31 March 2009

TMI Tuesday #180


TMI Tuesday

1. Have you ever sent or received a sext message?

This might very well surprise all of you ... or not! I have sexted (is that the right word?) with only two people in my entire life. What's even more surprising? They *know* each other and I was actually physically with one of them while drunk sexting the other. They might even be surprised when they find out they were the only two!

Oh! And there was the time in Indy when I took a soon-to-be sexting picture of AMS's thong (OK ... ass) for Hubman!

2. Have you ever made or received a booty call?

I have never made a booty call, assuming making a booty call means I've called and made the request for sex, but I have been on the receiving (or is that giving?) end. It's been a few years (14?) though. I don't know ... as I get older it's really not so much about the quantity of sex I have (good thing when you are only getting sex about 4 times a year), it's about the quality. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

3. Have you ever added or edited a word/entry to Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary or any other online reference?

I have never added or edited anything in Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary - in fact, I didn't even know Urban Dictionary existed until Os spoke of the HNT entry. I try to stay away from Wikipedia as it doesn't make the cut as a reference. Although most of the material I've seen has been accurate, I couldn't ever use it as a named source on anything of importance. *shrugs* It's the geek in me.

4. At what age did you have your first consensual sexual experience?

I've told this story before. I was 16 - out of town with two of my girlfriends (they were 17) - in a hotel room - on the floor between the two beds where there was even more sex going on. Yeah ... not exactly the fairy tale version of losing one's virginity.

5. What has been the greatest age difference between you a consensual sexual partner?

Thinking ... 20 years? That would be in the older direction (he was 20 years my senior). If we go the other direction (because we all know I go both ways *giggle*) 11 years. Damn! That's a pretty impressive range? Well ... maybe impressive isn't the right word, but I never realized there was a 30+ year span between my youngest and oldest sexual partners. Hmmmm ...

Bonus (as in optional): Why do you blog?

Why do I blog? I think that changes over time. I started blogging to see what all of the hoopla was. I've always enjoyed writing, but didn't expect that anyone would have any desire to actually read my writing.

Soon it morphed into an outlet for a frustrating marriage, a frustrating job, frustrating relationships in general. That is certainly still a component of my blogging, but I've tried to do less of that.

Then there is HNT. HNT is all about physical validation. This is going to sound extremely egotistical, but it is what it is. I know I am smart. I know I am creative. I struggle with the outside of me far more than the inside of me. I want to believe I am attractive and sometimes hearing it - even if I do often feel that it's done out of obligation - helps me to believe that a little more.

The rest of it? You know, I like to challenge people's thinking, because I like to challenge my own thinking. I find great joy in getting a comment that indicates the reader is seeing something differently than they have in the past. Sometimes, I even post an opposing view from my own to try to get myself to think a little differently.

I've been accused of being a pot stirrer - I take that as a compliment!


30 March 2009

Spring and other Stuff


NOTE: I'm looking for some help with a reader issue I'm having (i.e. my more recent posts not showing up in any reader). I've posted a question on the blogger help forum, but we all know how those things go. In a nutshell, I was having some conflicts with html that "magically" appeared in my blog and incompatibilities with FeedBurner, so deleted the RSS feed from FeedBurner and yet updates are still not appearing in any reader. I'm not html savvy (AT.ALL) so am completely lost on how to fix this.

WOOHOO!! Seems this has been corrected. A special thanks to those of you who offered your help. I never cease to be amazed by the camaraderie of bloggers and their willingness to offer a helping hand when someone is an idiot in a bind. Y'all are the best!


We've had a long winter in northern Illinois this year. It was COLD ... very COLD ... for a very LONG time. We had snow early in the season that stayed until early March. When we finally hit spring on the calendar, I was hopeful I'd start to see buds on the trees and the green tips of daffodils and tulips starting to peak out from hibernation. Ha!

Sunday morning I woke up to this ...

It was quite beautiful - almost like viewing the world through a pair of B & W glasses - but also caused a bit of damage. We started with freezing rain Saturday night. Add 7" of heavy, wet snow and branches begin snapping under the pressure.


Cam is back to school this week. Unfortunately, his spring break wasn't what he had hoped it would be. An impulsive decision on Tuesday to dig through husband's desk to find the "hidden" PS3 controllers and the unexpected, early return of husband from work resulted in the loss of his cell phone - and the home phone - for the remainder of the week.

Actually, this situation could have been entirely avoided. Husband decided to purchase a PS3 for the "family," yet declared it was his. This declaration meant "No one is to play my PS3 without asking me first" but never were those words spoken. Not only that, but he hooked it up to the TV in the living room - talk about constant temptation. When you've got a 13-year old who is expert at finding loop-holes, clarity and common sense in parenting are critical.

Of course, I could have overridden the punishment (husband and I recently agreed that all discipline would be discussed between us prior to implementation), but the bottom line is that Cam walked into husband's office and rifled through his desk to find the controllers. Impulsivity issues or not, Cam knows the expectations of privacy in our home and his decision to compromise those expectations was unacceptable.

Personally? I think my choice of punishment would have been to go through Cam's desk while he sat on his bed and watched. Something tells me the feeling of having his privacy violated might have provided a much more useful lesson!


Those of you who read me regularly will notice my HNT archive is "missing". It's in the process of being moved to a separate blog - one that allows me to block access to those who find it so terribly disgusting and offensive, but can't seem to delete that bookmark from their computer or keep their fingers from typing in the blog address. It seems 13 year olds aren't the only ones with obsession impulse control issues.


29 March 2009

Sunday Secret


I don't share my secrets to lessen my burden or garner sympathy. I share my secrets in hopes that just one person will know that they are not as judged and alone as I often feel.


27 March 2009

Don't Feed the Trolls


I have gone back and forth on this post, wondering which way was best to handle it. Do I heed the "Don't feed the trolls" advice? Do I give you directions to the troll (and I could give you much, much more than just an email address)? Do I reprint the troll's emails which include such gems as:

"Maybe among your many other unresolved problems you are also suffering from multiple personalities and maybe it was the bad naughty Dana that mailed nude pictures of herself to at least 2 men that I know of, but I suspect many more."

... or ...

"btw,all those thin mints might just be part of the cause of the re-gained weight..just a thought I've never seen such an obsession with naked and thin mints."

... or how about ...

