Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Optimists' Club


It's been a LONG while since I've been on this blog.  It took me a while today to figure out my password and finally log on.  I wasn't even sure I would ever be back after the year I had last year, but as the cliche goes, 'time heals all wounds', and I am surprised to be feeling a lot like my old, happy self again.  

I had a major trauma at the beginning of last year that left me very depressed.  I couldn't function normally for many months.  All I felt like doing was hiding under the covers and crying.  Every time I woke up, my problems were still there, and weren't a dream as I'd hoped they would be.  I stopped blogging and writing, of course, and many other normal things I liked to do, like read or exercise.  I did only what I had to do, such as going to work, but I did it with no passion, as if I were an automaton.  At home, my husband picked up the slack.  My friends and family stopped getting calls from me.  They called and I ignored.  I hid from the world and slept as much as I could to hide even from myself (though that didn't work because there were also the nightmares that haunted me and made me re-live the experience again).  

Finally, at my lowest point, when I became scared that I was beginning to think that living was too hard, I sought outside help.  I didn't relish the idea of living the whole thing over again when all I wanted was for it to go away, but I have to admit now that I had to do that and have a kind-hearted person (that was not someone who loved me) say to me that it was going to be OK.  Her kindness made me start listening to the other voices in my life, my friends, my family--especially my father--who helped me to feel finally that what happened, happened, and could not be undone, and could not be viewed as a karmic punishment but a lesson and a call to become a better, stronger and wiser person.  Thanks to them, I don't look at what happened with bitterness, but with gratitude that it was not worse, and that I am still here and have things that I can still be grateful for.  

I've started doing all the little things that I stopped doing last year.  I'm exercising, I'm reading, I'm enjoying work, I'm enjoying my family, and here I am, last but not least, writing. *big smile*  I thought today I'd share an inspiring piece of writing that the Optimists' Club uses as it's motto.  I read it recently in the book Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins, which I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn't heard of it before.  It's a set of rules that I hope I never, ever again forget.  

OPTIMISTS' CLUB CREED

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

I hope you enjoyed...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again


I have a tendency--like most women I know--to want to help out when someone asks me to help out. Whenever possible, I like to say 'yes' to people because making people happy makes me happy.

This quality, however, has also gotten me into heaps of trouble. Oftentimes, it means that I am over-committing to do all sorts of things: volunteering, driving, donating, making, baking, calling, picking up, dropping off...you get the picture. Well, this stuff was all fine and dandy when I worked my weekend-only gig, leaving me plenty of free time during the weekdays to do my civic duty and be a helpful person.

Now that I'm working more hours, though, I'm finding requests for my time and energy a bit annoying. I really want to be able to say, "Sure, I'll bake a dozen cookies for your bake sale!" but then I can't actually think of a time when I could actually bake them and then I have to say 'no' which makes me feel incredibly guilty. I just feel like the most ungenerous and horrible person for not eagerly participating in the bake sale for a worthy cause.

(To make matters worse, I realize that in the time I am writing this blog post whining about my lack of time to bake cookies, I could probably have baked a dozen cookies! But who wants to be baking cookies at 11 pm at night? I mean: don't I have the right to use the precious, short amount of free time I have after the kids go to bed to just relax and whine on my blog and not to have to bake any cookies? I don't know...you tell me...)

Anyway, the first phase I went through was feeling guilty because I don't have much time or energy (or enthusiasm) for this community cookie-baking project. But then, I slowly started feeling indignant. (I know it's absolutely wrong to feel indignant, but I am just really tired today from having worked this past weekend and not having gotten much sleep, so just hear me out for a second...). So then I started feeling indignant that only women were asked to bake cookies, and no men were asked to bake cookies. Those lucky ducks! Why do they get to get off scot-free and not have to be put in the uncomfortable position of having to decline baking cookies? I know it wasn't an intentional exclusion and not meant to be personal. I'm sure they were just thinking that mostly women take an interest in baking cookies. Which begs me to wonder, "How can I let the world know that I am like a typical man in that I have not taken a shine to baking cookies?" Perhaps finding a way to communicate this will prevent further pleas to bake cookies...?

