The times they are a-changin’

There is so much going on and yet I’m never here writing about it.

It’s tough to be as open and raw as I’ve been in the past because I’m trying to broaden the audience for this site but that, ironically, seems to be sapping me of any interest in coming here to write. (Can’t really welcome new visitors when my last post is over two weeks old.) I’m working on overcoming the resistance and we’ll see what transpires.

In the meantime, I’ve made some breakthroughs in dealing with my control and anxiety issues. A therapist gave me some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to use when I’m triggered so that I can challenge the disordered thinking before I go off the deep end. It helps a lot for the low level anxiety/control/panic incidents and at least brings me back to myself faster in case of a major attack. It’s tough to describe how debilitating these episodes are and how destructive to my relationships with family – particularly the husband and daughter – so any relief is very welcome.

Something that certainly wasn’t helping the anxiety level around here was my constant fear that I was going to receive a poor performance review and possibly be laid off from work. Ironically, a week before my performance review was scheduled, my division laid off over 130 employees and I wasn’t one of them. All of that worry – months of it, to be honest – and they not only kept me but I received a good, solid review.

After I dealt with my grief at losing so many colleagues – I knew most of them very, very well – and then the guilt about why I was kept while other talented folks weren’t, I realized that my anxiety-fueled (and misplaced) paranoia was sapping the joy out of every part of my life, not just my personal/home life but also work. I resolved to make changes and I have done so.

It’s important that I be in better shape financially in case the day does come when my name is on that list. To that end, I’ve sold some stock and will use most of my annual bonus, too, to pay down my credit card debt. If I can get it down to 30% or less of my maximum credit limit then the payments will be really small and I can make some major headway toward becoming debt free. I’ve also started transferring $50 per paycheck directly into my savings account so that I can begin building a six month safety net, just in case.

In addition to paying down debt and building my savings, I’m also investigating ways to make a little more money. To that end, I’ve begun investigating the possibility of becoming a stylist with Stella & Dot. I love their jewelry, I have a lot of friends – both online and off – who love jewelry, too, and the start up costs are really pretty reasonable. I would do most of my sales online just because setting up parties seems sort of out of date with the times but I would certainly be open to that possibility, too. Best of all, I’d have to wear gorgeous jewelry all the time in order to generate interest from friends, co-workers, and total strangers at the coffee shop (don’t laugh, it happens to me all the time with my jewelry and accessories!) so my samples would also be my personal jewelry stash – how cool is that?

Finally, I’ve signed on with Passionfruit Ads to offer paid sponsorships on the sidebar of this site. The rates are crazy low because this isn’t a “big time blog”, but it’s a way to make income while still maintaining control of the content (I have to approve each site or company that submits an ad request so nothing will appear on the site that is out of line with my beliefs and the “vibe” for the site). If you want to check it out, go to my Sponsor Me page where I’ve got everything laid out already.

I’d love feedback on the changes both here and offline. Do you know anyone who is a stylist for Stella & Dot or Thirty One or Avon or some other part-time sales gig? How about ad sales: anyone making any money from them? Tips and tricks for boosting your savings and paying down credit cards? I await your wisdom!

Preparing for the worst

Having lived most of my life in southern California, I’m no stranger to wild fires. When I was 10 years old – the year we moved to Anaheim – we had to evacuate to my aunt’s house a few miles away when I fire got within a mile of our house. Our house was safe but it was really terrifying for me because my mom was at work when the police officer drove by the house and yelled at us to get out of our houses because the fire was coming. We had a dog and two cats at the time and I had no clue what to do for myself, much less for them. Fortunately I was able to get in touch with my mom at work (long before the advent of cell phones made that much easier) and she told me to get the cats into their carriers and get the dog on his leash then stay in the house with all of the windows and doors closed until she got home.

Many years later, as an adult, I faced another situation where I was facing the threat of wild fire engulfing my condo and this time there was no one to tell me what to do (or to come and pick me up, for that matter). I watched the fires closing in on me by using the street names from the reporters on the television and a paper map of San Diego. I drew a one-mile circle around my house on the map with a pencil and decided that once the fire breached that circle, I was out of there. In preparation, I began to pack my little Saturn with everything that she could fit, which wasn’t much. I pulled the hard drive from my computer, grabbed the photo albums and important papers from my spare bedroom, packed in some pillows and blankets in case I had to sleep in my car, and then I realized I needed to make room for two cat carriers for my (then) cats, Dave & Abby. I unpacked everything and started over with the cat carriers snugly nestled beneath my bedding and clothing on the back seat. I set everything up so that I could grab each cat and shove them quickly in the carriers if I only had a few minutes to get out of there. I put their food, litter, a makeshift litter box, and three gallons of water for them next to the front door, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. I sat on the couch, cats lying next to me, and prayed that I wouldn’t have to leave.