"Oh my, you want me to substantiate now...okay girlie- let me go print out those pics, where should I post them? What is your school board pres's email?? Should I start there, or no, maybe the pastor or better yet just go to the entire school board..here is your local Miss Harper Valley PTO at your service..add a sleeve of thin mints now would ya!"

Such a quandary ...

Anyone who has ever had a troll knows they are special people. As Andrew Heenen puts it,

"... and I believe that most trolls are sad people, living their lonely lives vicariously through those they see as strong and successful.
Disrupting a stable newsgroup (or blog) gives the illusion of power, just as for a few, stalking a strong person allows them to think they are strong, too.

For trolls, any response is 'recognition'; they are unable to distinguish between irritation and admiration; their ego grows directly in proportion to the response, regardless of the form or content of that response.

Trolls, rather surprisingly, dispute this, claiming that it's a game or joke; this merely confirms the diagnosis; how sad do you have to be to find such mind-numbingly trivial timewasting to be funny?

Remember that trolls are cowards; they'll usually post just enough to get an argument going, then sit back and count the responses (Yes, that's what they do!)."

Yep! That's pretty much it in a nutshell!

There are several recommendations for deterring trolls, and I pretty much did everything I shouldn't have done. The biggest violation? I deleted the troll's comments. Since we know that trolls are all about stirring the pot, a logical person would deduce that taking away the troll's stirring stick is one of the worst things to do. Clearly, I reacted emotionally rather than logically, but GREAT news! I have decided to make amends.

There was an exchange that I deleted in the comments section of my Wednesday Weirdness post. Fortunately, I've been saving my trolls comments via email and was able to recreate - word for word - the exchange.

Dana said ... snugs, back away from the keyboard ... you're getting a bit obsessive ... again ...
March 25, 2009 9:33 PM

snugs said ... when did responding to your dig become obsessive? It is no different that what you do on dozens of blogs each and every day.

March 25, 2009 9:47 PM

Dana said ... snugs, not only are you obsessing, but you're flat out lying.

March 25, 2009 10:01 PM

snugs said ...oh really? just like I am lying about you sending nude pics of yourself to random men you don't even know? Wonder what the PTO would think of that, or the hubby, or even the preacher? Dozens might be an exaggeration, I will give you that, but you have one set of rules for your blog and you in no way adhere to those on others blogs. In fact I think you are the only one I frequent that has any of these rules, its just another form of your control. Your new positive approach is only applied here. Sticking to the days post and what it pertains to is also only applied here. I know sorry snugs I have to delete your comment because it broken my rules-go for it Dana, you have control, you like to call names, I have one for you- hypocrite
Oh wait, isn't it almost time for another nude pic to post? Or did you already mail them all out to random strangers again today?
March 25, 2009 10:12 PM

Most of you already know that I have a list of random strangers that I send nude photos to. Not to worry, I've numbered you all as Clients Number 9 through 817. Confidentiality is a priority in these matters.

My troll insists - in true troll fashion - that "policing the blogs is not my deal. I leave that to you and doggy. The adult warning was not my point. Its funny how you mis interpret practically every thing I say."

Well, that's great news! The Adult Warning has been removed, but dear reader's, don't be surprised if it comes back! I think my loving troll will likely retaliate. Although I've done my darnedest to appease the troll, I'm thinking that giving the troll proper acknowledgment and attention in this post will not be enough.

As far as "mis interpreting" what the troll says ... I'll let my readers decide.

I have come to the conclusion that there is one EXTREMELY valid point that I missed in all of this - I cannot claim to be a proponent of free speech, then delete comments on my blog. That is - indeed - hypocritical!


25 March 2009

HNT - More Thin Mints


I had been waiting patiently to experience the joy that is Thin Mints. Although I plan on sharing a box or two with Cam, I knew that to participate in the full arousal of the delectable cookie, I would need a little privacy. This is an intimate moment - deserving of a special place ...

Would you kick me out of bed for doing this?? *CLICK*



Wednesday Weirdness


Do you want to play?

1.) What is your significant others worst habit?

You phrase this question like he only has one, and since I am perfect (such a difficult position to maintain, but someone has to set the standard), pointing out the flaws in others is oh-so-easy!

I would have to go with picking his toenails while sitting in the living room watching TV. I can clean up kid puke, scoop out a litter box after a round of cat diarrhea, but watching (and listening to him) pick his toenails, then examine his fingers to see what goodies he's uncovered makes me want to hang him by his toenails.

2.) What piece of clothing that isn't lingerie or an undergarment do you have that you feel especially sexy/handsome in?

Hmmmm ... I have a little black dress that I adore. It's very conservative - not low cut - modest arm coverage - sits right at the top of my knees - but it fits perfectly. And when I add a pair of 3" black pumps and all 6'-3" of me walks into a room, head up, shoulders back? Sexy would be an understatement.

3.) If you could drink ONLY two beverages for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

One of my two choices would be a no-brainer ... I'd have to go with coffee ... but my second choice? Here's the problem. It's going to be an alcohol of some sort, but one that I can either drink straight, or that mixes well with coffee. Since I'm not a whiskey girl I'll need to go with something I can drink straight. Patron Tequila or Grey Goose Vodka? I just can't decide!

4.) What is your worst habit?

Did you not read question one? I am the one who all must measure up to, remember? You're not buying it, are you? Yeah ... me neither ...

My worst habit? Let's go with procrastination. I know, I never thought anal retentiveness and procrastination went together either, but I can personally tell you they do - sometimes all too well.

5.) Are you superstitious in any way?

I am many things - superstitious is not one of them.

6.) What kind of shopping do you hate doing most? (Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, etc)

All of the above! I am NOT a shopper. I go to stores only when I must (I prefer to do my shopping from home, on the internet, nekkid in my jammies). If I'm forced to go to a store, I have an agenda, pick up what I need, and leave as quickly as possible.

7.) What was a “fad” you remember from your childhood?

Oh heavens! I grew up in the 70's. We had enough fads to distribute among 3 decades. Pet rocks, leg warmers, CB radios, leisure suits, Pong, Earth Shoes ... I could go on and on!


*EDIT* Due to an obsessive troll, I had to close comments and may need to move to comment moderation ... or the troll could exhibit a little self control and go away ...


24 March 2009

I Think I'm Going to Commit Twittercide


Although not a complete technogeek, I've usually at least heard about what's new and exciting on the World Wide Web (or is that the internets?). Of course, it helps to have a 13-year old son who often says things like, "You know what YouTube is?" or, "You have a Facebook?" Ummm yes! I'm old, not dead. Once in a while he actually introduces me to something new, but Twitter was not his fault.