After I finally got over being indignant about how unfair it was that men don't have to bake cookies, I realized that all of this turmoil I was having was entirely SELF-INFLICTED! Probably no one actually cares that I'm not baking any cookies! (I am a horrible baker and they probably wouldn't want my cookies anyway.) Maybe I was just included on the list because they didn't want to exclude me. That is really nice, actually. Even if people know you are probably too busy to bake cookies, it's certainly nice to be asked and be included, isn't it?

So, in summary: people ask me for help and I hate saying 'no' and it causes all kinds of inner turmoil and it makes me feel like I'm a failure and not a nice person. Obviously, the cookie committee didn't intend to give me feelings of inadequacy...I did that all to myself! Pretty ridiculous, I know. (I get a little nutty when I haven't slept enough.)

Anyway, you'll be happy to hear that I did finally put on my big girl knickers and just said 'no' to the bake sale. Now I can move on to more pressing demands...like finally getting some sleep!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Boy Who Cried 'Tiger': A Gujarati Fable

When my mom first told me this story, I had to break the news to her that it sounded awfully familiar to me, and that it wasn't an Indian story at all, but an Aesop's fable. Incredibly, she had never heard of the story of 'The Boy Who Cried 'Wolf'.

"How could that be? My father told me this story," she said, truly surprised.

I just told her that I guess the story was so good it must have traveled around the world. She is never going to believe it originated anywhere other than India, so I didn't bother arguing with her.

Anyway, here's my grandfather's version of the famous story, strangely fresh because of a slight change of characters:


THE BOY WHO CRIED 'TIGER'

Once upon a time, there was a young goat-herd. Everyday, he took his goats to graze in the jungle. His father, worried about his son's safety, warned him to call from a tree if ever he saw a tiger in the jungle and all the people in the village would come to his rescue.

Well, one day, the goat-herd became very bored watching his goats graze lazily in the jungle and an idea sprang into his mind. He climbed up into the nearest tree and when he reached the top, he began to yell, "Tiger! Tiger!"

The people of the village heard his distress call, and--fearing the worst--came running with sticks in their hands ready to beat a tiger off of the boy. But what they found were just all the goat-herd's goats grazing peacefully at the base of a tree, while the goat-herd sat giggling up in the tree. They got very angry at the boy, yelled at him, and turned around and went back home.

The boy found all the excitement very entertaining and the very next day, he tried it again. Again the villagers, fearing the worst, came running. And again, they found just the mischievous boy and his herd all safe and sound. Again, they chastised him and turned around and went home.

But the day after that--wouldn't you know it--a real tiger appeared! He attacked some of the goats and caused the rest to scatter while the boy sat crying in the tree. He called and called "Tiger! Tiger!" but not a single villager came to his rescue.

In the evening, the goat-herd's father wondered why the boy hadn't returned. He asked the villagers if they had seen him. They told him that they had heard his foolish boy yelling hours before but had ignored him because of the pranks he had pulled the two days before. When he told them he hadn't returned from the jungle, they all went together to look for the boy. They found him all alone in the tree weeping.

The boy sobbed, "There really was a tiger today! I called 'Tiger!' and nobody came. Why didn't anybody come?"

His father helped his son down from the tree, put his arm around him and tried to comfort him as they walked back home.

"Son, nobody believes a liar...even when he's telling the truth."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The K Book Club


So, recently, as I was driving my kids around town, I overheard them having a very interesting conversation in the back seat:

M (my 7 year old daughter): It's so funny when Mom acts all "crazy". She's like..."HURRY UP! GET YOUR SHOES ON! WHERE'S YOUR BAG? C'MON! WE HAVE TO GO! WHAT'S TAKING YOU SO LOOONNG?

D (my 6 year old son): Yeah...that is SO funny...haha...

