Looking Back and Moving Ahead

Strawberry-Lemonade-Cupcakes

I woke up early this morning with a recipe on my mind – strawberry lemonade cupcakes.  I haven’t made them in over 5 years, but I can still remember how much I love them. I have looked many places for this recipe including this blog which I had no idea I have been keeping over 8 years.

I remember the recipe for the cupcakes as simple to make and so sweet and delicious to eat.  Though I haven’t made them in years my memories are so vivid that I am searching my house and the internet for the recipe as if it is worth a billion dollars.

Yesterday, I was reminded of something else that I haven’t seen in a longtime, but my memories or so vivid it seems like yesterday – my best friend from High School.  She reached out over facebook and I was so glad she did.  The conversation (though done through facebook messenger) was simple (easy to have), sweet and so delicious.  Ok maybe not delicious. In fact, we caught up on the good, bad and ugly, but isn’t that the truth of life? It was something that I had been missing and didn’t even know how much until it was placed in front of me.  We are creeping up to 25 years since she was the maid of honor in my wedding and our worlds began to be seperated by careers, distance and our new families, but the memories and bonds we created will never be broken.

It is a true friend that allows you to take off the wrapper of your life and expose the imperfectness of our burnt bottoms,uneven tops, and messy frosting.  It is ok if life isn’t full of simple sweetness and deliciousness.   Sometimes we need to unpack our good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes that can only be done with a friend to be able to taste the sweetness that life and true friendship offers.

 

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I Require Quiet Time

My life was put on hold in October shortly after my last post.  I was blessed to be able to travel to Florida and spend time with my dad before his passing in November.  But grief, as often happens, takes us to those dark cob webbed places within our soul that you have not visited in a long time.  We clean out the cob webs, turn on a light and look around the room and revisit all of the knick knacks of memories and feelings.  It is hard, but can be healing as well, if we let it. It takes all of your energy just to move forward with daily life, caring for your families and surviving the holidays and take steps forward. There is no time table whether it is 3 months or 6 months your goal is to continue to move forward and go a little farther the next day.

Grief is a hard thing in and of itself, but when your job is about putting others before yourself and caring for others in their ups and downs of life, it is difficult.  I had to do a lot of compartmentalizing so that I could be there for others and pull out my sack of “grief” during my quieter times when I can hold it, look at it and release a little at a time.  We all grieve differently.  This is not how everyone grieves, but it is my process and I recognize it.

So this was not my intended blog post for today, but I guess God had other plans.

IMG_20160715_152210I am continuing to move forward with life and some days are better than others. Life continues to be busy with family, work and new projects. I have discovered I really need a little quiet time almost daily and that has helped to renew my energy.  When I don’t get it, I find that I become very overwhelmed with busy thoughts and feelings of all the irons I have in the fire and they are not always so pretty.  I acknowledge it and apologize to those who may encounter my darkside of frustration.  I have worked hard to become this person  that I am – over 45 years. I recognize when I faulter (though it may take a day or two).  When engaged in situations that I begin to morph into a person I do not recognize as myself, I step away.  Sometime so that I can view things from another perspective, sometimes to breathe and rest my soul and other times I ask myself “Does it really matter? or “Can I make a positive difference in the situation?”  If it doesn’t and I can’t sometimes I step back completely knowing that it is not a healthy situation for me and inturn will not be a blessing for someone else.  I want to live a life of grace and add more light to the world than darkness. That is who I want to be when I grow up.

Preparing for Winter

The weather has been better continuously through the seasons than any year I remember. Which is why  I have blogged less.  As I sat looking out my window yesterday, I swear I could see colors of the leaves changing from green to red as the wind blew.  I know what that means…winter is coming.  In my house that means, a fall menu.  My children were delighted because that means the return of Monday homemade soups.  I spent last weekend storing up our food for the winter.  Not really, I prepared our October freezer crock pot meals.  Taking advantage of the BOGO sales, I was able to save a lot of money, not to mention a lot of dinner time stress.  I plan the meals for the month, but life happens.  There are days we may eat out or grab a pizza and a movie. The nice thing with the freezer meals, they will keep for 3 months.  So each month I make a new menu and just enfold our remainder freezer menus into the fold.

