Fetching Up a Teenage Boy…Now What?

medium_5372081748Growing a teenage human isn’t the easiest thing in the world. My son turned 15 in mid-September, around the same time he got his first girlfriend, and I, as Mom, have no idea how to handle it.

Do you tighten down the controls, in hopes of preventing too much of a fixation on the girlfriend?

Do you trust, based on past experiences with a wonderful young man who makes great decisions in school?

The girlfriend has only become “official” in the last few weeks, and I find it so sweet that my son has met someone who appreciates his smarts, wit and kind personality. And it’s a bonus that I’ve talked to her mother a few times, who seems as protective of her daughter as I am of my son.

My boy has always shown an outstanding ability to fend off peer pressure, though I’m not naive enough to think that the biological drive to have a more “intimate” relationship isn’t incredibly strong. I’m also wise enough to understand that, at this point, I’m here as an advisor. He will do what he does. My work as a parent – to raise him to understand the value of caution in creating intimate relationships – is pretty much done. My job as advisor and supporter, when asked, is it for now.

What about you? How did you handle the teenage years with your son or daughter?

photo credit: ARACELOTA via photopin cc

Small Treats Help Stave Off Big Splurges

This blog is is about a lot of things. From trying to make peace with aging and my changing, post-50 body to trying to lose weight and get healthier and stronger, I have a lot of goals for the next few years. While the weight loss hasn’t come (yet), I have hope. I’m currently focused on addressing the underlying emotional issues behind my weight and have hope that I’ll be able to release these extra pounds more easily once I’ve got it figured out.CoffeeMate Creamer Pic  Obviously, I consume more calories than I burn, so it seems simple, right? It’s sooooo not. The older I get, the more I realize that there are reasons that my body and brain don’t really want to lose weight. As I dig into the emotional issues and begin to exercise again, after a hiatus caused by an injury, I’m taking on small challenges along the way.

Lately, I’ve been reducing my cravings for sweet treats with a doctored up cup of coffee. I’m fortunate that our office offers a ton of different high-end coffees, plus, several options for flavored cream. Rather than running down to the store in our building’s lobby to grab a 200-calorie treat these days, I’ve been grabbing a quick cup of coffee with flavored cream and it satisfies my craving with significantly fewer calories.

My favorite flavored creamer is CoffeeMate and I LOVE their new Girl Scout Cookie flavors. If you haven’t tried them and you like the Girl Scout Thin Mints or Samoas, you’re in luck! I got to try them at the BlogHer conference this past summer and they’ve captured the flavors perfectly! And at 35 calories per tablespoon (or 70 calories for one cup of afternoon coffee, if you like two tablespoons like I do), they’re a much better option than the cookies themselves.

What do you think? What’s your favorite low-calorie sweet treat?

In the interests of full disclosure, I received free product samples, in return for this review. All opinions expressed are mine. And yes, these creamers are fantastic!


Giving Up First World Problems

SpheresIt’s so easy for us to complain about the little things that bother us in our day-to-day lives, though what I like best about hitting midlife is how much easier it is to distinguish between real problems and what’s become known as “first world problems.” (KnowYourMeme.com defines them as “frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.”)

Lately, when I’m feeling annoyed by something work-related or less-than-happy with somebody at the office, I remind myself that I write social posts and website articles AND teach people how to be nice to people, FOR A LIVING.

Some people stand over hot stoves all day, or stand on their feet and wait tables, or care for the elderly in nursing homes, or perform the same redundant function, over and over again, on an assembly line. All day long, they do something that they don’t love. Something that they have to do to pay the bills. Something that leaves them physically exhausted and unsatisfied. They dream of having a job that they love, though they have bills to pay and family to care for, and they don’t have the option of going back to school or pursuing a new career.

Me? I’m incredibly blessed with my work. Even I work too many hours. Even if it seems to  hurt my brain. And how incredibly self-centered would I be to let any of it truly annoy me?

When I think about it for just a few seconds, I’m pretty stupified by how fortunate I am to get to do what I do. And extremely grateful that it pays for my family to have a comfortable home, clothes on our backs, and food on the table.

The “first world problems” lens is a good one to hold up when you feel angry or annoyed about just about anything. How important is it really?

