned Parenthood and started looking at options.  A calmness washed over me, I wasn't stuck, there were choices. I wasn't going to have to face anything I wasn't emotionally or financially ready to deal with.  Luckily when I took (multiple) home pregnancy tests they were all negative and I was relieved of the decision making ordeal.  Not everyone gets that lucky, sometimes two pink lines show up at exactly the wrong time in someone's life and they're forced to come to terms with a new reality.

I think that if you call yourself "Pro-Life" you should hold yourself to that standard.  Support programs to help infants and children, instead of treating the young like punishments for their parents' reckless mistakes.  Make sure new mothers and fathers have all the tools they need to be good parents.  Encourage paid family leave for both parents after the arrival of their child.  Support prenatal care.  If you truly believe that life begins at conception make sure that you do what you can to make sure the child has the best chance at a future post-womb.  If you are not prepared for that kind of commitment to the life of all potential children, call yourself "anti-abortion" or "pro-birth" because if you aren't really interested in the life of the child once they take a breath outside of their mother's body, I don't see how you can call yourself "Pro-Life."

If you hate abortions, that's okay, that's your choice.  Don't get one, and don't encourage anyone your know or love to get one.  I know I'm making it all sound so simple.  I'm not including any statistics or antidotes beyond my own.  To me it all comes down to I'll do what's right for me in my life and my circumstances, and I won't judge you for doing what's right for you and yours.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#aftersexselfie

it's okay to keep reading, I'm not going to actually post a photo... just a little commentary on the phenomenon that struck social media a couple months ago... yeah, I'm late to the game... no I'm not participating (or even really sitting on the sidelines cheering people on).

Anyway... when I started hearing about the hashtag trending over social media I was dumbfounded. Not only was I unable to comprehend why it was trending, I was sad that the world is turning into a place where there is no privacy, nothing is special, and there is no real one on one intimacy anymore, we have literally invited the world into our bed. Why would anyone want to share that? Why would anyone want to see that? Are you REALLY so connected to your online persona that after sex that the first thing you think of is photographically documenting it for prosperity and public consumption? Seriously... why?????

Then one morning I got it. Well a tiny part of it anyway.  I still don't understand the need to share that moment with the masses, but what I totally 100% understand is the want to preserve that feeling of intimacy.  I can completely wrap my mind around wanting to have visual evidence of that perfect moment.  Everyone has bad days and maybe having an opportunity to look back on a time when you felt that fantastic could cure even the worst moods. 

Then the cold hard truth of reality sets in and I think about the birds nest my hair probably is, the makeup smeared all over my face, and remember exactly why some moments are better lived than captured in digital pixels forever. I love retreating to fantasy land and relive those feelings just like anyone else would, thankfully I have a vivid imagination and don't need a photo app to remember.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Look Ma! No Hands!

It has been awhile since I posted something more than an album review, dream journal, or something light on content but big on giggles.  Let me catch you up.

Shortly after Christmas my awesome-amazing boyfriend asked to officially move in with him.  I think I've put longer thought into picking out what color nail polish I want to buy, I immediately said yes (it was the easiest decision I've ever had to make and every day I'm so thankful for this life I'm living), gave my landlord 30 days notice, and started moving things to his house, I mean our house (it took awhile for me to get the hang of saying it).  I was all in within 2 weekends (it was too hard to try to move during the week).

Let me tell you.... living in sin is the best thing ever.  For me there didn't really even seem to be any growing pains, it just feels like home. He does most of the cooking, I do most of the laundry, and we share the other cleaning chores, they get done as they need to.  Everything seems to be falling in place.  I never thought living with someone else would be so easy, I don't know what I thought it would be like, this is the first time I've ever lived with a boyfriend, and I'm glad he's the one I'm experiencing all this new stuff with.  My family loves him (which is a great feeling). We have a cute little dog named Bugsy, we spoil him rotten...he's like having a 3rd person in the house half the time.

So that's the big life update. I don't think I've ever been this happy and relaxed in a relationship.  I'm not constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or for some dramatic disaster to happen.  It just feels good to have a true partner, not just someone who is there for the moment.  For the first time in my life I feel like a real adult, not a kid in a grown up body. It's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

Another update is that today I decided to become a Partner in Hope.  I signed up to give a monthly donation to St. Jude's Children's hospital. I've had a nagging feeling for a long time that I need to become involved in something that is bigger than me and my personal world, but I didn't know where to start.  This morning on the drive to work one of the local radio stations was hosting a radiothon to raise money for the hospital and I was moved to donate.  I can't afford to give a lot, but I can afford to give what I used to spend on a monthly sample subscription.  If you want to become a Partner in Hope you can follow the link and help battle childhood cancer. If you can't afford to donate money, maybe you can find a cause that speaks to you and you can donate your time, and if you don't have time or money (hey we've all been there, no judgment) you can share links on how to help your cause of choice, maybe you'll inspire one of your friends to help out in any way they can.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Dream State Escalate: 48

Last night's dream/nightmare was so bad. SO BAD. SO INCREDIBLY BAD. Enough where I grabbed onto my BF like my life depended on it and started reciting prayers from back in my CCD days to pull the darkness out of my eyes as if my soul depended on it.