Thankfully, my condo was spared that day. And the next. In fact it’s still safe and sound with some nice tenants living there now. We have a beautiful, new townhouse now which almost burned down in 2007 before we closed escrow on it, but it, too, was spared. Living in southern California, though, we are painfully aware of the ever-present risk of wild fires. Just this week CalFire issued a red flag alert which indicates that the risk of wild fires is extreme due to very high temperatures and very low humidity and that residents should review and revise as necessary their personal wild fire preparedness plans. While we’ve discussed what to do in case of a fire in very general terms, we do not yet have a written plan of action should something happen, so I am working on one as we speak.

Here are the three primary reasons I’m so motivated:

Alouysius the Wonder Pug
Harry, Mama’s baby boy!
Princess Sally

 

A great resource for creating a family emergency preparedness plan that includes your furkids is the Humane Society of the United States’ website (see information below). I can tell you from personal experience that your plan will not be nearly as detailed as it ought to be if you wait until you actually need to evacuate your home to decide what you need to bring for you and your pets, so consider going over there today to check it out.

Do you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan already in place? If so, does it include provisions for taking your pets with you?


Now is the time to think about disaster preparedness for you, your family, and your animals. Please visit the Humane Society of the United States for advice on disaster planning for pets, horses, and farm animals and make sure you’re ready for an every day emergency.

(I was not compensated in any way for this post and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.)

Homemaking 101: Remedial housekeeping skills

A couple of months ago, I confessed to you all my complete lack of housekeeping skills. No cooking. No cleaning. Nothing at all, really, to connect me to the day-to-day running of our home except paying for professionals to take care of us.

Since then a few things have changed –

  • I signed up for a 5-week Basic Cooking from Scratch class. Not only did I sign up, I also attended the first session two weeks ago on Wednesday (no class on Independence Day) where I learned basic knife skills and made a basic vegetable soup with rice from scratch. (The only thing we took out of a can was the tomato paste.) I even purchased my very own Chef’s knife and sharpening steel!

In the week since our last class, I’ve made a couple of meals for dinner that require dicing, thin slicing, and chopping vegetables in order to practice what I learned. It was suggested that we make at least two new dishes per week and that seems like a good plan. Tonight’s dinner will be Porcupine Meatballs (meatballs made with ground turkey, uncooked brown rice – it cooks while the meatballs cook, and various diced vegetables) with a salad, and strawberries for dessert. Not sure what our second recipe for the week will be but at least we’re eating a homemade meal at home!

  • I started using one of those “toss it in the dryer for 30 minutes with a special pre-moistened sheet” products for many things I would ordinarily take to the dry cleaners. This is not only a huge time savings but it’s also a real time saver since I don’t have to deal with all of the hangers, plastic, and paper that has to be separated and recycled after a visit to the dry cleaners. I’ve got the stuff to take the stains out before you throw it all in the dryer, too, so it’s working out pretty well. Mick’s shirts and casual, non-denim pants are still going to the cleaners, though, because my ironing is still pretty rudimentary.
  • I signed up for a three part Learn to Sew class and, during my first class last night, I made a cute, lined grocery tote bag!
Can you believe I made this in two and a half hours?

I have two more classes on each of the next two Sundays, at which we will make an apron with pocket then a zippered tote. Ultimately my goal is to take the quilting class offered at the same lovely sewing lounge so that I can sew the patriotic quilt that I won all of the materials for in an online contest, then raffle it off as a fundraiser for the American Legion.

I still need to work on the cleaning portion of the program but I’m definitely more directly connected to the daily details of my life than I used to be!

Any relatively simple yet make-from-scratch recipes you’d like to share? If you’re a stitcher/sewer, have you made any fun pieces lately? Let’s discuss in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook. (I’m becoming SO Martha!)

Eating well for diabetics: Six things NOT to eat

Just as there are guidelines about how to eat for diabetics, there are also recommendations about what not to eat if you’re diabetic. (I’d like to point out that non-diabetics probably wouldn’t be hurt by following these “don’t eat” commandments, too.) I found these from Everyday Health:

  1. Donuts.Whether glazed or jelly-filled, these little gems are full of saturated fat, tons of sugar, and not a single positive nutritional contribution to your diet. Just say no! Substitute a piece of low-glycemic fruit
    My nemesis (from EverydayHealth.com)

    (apple slices, half a banana) with organic peanut butter.