What first world problems have you stopped complaining about? Tell me about it! 

photo credit: Wootang01 via photopin cc

First World Problems of a Kept Young Man

CatI can only imagine who pays the bills of the young man I saw at the nail salon last week. He was probably in his late 20s, with an expensive haircut and an effeminate manner. He was there for both a manicure and pedicure and I was fortunate to overhear his entertaining banter. I was awed by his lifestyle, which was obviously so completely different than mine.

“I wish my skin was as dark as yours. I have to go lie in a tanning booth three times a week, just to look like this,” he told the Asian nail tech, holding up his arm next to hers. “You’re so lucky to have skin that color.”

“I’m going to ride my horse this afternoon when I’m done here,” he shared. “I have three pairs of riding pants, with the patches at the knees? They’re so ‘in’ right now. I need a new pair of riding boots, though. I’ll probably wear a jacket and a hat, because it’s such a cute little stable, it makes you want to dress up.”

“I spent an hour at water aerobics this morning and after that, my trainer worked me out for two hours,” he complained. “I’m so tired! But if I don’t do that at least a few times a week, I can feel myself getting flabby.”

As he walked up to the counter to pay for his treatments, he asked the same nail tech, “So you like Gucci, too?” I couldn’t help but wonder if he realized that her wages were probably not significant enough to afford high-end designer labels.

It was a fascinating snapshot view of a day in the life of a wealthy man. On a Tuesday when most are at work earning their livings, he’d been working out, getting his nails done and riding his horse. As I watched him drive away in his Audi A8, I kept wondering how the rest of his week played out.

Me? I was taking a one hour break from my day job to get a quick manicure, after which I’d run back to the office, finish up my assignments for the day, then go home and make dinner for my family, then work on my entrepreneurial venture through the evening. Wow. To have so much leisure time is almost unthinkable to me. What a contrast.

What about you? When have you encountered someone whose day-to-day life was completely different than yours? What did you think?

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The Blessing of the Frogs

LJV and the Frog PrinceYou sometimes hear people describe themselves as a “dog person” or a “cat person.” While I love dogs and cats and just about every other kind of animal, when it really comes down to it, I’m a frog person. I’ve always had a thing for frogs, though it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve figured out where it originated and how to use it to my advantage.

Some of my fondest memories involve wandering through the neighborhood when I was four and five years old, digging around through the mud and muck and dead leaves to find frogs and toads in our neighbors’ window wells. I’d put them in my white baby buggy with the lace sun shade, which was usually full of dirt and water, and take them home, always very proud of my catch for the day. My favorite stuffed animal was a frog prince with a yellow felt crown.

When my parents got divorced – I was just about to start first grade – we moved into an apartment with a concrete patio that overlooked some woods. Late at night, I’d sneak out of my bedroom to peek at the tiny tree frogs that would come up on the porch to catch the bugs that were drawn to the porch light.

When I look back on those years, I don’t have any recollection of how hard it must have been missing my father. I was daddy’s girl, though all I really remember are the frogs and toads.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was in my 40s, that I rediscovered my affinity for amphibians and bought myself a White’s Tree Frog. As we walked out of the pet store, I surprised myself by naming him “Buddy” immediately, instantly recalling that it was what I had called my frog and toad friends as a child. “Hey, little buddy,” I’d say to them, kissing their heads. (Yes, I’ve literally kissed a lot of frogs and toads in my lifetime.) It brought tears to my eyes as we got into the car and the memories came flooding back. I had a frog! Yay for me! I felt like a five year old with no cares in the world.

Over the last seven years, with Buddy in his tank in our dining room, I’ve immersed myself in fond memories of my childhood.

Pond FrogThroughout my living space, there are frogs. Antique cast iron frog door stops, vintage Chinese snuff bottles adorned with frogs, paintings of frogs, three-legged money frogs (to help with our financial chi, of course!), a stylized frog lamp…the list goes on. We’ve even dug a small pond in our backyard, where we’ve grown a few bullfrogs from tadpoles. They warm my heart and I’m drawn to them like some people are drawn to puppies. Just looking at them brings me joy.

