Monday, January 31, 2011

Project 52- Week 5

Last week was a pretty good one for Project 52. I met all my weekly goals. I cooked three times (#3)(garlic/lemon chicken, Italian Meatball soup and homemade macaroni and cheese), I walked three times (#10), I read several articles about local politics in the newspaper (#30), I posted at least once a week (#33) and I bought another bouquet of flowers for the family room (#36). And since Katie went back to college last weekend, I was able to add #34 - write a weekly letter to Katie. The only weekly goal I haven't tackled yet is #12 - walk to work at least once a week, weather permitting. So far the weather has not been very cooperative. I think this one will need to wait for the spring.

I also made progress on 2 of my monthly goals -(#2) try 6 new soup recipes. I made Italian meatball soup and luckily this one was a hit! I'll definitely be making it again. I also invited my mother over for dinner (#3). I included this goal because I really don't spend very much time with my mom and I feel badly about that. She retired in October and now has more free time on her hands. She was happily surprised that I invited her to dinner and we had a nice evening. It felt nice to have spent the evening with her.

Lastly, I got started on one of my one time goals. Geoff and I joined Shape Up RI (#13), a statewide exercise and weight loss challenge. My friend Margaret created a team of couples and we decided to join. There are four areas in which you can participate : weight loss, exercise, 10,000 steps per day and eat more fruits and vegetables. I decided to tackle all four. The challenge doesn't officially start until February 7th, but I've been trying to be aware of these four things now. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be. And I may have to drop out of the exercise group since I'm having some back issues that seem to be here to stay. Ugh! I'll keep you posted.

How about you? How are you doing on your goals/resolutions?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Rhode Island has been having a good old fashioned New England winter this year. We've already had 6 major snowstorms, which is very unusual. Last night we got 10 more inches. Here is what I woke up to this morning.

The view from my back door

The view from my side door

The view from my front door

The view from inside my garage

It's a good thing I like winter!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Project 52 - Week 4

Week 4 was not quite as successful as the previous two weeks when it came to weekly goals. I only managed to cook twice (#3) - spaghetti and meatballs and chourico and potato casserole- and walk twice (#10). Though I did try to walk two other times, even getting so far as to get dressed like Nanook of the North, head outside and walk part way down the street. Both times I had to turn back because it was just too icy. I figured if I nearly fell three times in the first 5 minutes, it probably wasn't safe. Of course, I could have done some other exercise, but since I haven't joined a gym yet (#11), my options were limited. Excuses, excuses. I know! There are still flowers in the family room (#36) and dining, (though they are looking a little sad) and I did write at least one blog post (#33). And finally, I did a bang up job on (#30) paying attention to local politics. Last week our town held a special election for a School Committee member. Not only did I vote, I went out in a sleet/ice storm to do it! And I reminded my husband to take Katie (who was still home from college) to vote in her very first election! I even attended a support party for my candidate as we waited for election results to come in - he won in a landslide!

Well, that's it for me for last week. Not great. But I am working on a couple of my monthly and one time goals for this week. And hopefully I'll get my three days of exercise and cooking in. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Through My Daughters' Eyes

I have always taken great pride in the life I have created for myself. As a mostly SAHM, I've been fortunate to have plenty of free time to explore my interests and passions. Even when my girls were toddlers and I was overwhelmed and stressed with caring for them, I still belonged to two book clubs, a woman's club and I played Bunco once a month. As my girls grew up and became more independent, I began to work part-time in a job that allowed me to further explore my interest and love of books and reading. I've taken lots of classes in all kinds of topics that interest me - from learning to play piano, knit and tap dance to classes in art history. I have a strong interest in the arts and have season subscriptions to 3 local theaters and I regularly visit museum exhibits - sometimes traveling to Boston or even NYC to see an exhibit of particular interest. In addition to all these activities, I have a wide circle of friends who I see regularly. In other words, I lead a full and interesting life. At least I think it is.

However, last week I had the wind taken out of my sails. Twice. Once by each of my daughters. And each was completely independent of the other. Ouch!