  2. Cheese. Oh man, this one kills me! I love cheese so much that it hurts, but it’s just chock-full of saturated fat and we already know that’s a no-no. I don’t know of a really good substitute but the article mentions Greek yogurt which might work if you like Greek yogurt (it’s not a favorite of mine yet but I’m still trying).
  3. Anything breaded and fried, including chicken fingers and fish sticks. Not only are these saturated fat bombs, they generally have way too much salt, too, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Substitute an ounce of nuts, just be careful to portion it out because if you’re anything like me, nuts can lead to overindulging.
  4. Potato chips, crackers, and tortilla/corn chips. Wow, this is another tough one. I love chips and salsa SO MUCH. These nutritional miscreants not only raise your bad cholesterol and add too many calories to your diet, they are also a “gateway” to high fat dips or other enhancers. Le sigh. Substitute baked whole-grain crackers with salsa instead.
  5. Packaged baked goods, like cookies. High in sugar, fat, and calories, they also fall into the bucket of carbohydrate sources that are quickly converted to sugar because they have absolutely no fiber to slow digestion. Good substitutes include baked whole grain crackers or fruit. I sometimes find that a hot cup of tea with non-fat milk and sugar substitute will satiate my craving for sweet junk food, too!
  6. Processed cereals. I am lucky that I don’t like, and never eat, sugary cereals. As a matter of fact, I rarely eat cereal of any kind. These diet demons are packed so full of sugar that there’s no room for any fiber – a bad combination. A better option for breakfast would be non-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and just a light sprinkling of a cereal that has whole grain listed as the first ingredient.

There are a few of my all-time favorites on that list, so I’d better get to the store tonight to stock up on some alternate snack ideas. I know what to do, now it’s time to actually do it.

What are some of your “no-no” food items and what strategies do you employ to avoid them? Or do you include them in your daily life in moderation? Do tell!

The family that serves together

Mick and I have always had our own volunteer work. I volunteer with the Junior League of San Diego and Just in Time for Foster Youth, focusing on issues of emancipating foster youth, while Mick focuses on helping veterans through his work with the American Legion. It’s not that we don’t both feel passionately about both causes, it’s just that we started that way and it’s always been easier to stay that way.

Recently, I joined the American Legion Auxiliary. Mick spends so much time traveling and working with the Legion that we don’t spend much of our leisure time together now, so I decided to take a “if you can’t beat then, join them” approach. So now we’re both in Redding, California for the California conferences of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary and I’m remembering how well it used to work when we each focused on our own things. He’s a rising star in his organization and I am a newborn baby, figuratively speaking, in mine.

This is not what I’m used to and that’s a good thing. New experiences, especially those that push me into an uncomfortable place, always make me feel stronger afterwards. Doing things as a couple will strengthen our relationship. Etcetera, etcetera. It’s tough and I’m nervous but I know that I want to be a part of this organization and I’m going to make this work.

Have any of you recently struggled with not being “the best” at something? I’ve forgotten how to be OK being vulnerable in new situations, so any wise words you’d like to share would be really helpful.

Five tips for better diabetic eating

I had an appointment with my endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) on Friday. We discussed several different options in terms of changing my medications to try to get a better handle on my diabetes, but ultimately the best thing I can do is eat less, of better quality foods. I wish this was something that came easily to me.

Image by Atila Yumusakkaya on Flickr

The basic rules for healthy eating when you are diabetic are not really so different from those that apply to everyone. In a nutshell, here are the top five tips for better diabetic eating (with help from the American Diabetes Association’s website):

  1. Eat a good variety of foods. Include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, non-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and lean meats. Notice that candy, cookies, and white rice are not on the list? <Deep sigh.> The variety of food you eat is important not only because it keeps you from being bored with your meals but also so that you can get most of your necessary vitamins and minerals from what you eat instead of having to take a supplement.
  2. Don’t eat too much at one sitting or too much of any one type of food. For instance, binging on Girl Scout cookies is discouraged. Smaller portions are important because your body won’t have to work as hard if it only has to digest a small amount of food at a sitting rather than an enormous meal.
  3. Space your meals out throughout the day and don’t skip meals. Ideally you would eat reasonably sized meals every four hours so that your blood sugar never gets low. (Low blood sugar can make you ravenously hungry and less apt to make good food choices. See the bit about not binging on GS cookies in point #2 above.)
  4. Eat fish with your meals 2-3 times per week. Why does everyone keep talking about eating fish? It’s a lean protein option, with very little saturated fat. It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and triglycerides and might even lower your risk of certain types of cancer.
  5. Get your five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. For best glycemic control (defined as the measurement of how well your blood sugar is being managed), limit the amount of starchy vegetables – like potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash, and choose fruit with lower glycemic index values like cantaloupe, apples, apricots, and plums. Again, a good variety of fruit and vegetable choices is important to make sure you’re getting the best nutritional bang for your (grocery) buck.