Now the dream...

We were working at a winery event as we have done a few times in the past together when this really upset/disheveled strange woman rushes up to us and tries to force a Tupperware container full of a strange looking meat at my BF, she keeps insisting through her tears that he has to cook it and eat it immediately.  I stand between them and try to take the container away from her and the thing burns my hand like it's covered in acid.  I set it on a table behind us and demand that she tell us what it is.

She starts sobbing how she didn't mean to do it, how she couldn't stop herself, but the voices in her head told her she had to make a sacrifice.  She killed her dog, a bull terrier, by luring it outside on a patio and slitting it's throat then taking it's tongue... that's what was in the container.  She knew that she had done wrong, that she had betrayed her best friend, 1st by killing him when he had done nothing wrong, 2nd by leaving him to die alone and in pain.  She wanted to pass the demon that had possessed her on by making my BF unwittingly eat her "sacrifice." I told her that there was NO WAY he was going to consume that and that we needed to bury it on consecrated grounds.  That she had to bring her dog and the pieces she had cut from him and we had to bury it at the church where the demon couldn't follow.

I woke up as the last shovel of dirt buried the dog completely, but I couldn't see clearly, it was like there was a black fog in the room trying to block my eyes. I couldn't remember the words to the prayers, but I figured the plea for help and my intentions would have to be good enough.  I held on to BF and my dog and just waited for my eyes to clear.  Eventually I was able to go back to sleep, but it was a restless night.  I don't know what was going on but it was enough to still give me chills when I think about it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Garth Brooks: Man Against Machine: Album Review

Artist: Garth Brooks
Album: Man Against Machine
Point of Purchase: Christmas gift, but it is available for digital download on GhostTunes.com

Thoughts: I was a little apprehensive about this album.  I mean on one hand, it's Garth, and he's never really disappointed me, even when he did his Chris Gaines thing, but the first time I head the song "People Loving People" it really annoyed me for some reason.  The more I heard it, the more I liked it, and that perplexed me. Anyway I added the cd to my Amazon wishlist and figured that I'd eventually purchase it, and one of my uncles ended up buying it for me for Christmas.  I opened it up a couple of days later and popped it in the player and listened to it 5 times in a row. It's that good. It really is best to listen to it in order even though there isn't really a continuous story going on, the songs just flow better (this is coming from someone who almost exclusively listens to music on shuffle).  If you're a parent, thinking of becoming one, or have friends with kids there are some songs that will sing right to your heart (Mom and Send 'Em On Down The Road) but in all honestly there is a song for everyone on this album. It might end up being one of my favorites.



Track Listing: Favorite Lyrics

  1. Man Against Machine "This is where I make my stand because I can't stand it anymore"
  2. She's Tired of Boys "She said I’m tired of boys/I’m tired of first dates/And I’m tired of toys/I want a lover who will understand/Someone who will touch me with a knowing hand"
  3. Cold Like That "I could be the train for a change/You could be the one tied to the track"
  4. All-American Kid “And the whole town cheered/And his mama cried/Another hometown boy/Made it home alive/Got his picture in the paper and the headline read ‘Welcome Back All-American Kid’/Yeah, this song is for those who never did/Come back all-American kids”
  5. Mom “So, hush now little baby, don’t you cry/Cause there’s someone down there waiting whose only goal in life/Is making sure you’re always gonna be alright/A loving angel tender, tough, and strong/Come on child, it’s time to meet your mom”
  6. Wrong About You “You were right about so many things/That I’m starting to think I was wrong about you”
  7. Rodeo and Juliet “To thine own self be true is all she knows”
  8. Midnight Train “It’s like I’m chained to a midnight train passing through”
  9. Cowboys Forever “We've always been, it’s what we’ll always be/We’re cowboys forever”
  10. People Loving People "Talk is cheap, but lies are free"
  11. Send 'Em On Down the Road "You can help them find their wings, but you can't fly for 'em"
  12. Fish “So I asked myself a question/That I knew the answer to/Is success a second mortgage/On a big house with a pool/Or is it a chair/The salt in the air/Wetting the line”
  13. You Wreck Me “Tell me what I got to do/To paint me in/Your perfect picture”
  14. Tacoma "I'm burning your memory/One mile at a time"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dream State Escalate: 47

Last night's dream was troubling, and left me feeling off kilter this morning.