Our Fall Menu
Red Beans & Rice
Chicken Gnocchi Soup with Salad
Tender Grill Pork Chops**/* with crispy oven roasted potatoes and pea
4 Ingredient Chicken**/* with chicken flavored rice & broccoli
Ranch Cheddar Turkey Burgers**/* with french fries and baked beans
BBQ Chicken**/* with baked potatoes & corn
Spaghetti & turkey meatballs**

Honey Garlic Chicken Meal with Carrots, Potatoes and Green Beans**
Turkey Black Bean Chili** with cornbread
Beef Pot Roast (Mesquite )with Carrots**
Chicken Tacos**
Stuffed Shells** with salad
Honey Bourbon Chicken** over white rice with broccoli
Crescent Wrapped Salmon with spinach and feta

Cranberry Chicken** with stuffing and green beans
Cheddar Broccoli Soup with Croutons
Asian Pork Chops** with oven roasted potatoes and corn
Brucshetta Chicken** with Angel Hair Pasta with Salad
Turkey Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and corn
Chicken Teriyaki**/* with chicken flavored rice and green beans
Macaroni & Cheese

Jumbalaya
Chicken Noodle Soup with salad
Steak with bake potatoes and corn
Honey Sesame Chicken** with white rice & broccoli
Tacos
Chicken Parmesan with pasta & salad
Grilled Salmon with garlic-Parmesan potatoes peas

Turkey Spinach Feta burgers* with french fries & salad
Chicken Stuffing  Casserole with green beans
Chili **with bread bowls

** A Freezer Crockpot Meal  *Freezer Grill Meal

If you are interested in any of the freezer meal recipes, please comment and I will post the recipe along with instructions.

 

Lady Yada Yada Blog Followers – Table of 2

Miss-You-Written-On-Beach-Sand1I feel special.  Doesn’t take much, a few people have commented that they miss my blog.  They were not specific on what the miss the satirical humor, the helpful tips, the deep intellectual look at life or ….the quick read while waiting for a download to complete.  Well, what ever the reason.  You’re voice(s) have been heard and made me feel special and weirdly guilty, so here I am.

I was surprised to see my last post was in March, though I am not certain why it surprises me.  I have a life, a family, a job.  I am much better at blogging when I am closed in during the winter months, which means November – March in northeast Ohio.  My busiest months at work are April – May and August – September.  Yes, I know it is August and I have a lot of work to do, but I need to take a break from reading, research, and emailing.  I just needed sometime away from my computer…Ok ignore that last line.  I just needed sometime away from my office computer.

So here I am.  I am back. I am looking for a topic.  I am thinking this was a mistake to start blogging right now with out any clear direction. No, I must blog now.  I have already committed by announcing I am back on facebook.  I am missed!!  I can’t let the people down, ok maybe just 2 people.  No, I am committed, so here we go!

Thank you to my readers for making me feel special!  Everyone wants to be missed.  Don’t they?  Or is it just me. Heck, I smile when I find out that my family missed me at the dinner table.  Ok maybe I was just missed because there was no food on the table by 6:30p.m.. But still it counts as a miss!  When I get that call from my daughter who lives out of state and she says she misses me and can’t wait to see me.  The golden-miss!!  But then there is the “I missed you at the band meeting”.  Did you really miss me or were you just looking for someone to bring an extra case of water?  The committee-miss”We missed you at the graduation party.” Did you both really miss me or are you calling me out for missing a family function that was obviously important and I would have come to if I hadn’t previously (6 months ago) committed to work event that I was leading for 60 people.   I call that the guilt-miss. How about the geographical-miss?  There are many different versions of the geographical-miss. I will share a few: 1. I move and months or years later bump into someone at a neutral location – a mall, a restaurant, a concert or event.  “We miss you so much!  We were just talking about you.  We need to get together.”  My husband’s thoughts (remember he is a much sweeter soul than I am)  “Great!  Let’s get it on the calendar.”  My response once we get in the car  to head home “We live 20 minutes away from them and we are not even friends on facebook – how much do they really miss us?”  This being said I really do miss the Ottes and wished they lived closer!!  2. When you move and commit to see each other several times a year.  This is an active geographical-miss, but it takes a genuine miss on both parties’ part to make the commitment and effort.3. Another common geographical-miss is when there is a long  distance between people.  You think of the person often, but the distance is too great to see each other more than once a year, if that.  You accept that their life will go on, as will yours.  You finally find a few hours a year to spend together and it is as if the time melts away and you have not been so far apart for such a length of time.  This time stands still  geographical-miss.  You support and miss each other, but realize that life is constantly moving and evolving and it is an honor just to be apart of each others lives.