Of course, it’s one thing to know what to do and another thing entirely to make sure that you do it. I asked my endocrinologist for a referral to a nutritionist for help in putting together simple yet inviting meal plans for my whole family so that I can – gasp! – start eating mostly at home. While it’s certainly possible to eat well while eating out, it’s sure a lot easier when you prepare everything yourself so you know what’s going in the pot!

How do you make sure that you and your family are eating well and getting the nutrition you need? Any time and/or money saving tips you’d like to share?

A cool gift for Dad (or anyone, really)

When I was a kid, my mom used to love to play her records – they were plastic discs that could play music, for those born after 1990 – so loudly that you could hear the music throughout the house. I can still remember her dancing around with household cleaning implements as Fats Domino blared from the speakers. Since I live in a townhouse with neighbors sharing the walls on either side of my home, that’s not realistic for me, but I still love the idea of being able to listen to my music through something better than a pair of earbuds.

I became aware of the new – or is it just new to me? – Sonos Wireless Hi-Fi system last month and I think they have a wonderful idea. In a nutshell, you can play all of the music from your own libraries and music services as well as more than 100,000 free radio stations, podcasts, and shows with excellent quality, using wireless technology so that you can move the player around the room or around the house (even outside, as long as you can pick up the wireless). Perhaps more intriguing to me is the fact that you can connect several systems, if you like, to play the same music throughout the house – isn’t that cool?

If you’re thinking about picking up one of the started systems (Play:3 or Play:5), Sonos and Target stores have an interesting deal for your consideration. Now through June 16th in-store at Target, you’ll receive a $30 Target gift card with the purchase of a Sonos Wireless Hi-Fi Play:3 unit or a $40 Target gift card if you purchase a Sonos Play:5 unit. The suggested retail for the Play:3 unit is $299 and for the Play:5 unit it’s $399.

This isn’t my mother’s hi-fi stereo system but it just might be the next best thing for music lovers like me who live in shared spaces like apartments, condominiums, and townhouses.

This post is part of a campaign I’m participating in as a member of One2One Network and I’m eligible for a prize drawing.  All opinions stated in the post are my own.

Who do you think I am?

I have a picture in my head of who I am, what I stand for, and what my writing voice sounds like. (I don’t have a very good picture of what I actually look like, though, because I picture myself being a normal size, not 100 pounds overweight.) In my head, I’m passionate, a dreamer, and ambitious. I want to write well about topics that are important to me and to others like me. I have an active imagination – you may have noticed that it sometimes gets me in trouble. And I want what I do, what I say, and who I am to make a difference in the world.

Blissdom helped me see myself as I am and
as I want to be

In his wonderful e-book (which I am reading at the moment), You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), Jeff Goins talks about the need to define your brand as a writer. He suggests that you come up with three adjectives to describe yourself and then ask readers to do the same for you. By doing this, you get a sense of whether you are making the impression that you want or if what you are presenting through your blog is not aligned properly with your own perceptions.

So I come to you today with a request: will you tell me which three adjectives you would choose to describe the way you see me through this blog? Consider the topics I choose, my word choice, whether or not I appear credible to you, and even the design and title of this blog. Also, if you’ve met me in real life, do I seem to be the same online as off?

I want to write well and I want to be authentic, so please be as brutally honest as possible. I thank you in advance for your help

A dream is a wish your heart makes

I used to dream about being a writer – you know, in the same way that you might dream of becoming a firefighter (which I also dreamed about). The strange thing is that I never thought about having my stories in books or magazines but rather their being somehow out in the world for others to find and read. (That doesn’t sound strange now but in the mid-1970s that was pretty revolutionary.) I fed my creative spirit with lots of reading and writing all the way through college, then I stopped. The pressures of the real world – rent, an early marriage, my health, etc. – intruded, and I stopped dreaming about anything except weekends.

Contributed by Hey1234 at The Disney Wiki

When I found blogging, a part of me that had long been dormant came back to life. I blogged quite happily at my old site for nine years, until Blissdom this year made me wonder if I couldn’t be doing more with my site. So I did some research, found some great partners, and what you see today is the result.