When Twitter got uber-popular (actually, before *curses Jay under breath*) I set up a Twitter account. Soon I had people following me, and the pressure began to mount. I realized they were all on pins and needles, waiting for something enlightening to escape my fingertips. I had nothing to offer other than embarrassing or, worse yet, boring moments. Sure, I could make up interesting tweets, but they wouldn't be true. Is that a problem?

Dearest Twitterphiles, please help me discover the magic that is tweeting. Just give me a little insight as to why I cannot just use instant messaging, texting, or *gasp* the phone. I cannot believe that all of you Twutz's really want to hear - real time - that I am frantic over the price of fresh blueberries this week, or that I walked into the men's restroom at the bar (well, maybe you do want to hear that one). Worse yet, you want me to tell you in 140 characters or less? Like I can tell you anything in 140 characters or less ...

And just what is this fascination with following the famous ... and having them want to reciprocate? I'll admit, I follow Barack Obama, but I find it just a bit creepy that he wants to follow me. Seriously, does the President not have any Twuples? I know that he cannot possibly have a desire to know that I am cursing praising his policies or badmouthing embracing his rhetoric ... or does he? And who is it that reads all of those tweets for him?? Hmmmm ....

Here's my greatest worry. Just what were all of you tweeple doing before you started spending all of your time on Twitter? Like most grown ups, I already have far too many responsibilities and not enough time—work, husband, kids, PTO, church and so on and so on. I'm usually up at 4AM putting the finishing touches on my blog posts. I can't seem to return an email in less than 24 hours, and I'm supposed to find the time to tweet?

"They" call it microblogging - I saw a much better definition for it - A service that enables millions of people with nothing to say, to say it to millions of people. If someone - anyone - can provide a compelling reason as to why I should tweet, you might be able to talk me down from jumping off the edge of the Twitterverse.

Oh, and inventing all of these new words with a "tw" prefix? Yeah ... it's annoying ...


23 March 2009

Monday Fluff


Are you familiar with that Winnie the Pooh quote? You know, the one that says, “People who don't Think probably don't have Brains; rather, they have grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake.”? Yeah ... well this morning the grey matter is having to compete with the grey fluff and the fluff is winning!

The most efficient way of dealing with fluff invasion is to embrace it - to surf on over to blogthings or MyHeritage and take some idiotic entertaining little quiz.

You know you are in trouble when you do a Celebrity Look-Alike generator (*warning* Doing this requires you register with the site - I hate it when that happens) and you have to google your celebrity because you've never heard of her. Then you start looking at the other celebrities and begin to wonder if the Celebrity Look-Alike generator has some kind of pity factor because there is no way in hell it is quite a stretch to say I look like Keira Knightley. Did you hear that Jay? Keira Knightley!

And just in case you've had a yearning to find out just what kind of Girl Scout Cookie I am (come on ... you know the mystery has been keeping you up at night) ...

You Are Thin Mints

You are bold and brave. You dare to be different, and you are confident about who you are.

Your fearlessness has paid off. You are extremely well liked and popular.

You are charismatic and charming without even trying to be. People appreciate your unique take on life.

You are willing to take risks, speak your mind, and live life to the fullest.

Ha! So there! I'll be the first to admit that no one is ever going to mistake me for Keira Knightley, but at least I'm a Thin Mint and not a Do-si-do!


22 March 2009

Sunday Secret


I think affirmative action should be abolished - that it does more harm than good - yet I've used it on several occasions to give Cam an advantage over his white counterparts.


20 March 2009

Friday Wrap-Up


You might remember the Virtual Cookie Exchange that Another Suburban Mom hosted in December. Well, she's at it again, this time with a Virtual Appetizer Exchange.

I'm a huge fan of finger foods, but I have a tendency to lose track of what I've eaten, so I always try to have a few healthier options on hand. This is one of my favorites.

(Yes ... these are ones I actually made - this morning - so that I could get a good photo for the post)

Cream Cheese 'n Herb Cucumber Bites

1 carrot, shredded (about 1/2 cup), divided
1/2 cup PHILADELPHIA 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese with Chive & Onion
2 cucumbers, cut lengthwise in half, seeded

Set aside 2 Tbsp. carrots. Mix remaining carrots with cream cheese; spoon into cucumber shells. Top with reserved carrots.

Cut each cucumber half into 5 pieces to serve.


Thanks to all of you who managed to get through my self-harm story this week. It really wasn't something I had planned on sharing on the blog. It would have been much, much easier to keep this hidden from all of you. I appreciate the outpouring of support, both in the comments and from those of you who shared via email.

There were a handful of folks who felt I was trying to justify my behavior. Although I can see how someone might get that impression from the series, justifying, by definition, would imply that I am claiming self-harm/self-injury is "right." There were several times, throughout the series, that I mentioned this was an unacceptable, unhealthy way to deal with emotions. It is a behavior I am changing, not defending.

Some of these same people also took issue with my comparison of self-harm to other unacceptable, unhealthy ways of dealing with emotions (over-eating, alcoholism, etc.). My position isn't that they are identical, but rather that they have far more in common than we might think, and it is more productive to look for something we can identify with (compassion) as we try to help others, than it is to sit in our glass house with a handful of stones as we judge others.

I hope that in sharing my "shame" I have encouraged just one person to reach out for the help they may need in their lives, no matter what the behavior they face might be.


One more thing, then I promise to quit rambling. Last week, a blogger that I first met through an email list, Ramblings of a devoted Baseball Mom, gave me this Blogger Love award. Although I won't be following the "rules" and passing it on (I know, you are all surprised by that) I did want to thank her.

Although I'm not naming names, just know that every single one of the blogs I read is special to me in some way - that's why I read them.

Have a great weekend and enjoy these first few days of spring!


18 March 2009

HNT - Guinness


“Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world”
~ Kaiser Wilhelm

Do you think this is what Mr. Wilhelm had in mind? *CLICK*



The Middle


As children often do, I internalized what was happening in my home and convinced myself that if I could just be a better daughter - get better grades, be prettier, be a better athlete - not only would my dad stop abusing my mom (that was my fault you see - she "paid" for my shortcomings), but maybe, just maybe, my dad wouldn't need to drink any more (that was my fault too - he drank to forget about my shortcomings). If I punished myself, then my parents wouldn't need punish me and I would still learn my lesson. Causing myself physical injury seemed the most appropriate punishment as it was the one most often used in my home.