At this point, they are both busting a gut, laughing at how ridiculous I sound when I'm yelling at them. It was a little humiliating to hear my daughter's imitation of me--imagine the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, only higher-pitched and more annoying--but I had to admit, it was pretty funny. I had to laugh too at how ridiculous I sound.

And then I went out and bought this book, ScreamFree Parenting, which promises to help you "raise your kids while keeping your cool".

I'm sure none of you know what I'm talking about because you are all probably really calm, cool, and collected at home and have somehow managed to raise well-behaved children who all listen to your every request the first time you make it, but unfortunately for me, that is not the case at my house. This is just an example of a typical morning in our house, for instance:

Me: D, can you please get your shoes on? We have to go.

A moment passes, in which D. looks like he didn't hear me at all, and continues playing.

Me: D, get your shoes on. We have to get to the bus stop.

No reaction.

Me: D, did you hear me? We have to be at the bus stop in 10 minutes. Can you PLEASE get your shoes on?

D: I'm just (insert name of activity that he should not be doing here)...

Me: D, you can't be playing (insert name of activity here) now. You have to go to school. Put that away right now. We need to go!

About now, I'm practicing counting to 10 in my mind and trying very hard to "keep it cool" so I don't flip my lid. I even try to put on my best June Cleaver-ish look that seems to say, exasperatingly, "ah, kids will be kids...")

D: in a minute, Mom.

(Are you freaking kidding me?!)

Me: NO, NOT IN A MINUTE! NOW! PUT YOUR SHOES AND YOUR JACKET ON NOW!
LET'S GO! WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE! YOU'RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO PUT YOUR SHOES ON BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY PUT YOUR SHOES ON? GOD, NO ONE EVER LISTENS TO ME!

(So much for patience...)

Anyway, that always gets the desired response, but then I feel like a big jerk for flipping out. When I calm down, I apologize for yelling and then they say to me, with their puppy dog eyes and in their most innocent voices, "Mom, why don't you just ask nicely and we'd do it?"

Arghhhh! As if I didn't ask nicely the first time!

Needless to say, I am in need of some new techniques because this particular pattern is only driving me crazy. We pretty much repeat this pattern several times a day: when they have to get up and get ready, when they have to get out of the house, when they eat their meals, when they are arguing with each other, when they have to do their homework, and when they have to brush and go to bed...so pretty much all the time...

So, now you can see why I needed to get this book. I know it sounds gimmicky and it would seem like the contents are pretty obvious, but I have to say I think I learned a lot from this book that I hope will help me stay calm even when the little ones are wearing my last nerve.

It made me realize that I am taking on way too much stress. Not only am I worried about my own responsibilities, but I'm taking on their responsibilities like they are my own. I stress out that they're going to be late for school, that they're going to forget to do their homework, that they're going to starve to death, that they're going to be exhausted from sleep deprivation, for example, and I protect them way too much.

But that is all going to change now. When they don't want to get ready on time, I'm now going to let them miss the bus and be late. When they don't want to do their homework, I'm going to let them go empty-handed. When they don't eat their meals, I'm going to let them be hungry so they actually ask to eat. When they don't get to bed on time, I'm going to let them be a little tired. Why am I protecting them from this important life lesson--that THEY are responsible for themselves and I can only guide them to help them do the right thing? I want them to be independent, self-directed adults don't I? How can you get there if you keep coddling and hand-holding them?

Anyway, I tried out this new way of thinking this past week with INCREDIBLE success. The little guy was screaming and crying about not wanting to do homework and I just said, very calmly, "OK, don't do your homework if you don't want to. But remember, you're going to have to go to school with no homework." So then he starts screaming, "But I WANT to do it! It's just so HARD!" So I just said, "OK, well if you want to do it, just calm down and you can do it. I'll sit next to you." Seriously, it was like MAGIC! He finished it without me having to nag him repeatedly or help him at all. Why didn't I think of this before?