So what category does the  “I miss your blog” fall? “I need something to occupy my time-miss” or the “nothing better to do-miss”.  I am not sure.  I will take it as the “you make me smile-miss”.  Which in my mind, to make someone smile makes me feel special.

 

If you did not get a shout out during this blog, don’t feel bad.  I just missed you!

Photo credit:  Couldn’t find a photographer name, found it on pinterest.

 

Just Smile

smiles

 

After hearing the phrase “resting bitch face” several times in a matter of days and after being on the receiving end of many grimaces, I thought it was time I exercised my facial muscles. I  tried an experiment today.  I decided I was going to smile on my drive home from the store.  Fake it till you make it, isn’t that what “they” say.

The drive home was about 20 minutes.  I thought I remembered reading that endorphins are released after smiling and that it helps you to relax.  So I slapped on a large teeth bearing smile.  I don’t think it was so large to freak people out by it’s sheer size, but it would be obvious I was smiling.

Things I noted from my little experiment.

  1. I really had to focus on smiling so that it didn’t slide away while I was driving.
  2. After 5 minutes the muscles in my cheeks were sore.  I have not smiled enough and my muscles are out of shape.
  3. People didn’t seem to notice when we were stopped at a light. But I noticed them and out of 14 cars – no one was smiling.
  4. I was so busy smiling and looking for people’s reaction that I missed my turn and added 5 more minutes to my drive time.  It is difficult to smile and drive – Is there a bumper sticker for that? “Don’t Smile & Drive – It May Cause Additional Driving Times”
  5. It is really hard to hold a full fledged smile when you are trying to sing to the radio.

So those are my observations. Do with it what you may, but smile while you do it.

Dance Like No One is Watching

I was driving on the road I live on, a section of road  I drive at least 4-6 times a day.  I live the “country-life” – there are no side walks or street lights and the speed limit is 40mph.  I often encounter people on their bicycles, running or from time to time walking.  But today, I encountered a young man who stood out and highlighted my day.  He was walking along the side of the road, backpack heavy on his back, head phones in and head down.  As I approached the section of road where he was walking, he lifted his eyes from the road and raised his arms as he belted out the lyrics to a song and he began to dance.  Not just a little 2 -step, it was a full on explosion of arms and legs. A smile grew on my face, not in a mocking way, but a true happiness to witness someone, especially a teenager full of joy to  sing and dance as if no one was watching!

Fighting the Negative

I  try to have the best life possible. I believe you only have one life.  I don’t want to cry over what I don’t have, but enjoy what I do.  I have not always been like that.  I lived the first 2/3s of my life asking “Why not me?”  If I am not going to make a change and recreate my reality, why waste the time complaining about it.  “If only I had…. Guess what you don’t have it. You are not doing anything to get it. Get over it!”  became my new mantra.

I am in a much more positive space in life now.  Not that I don’t have those slap you down moments, I do.  But I have worked hard to stay in the positive light and know it appears it is where I reside 90% of the time.

I have realized accepting the grass that I stand on, it is hard to be around people who see the grass greener on the other side or those who have built their home with negativity. I try to show them another outlook, a positive spin or a different insight on the situation. But sometimes it becomes a war of words and insights.  My positive comments being blocked and torn down by their negative “As I see it” explanations. Sometimes I just have to walk away or close a door between us.  Negativity is like an ink blot that once it touches me, it slowly begins to spread until it takes over my thoughts and feelings.  It can be a real battle to wipe it away.