What I discovered, quite accidentally, was that my mind felt better when the physical pain was self-inflicted. This was very different from experiencing physical pain at the hands of my father, which always hurt far more emotionally than it did physically. This was an emotional RELEASE. Sure, there was physical pain, but the self-inflicted physical pain was completely overshadowed by the emotional relief.

The only down side was that at times I would get so caught up in the emotional relief that I wouldn't stop the physical pain before injuring myself. On three separate occasions I broke bones in my little finger, but was able to explain it away as I was always active in sports. It got jammed playing basketball. I got hit was a fastball when I was up to bat. No one even gave it a second thought, other than to punish me for the additional strain on the family budget for a doctor's visit. I eventually learned when to stop.

Looking back, I can see that self-injury/self-harm was a common thread throughout my life. If it wasn't a baseball bat to my hand, it was was a more socially acceptable form of self-injury/self-harm like over-eating, abusing alcohol and drugs, smoking, bulimia, etc. You see, if we are honest with ourselves, many of us routinely practice self-harm rituals. The difference between you and I may only be the "flavor" of the self-harm, but we get there on the same path.

People openly admit to over-eating, alcoholism or even drug abuse. Society has deemed those as acceptable ways to self-harm - but cutting? Oh no! Only sick, crazy, suicidal people do that. No ... cutting is far worse - or is it? Is the discomfort, outrage and disgust outwardly shown really about the cutting, or is it about it touching a little too close to our own lives - knowing that our "flavor" of self-harm manifests for the very same reasons? Be honest. Those who are not judgmental tend to be those who see that although they might never cut, it's not really that far removed from where they are now, or have been, at some point in their life.

Again I will say that this is not an attempt to justify what I've done, or what I may fall prey to in the future. Not at all. Self-injury/self harm is NOT a healthy way to deal with emotions. I know that and I'm working to change that. What I am trying to get across is that it is no worse than the 6-pack after work, that bowl of ice cream after dinner every night, the hours and hours spent online as an escape. No, not worse, just different, although I would venture to say that the shame experienced afterward is every bit the same.

There is a bigger picture here - one that I don't want anyone to miss. It is so easy to judge - to condemn the behaviors and actions of others - it takes away our need to look at our own behaviors and it makes us feel better knowing there are people out there who are "worse" than we are. As long as there is room below us on our moral measuring stick, we aren't "so bad", are we?

How many of us have said, out loud or to ourselves, "I may only make $10 an hour, but at least I'm not flipping burgers at McDonald's. I may be a month behind in my mortgage, but at least my house isn't in foreclosure. I may have to eat Ramen noodles, but at least I'm not going to a food bank. I may drive a 10-year old car, but at least I'm not riding the bus. I may be in an unhappy marriage, but at least I'm not physically abused." We feel OK about ourselves as long as we can still find someone "below" us on that moral measuring stick. And if we can't find someone below us, we'll work diligently, chipping away at the self-esteem of others, until we can get them feeling a little less confident about themselves.

Again and again we justify where we are in relationship to those we deem as "less than." What if we did a little less of that and instead measured ourselves based on ... well ... our own potential and character? What if we looked harder at where we could be, rather than where we think we are in relation to others? What if we cared more and turned away less? What if we were more honest about our own shortcomings and less quick to point out the shortcomings of others? What if we offered an encouraging word rather than a judgmental thought? What if we were selfless rather than selfish? What if?


17 March 2009

The Begining of the Story


This has been kind of a backward story - one where I let you all read the last page before you read the first paragraph. That's what happens when there isn't a plan. I thought I'd talk a little about how I got to the final page - or at least the final page of this particular chapter. Some of you know parts of the story, but there is so much more that hasn't been told. A couple of side notes though, before I begin.

First, due to years of on-again, off-again counseling, some great friends, and a little help from God, I no longer have any animosity towards either of my parents for events that happened in my childhood. It was what it was, and they did the best they could at the time. I try to use what I learned as a child in a more productive way rather than as a point of continuous blame, furry and anger. My childhood experiences gave me many more gifts than hang-ups.

Second, in no way am I justifying self-injury/self-harm as an acceptable way to deal with overwhelming emotions. Does cutting work for me? Yes - immediately and efficiently. Does that mean I should continue with it? Absolutely not, and I strive daily to use more appropriate coping mechanisms. It's a constant struggle but one I know I must battle.


Self-injuring started fairly early in my life. I'm not certain how early, but I have concrete and vivid memories of using self-injury as a coping mechanism as early as 11. At that age, I had no idea why what I was doing made me feel better (laying my hand on the concrete floor of the garage, or on the sidewalk, and hitting it with a baseball bat), but I knew I couldn't let anyone know I was doing it. Not only would they think I was crazy (a common and continuous fear throughout my life), but even worse, they would stop me from doing it. My limited 11-year old logic knew - in some convoluted way - that self-injury was all that was keeping me relatively sane, That somehow my brain would explode if I didn't get the emotions out in what soon became the only "safe" way.

How does an 11 year old get to that point? I can only tell you how I got there.

I've touched a bit on the dysfunction of my home growing up - a raging, violent, physically and verbally abusive, alcoholic father and an overly codependent mother were my only role models. We were isolated from extended family, so there was never any accountability. This was the late 60's and early 70's - kid's were to be seen and not heard. Very few people were even aware of the impact of things like alcoholism and domestic violence on children, and certainly no one was talking about it. What happened behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors. It was "Don't ask. Don't tell" at its finest.

As a child, there was no safety net in my life. There wasn't a parent or adult I could go to who would listen to me and validate my feelings. There wasn't anyone who could save me from the abuse because I couldn't tell anyone what was happening at home. Things were to be hidden. I was to put a smile on my face, get good grades, perform well in sports. Our home situation was to remain guarded at all costs.

I learned early on (maybe at 5?), from watching the beatings my mother received, that expressing any emotion - specifically anger or fear - resulted in bruising and bleeding at the hands of my father. Emotions must be kept inside, bottled up, NEVER displayed in front of my father. Any slip-up on my part and the sting of a belt on my bare flesh, a closed fist across my face, or, in later years, a loaded shotgun placed to the side of my head were instant reminders of where those emotions belonged.