Fortunately, my husband is a patient and compassionate man. He tolerates my frog fetish well. In fact, it’s allowed him to bring to light his affection for steam trains. Starting with coffee mugs and antique toy train sets, he’s bringing them back, enjoying the love he has had for them since he was a boy. Between the two of us, we’re surrounded by things we love that make us feel happy. And it is good.

What about you? Do you have any symbols of your childhood memories that make you feel happy? 

Plodding Along, Changing Habits On the Way

My Weight Doesnt Get to DecideThey say “Slow and steady wins the race,” and that seems to be my motto for now. A few weeks ago, I posted about walking every day, since I was struggling with my PITA injury. (PITA = Pain in the Ass, aka “piriformis syndrome,” an issue with a muscle in the rear end that when it acts up, causes severe muscle cramping and pain.)

So far, so good. By using my FitBit, I’ve managed to increase my average daily steps from 3,000 to 4,500 to 8,000 to 10,000. I feel stronger and have managed to honor this commitment about 90% of the time. (Awesome, right?)

Coupled with drinking more water, paying more attention to what I eat, ingesting less sugar/more protein, and going to three regular physical therapy appointments every week, in hopes of resolving my PITA, I’m on a strong and steady path. Not only am I changing some bad habits that impact me physically, I’m also – slowly and surely – evolving my mindset. I’ve not stood in front of the mirror and criticized myself harshly for being “fat” in at least a few weeks. My self-flagellation has been reduced to a minimum, quite an accomplishment, considering that it was previously a daily habit.

In the morning before work, I get dressed, I take a quick peek in the mirror and I move on. I look “good enough.” Not perfect, though who is? I look good enough for who I am: a 50 year old, somewhat overweight woman who struggles with an extra 40 pounds, who is working on getting physically healthier. My weight doesn’t determine my value and it doesn’t get to decide how happy I get to be. I am on a path and if I stay on it, I KNOW good things will come.

And to reinforce this approach, I saw a story on Good Morning America that really resonated with me. Tory Johnson, the contributor who does the “Deals and Steals” segment, has written a book, entitled “The Shift.” On GMA, she shared how she lost 60 pounds in the last year and a half with a consistent approach that had her losing less than a pound a week. Tory mentioned that, in the past, she’d give up when it didn’t happen fast enough, and that it wasn’t until she kept at it, persistently, that the weight came off. You can see the GMA story here: Tory Johnson Makes “The Shift” 

Thank you, Tory, I think I may just be on the right track.

What about you? What small changes are you making that will contribute to your health over time? 

A Lesson from a New Twitter Friend: You’re a Work of Art in Progress

Tana ArtI have a new friend on Twitter, @TanaBevan. She describers herself as a “Writer. Blogger. Doodler Extraordinaire. Encourager bar none!”

That’s one of her fun little doodles  —>

Since I’m all about positive energy and enthusiasm, I had to check out her blog. The first piece I read really resonated with me. It’s about how being perfect isn’t possible, so why not just accept that as a fact of life? Tana says:

“The pursuit of perfection is an exhausting exercise in futility. Better to embrace your imperfection. (Agreed, this is easier to handle in theory than reality.) Still, why not go for broke? Decide to view yourself as a Work of Art … in Progress!”

Since I’m always trying to be better/do better, I love Tana’s energy. Nobody’s perfect and nobody has to be. Do what you can and enjoy your life. And that’s all there is to it. You can check out her blog: Tana’s World


Walking is the New P90

LJVSince December, I’ve been suffering from piriformis syndrome, a condition that can be roughly described as an ongoing pain in the ass. Basically, the piriformis is a muscle that runs across your rear end, from the outer hip. It’s hard to believe that this little muscle can send you to the ER in an ambulance, though that’s exactly how it started for me in December. After x-rays and an MRI to rule out other causes, I was diagnosed with an unruly butt muscle.

Since then, my piriformis has decided that it likes to cramp continually, one side or the other, causing me continual early morning pain. It’s not fun, though with muscle relaxants and pain killers, I’m able to get it under control most days. Then, fortunately, as the day goes on, it warms up and feels better.

It’s put a huge damper on my exercise program, as every time I feel like I’m back to something resembling normal and can get back to P90 or even yoga, it flares up again. This past week, I’ve decided to go back to basics and just walk for 30 minutes every day. It’s something I can do consistently, it doesn’t seem to cause a flare up and it’s a great way to clear my mind every morning.