I also learned that I really need to mean what I say when I talk to the kids. If I say they're going to lose a toy or TV privileges if they don't finish their dinner, then I really need to take it away and not be weak and change my mind. I've definitely had a problem with throwing around threats like that that I can't back up because I feel too bad about it. But, since reading this, I think I'm already a little better. I've taken toys away when the kids haven't listened and I feel like they take me more seriously. No more wimpy mom with the empty threats!

I like the author's whole philosophy about focusing on yourself: you are the only person you can control. You can't force the kids to do anything, you can only inspire them to do the right thing and when they don't, you shouldn't protect them, you should let them suffer the consequences (obviously, within reason) and learn from their mistakes.

Another thing that stressed-out parents will love is that he encourages you to focus on yourself in other ways--get space for yourself, do things you enjoy, pamper yourself and take care of yourself. You can only properly take care of others when you have first cared properly for yourself!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Man and His Camel: A Gujarati Fable

Another story my parents told me as a child...hope you enjoy it:

THE MAN AND HIS CAMEL

Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in the desert. He owned, as most desert-dwellers do, a camel.

One night in the desert, it was very cold. The man bundled himself and went to sleep in his tent while his camel laid down to rest just outside.

Not long after, the camel poked his head into the tent and asked, "May I please put my nose in the tent? It is so terribly cold outside."

Now, the man thought for a moment. Generally, camels do not sleep in tents. They are usually perfectly fine in the out-of-doors. But it was, after all, a bitterly cold evening in the desert and what harm could be done with just allowing the camel to just put his nose in? So, much to the camel's delight, the man finally told him it was fine if he wanted to put his nose into the tent.

The camel happily warmed his cold nose in the man's tent as the man fell asleep. But slowly, slowly, over the course of the night, the camel inched his way into the tent until he was entirely in. And slowly, slowly, over the course of the night, the man was inched entirely out of the tent!

In the morning, when he awoke, the man was freezing while the camel lay blissfully in a warm slumber.

Angered, the man asked the camel, "Why did you come all the way into my tent when I told you to just put your nose in?!"

The camel could offer no good explanation. Thereafter, the man vowed never again to let the camel put his nose into his tent.

Moral: Give some people an inch and they'll take a yard.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Erin's (Accidentally Vegan) Pumpkin Spice Muffins


One of my friends at work is currently following Weight Watchers in an effort to lose some weight. (Trust me...I've already tried to sell her on vegetarianism or veganism, but it hasn't worked yet...) Anyway, recently she came in to work one day with a Tupperware full of pumpkin spice muffins, a recipe she said she modified from the Weight Watchers program. She told me that she thought of me while making them because they have no dairy or eggs in them.

My first reaction was to look at the muffins suspiciously. "No eggs, milk or butter in them? Are you SURE?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.

She went through the recipe with me and, sure enough, there weren't any animal products. So, I finally tasted one. It was so delicious, that by the end of the day, the receptionist (who doesn't have any dietary restrictions) and I had both dusted off 3 muffins each. Also, I managed to leave the office with the remaining muffins...Erin swore she had another dozen at home. (I am so lucky to work with such nice people!) Throughout the day, I also bugged her incessantly to share the recipe with me.

I know they may not look like much, but these muffins are incredibly moist and delicious. They're also very easy to make. And they have lots of fiber. According to Erin, they are only about 1-2 points on the Weight Watchers program. (Apparently, that is something Weight Watchers people find very exciting...) Hope you like them:

ERIN'S (ACCIDENTALLY VEGAN) PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS

Ingredients:

3 cups All Bran (original) cereal (I'm sure you could substitute with another bran cereal if you wanted to)
2 cups warm water
1 box (18 oz.) spice cake mix
1 can of pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon (or to taste)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Pam or other spray oil

Mix together the cereal and warm water and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Then, add the spice cake mix, pumpkin puree, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon and mix well. Finally, mix in the vinegar. Spray a couple of muffin pans with the spray oil and spoon in the batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What the Hell Do You EAT???