The problem was that, as I got older, the emotions became more and more difficult to stuff. Food kind of worked (still does sometimes), but getting fat had it's own down side - I was an embarrassment to my parents. That angered them both and and resulted in the addition of verbal abuse to the physical abuse. I was a "fat cow," a "failure" and "lazy." This was a vicious cycle - more and more wayward emotions needing more and more space to be bottled up.

One day, or maybe over the course of years, something changed ...


16 March 2009

Why Oh Why?


Yesterday's secret was one I really thought I'd never share on the blog. I thought it was a well hidden secret - a secret that would be only mine until the end of time - although I did "confess" to a fellow blogger when he posted a story on his blog (thank you Ro, you were indirectly a motivator for my own accountability). Clearly, my secret didn't stay just with me.

This post will be uncomfortable for many of you. You won't understand. It will make even less sense than most of what I've posted in the past. It doesn't make sense to me when I think logically about it, but in the moment, it makes perfect sense, and it gives immediate relief.

During stepdaughter's (14) visit two weeks ago, the subject of cutting came up at the dinner table (yes, we still eat family dinners at the dinner table at least 4 nights/week). When something like this happens, my mom-dar (radar of the mom variety) goes into full alert mode. Not because I am worried about being "discovered," but because I've learned that kids often bring up difficult topics as a way to open a discussion regarding something they may be experiencing.

Stepdaughter shared with us that a girl at her school was hospitalized for cutting. She seemed to want to understand what had happened, but husband dismissed her conversation by saying, "People who do that just want attention. Don't give it to her." In his defense, this is a difficult topic to talk about - especially if you don't understand it. I didn't push the issue as the shame I felt increased at least 10-fold in response to his comments. Although attention can be a motivation for cutting, that isn't usually the case. Opening up to stepdaughter during that conversation would have meant a HUGE risk for me - and I wasn't ready to go there.

Saturday, again at the dinner table, I got a bit careless. I wear long sleeves inside the house, but it was warm this weekend and I pushed those long sleeves up to my elbows. Stepdaughter was sitting in a position where she caught a glimpse of my arm and asked, "What are those marks on your arm?" When I tried to dismiss it with, "Just scratches from the cat," (by the way, this is one of the more common "explanations" for marks from cutting) stepdaughter replied, "They sure are in straight lines and don't look like scratches." Long, uncomfortable silence, then I changed the subject. No one pushed it any farther.

I'm not sure how to explain to a 14 year old why I self-injure (it is difficult for me to type "cut" - it even sounds shameful and crazy) - I have great difficulty putting into words where I am emotionally at that point.

This happens when I am overwhelmed - to a state of frenzied anxiety - by my feelings. Usually, these are feelings of severe rejection, anger or self-loathing. When I cut, I can make the pain tangible. I can see it and feel it on the "outside" where I can deal with it. When I am in that emotional state, I have a cognitive sense that what I am doing is very wrong and "sick", but in the moment, I don't care. I do not feel intense physical pain, but I do feel an immediate emotional relief. Afterward, I feel extreme shame, but am much more emotionally even. The payoff is worth it.

Like many of you, I associate this kind of behavior with people you find locked away in padded cells - those in mental institutions on suicide watch - not with a 44-year old, educated, "successful" woman. An important thing to understand is that this is not about wanting to end my life. On the contrary, it is often the thing that keeps me from wanting to end my life.

What I know is that I am not alone, but that there are much healthier ways to deal with those overwhelming emotions, and I am working towards that. I don't expect anyone to understand this - hell, I barely understand it on a good day - but hopefully, hearing my story will give you a better understanding should you ever be in a position where you are touched by self-injury in some way.

If you are one who self-injures, I would encourage you to get help - to tell someone. If you aren't in a place where you are ready to do that face to face, S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® has a toll free number - 800-DONTCUT.


*EDIT* My initial instinct this morning was to close down comments on this post, just as I did yesterday. I really wasn't sure I was ready for the feedback - the chance of hearing that I was nothing more than an attention whore who does little more than attempt to evoke pity from my readers. I know that most of you would never even consider such a thing, but I guarantee you there are some reading this who are far more judgmental and far less understanding.

Any doubt I had about the decision to open comments was was completely erased when Biscuit followed my post with her own - "to wash away the rage" It would have been so much easier for her to just identify with my post and move on, but instead she posted her own story. Please - go take a moment and read Biscuit's story.

I will never be able to put into words how much it means to me that she took this risk. Thank you sweetie!


15 March 2009

Sunday Secret


Some people hide their emotions, some express them, I etch mine to remember forever. This is about control, and lack of impulse control - but more so, it's about feeling, and not feeling. It is not about attention seeking. It is not about dying. It is not a cry for help. And it does not mean that I am crazy. It is a physical reminder of the intensity of my shame and inability to deal well with overwhelming emotion. Friday night, I came face to face with this shame when step daughter, in front of husband and Cam, asked about it. I lied. I know she knows I lied. It was the first time anyone has ever asked.


*Comments have been disabled on this post*


13 March 2009

Friday Wrap-Up


The Sears Tower in downtown Chicago, the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1973 until 1996, when it was "dwarfed" by the Petronas Towers in Malaysia (but still the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.), is being renamed the Willis tower. The London-based insurance broker, Willis Group Holdings Ltd., announced it is moving in and that it has purchased the naming rights that Sears, Roebuck & Co. lost in 2003.

I've got news for Willis ... just like the Baltimore Indianapolis Colts, the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Washington Bullets Wizards, it will always be the Sears Tower!


As I was browsing through my vendor list at work yesterday, I saw some addresses keyed in as P.O. BOX, and some keyed in as PO BOX. Does my urgent and overwhelming requirement to make them all the same indicate I am anal retentive, or obsessive compulsive?


I burned my blog feed to FeedBurner this week and am still trying to decide if this was a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing. Although it might make it easier to read for some of you who use mobile devices (Are there even any of you who do?) it takes FOREVER to show up in my Google Reader. OK, not really FOREVER, but 1-2 hours after the publish time instead of the instantaneous appearance prior to FeedBurner. Does anyone who doesn't blog for money or fame actually burn their feed? Am I even using the proper terminology to describe what I think I did or am I just looking like an idiot here?


I've not given up my annoying commentor ways entirely. I happened upon someone using really, REALLY bad blogging manners this week and I left a snarky gentle comment pointing out the error of their ways (misrepresentation of a blogger I am extremely fond of, and "loyal" to as well). The offending blogger immediately deleted my comment and played the "I didn't know" game when it was clear they really did know. I did my best to intimidate educate them on proper blogging etiquette ... via email the second time.