It all started on Monday when Katie and I were in the car together. While making small talk I mentioned that I had had a frustrating day running errands that all ended up being unnecessarily complicated and frustrating. Her response to me was something along the lines of "Well, don't worry about it because soon you'll have nothing better to do than run errands and you'll be happy to have something to do with your time." WHAT?! I managed to remain calm and asked her what she meant. She continued to dig her own grave herself into a hole by stating that when people get old they have nothing better to do than run errands and go shopping, "like grandma". Wow! Is that really what she thinks of my life? If so, I'm shocked. I did remind her of all my interests and how I've worked hard to be sure I am able to pursue them, but I'm not sure she understood. I decided to just let it go.

Then the very next day, Madeleine and I were in the kitchen cooking and tidying up. I began to mumble about how I'm constantly having to clean up after everyone else. She was sympathetic to that (she is very good that way), but then she dropped this bomb on me. "Well Mom, soon you'll probably be making messes just so you'll have something to do". WHAT?! Really! So it's not just Katie who thinks my life consists of nothing but taking care of them and the house? I'm beyond shocked!

Is this because I'm a SAHM? If I had a full time career, would they think this way? I'm not sure. I hate the idea that my girls think of my life as consisting of nothing but taking care of them and the house and running errands. I always assumed they noticed that I made the time to do things that I love, to indulge my passions and explore my interests. I assumed that they were somehow subconsciously absorbing the idea that it's OK to spend time on yourself, especially if you are a mom. I thought their view of me would include the idea that I am actively engaged in life and learning. That I value self-expression and that I think it's important not to put yourself last. It's shocking and distressing to me that they view my life as one of drudgery and boredom. How sad. I feel as though I've failed them in some way. I thought that I had done a good job modeling a life of engagement. Apparently not. And on top of that, it's a real blow to know that my daughters have a completely different view of my life than the one I thought I was presenting to them. It changes my whole perception of myself as a mother to my daughters. And that's bitter pill to swallow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Project 52 - Week 3

Week 3 and so far I'm still on track for all my weekly goals and I accomplished one more monthly goal. Not bad for Week 2!

3. Cook three times per week - 2/52 - Make that 4 times! I made beef bourguignon, hamburger, pesto chicken over spaghetti and chili (which was also a new recipe, but I already did that this month. Darn!)

10. Walk or exercise 3 times per week - 2/52 - This was a real challenge this week due to the 12 inches of snow we got on Wednesday. But, I traded by sneakers for boots and forced myself to go. And would definitely not have done that if I was participating in Project 52!

30. Pay attention to local politics - I read at least one political article every day in the Providence Journal, even though my initial inclination was to skip those articles.

33. Post at least once a week - 2/52 - Yup!

36. Keep fresh flowers in my family room - The flowers I bought the week before are still going strong, but I bought another bouquet anyway. Bonus - flowers in family room AND dining room.

37. Donate to a charity or cause once a month - 1/12- Madeleine attended a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for her friend, Camille. In lieu of gift, Camille asked her friends to donate money to the Lillian Chason Memorial Fund, in honor of a local HS girl who died in 2009 of swine flu. Contributions to the fund will support activities that had great meaning to Lillian, such as community theater, Friends Camp and drama scholarships. How could we say no? This was almost too easy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Heights

Last night I attended my first theater production of 2011 - In the Heights. And I must say that the bar has been set pretty high for the rest of the shows I will see this year. In the Heights won the Tony for best musical in 2008. It also won best choreography, best score and best orchestration (not really sure what that means) but I can say that I loved the songs and the choreography was out of this world. More on all that in a minute.

I didn't really know anything about this show aside from what I had read in a small article in the Providence Journal which stated that the show was about a immigrant living in the Washington Heights section of NYC who wanted to get back to the Dominican Republic. Well, that's unexpected. And I had seen a few commercials on TV that featured bits of song. Neither of these made me all that excited to see the show, but I have a season subscription so I went. And it blew me away.

As soon as I entered the theater I was impressed with the set. It showed a street corner in the neighborhood with shops at street level and apartments above. And in the background was the George Washington Bridge. It was an elaborate and very creative set.

The music was upbeat and exciting and the songs were all vibrant and most were energetic. Many of the songs had a rap like beat and phrasing, but were not set to what I would call rap music. It was very cleverly done as a way to keep the flavor of the Hispanic, urban neighborhood. The set and the music reminded me a lot of Rent in style and look.

