National Hot Chocolate Day

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This was the lovely set-up my daughter did for her Secret Santa sleepover. This was the Hot Chocolate buffet: a variety of hot chocolate, peppermint candy canes, a wide range of marshmallows, and festive reindeer napkins. (c)2019

Hot Chocolate Gift Sets I put together for my kids. Penzeys Hot Chocolate Mix and a jar of mini marshmallows. Simple, cute, inexpensive, thoughtful, and delicious. (c)2019

December – Holiday Season – Reflection

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​December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)

It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.

My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.

I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.

Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.

This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.

I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.

Gold colored Christmas ornament of Mary the Blessed Mother. (c)2018


Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.

November – Gratitude – Reflection

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The last two years have been clouded with so many political things, and the next two will also have much more to come, but I am grateful for the outcome of the election, the blue wave, and the thoughts that maybe we can work our way back to where the country not only should be, but where the majority of the country wants it to be. I’ve been inspired by so many new faces and listening to many intelligent voices on my new passion of podcasts that I feel cautiously optimistic that we can get through this time.

While I haven’t written that much for Nanowrimo, I have still done a lot of writing for my space here, reading my good morning journal as often as necessary, and have some other ideas and writings plotted out in the bare bones.

I went on a beautiful retreat for Thanksgiving reflection and am looking forward to another on Mary the day after my birthday. 

I am grateful to be hearing better than I have in a few years. The number of times that I say “what” have gone down exponentially thanks to a pair of hearing aids. I’ve also gotten a lot of medical things taken care of with more to come in the coming weeks, including at a ridiculous early time tomorrow. I am still seeing my therapist and trying to use all the tools in my basket; my mental health is definitely stable and good. My kids are healthy and happy in school, and we have a home, heat, and food and with the snow starting early that is indeed appreciated. Whatever else we may want, our needs are well taken care of.

Looking forward to Thursday with our family and thinking about the family not there, whether too far away or no longer and especially that whether together or apart, we are still a we.

Wishing you many blessings at this holiday season, and grateful that you are all in my life.

September – Back to School – Recipe

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Lunch Box Snacks

It’s hard to believe that packing a lunch is the easy part. A leftover to microwave. A sandwich to cut – rectangles or triangles? Peanut butter or turkey? Jam or cheese?

Snacks.

Many schools have rules on snacks. Some depend on allergies if the snack will be eaten in the lunchroom or the classroom. Some list “healthy snacks”, which I always find something on the list or prohibited from the the list that I object to. One example is they’ll include raisins, but exclude pretzels. Not sure the reasoning behind that. Raisins are great, and healthy, but not good for your teeth if you don’t have the opporutnity to brush them.

Here is my top ten list (not in preference orderr) for lunch box snacks!

1. Raisins or Craisins

2. Pretzels (my favorite)

3. Baby carrots or carrot sticks. Celery. Broccoli. With or without dip.

4. Granola bars (read the packaging for allergies, though. Same with pretzels. You’d be amazed how many pretzels are made on machines that also manufacture peanut snacks.)

5. Baggie of cereal. Cheerios, Kix, Lucky Charms, whatever your favorite is really.

6. String Cheese

7. Crackers and cheese or peanut butter.

8. Graham crackers with cream cheese

9. Applesauce. (This also goes well with graham crackers.)

10. Apples, oranges, bananas. Fresh fruit is always a good option.

July: Sum Sum Summer: Reflection

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​July has sped along, and it hasn’t been bad, or terrible, or really all that hot. Some really hot days, and really hot steering wheels, but I can’t complain overall about the nights. I was just mentioning today that the last couple of years it seems that August is the hottest of the summer months, thank you very much global warming for screwing up the norms.

From the end of the school year until just after Independence Day, our family is in flux. Some days off from work, some, if I’m being honest, a lot of, lazy days, some pajama days, not always planned until we wake up and don’t feel like getting dressed, but it ticks along until we get into some kind of schedule that works for everyone. Usually after my husband’s birthday.

I have implemented a points system this year for my kids that appears to be working. More or less. They don’t know what they’re working towards or what the points can be traded for at the end of the summer yet. Neither do I. Yet. But with my husband working from home, it’s really helped them declare their own independence while letting me work in my bedroom for most of the morning. Instead of bothering him, they get their own breakfasts and set about doing their busywork, whether that’s YouTube or games or books. They quietly feed themselves with whatever we have, and they’re old enough to microwave or use the tea kettle and toaster, so their breakfast and lunches (peanut butter for one, Nutella for the other) gets them through most mornings without rancor.

For me…I just don’t want to do anything. I think it’s part of a mild depression. I don’t feel that things are impossible or that I’ve reached desperation, but there’s something just bleh that I can’t shake. I’m tired but not in the needing rest sense. I know that current events and politics are feeding that tiredness and anger and frustration. 