Then I got down from my soapbox and reminded myself that not everyone has good manners and I am not the blogging police. Damn it all anyway!! I'd do it again under the same circumstances though *snicker*


It's the second Saturday of the month tomorrow which means Cam and I will be giving back to the community for the day. Cam wants to help sort frozen meat at the Food Bank Distribution Center again (what is it with boys and wanting to handle their meat?), but I'm considering some other options. There are opportunities at the local suicide prevention center (a cause near and dear to my heart) as well as the local homeless shelter (another passion of mine). I'm trying to decide if it is best to spend the time with Cam, or allow him to go do his thing while I do mine. What do you think? When I asked Cam I got that 13-year old shrug that either says, "I want you to spend the time with me but I don't want to tell you that," or "You've actually done this with me before?"


11 March 2009

HNT - Mechanic


For me, HNT’s are fickle things. Sometimes I think, daydream, ponder, over analyze, throw a small temper tantrum, eat a can of smoked oysters, curse Os, and still cannot come up with anything new and fresh. These are the times that I take 742 a few more shots than normal, hoping that at least one of them will be usable. Then there are the times where the HNT opportunity just jumps out and grabs me. This week, I got grabbed.

For about 3 days, I had been hearing a new noise when driving my car. Now mind you, I drive a 1998 Chevy Cavalier with 132,000+ miles on it – it makes many noises – but this one was unfamiliar. I talked to husband about it Friday night. Told him it was a rumbling vibration, maybe an exhaust issue. He assured me he would ride in the car over the weekend to see if he could tell what was going on. Did you know, as a wife, it is my obligation to nag? I did NOT nag him incessantly until he caved remind him that he was supposed to take a ride in my car, therefore it did not get done (*note to self* Take nagging 101 next time it is offered at the Community College).

Monday, I came home for lunch and found this. Yep! Definitely an exhaust issue. No way I can get it fixed before payday. Off to Ace Hardware to secure some 14 gauge steel wire (got to MacGyver the exhaust system back to where it belongs – at least temporarily) and then I do what all good grease monkeys do … take off my shirt, get under the car, and temporarily fix the damn thing. And yes, I really did!

Go ahead! *CLICK* if you don't believe me!



I'm Cheating


It's been a week of infidelity here ... well, on the blog anyway. Monday there was the Ashley Madison discussion. TMI Tuesday addressed "cybering." Like it or not, infidelity and adultery are alive and well. No, the internet doesn't cause infidelity but it does make it much more accessible. When you add in our society's "entitlement" to instant gratification, you've got ... well ... a perfect infidelity storm!

If you have any doubts about infidelity, just do a quick blogger search and you'll find a plethora (I love that word) of bloggers willing to share their excursions with you. Of course, we don't really know if these infidelity bloggers are really adulterers, or if they are just amazing writers who have a firm grasp on fiction, a vivid sexual imagination and an understanding of their audience. Whatever the case may be, it's a topic we love to hate. We detest the idea, yet we want to hear all about it. We've all seen (or been part of) the emotional and social fallout of cheating, yet some of us just can't resist the temptation.

There are tons of statistics on infidelity floating around. Some studies say that as many as 50 percent of women cheat on their husbands, and 70 percent of men return the favor. A well-respected study done by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in 2002 found that 15 percent of women surveyed said they'd had sex with someone besides their spouse while married. Men? 22 percent said they'd had sex with someone besides their spouse while married.

So, why is monogamy so difficult for some people? There is a theory that biology predisposes us to seek multiple sex partners. I believe there is quite a bit of science behind that theory, but I also believe it is overused as an excuse. We have logical reasoning and empathy on our side. We are not driven solely by instinct. We can make the choice to be monogamous even if it is a difficult choice to make.

If we can be monogamous, what makes a cheater cheat? There are probably just as many answers to that question as there are people who cheat, but I think most fall into some manifestation of one of two basic categories: the hunter and the victim.

The hunter enjoys the chase. They measure their desirability by the number of their conquests. I think those falling in this category tend to be narcissistic - craving and demanding affection and attention with little desire to return those same emotions. When they stop feeling special in their primary relationship, they find a new one that does make them feel special. They hunt. They conquer. But that special feeling is elusive and must continue to be hunted.

The victims? (*EDIT* I don't mean to imply that the victim is a victim of infidelity, but rather that the victim's position is that he/she is not getting what they need in the home - they are a victim of their spouse's neglect.) They are the ones who are well aware of the shortcomings of their primary relationship and actively seek what they want outside the relationship, justifying (self-victimizing) it as they go. This is kind of the passive/aggressive approach to infidelity - things are incomplete in their marriage, but rather than resolving those issues, they fill the gap elsewhere, holding on to their marriage just in case.

No, it's not quite that black and white. The definition of infidelity, when it isn't the actual physical act of sex, seems to be the wild card in all of this. Is a stolen kiss infidelity? What about "cybering" with a committed cyber lover, or watching RedTube (don't click that link if you are in the presence of children or co-workers) while your spouse sleeps? Does the internet promote infidelity, or does it just change the way people go about getting there?

What do you think?


A special thanks to Vinny and to Biscuit! Their comments yesterday were the inspiration for this post that had been rattling in my brain for quite some time.


10 March 2009

TMI Tuesday #177


I'm indulging myself in frivolous mind candy today and participating in TMI Tuesday. It's rainy here and my brain feels a bit rusted.

TMI Tuesday

1. Are you pro-marriage? Why or why not?

I am pro-healthy relationships and pro-realistic decision to marry.

I don't believe that marriage it is the only way to secure a committed, long-term relationship, and I don't believe that a committed, long-term relationship is the best place for everyone. I've also known far to many people who have gotten married (me included) who had absolutely no realistic expectation of what marriage would be, nor did they have the commitment to stick with it when the going got tough. Marriage isn't immediate gratification, nor is it the "prize", but rather it is the beginning of many, many years of hard - sometimes overwhelming - work.

2. Have you ever invented or thought you invented a sexual position?

Let's see ... people have been having sex for thousands of years and I think I've come up with something new? I don't think so, although I've certainly given it my best shot at times.

3. Do you like to be tied up? Always or sometimes?

I like a busy schedule most days, but like my time to relax too.

Ohhhh ... You were asking about being tied up during sex? Honestly, I don't know! No one has ever gone there with me!