 

Speaking Softly

After finding out I was pregnant with my oldest, we had many a late night discussion and decided that I would leave my speech pathology job and become a stay at home mom.  A change that I would grapple with for years to come, but that is a blog for a different time. Years passed and I was a stay at home mom with 3 small children and a husband who had changed his vocation and was in the ministry and had 5 different additional jobs that he did to supplement our income so that I could stay home and provide our children with what we believed was the most positive situation for our family. It was over a decade ago that I decided something had to change.

I was staying home to offer them love, security, routine in our own home.  Why earn the same amount of money that it was going to cost to have someone outside the home care for them.  I thought I would be able to do this better than daycare, I am not so sure.

I was a yeller.  I yelled to pick up their toys, finish their lunch and even take some quiet time on their bed when they reached the age they were fighting their nap time.  Yep, real quality time with me kids.  I found myself yelling about everything.  This is not the loving atmosphere I wanted for my kids.  So I made a conscious choice to bring peace into my life.  I prayed to exude calmness and quietness. Lets be real, I had 3 children and a busy husband, calmness and peace were a battle I did not always win.  But somewhere in this time, it became a new part of me.  I can’t pin point when it happened.

I can pin point a few instances when I knew my calmness had pleasantly become our way of life. About 6 years ago when my mother was staying with my kids for a few days.  I returned home and she commented how she and my uncle were amazed at how quiet the house was and that they would forget that the 3 children were even home.  Then there was the time my oldest daughter was giving advice to my daughter going into middle school “Stay away from the drama”.  What she didn’t know was that my son had given her the same advice the day before.  We declared the Becker household a Drama-Free zone.  There are enough hurdles in your race to jump, don’t create new ones.  Does that mean we are truly drama -free.  No way, we have 3 women in our family and we can tell a story with Oscar worthy style!!

As for the yelling, it is very infrequent.  We laugh that at this point I don’t yell on a roller coaster. Sometimes my youngest accuses me of yelling and I just laugh.  She has no memory of what our lives decibel used to be. But there are times when I feel my head is under the water and no one is listening that I yell.  But my son, who is the ultimate non-yeller, says when you speak quietly or not a lot then you speak up everyone listens to what you have to say.  Wiseman!

Lemon Pepper Chicken / Turkey Black Bean Chili

This week’s freezer crockpot meals.

Lemon Pepper Chicken
Modified from New Leaf Wellness http://newleafwellness.biz/

Yields: 4 Servings

Ingredients
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

Materials
• 1 gallon-sized plastic freezer bag

Prep
1. Label your freezer bag.
2. To your freezer bag, add all ingredients.
3. Remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible, seal, and lay flat in your freezer.

Cook
1. The night before cooking, move frozen bag to your refrigerator to thaw.
2. The morning of cooking, pour contents of freezer bag into your slow cooker and cook on “low” setting for 3-6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and tender.*

*The chicken can also be tossed on the grill.

Serve with rice and brocolli.

Turkey Black Bean Chili
Modified from New Leaf Wellness http://newleafwellness.biz/

Yields: 4- 6 serving

INGREDIENTS
• 1 pound ground turkey
• 2 – 14.5oz cans tomato sauce
• 2 – 15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 – 14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
• 1 2/3 cup frozen corn
• 3 teaspoons of minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

MATERIALS
• 1 gallon-sized plastic freezer bag

PREP
1. Label freezer bag.
2. To your freezer bag, add all ingredients. (Add the ground turkey to the bag last, so it’s the first ingredient poured into your slow cooker.)
3. Remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible, seal, and lay flat in your freezer.

COOK
1. The night before cooking, move frozen bag to your refrigerator to thaw.
2. The morning of cooking, pour contents of freezer bag into your slow cooker and cook on “low” setting for 8 hours, or until turkey is cooked through.
3. Break apart turkey and serve. ( I use the pampered chef Mix & Chop and it works great!)

Serve with shredded cheese on top.