There were many dance numbers in which the stage was filled with the entire cast. These weren't your traditional dance routines where everyone on stage is doing the same thing at the same time and basically remaining in their own space throughout the dance. The dancers were all moving all over the stage, exiting at times and coming back from other entrances. And all the dancers were moving in and out of each other and all over the stage. It's hard to describe, but it was as though there were many dances going on at once that formed a cohesive whole. I loved it! It was very exciting to watch.

And the story is so much more than one young man's desire to go back to the land of his family. It's so much more complex than that. It's multi-layered and I found myself identifying with it on so many levels. Definitely not something I was expecting from the little I knew about the show.

****spoiler alert****

I'm going to talk about the plot elements in a more specific way now, so if you think you are going to see the show and don't want to be spoiled, you should probably stop reading now because I'm definitely going to reveal some plot points.

As I said, there are so many layers to the story and I could relate on a few different levels. One of the subplots of the story is that Nina has returned from her freshman year at Stanford and hasn't told anyone yet that she dropped out. When her parents find out they are shocked, but they comfort Nina and tell her that she can always rely on them and that she can always come home when she is struggling. Of course this had me in tears as I immediately related it to my own daughter being away at college and how I always want her to know that if she needs it, we will always provide her with a soft place to land.

I could relate to Nina on another level as well. Nina expresses how badly she feels that she was not successful at Stanford, that she was the hope of her whole neighborhood, that everyone was expecting her to be a success and change the world. And that she was not up to the task. She eloquently expresses the pressure she feels as the first person in her family to go to college and what a huge responsibility that is for her. Like Nina, I was the first person in my family to go to college and while I didn't grow up in an impoverished neighborhood where everyone was looking to me to succeed, I did grow up with limited means in a affluent town and I knew that an education was my ticket to a better life. I was definitely too naive at the time to realize what it meant to be the first person in my family to go to college, but in retrospect I can appreciate what that means - for myself and for my family. I'm grateful I wasn't aware of it at the time, but listening to Nina last night it made me realize what it meant to my family that I was going off to college - far from home.

And lastly, I related most emotionally to the special role that Abuela Claudia filled in the lives of the people in the neighborhood. She may not have been everyone's grandmother, but she was the support system for all of them. She was the one who saved mementos of everyone's successes. And she was the one who provided the quiet, wise and nurturing support that they all needed. We all know people like this. The one person who is always in our corner. Quietly cheering us on as we reach for our goals. Or offering gentle words of wisdom when we seem lost and unsure. Even when they are disappointed in us, they have a way of letting us know that without being harsh or unkind. My own grandparents were just this type influence in my life. And Abuela Claudia's relationship with Nina and the other young people in her neighborhood reminded me of my own grandparents's loving support and comforting presence in my life. How does one become such a person? Because that's the person I want to be. Does it only happen with age? Because it does seem like these people are usually older. I hope that maybe with age I will become this type of person for my own children or grandchildren - and others in my life. I'm not sure how that happens, but I sure hope it happens to me.

**** OK, it's safe to read again****

If In the Heights comes to a theater near you and you are thinking about going, I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact, I'd really like to see it again, just so I can process it more. There's a lot going on and a lot to it and I'm sure I would get even more out of it a second time. It's that good!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Triumph over Technology

As most of you probably know by now, I am not the most technologically savvy person on the planet. Heck, I didn't even start using email until 2001! And now my kids inform me that email is for dinosaurs. It's all about Facebook chatting and text messaging now. Figures! Anyway, I've had a couple of a real technological triumphs recently and I'm beginning to feel empowered!