4. Do you consider online cybering adultery?

For the sake of clarification, I'll assume "online cybering" means engaging in sexual discussions, performing sexual acts via webcam, etc. for someone other than one's spouse/significant other.

I'm going to play with semantics here. My personal definition of adultery is extramarital, physical sex. Physically, cybering isn't adultery, the real question is, is it emotional adultery?

I would say that emotional adultery is what we commonly call infidelity, or the violation of the mutually agreed-upon rules or boundaries of the primary, committed relationship (physical or emotional). I think "online cybering" falls into that latter category.

5. Do you prefer masturbation over real sex?

You're kidding, right?

6. Do you want sex more times a day than your partner?

I want sex more times per day, more times per week, more times per month, more times per year, more times per decade ... are you noticing a pattern here?

7. Do you get offended when you partner openly flirts with others or are you okay with it?

Husband is an extremely outgoing person - friendly with everyone. He's not inappropriate with his attention to other women so I feel no threat at all.

8. Do you think you're flirty by nature?

GAHHH ... no! I might be flirty on this blog on occasion, and in my comments, but in real life? I don't have the self-confidence to pull off flirty.


09 March 2009

Two Words


Ashley Madison. No, this isn't a post discussing the morality or immorality of adultery, but rather one that points out the motivation of Ashley Madison (AM) and other sites like them. These sites speak not to the moral compass of marriage in America, but rather to the amoral entrepreneurialism that is alive and well in our country.

If you've happened upon a sex blogger, or more specifically, an infidelity blogger, you are familiar with AM. Even if you don't frequent those types of blogs, you've likely heard about the AM commercial that was banned from the NFL’s official Super Bowl program. In the commercial, a woman is seen on a dinner date with an inattentive jerk who turns out to be her husband. As the spot closes with her eyeing another guy in the restaurant, the voiceover asks, “Isn't it time for AshleyMadison.com?”

Or, you might remember the Times Square scandal involving AM where a rented billboard declared “Life is short. Have an affair.” After three days, and lots of free media outrage, the billboard was removed.

Certainly AM isn't the only web site that cashes in on cheaters, its competition includes LonelyCheatingWives.com, AdultFriendFinder.com and Craigslist, just to name a few.

AM claims they have 3.4 million profiles in their data base - 72 percent male and 28 percent female. AM even offers an Affair Guarantee Membership Package. If you send or reply to twenty unique AshleyMadison.com members each month for 3 months, send those initial messages "Priority" and have not succeeded at securing that extramarital affair, you will qualify for a full, $249 refund.

Noel Biderman, president of Avid Life Media, a Toronto-based holding company that owns the AM site, claims it's all strictly business. Biderman sees “people craving or seeking intimacy outside their relationships” as “a market segment.” Hmmmm ... a market segment ...

Biderman also claims that his site is exposing a female need to escape bad marriages and to boost self-esteem. Really? In 2009? Women need to explore infidelity to boost self-esteem? And they haven't figured out that filing for divorce (it's no fault, in most states) is the best way to "escape" a bad marriage? As Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociology professor and author so eloquently puts it, "Certainly offering sex gets you some appreciation from men, but most women want it on a deeper level. You’re not going to get that there." Nice try Biderman ...

The bottom line? The Noel Biderman's of the world have found a rather large, and needy market segment, one willing to pay for what has been available for free for centuries. This isn't about morality, it's about that other evil "M" word ... MONEY.


08 March 2009

Sunday Secret


Just over a year ago I posted [THIS SECRET]. Today? I do believe in God and know that he gave me this life not as punishment, but as preparation. My past didn't happen to me, it was given to me - a gift I now feel compelled to use in a positive way, rather than as an excuse.


07 March 2009

Lordy, Lordy! Look Who's Forty ... ONE!


I don't usually do birthday tributes, unless of course they involve my boo bear, but today I had nothing else to blog about I am making an exception. Bloggers come and bloggers go, but once in a while you come across one who is a keeper - one that you hope never runs out of things to say - Jay is one of those bloggers.

He is probably best known for his viking helmet, although I believe his real talent is his ability to post photos of beautiful, famous women without being arrested for stalking.

In his honor, I sat half-nekkid in a bakery for many hours yesterday, modeling for this cake. And yes Jay, the bustier and the undies are edible *wink*

Here is wishing you a great year Jay, and please, keep on doing what you do because you do it so very, very well! And if you are one of my few readers who hasn't visited Jay in the past, go see him now, and wish him a happy day!


06 March 2009

Friday Wrap-Up


First things first! Don’t you find that statement a bit annoying? I mean, where else would you put first things? Last? Wouldn’t they then be last things? And speaking of annoying (such a seamless transition) I’ve come to the conclusion that I can be annoying. I know … some of you are shaking your heads right now wondering if this is the first time I’ve realized this, and the answer is … really? I’m that annoying that often?

Here’s the deal, I am making a public apology to two bloggers today for my annoying ways. Both Emmy and Another Suburban Mom published posts over the past few weeks where, in a fit of anal retentiveness, I left a comment that was inappropriate. No, I wasn’t nasty – I was annoying. I had an epiphany while driving home last night and realized that, although my intent was good, my methods were not. Seriously, I didn’t even consider my annoying twit ways might be offensive until that moment in my car – days and weeks later.

So Emmy and ASM, I apologize for being an annoying twit. To any of the rest of you who have suffered through my annoying twit ways, biting your tongue and screaming at the computer monitor shaking your head? I apologize to you too!


Remember my Positively Going? Or Going Positive? post? How could you forget? I keep bringing it up! Anyway, I predicted that I would lose a few regular readers and commenters. I did – and one of those hurt quite a bit - but you know what? I think I’ve gained about 10x the number I lost! How did that happen? I’ve seen a lot of new faces (and I’m trying to get to all of your blogs) and even a few folks who were MIA for a time. I didn’t do this for readership - I did it for me - but there sure was a warm and fuzzy backlash from it that caught me quite by surprise.


Oh! I almost forgot! I need to say a great big THANK YOU to Biscuit, Hubman, ASM and M (from Rumblings & Bumblings - I’d link her, but she’s invite only) for playing retro HNT with me yesterday! Maybe it was just my egotistical thinking imagination, but it sure seemed like there was a lot less physical nekkidness out there this week, yet the HNT contributions were every bit as wonderful!