Review:  Maybe it was the cold my whole family was getting or maybe I measured some of the ingredients wrong, but this didn’t seem to have a lot of flavor. I loved the black beans and corn, but I did add 2 cups of water and a tablespoon plus of chili powder to the crockpot.

My Fake Life

Many people are surprised when I tell them I am an introvert.  So much so, that I have actually doubted myself.  But I have done a lot of reading and even taken a few test (more than the facebook quizzes) and it is a proven fact, I am in introvert.

“How can you be an introvert you speak in front of people each week?”  “You are not an introvert I have seen you host trainings and strategic planning events?”  “You are wrong, you are definitely an extrovert I have been to your Christmas parties!”  Yep, I have heard them all.  But alas, I am an introvert.

I have read an article “24 Signs you’re an Introvert not shy”* and I thought I would compare me and my idiosyncrasies with the list.

1. You Don’t Enjoy Small Talk

I would much rather hold a conversation about something than talk about the weather, the game or the price of gas.  I love different points of view.  Lets talk about something real.  Now that doesn’t mean I can’t “do” small talk. I can fake it.  I don’t want people to think I don’t care.

2. You Have a Love-Hate Relationship With Your Phone

I HATE talking on the phone!  It is so disconnected. I always wonder if the person is really listening and participating in the conversation on the other end or are they watching tv.  I find it impossible just to sit and talk, but I can’t do something else like cook or clean at the same time either….so I pace.  I can rake up alot of miles in a 2 hour conversation.

With cell phone, you are expected to be available day and night.  Yikes!  Not me!  I always forget to turn my ringer up or I turn it off while it recharges.  My family doesn’t believe that I don’t do this on purpose. I really don’t, it is just not  important enough for me to remember to turn up my volume after a meeting or charge my phone mid day when I have a long day.  A phone ringing is like finger nails on a chalk board.  But if I do take your call and the conversation goes beyond th small talk of the weather,  I can talk for hours.

3. You Wait to Text Back

This fact isn’t often true of me.  In text messaging, I do tend to reply quickly.  Email….it could be 24 hours.

4. You Find Crowds Stressful

I can’t stress this enough.  Crowds are energy draining.  I have not shopped at a store at Christmas time for at least 7 seven years.  I may run in and grab something specific I am looking for, but I try to keep it short and sweet.  Then there is the Disney World incident of 2003,  but I don’t want to talk about that except to say my husband had to put me in a time out.

5. You’re Not Anti-Social… You’re Selectively Social

My husband and I have been married 20 plus years and never had a  lot of couple friends when we were dating or after we were first married.  This was hard for both of us and we often referred to ourselves as an island.  He is a people person, but was able to get his people time in at work. We met a couple through church about 15 years ago. Our kids were similar ages and had similar interests. And they wouldn’t give up on us (lets face it …me).  I even took this couple on a test run overnighter to see if we could “vacation” for a week together when they invited us to a week long beach vacation.  I  found friends that wouldn’t give up on me and my strangeness, thank goodness.  They are two of our best friends still today!  It takes me time to warm up to someone. I don’t want to invest time into people that I don’t click with.  I am not good at faking friendship. I want to get to know people better before we get too close. So glad to say that the friendships I have allowed to grow are strong and solid!  After 20 years, I have a group of REALLY close friends that we can and am willing to share my life with ….the good, the bad, the ugly.

6. You Enjoy Being Out With a Group of People… in Small Doses

A few years ago, my husband and I started hosting parties for our group of friends.  It started with a birthday party and grew into a gathering about 4 times a year.  I actually look forward to these times now, I honestly never thought I would.  This year, I am trying to grow myself and have pledged to double date with one couple a month out to a restaurant!!!!  That is huge for me.  I actually don’t enjoy eating in front of people (I don’t think that is an introvert thing, I am just weird that way).  This is my goal this year to get myself out there with people every month!

7. You Are Extremely Observant and Mindful of Your Surroundings

I love people watching and watching the world.  I could sit on a park bench for hours watching life happen.