My first victory occurred right before Christmas when I successfully downloaded my library system's Overdrive software to my computer so that I can load eBooks onto an iPod! I was able to follow the instructions provided by the library's instructional brochure. No big deal, right? Well, this brochure included terms such as: "conversion software", "downloading the installation file" and the dreaded "the downloading process itself is a little different on every computer". What??? How the heck am I supposed to do it, if the instructions may not be valid for my computer? But, I took a deep breath and forged ahead. And it worked!!! This is HUGE! I was then able to download a book without any problems! The only problem is that it put the book in my iTunes account (which I was not expecting). I want to listen on my daughter's iPod and when I tried to put the book on her iPod I got all kinds of scary messages about losing iTunes playlists and overwriting data - or some such scary language. So I gave up in defeat. So close! I may have won one battle, but I've yet to conquer the war. I'm working on it. I think my next step is to buy myself an iPod and hope my computer will recognize it (since my iTunes is already synced -am I using the right vocabulary here?- to an iPod Shuffle, which I don't want to use for listening to books). Why does this all have to be so complicated? Or is it just complicated to me? Don't answer that!

My next big victory was Sunday night. I was preparing for a Monday morning trip to Boston to view the new Art of the Americas wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) with my friend Kristen. Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile will remember I do not have good luck when it comes to driving in Boston. Remember my GPS fiasco and my impression of a rat in a maze. Not pretty, right? Well since then, I have managed to use the GPS a few times with rousing success. I decided to throw caution to the wind and use it yesterday as I once more entered the maze that is Boston in search of cheese the MFA (of course I still had two different sets of written directions as a back up. And for the record, the GPS was sending me yet another way. Oy vey!). But (there's always a "but" isn't there?), my GPS is from 2008 and has not been updated. I figured that if I'm going to use it in a city as confusing and possibly as changeable as Boston, I should update the maps. Good luck with that! This is something I had tried to do one time before when the GPS kindly informed me that it was time to update. It even helpfully provided me with a web address. The problem was it asked for all kinds of information that I didn't have - like what model GPS I have and some special cord to connect my GPS to my computer. What? Can't this be done remotely? After spending nearly an hour trying to navigate the web page, I gave up. But not this time! I still couldn't find the manual that would tell what model I have, but I did find the fancy cord (that's a triumph in and of itself). And when I connected the GPS and computer with the magical cord, low and behold, the computer could tell what model I had. As I continued I got all kinds of information about downloading software and attaching this and that to the other and after sweating it out for another hour (or possible more) it worked!!! And I felt empowered!

The biggest test though was yesterday when I decided to put my trust in a machine and let it guide me to the MFA. I decided to go against my better judgement and blindly follow it's instructions (even though deep in my heart I know I'm smarter than a mere machine). And guess what? It got me there. And even when I made a mistake on the ride home, it "recalculated" and managed to get me right to my door. Maybe I'm not giving that machine enough credit!

And by the way, for anyone who might live close to Boston, the new Art of the Americas wing is fabulous. It's very unique as far as art installations go and I loved it. I saw some gorgeous paintings in some very unique galleries. I recommend taking one of the hour long tours or using the audio guide. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Project 52 - Week 2

Like most people who make New Year's Resolutions, I am off to a great start on meeting my Project 52 goals! Here's how I did last week:

1. Try one new non-soup recipe a month - 1/12 - I made German Schnitzel for my husband's birthday. It was delicious and I will definitely make it again.

2. Try 6 new soup recipes - 1/6 - One down, 5 to go. I made hamburger soup. I liked it, but the rest of the family was not all that enthusiastic about it. Too bad.

3. Cook 3 times per week - 1/52 -Done! Major accomplishment. I actually cooked 4 times this week! Can I roll over the fourth one to next week??? This is probably going to be one of the harder goals to complete week after week.

10. Walk or exercise 3 times a week - Oh yea! I walked three mornings last week with my neighbor. This one is going to be a challenge as well. I'm already behind this week.

31. Watch one Netflix movie per month - 1/12 - Another real challenge. Last week it just happened to work out that I finally finished watching the final season of The Tudors. Who knows when I'll find time to watch another full length movie or entire disc of TV episodes.

32. Go to the movies at least once a month - 1/12 - Another difficult goal for me, but Madeleine and I did go see The Fighter this past Saturday. I really enjoyed it. If you are interested, I highly recommend it.

33. Post at least once a week - 1/52 - So far, so good!

36. Keep fresh flowers in my family room - Check! I have to admit that this was a cheap victory. When I was trying to think of goals for Project 52, I noticed the flowers I had bought on my weekly grocery shopping trip and thought that it would be nice to have them there all the time. So really I had already completed this goal for last week before I wrote the post. Let's see if I can keep it up.