It helps that I have my FitBit, too, as I can gauge my activity by steps and stairs. It also helps me realize how few calories a woman my age and weight burns when we’re not active. Yikes!

Sometimes, going back to basics is the best way to get back on track.

What about you? What exercise helps you maintain a consistent level of activity? 


Driving School Life Lessons for Mom

He's got it handled.

My son came home from his dad’s last night and informed us that – yet again – the Driver’s Ed instructor had screwed up and he’d missed a driving opportunity. To complete this Phase 1 course, he has to drive with the instructor for six sessions, which are scheduled independently outside of class.

This guy has not shown up to class, which he does to schedule sessions with the kids, for several days. Then this past weekend, he told Kyle he would call him to confirm a Sunday drive and never did. Oh, he called, though he did so after the fact, to tell Kyle that he’d missed the session and would have to pay $25 to make up the missed drive.

When Kyle started to tell the story, I demanded that he give me the guy’s name and phone number, so I could call and read him the riot act. (Keep in mind, this was after several missteps on his part.)

“No, mom,” my son said. “It’s fine. I’ve got it.”

“You’re 14,” I told him, “This isn’t yours to handle. The guy keeps screwing up and I paid over $300 for this class.”

I got mad. He got mad. His stepfather got mad. And it became a battle of wills, with my son insisting he “had it handled,” while we, the adults, insisted that we needed to “handle it.” I asked him to sit on the porch for a few minutes, while everybody settled down.

After a short while, I went out to talk to Kyle to see if I could figure out what really needed to happen next.

“Mom, you picked the wrong driving school,” he said calmly. “These people are so disorganized and it’s not going to be perfect. We just have to get through it. The guy said he’s not going to charge us the $25 and he agreed that he’d made a mistake. It’s all good.”

I’ve always parented Kyle in a way that supported his growing independence. “Go on in the store and buy what you need,” I’d tell him when we went to the corner store to get something. “Here’s the money.”

“If you don’t feel like the teacher graded your project fairly, let’s go in and talk to him about it,” I told him when he was disappointed with a grade on a project in 6th grade. He’d talk it through with his instructor, learn what he’d missed on the rubric, and know how he could  do better on the next one.

In every case, Kyle would balk a bit, though we’d push through it and it would be easy for him next time.

Now, here he was “handling” a difficult situation with finesse and I was trying to jump in the middle of it. This was “adult business,” not “teen business.” In reality, it is his business and if he can use his budding people skills to “get through” the Driver’s Ed class with the unorganized instructor, who am I to get in the way?

Just another small step in growing his independence. Looking good so far, son. Now mom just has to learn to step back and let you take the lead.




Taming My Squirrely Brain

large__4053123799My brain can be so squirrely sometimes. (Is squirrely really a word? I’m not sure.)

I keep telling myself that I can lose weight with a few minor adjustments. In reality, it’s going to take lots and lots of minor adjustments. So far, I’m consistently exercising more, drinking more water or iced herbal tea, and eating more mindfully. Letting go of snacks between meals, unless it’s an apple or something else healthy. Avoiding the donuts and bagels in the kitchen at work. No more snacks on the couch while watching TV. No cream in my coffee. No more donuts on Sunday morning. Reducing gluten-based foods and white carbs.

And the weight’s not coming off. I lose a few pounds, then a few pounds come back. Then I lose a few more. Then they boomerang back and apply themselves to my belly.

My squirrely brain wants to give up. It keeps telling me, “See? You’re stuck. You can’t lose any weight, unless you torture yourself and starve yourself and make yourself miserable. Might as well give up.”

In the past, I’ve lost between 20 and 30 pounds at a time, though it’s always been through that eat-very-little, feel hungry all the time and punish myself kind of way. Then I go back to my normal self and the pounds come back.

Since I’m focused on losing these stubborn pounds in a healthy and sustainable way, I will continue to make changes and keep adding healthy habits. Go take a rest, squirrely brain. I’ve got this one.

What about you? Do you struggle to stay on track when the pounds don’t come off quickly? 

photo credit: Tomi Tapio via photopin cc