8. You Unlock Your Heart for Only the Most Special of Souls

I thought I would allow the article to cover this area.  It has put it into words better than I ever could.”Introverts are extremely careful in choosing who we allow to see our inner self. Sure, being left open and vulnerable is incredibly frightening for us, but it means we’ve determined the recipient of our affection and attention is worth the risk. That being said, we’re pretty quick in shutting people out when we feel threatened or hurt. We just don’t have the energy for that.”

9. You are Creative

I believe I am creative.  I am always looking for new ways to do things.  I enjoy re-purposing objects.  I just thought that was recycling.

10. You Value Listening… Deeply

I battle on this one at times.  I am told I am a great listener.  I truly want to connect and understand people, but sometimes I am more apt to respond, most often with a story from my life.  “It’s not about me!!” This is a habit I am actually trying to break, but I think it is more about me filling an empty sound space and trying to prove myself and that I understand.  When asked for advice, I try to give a thoughtful well- rounded advise more than just they want to hear.  My hope that my friends will respond in the same way when I need them and my true friends do – calling me out when I need it!

11. You are Highly Introspective

Highly Introspective – Over Analyzing – same thing, both me!

12. You Think Before You Argue

My husband always accuses me of having a whole conversation in my head before I approach him about a situation.  Guilty!  It is how I process a situation.  I like to have my points set up to deliver rather than be taken by surprise. I truly don’t know or understand any other way.

13. You are Accused of Flirting with Everybody

I am never accused of flirting with anyone, except my husband and that is only 4-5 times a year.

14. You Enjoy Your Time Alone

I do enjoy my time alone.  I always feel guilty about saying this.  This year I took a “me-cation” and it was the best thing I have done for myself in years!!  I was able to relax and take things at my own pace.  I drove to Maryland to see my sister.  I stopped when I wanted to stop, slept when when I wanted to sleep and ate when and where I wanted to eat.  No time table.  Not sure what I enjoyed more sitting on my tailgate a national park eating hummus watching the people and the wind in the fields or laying on the hammock in my sister’s backyard reading a book with a glass of wine.  Sometimes I just need to get out of my own head, away from schedules and just breathe.

15. You are Rarely Bored

I will sit and binge watch a tv show, but more often than not I try to find a project – making home movie dvds, arranging a photo albums or refinishing the kitchen cabinets (see previous posts).

16. You Don’t Trust Easily

Again I will let the article speak my feelings. “You take your time to observe and really get to know someone before inviting them into your inner circle; but once you have the right people in your life, you don’t hold back and strive to always give the best of yourself.”

17. You Have a Very Small Group of Very Close Friends

I do.  It has taken me 20 years to gather them all.  But my friends, I also consider my accountability group.  Once I finally trust and let someone in to look at my core, it is like a vortex which there is no escape.  Sorry guys, I should have warned you.

18. You Fiercely Guard Your Personal Space

In scope – out of Scope a good friend once taught me.  Things in-scope get my energy and attention, thing that are out of scope do not.  Fairly simple.  I  value my time and my space and are particular about what I give my attention. Negative people and negative thoughts drain my energy.

19. You are More Comfortable Expressing Yourself in Writing

I take more time and thought when I communicated in writing.  It allows me to step back and reread my thoughts and how I want them expressed.

20. You are Great at Getting Stuff Done

I love working alone, I can work with a group but I like  brainstorming, outlining, creating a plan and then sharing them with others.  Then as a group can decide if they get put into action.  I like seeing all the steps so that I can take projects in various directions.

21. You are a Good Judge of Character

I am a reader of non-verbal cues, but now reread #11.

22. You are Great at Making Decisions

I am a pros and cons list task master!!  I like to try to see all sides of the coin even the ridgey side.

23. You Retain an Air of Mystery

I have never considered myself mysterious.  I would have to let others comment on that.

24. You are A Loyal Friend

Once you are in to quote Meet the Fockers “in the circle of trust”  it is hard to get out.  I am there for you.  I still wait to be invited in, I don’t want to be invasive or pushy.

 

Please follow the link below to read the full article.  I think it may be eye opening and help you to know yourself or someone you love better.

*http://www.lifehack.org/285869/24-signs-youre-introvert-not-shy