If you read my last post, "Reasons to go Vegan" and are thinking about giving it a try, you might be wondering to yourself, "So, what the hell do you eat???" I know it sounds IMPOSSIBLE to avoid, meat, eggs, milk, cheese and butter, but if I can do it, I know anyone can do it. I don't live in a city with lots of conveniences and health food stores. I haven't even been to a Whole Foods store yet because they're all so far away from me. I have found a few items at a Trader Joe's store that is about 1/2 hour away from us, but mostly, I've just been shopping at the local supermarket.

I knew when I started this that there would probably be days when I struggled to think of what to eat, so I started keeping a food journal, so that on those tough days I could just flip back and find inspiration. Here's a list of all the stuff I've eaten in the past month...maybe it'll inspire you to give veganism a try:

Breakfast:

Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon
Cereal with Rice Dream rice milk
All kinds of fruit (blueberries, cantaloupe, bananas, strawberries, clementines, mango, grapes, peaches)
Toast, bagel, or english muffin with Earth Balance buttery spread (made of vegetable oil)
Juices

Lunch/Dinner:

Grilled soy cheese sandwich with tomato made with Earth Balance buttery spread
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Spinach salad with chickpeas and red beans and italian dressing or Annie's Goddess dressing
Tofu and veggie sandwich with vegenaise (imitation mayo)
Veggie burger
Veggie wrap with hummus, avocado, cucumber, lettuce, onion, carrots, tomato
Potato chips, french fries, onion rings
Hummus, tomato, spinach pita pocket
Spaghetti with marinara sauce and grilled eggplant
Tomato/cucumber/lettuce/pesto sandwich
Pizza with veggies and no cheese
Amy's brand vegan soups
Amy's brand vegan bean burrito
Nachos with beans, salsa, jalapenos, guacamole and no cheese
Vegetable/tofu fried rice
Spring rolls
Veggie bean burrito
Curried cauliflower and potatoes with roti (Indian flatbread)
Patra (without the yogurt...interestingly, it tasted the same)
Gujarati dal with rice
Indian spinach roti
Curried okra with roti
Samosas (savory Indian pastries with a spicy potato filling)
Asian salad with soy ginger dressing
Pasta with garlic oil
Italian bread/roll/toast with Earth Balance
Seaweed salad
Cucumber sushi
Avocado sushi
Vegetable lo mein
Falafel
Lots of vegetables (spinach, edamame, carrots, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, corn, cauliflower, okra, potatoes, avocado, green beans)
Juices

Desserts/Snacks

Toffutti Cutie imitation ice cream sandwiches (taste like the real thing!)
Edy's Whole Fruit Bars (I've tried the mango and strawberry varieties...both great)
Vegan chocolate chip cookie (from the Alternative Baking Company)
Vegan chocolates (from the Harbor Candy Shop...we went on vacation to Ogunquit, Maine and the local candy shop had vegan candy! It was SO yummy...I got the peanut clusters, peanut butter cups, and the almond bark...You can order online too...)
Vegan apple turnover (from the Bread and Roses Bakery...also in Ogunquit, ME! There must be a lot of vegans up there...)
Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds

Finally, I also drink mostly water now and stopped drinking coffee (since I only liked it with milk anyway) and stopped drinking soda (since I like juice better anyway). And, I've had a couple of glasses of wine and a few cocktails in the past month (but not all at the same time)! Vegans don't eat meat, but we can still party! Yay...

As for other things, you can pretty much use your common sense. Read the ingredient labels and if there isn't any meat or dairy, you're good! In general, it's best to avoid stuff with too many ingredients. Also, be careful because some ingredients are dairy-derived (like "casein"). After a while, it'll be easy to spot.

Anyway, I hope you can tell from my list that I LOVE TO EAT and that you don't need to sacrifice taste to live in a healthy way! Please let me know if you guys have any more tips or ideas for meals...I'd love to try some new things. I just got a couple of vegan cookbooks, so I'll have some more meal ideas in the future.