I want to be in church for mass, but I don’t want to actually leave the house to go to  mass. 

My husband organized a spontaneous road trip to Destiny USA on Cayuga Lake in Syracuse, and it was cheap, which is always a good thing. I mean it cost next to nothing, and it was fun. It was adventurous for the two of us in the family who need plans and lists and things. But it was still something of a struggle. It was a very conscious effort to be there for everyone and everything. And the amount of energy it expends to be that self-aware and that self-censoring is really quite exhausting.

I want to write, but I don’t want to sit down and get to the process of writing. I have so many things that need to be written and then posted or filed or edited, and I can’t decide on which is the most important, and then I get paralyzed with indecision and do nothing. I have yet to continue the journal I want to write for our family trip to Ireland. It’s almost a year since we went and came back. Part of that, I know is that we probably won’t get a vacation this year, but part of it is also that I want it to be perfect for posterity and summer at home is too noisy to just sit and reflect quietly on that very special trip. Unsure about a vacation this year with too many other monetary priorities plus a mistake with our taxes that refunded us significantly less than I had anticipated. Trudge along, though. That’s all any of us can do. Trudge along.

I did see my therapist a couple of days ago, and that helps; not just the going, but the anticipation of going. It’s like a balm. If I’m feeling anxious, I look at the calendar and see the appointment and I can get through a minor pang of anxiety.

I think July is just more of my cranky month than the others. The kids home more than usual, the air hotter than usual, less money, more expectations, anticipations of so many things to do, and then having to live up to those expectations.

Well, let’s think positively.

Let’s see what can happen.

Families Belong Together

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Some Twitter resources for today as well as throughout this election year. None of these accounts are affiliated with the federal government or official accounts of the departments they talk about.

Immigration

Jacob Soboroff (journalist covering the border crisis)

RAICESTEXAS (helping reunite families)

Alternative Dept. Homeland Security

Alternative Homeland Sec

Ireallydocare.com (not a Twitter, but a list of non-profits helping (also listed below))

Al Otro Lado – serves indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana & Los Angeles

https://www.alotrolado.org


The Florence Project – providing legal & social services to detained immigrants in Arizona

https://firrp.org/


Neta – a Latinx-run progressive media platform telling the stories of what’s happening on the border

https://www.netargv.com


Innovation Law Lab – working in immigrant detention centers and hostile judicial districts; keeping the definitive list of kids being held

https://www.innovationlawlab.org


Fuerza Del Valle – organizing workers & immigrant communities in the Rio Grande Valley

http://www.fuerzadelvalle.org/


The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights – promoting the best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children

https://www.theyoungcenter.org/


We Belong Together – women for common sense immigration policies

https://www.webelongtogether.org/


United We Dream – the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country

https://unitedwedream.org/


Womens Refugee Commission – advocating for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution

https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/


ACLU – fighting attacks through the legal system

http://www.aclu.org


Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) – protecting unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney.

https://supportkind.org/


Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project – providing asylum seekers with legal aid and community support across the country

https://asylumadvocacy.org/


Human Rights First – helping refugees obtain asylum in the U.S.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/


La Union del Pueblo Entero – founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, a community union that works in the Rio Grande Valley from the grassroots up

https://lupenet.org/

Committee for the Protection of Journalists

Indivisible Team

Rogue Senior WH Advisor

Alternative National Parks Service

Rogue NASA

Alternative Forest Service

Alternative EPA

Alternative DoJ

Alternative NOAA

Alternative National Parks Service

EPA Facts

Ungagged EPA

Not Alt World

June: School’s Out: Reflection

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School’s Out, but the Learning Continues

My daughter’s already got a list going for the summer activities she wants to complete. Most of it is based on past years and I’m sure some will coordinate with her Snapchat and soon to be Instagram, but that’s okay. She has a soon to be instagram, but that’s okay. She has a good eye. For now, she wants to be a fashion designer, but photography is good in almost any field; I use it for my writing.

Starting next week, school’s ot, but the learning goes on. Everything is a teachable moment, from organizing the clutter coming home from school lockers and desks to cooking and gardening.

Yesterday, I gave my two younger kids a homework assignment. Before June 21st, give me a list of five things you want to do this summer. Three of them must be free. Then add a sixth item with a suggestion of where you might want to take vacation this summer. No airplanes, car trip only, and this is not a guarantee of having a vacation.

Once I get their list, I’ll have them research their vacation item and create a budget.

In addition to that, we also will continue to have our Movie Day each week, two or three taste testings, art and journaling, bicycle rides, tending the yard, and a local history lesson.

What are some of the ways you’re still learning this summer?