I was at my mom's house and the family's dog was really sick and ended up dying.  During his death, some sort of weird magic started happened and my brother (who has been dead for slightly more than 5 years) walked into the kitchen as his 15 year old self.  Somehow in losing our dog, I got my brother back and he got a do over?

I'm not sure how it worked... dreams don't have to make sense to feel real.

I just woke up missing him so much, and being so sad that there isn't enough magic in the world to bring him back, or to give second chances.

Also it was depressing because Jesse (the dog) is getting older, more frail, and is probably not going to be with us much longer, I'd be surprised if he saw another Christmas, maybe another Labor day, but I'm not sure about another winter.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What Not To Say...

I've noticed that a lot of articles about "10 Things Not To Say To _____________ (married people, single people, people with kids, your significant other, people with newborns, people without children, people of different ethnic backgrounds, people with or without pets, people who are people)" are popping up all over social media and all I've taken away from these articles is that people are too sensitive, whiny, and self important.

seriously, don't
If you followed all those "rules" you wouldn't be able to say anything to anyone.  I feel like if you can't say things to your friends, who can you talk to?  Strangers? That's a different story, unsolicited advice from someone you don't know is rarely welcomed.

Yeah, it's annoying when you're single and someone asks "Hey... when are you going to find the right person and settle down?" Like the right person is sitting on a shelf in the grocery store waiting to be picked up with your box of pasta, or when you're dating someone you really like and the questions like "So... when are you going to get married?" start... then you walk down an aisle exchange rings and then people think it's okay to start interrogating you about when the babies are going to arrive, if you've invested enough in your 401K, or once you do hear the pitter patter of small kids people tell you how to raise them, pepper you with questions about college funds and prep schools, and it seems like you can't win.

Here's the thing... and it's something I have to remind myself when I'm getting annoyed... people are asking because they care, because they're trying to help, because they're hoping someone can benefit from their experiences... not because they're sadistic assholes trying to bring your sleep deprived state to the brink of craziness and then push you over the Cliffs of Insanity. Your friends and loved ones want you to be happy, they want to be involved in your life, they want to help in ways that they know how.  Sure it might not be what you want to hear, maybe you'd rather have them bring you a casserole or scrub a toilet for you, or maybe hold the baby so you can shower, or take the dog for a loop around the neighborhood, you know as long as they don't set you up on a blind dates or sign you up for a dating site without your permission.

My suggestions? (in less than 10 bullet points)
  • Grow a thicker skin (yeah, that's a douchey thing to say, but it doesn't make it less true)
  • If you want to help a friend, instead of putting in your two cents worth of advice maybe ask them "How can I help you?" or "What do you need?" or "This worked for me... maybe it would work for you" instead of "HEY! You're doing it wrong MY WAY is the ONLY WAY"
  • Recognize that the world is bigger than you and your experiences... and that life doesn't have to be a competition.
  • Don't touch a stranger without permission (don't pet someones hair because you think it's pretty, pregnant bellies are not public property, and not all dogs like unfamiliar people) 
  • Intentions matter, even if the road to hell is paved with good ones.  Meaning if someone is trying to be helpful and nice, don't look for reasons to be angry about it.  If someone is being an asshole, then respond accordingly.
  • Think about what you're about to say before opening your mouth. If it sounds offensive, it probably is.  Trust me any sentence that starts with "I'm not trying to be {insert word here}, but ________" you are accomplishing that very thing without even trying. Same thing goes for "Just saying...." or "No offense, but....." 
  • Understand that different tactics work for different people, and what might be awesome for you might be the worst thing ever for someone else.  You do you, let them do them. 
  • Basically treat other people the way you'd like to be treated, no matter how different they may be from you.  We learned this in kindergarten, let's apply it to real life.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Grandma Lillian's Cheese Ball Appetizer Recipe

Grandma Lillian's Cheese ball Appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb medium cheddar (use block cheese, not pre-shredded)
  • 1 lb extra sharp cheddar 
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Parsley (to taste)
  • Pecans (to taste)
Directions:

  • Cube cheddars before putting in the food processor, mix all cheeses in processor until creamy.
  • Once everything is mixed, cool in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour, up to overnight
  • Knead cooled cheese into a ball shape, set aside
  • Chop pecans and parsley in food processor, then spread on a cutting board or other flat surface
  • Roll the ball in the pecans until evenly covered
  • Serve with your favorite crackers