One more thing … who knows what a perdiddle (or padiddle) is? And how many of you hit the roof of the car when you see one? Having grown up on the west coast, I am very familiar with slug bugs, but had never heard of a perdiddle/padiddle until moving to the Chicago area. I guess it’s just one more of those geographical language differences, like soda and pop, or market and grocery store, or “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck” (those Minnesota folks have a language all of their own)!


04 March 2009

HNT - Thin Mint Part Deux (retro)


If you are a long time reader, you'll remember that last year I was victim to the Thin Mint Debacle. In short, I somehow eluded - completely and unintentionally - every Girl Scout in Northwestern Illinois and was not able to secure a single box of the highly coveted Thin Mints. Fortunately, two fellow bloggers felt so sorry for me liked me so much that they shared their stash, and they were properly rewarded with the Thin Mint HNT and, later, the Thin Mint Blizzard HNT.

This year, I tackled a gaggle of Girl Scouts I made sure to track down two purchasing sources and placed my order ahead of time. Since it's the first HNT of March, I'm sharing a retro Thin Mint HNT this week (i.e. no fleshy nekkidness), but next week might just be a different story!

“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand”
~Author Unknown



McEmergency? Try Some Relish!


Apparently the folks in Florida take their McNuggets pretty darn seriously. After Latreasa Goodman ordered and paid for a 10-piece Chicken McNugget, she was informed that the McDonald's she was at had run out of the delicacy. In fact, she was so distraught she called 911 three times to report an emergency. THREE times!

In one of her calls, Goodman states, "The manager just took my money and won't give me my money back, trying to make me get something off the menu that I don't want. I ordered chicken nuggets. They don't have chicken nuggets, and so I told her, 'Just give me my money back,' and she tells me I have to pick something else off the menu. She is not going to give me my money back, and she don't have the right to take my money."

When police told Goodman the incident was not an emergency, Goodman insisted, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one. This is an emergency."

Really? Let me slap McDonalds' hand - shame on you! Your NO REFUND policy needs to be balanced with a little common sense. If a customer orders and pays for a specific menu item, and you cannot provide it, give them their friggin' money back.

Oh ... but Latreasa Goodman? You win the ME! ME! ME! prize. Your emergency took essential services away from people who were really in the midst of an emergency. I have no doubt the cost of your emergency to tax payers was at least 100 times the cost of your McNuggets. Are you really that selfish? You couldn't take names and write a letter to McDonald's Corporate offices making a formal complaint? At least you were charged with misuse of 911 and issued a citation, but something tells me that won't fix the problem.


Just in case you ever find yourself distraught over missing McNuggets, I thought I'd post another recipe from my Relish! subscription. This one is a vegetarian dish (yes, Vixen and Garbonzo, you can eat this one too!) and was so tasty my family didn't even miss the meat! *EDIT* Those are basil parmesan bread sticks on the left, not chicken breasts!

Penne Pasta with Italian Vegetable Sauce

16 oz box penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion , chopped
1 red bell pepper , cored, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper , cored, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini , sliced and quartered
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons garlic
2 tomatoes , seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until cooked through but still firm to the bite. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium-high, heat oil and sauté onion, peppers, zucchini, and oregano for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until almost tender.

Stir in tomatoes, spinach, water, sugar, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, until sauce is reduced and thickened.

Serve pasta topped with the sauce and a generous portion of Parmesan.

Prep and cook time: 30 minutes per serving: 345 calories; 12 grams protein; 5 grams total fat; 6 grams fiber; 1 gram saturated fat; 65 grams carbohydrates; 0 mgs cholesterol; 22 mgs sodium


03 March 2009

No Sex, but a Sextet!


I've been having a difficult time wrapping my arms around TMI Tuesday lately. It's not that TMI Tuesday is any different, just that I seem to be in more of a reflective, opinionated philosophical mode these days and I just can't seem to merge the place I'm at with talking about sexual acts/positions/practices. Well, maybe I could, but still ...

One of the blogs I lurk on (yes, I'm one of those people) is Volly's This is my secret hiding place. Volly tackles some interesting topics, and usually from a different perspective than mine, which is why I enjoy her so much. She did a Six Happy Things post this morning and I thought focusing on happy was a far more productive way for me to spend my morning. So, if you stopped by to hear about my past sexual exploits (because y'all know there aren't any present ones) I hope you'll stick around for a little HAPPY instead!

1. Chick 'n Dip. Yes, a little hole-in-the-wall drive-in makes me happy! Why? This is what America was built on. A little mom and pop joint that hires local teenagers to work there in the summer and has the best Broasted Chicken ever. If that weren't enough, they have hand-dipped cones - not just chocolate, but strawberry and butterscotch too! Neither of those grab you? How about a milkshake or malt made from scratch. That's right! Real, hand scooped ice cream and one of those fountain type milkshake mixers. Why is this making me happy now? Chick 'n Dip is seasonal and opens on Saturday. Don't bring your debit card because they take cash or local checks only, and they still write up orders on tickets and total them up with nothing more than a hand-held calculator.

2. Anonymous Good Deeds. There is nothing better than knowing I've done something nice for a stranger. You all know about my habit of leaving change in the vending machine for the next person to find. That is one of my favorite ways to do good anonymously. Not only does it have the potential to turn some one's day around, but I never know who got it!

3. Smiles from strangers. It goes hand-in-hand with number 2 (no, not #2, #2 ... but Happy Thing #2!). I try to smile at everyone, and I get immense joy when a stranger returns one of those smiles.

4. Waking Cam up in the morning. He's 13 now. I'm not allowed to spend much public time with him any more, but weekday mornings? Those are mine. I get to gently wake him up by rubbing his back and start his day with positive and encouraging words. I am grateful for each of these mornings as I know the time will come when I'll have to let go of that time as well. For now, he lets me have it (and I think he secretly enjoys it as much as I do).

5. Singing in my car, at the top of my lungs - especially if it's warm enough to have the window rolled down. There is just something about this - knowing that I can sing all of the wrong words and completely out of tune and no one knows ... or even cares. It makes me happy every single time!

6. Spring planting. We're getting close here in the Midwest. The tractors are out tilling the soil, getting it turned over and ready for planting this year's crops (mostly corn and soy beans here). I can drive through farmland for hours, enjoying every sight and every smell. Yes, the smell of freshly turned soil makes me happy!

I've been called simple before, and it was never meant as a compliment. Funny thing is, it's one of my favorite compliments because it really is about finding joy in the little things that makes life's challenges far more manageable! What simple things make you happy?