Seth from Spears Marketing migrated my blog – with over 1,200 posts from nine years – from Blogger to WordPress. He set me up with the Genesis theme and framework, Backup Buddy to do full, automated backups of my entire site including widgets, themes, and plugins, and he got both of my domains/URLs (lottalatte.com and lottalatte.net) pointed here without my having to do anything. I feel like a real, grown up blogger now and I know that my site is stable and build on a solid framework which eliminates potential worries about losing everything. (It’s happened before.) I owe Seth big time.

While this site is stable and secure, the design just wasn’t “me”. With Blogger I’d learned over the years how to mess around with the design on my own so that I could make everything just right. WordPress is not Blogger and I’m still figuring out how to post things properly, much less tinker with any of the bells and whistles, so I knew that I wouldn’t be redesigning my site. I was searching for help with WordPress themes when I stumbled across Kirsten’s site and my blogging world will never be the same. Kirsten listened to me as I waffled on about wanting flowers on my site, and clean fonts, and an email sign up box, and a way to feature other blogs that I love, and PINK – lots and lots of pink. In addition to my ramblings, I also deluged Kirsten with random pictures of things that I loved, including a scarf, a floral arrangement from the lobby of a Las Vegas casino, and a few other blogs that I liked. She has been calm, reassuring, and supportive as she diligently worked her Design Ninja magic and I could not be any happier than I am with the results.

If you, too, would like the blog of your dreams, I cannot recommend both of these folks highly enough.

For me, the original dream of being a writer is still alive. Inspired by the beauty of my new design and secure in the knowledge that I can do whatever I want without breaking my site, I’m looking forward to writing another chapter in my blogging career. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Depression: It’s sneaky

Sometimes I forget. I can go weeks or even months without experiencing a hint of depression. During those periods I sometimes allow myself to believe that it’s gone for good and that I’m “normal” again, whatever that means.

Photo by daniiibby101 on Photobucket

And then something happens – some magical thing – and the craziness starts again. Black is white and white is black. Nothing makes sense to me even though I somehow sense, somewhere deep inside that is still in touch with reality, that it’s not external things that don’t make sense but rather my own thoughts that have slipped their moorings. Now is one of those times.

It started when I encountered a friend who is struggling with depression issues of his own, although I didn’t feel the beginnings of my own response until later. I listened to his delusional ramblings for hours, deflecting and debunking his misconceptions, outright challenging him when he was making statements about his life being worthless and over (he’s 21 years old), and crying with him as he talked about not having anywhere else to go or anything left to do. I told him that I would get the number for the County Mental Health Services crisis hotline and that he wouldn’t be alone.

As I drove home that night, I could feel my mood changing and all of my energy to do anything leaving my body. When my beautiful daughter and wonderful husband wanted to talk to me later that evening, I begged off citing the fact that I was “tired” – that’s my standard excuse, even to myself, for times when I can’t muster the energy to keep up appearances of normalcy.

Monday was Memorial Day and I participated in a remembrance ceremony with the husband and the daughter, standing dutifully at attention throughout and making small talk with acquaintances there and later at the post-ceremony reception that followed. Once the official part of the day was over and we were in private again, the darkness and fog descended, and I only wanted to curl up in a ball and be left alone.

Thank goodness I have a husband who understands the craziness and whom I trust so completely that I can see myself through his eyes and recognize what’s happening. That’s what happened on Monday night: Mick was being his usual helpful self, making dinner on the grill, and I suddenly just flipped out. I wanted to go out, we hadn’t explicitly talked about eating in, and I went from a zombie to straight up angry in about 2.5 seconds. I could see the confusion on his face, heard him asking me what was up and not taking “nothing” for an answer, and – after about 20 minutes – I realized what had happened. I apologized, I cried a little, then I went to him, buried my face in his chest, and told him I was sorry. He didn’t have to ask why I was sorry because he already knew what was going on.

Ever since that moment on Monday night, the darkness has been slowly receding. I wish it was something I could just decide to stop and then it would go away, but it’s not, at least not for me. Once I can see it and name it, though, I know that it’s on its way out of my head, and that makes life easier even as I still deal with its lingering effects.

What I’ve learned in the last year that I didn’t know before is how important it is to check in with reality, to find something that I know with 100% certainty is real and then hold on to it until the craziness starts to subside. For me on Sunday, that thing was my husband and I am so grateful – and lucky – to have him in my life.

If you, like me, suffer from depression, know that there’s help and you are never, ever as alone as you feel. There are caring people in your area – trained professionals – who are just waiting for your call. You can find their number in the front of your phone book (if you still have that object in your home) or by performing an Internet search for “mental health resources, county of xxx” where “xxx” should be replaced with the county where you live. Don’t suffer even a minute longer by yourself – help is out there and you’re worth it!