38. Just say "no" at work - I had something very specific in mind when I wrote this goal. And even though I haven't had an opportunity to meet that goal, I did have a chance to say a minor " no" and I did it ! And it's thanks to Project 52!! If I hadn't put this on my list of goals, it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to say no in this case. So I'm counting this as a minor victory in the bigger war.

40. Schedule one Mental Health Day (MHD) per month - 1/12 - Mission accomplished! I had originally scheduled a MHD for tomorrow, but then something came up that I couldn't work around. The next available day wouldn't have been till Friday. And I REALLY needed a MHD (which is why I put it on the list. Again, kind of cheap, I know.) Then everything fell into place so that Sunday could work as a MHD. Geoff and Katie are out of town and Madeleine is such a quiet and unobtrusive presence, that I knew I could have a peaceful and relaxing day even if she was home. And it worked and it was wonderful and I feel so much better today! Yay!

Not bad for Week 1. But it's early days yet. Let's hope I can keep the momentum going.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Project 52

Last year I followed along in fascination as Karen of A Peek at Karen's World tackled 65 goals in 365 days in her Face it Friday Challenge. I was amazed that Karen was able to come up with 65 tangible and very specific goals that she wanted to meet and was awed as I watched her accomplish them week after week. This year she and her cohort Jennee have switched things up a bit and they have now started Project 52, in which they will attempt to accomplish 52 goals over the course of the year. And to keep them accountable they will report their progress each and every Monday. To top it off, they are inviting other bloggers to join them. You can read more about Project 52 at A Peek at Karen's World, but here's the gist of it in Karen's words:

" You don't have to do 52 things. You can do as many or as few as you want. It's entirely up to you. The point is just to do something. To wake up next January 1st knowing that you finished something you set out to do. That's what it's all about."

I'm not one to make resolutions, but this idea of making a list of goals and actively working at them intrigues me. This is just the kind of challenge that a Type A girl like me thrives on. But I wasn't sure I would be able to do it. At first I thought it would be impossible to come up with anywhere near 52 things I want to accomplish. But then I realized that I do have a list of things in my head that I want to do "someday". And another list of things I should do, but never get around to. Project 52 is just the thing to make those things a reality. I've been wracking my brain for two days now to come up with a list. And so far I have 36 items. This may not be the final list, however. I will not remove any items from the list, but I just might add some as I think of them. But I want to get started as soon as possible, so here's my list of goals for Project 52.

1. Try one new non-soup recipe a month
2. Try 6 new soup recipes

3. Cook 3 times per week
4. Buy a Dutch oven
5. Invite my mother to dinner once a month
6. Host 4 Sunday dinners for extended family
7. Take a yoga class
8. Take a zumba class (added 1/7/11)
9. Take a Pilates class (added 1/7/11)
10. Walk or exercise 3 times per week
11. Join a gym
12. Walk to work at least once a week - in nice weather
13. Join and complete Shape Up RI (added 1/7/11)
14. Write book reviews for all 4 and 5 star books read in 2011 (modified 1/8/11)
15. Read one Shakespeare play
16. Read one Jane Austen novel
17. Read one non-fiction book by Alison Weir from my tbr list
18. Read one book on my tbr list that has been on the list for at least 3 years
19. Visit one new to me library in RI
20. Make a day trip to Boston just to explore and get my bearings
21. See a Broadway show in NYC
22. Ride the subway in NYC
23. Go away for a long weekend with my husband
24. Go on a relaxation and rejuvenation retreat - alone
25. Spend a weekend in Portsmouth, NH with a friend
26. Explore the shops on Hope St. in Providence
27. Go to the beach at least once this summer
28. Try 3 swanky restaurants in the Providence area
29. Visit Linden Place in Bristol, RI
30. Pay attention to local politics
31. Watch one Netflix movie per month
32. Go to the movies once a month
33. Post at least once a week
34. Write a weekly letter to my daughter who is away at college
35. Buy a scanner for my computer
36. Keep fresh flowers in family room
37. Donate to a charity or cause once a month
38. Just say "no" at work
39. Stabilize my kitchen shelves with new supports
40. Schedule one Mental Health Day per month (added 1/7/11)

If anyone else wants to join in, there is a linky posted at Karen's Blog. Think about it. I really think this could be fun! And I'll be sure to post here every week and let you know how I'm doing. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Recap

I know I'm about a week or so late on this, but I'm just now finding the time to sit down and post about our Christmas. As most of you probably know, Katie has been home from college since December 18th. And as most of you probably don't know, I was a little hesitant about this visit. Katie has been home twice since going off to college in late August. Once for a long weekend in October, which was a fabulous and delightful time. And then again for Thanksgiving, which was a bit more a challenge. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this break and I was a little nervous since it's 5 weeks long! I'm beyond thrilled to report that everything is going extremely well. Everyone is getting along wonderfully and it feels so natural to have her back home. I sure hope I'm not going to have to go through the whole "letting go" process again come January 23rd. Someone with more experience in this department, please tell me I won't. Please?

Anyway, our Christmas celebrations consisted of some old and some new traditions this year. The day after Katie got home from college, she, Madeleine and I attended a Christmas Tea at a charming gift shop/cafe in nearby Massachusetts. Tickles is one of Katie's favorite stores and they have a sweet little restaurant which is the perfect spot for a ladies lunch. This is the first year that they've done a Christmas tea and it was such a wonderful afternoon. The three of us agreed that this event is something we would like to add to our Christmas traditions. It was a wonderful mother/daughter experience.

Decorating the Christmas tree has always been a fairly stressful tradition in our family. It always turns out to be more The Simpsons than Norman Rockwell, but surprisingly this year it was pure family bliss! We decorated the tree the night Katie came home from college and I was holding my breath the whole time. There was no drama and everyone was engaged and happy! Now that's a tradition I'd like to see continue!

Every year for the past 10 years I have spent at least one day volunteering for a wonderful organization here in RI - Adopt-a-Family (AAF). AAF provides a full Christmas for needy families in one impoverished city in RI. This year they provided Christmas presents for over 2000 children in over 1100 families. That's a lot of children. Sandy, of It's a Jungle Out There, is on the board of AAF and has been the heart of the organization for over 20 years. It's through her that I got involved. I have adopted a child for each of the last ten years and also volunteered my time during "Delivery Week". I am always overwhelmed each year by the sheer volume of gifts donated and the selfless generosity of the donors. I didn't get many photos this year, but these are from the 2009 Delivery Week.

My favorite Christmas tradition is spending Christmas Eve with my Dad, Sandy and my brother Paul and his family at my Dad's house. This tradition started 32 years ago when my Grandmother and Grandfather hosted their 4 sons and their families at their home on Christmas Eve. I always loved Christmas Eve at Grandma's surrounded by wonderful food, my aunts, uncles and my cousins - some of whom I saw only on this day. It was magical then and it's still magical now. Eventually, Grandma was no longer able to host and my Dad and Sandy took over the duties. And several years later, as my generation grew up and got married and started having children of our own, it just got too complicated to fit the event into everyone's schedule. Finally, after my grandmother died in 1995, it was decided that each of her 4 sons would host his own Christmas Eve celebration for his family. It's still a magical evening and I know my Grandmother would be pleased to know that the tradition she started in 1978 is still an important part of our family's history.

Ever since we moved back to RI in 2001, Christmas Day Brunch has been held at Geoff's brother's house. And then Christmas Day and dinner is back here at our house. This year we had a large group - 18 people - family and our dear friends The Neaves, who have spent Christmas with us for the last 7 years.

The 2010 Christmas Season was truly one of our best! Every year I get a little bah humbuggy about the stress of Christmas, and I need to remind myself that for the past 3 years Christmas has actually been very peaceful and practically stress free. As a matter of fact, when I turned my 2010 calendar from October to November I found a note I had written to myself at the very beginning of the year. It said, "Pam, remember that the holidays were actually very nice and not all that stressful last year." I actually didn't remember writing that and reading it did help to alleviate the holiday humbugs. I've written that same note in this year's calendar. I wonder if I will need the reminder, or if I will remember the good will I felt during the holiday season this year. It will be interesting to see on November 1, 2011.


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