Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sell your McDonald's stock now....

Since my world got turned upside down a few months ago I have cut back drastically in certain areas of frivelous spending in order to make room in the budget for little things like food and the house payment.  My weekly, sometimes biweekly, restaurant dinners were replaced with pizza, first picked up from Pizza Hut to save the delivery charge, later picked up from the bake & take case at Wal Mart, then eventually from Aldi's frozen section.  My frequent McLunches were replaced with Subway Five Dollar Footlongs (you're welcome, the song will now be in your head for the rest of the day), which is now a rarely-enjoyed treat, more often I'm looking at a can of soup.

And, sadly, my daily Large McDonald's Sugar Free Vanilla Iced Coffee habit ($14 per week, so we're not talking Starbucks expensive here but still it adds up to a mind-boggling $728 per year) had to be cut back to a treat on Friday and maybe once over the weekend.

I have tinkered with home recipes to achieve the same glorious flavor, for 120 calories, and it always lacked....something.

Until now.

Behold...home made sugar free vanilla iced coffee...at 96 calories and a fraction of the cost.

Ok the picture isn't so great because I took it as I practically ran out the door for work.  But trust me...it tastes more like this:

Here's what I did....

Brew a pot of very strong black coffee, refrigerate.

Part of the trick is to not make it up ahead of time and store it in a pitcher in the fridge.  I've tried this and the taste is off.  So when you're ready, mix the following:

1 cup cold, strong, black coffee
1 cup skim milk
2 tsp Torani Sugar Free Vanilla coffee syrup (I found it at Wal Mart)
And the secret ingredient: 1 heaping tsp dry sugar free vanilla pudding mix.

I put it all in the blender on low for about 20 seconds while I'm drinking my breakfast (if you're new to my blog I'm not talking Bloody Mary's, I'm talking Shakeology) and when I'm either done with my shake or ready to leave for work I pour it over ice and YUM!!!

Honestly I don't know how much thickening the little bit of pudding and the waiting to consume accomplishes.  (update...I tried it without and the pudding is IMPERATIVE) But it seems to me to have a better consistency than when I tried a similar recipe without the pudding.  I got this idea from another website that recommended adding xanthan gum...but that's some expensive stuff. 

So here's the thing:  For the next month I will limit my dining out to once per week.  I'm not going crazy here, I will still buy take & bake pizzas and canned soup and such.  I'm not turning hippie and making my clothes from cow snot or something, but I am going to avoid drive thru's, sit down, quick casual, etc dining and even (gulp) my favorite "cheat", the prepared foods counter and salad bar at the grocery store.  Trust me, I can spend more there on lunch at Giant Eagle than I would at McDonald's.  I'm allowing myself once a week to allow for occasionally treating The Boy to his beloved Chepotle, a sunday brunch with friends or a date where maybe he doesn't pick up the tab. 

Stay tuned...this is going to be an adventure.

Today's lunch:  canned chicken chili (but wouldn't it be funny if I said McDonald's?)

Monday, February 20, 2012

MUST I? I think not.

Yesterday I did not leave the house.  I slept 'till 9, answered emails, paid a few bills, played some Words With Friends, surfed some Pinterest, spent way too much time on Facebook, cleaned a little, cooked a little, organzied a little, puttered a little, worked out more than a little, talked on the phone a little and really enjoyed my day in the company of this broad named Terrie and her two annoying ass dogs.  The Boy was with his dad.

I had one planned outing, to the drug store, to pick up a prescription for The Boy which he won't even need for another 2 or 3 weeks.  But all day long I kept reminding myself "must get to the drug store, must get to the drug store".  About 3pm I stopped and thought "Wait, why?  Why MUST I?".  And the answer was "To get out of the house".

Under the old regime a full day without leaving the house, unless I was at death's door, would not be permitted.  Must go, must run, must learn, must experience, must have fun whether you like it or not.  Why am I still living under these rules?

So when I finally worked out and showered, at the sinfully lazy hour of 4pm, I dressed in yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt and put together a receipe I had been wanting to try.  I am cooking more now than I have in years, because I have time to.  The fact that I don't cook has been a joke in my family for years.  But whenever I tried to cook my attention was pulled elsewhere, to the hundred other things I was supposed to be doing.  And truthfully The Boy is happiest when I don't cook.  He's a frozen pizza and cheeseburgers kinda kid.

I'm more focused now, though what I'm focused on is a bit more scattered.  Does that make sense?  I'm focused on what is important to me, a luxury of a single woman, but what interests me changes from day to day, minute to minute.  I'm interest surfing, and I LOVE IT.

So my weekends alone alow me to cook what looks good to me. 

Today's lunch: that awesome recipe I made yesterday. 

Avocado Egg Salad. 

4 hard boiled eggs, diced or smooshed (I diced, 'cuz that's how I roll)
1 firm, ripe avocado, depitted, peeled and diced or smooshed.
2 oz plain greek yogurt
1 stalk celery, diced

Mix together, salt & pepper to taste, enjoy with gult-free abandon.

Serves...eeh...three I guess?  225 calories per serving.  YUMMY!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

If You're Reading This, I'm Already Home

By the time anyone reads this I will have returned from the trip during which it was written.  I am fortunate enough to inhabit one of two seats in a row that has no third passenger on a flight from Charlotte to DC.  As much as I am enjoying the book I began reading on my cramped flight from Cleveland to Charlotte, that book is by Dean Koontz, an author whose writing I pretty much worship, but which also leaves me feeling exceptionally writey.
Sadly, when I try to write as or shortly after reading anything by Koontz, I end up very disappointed in myself.  Nobody writes like Koontz.  Not that I really try, I’d sooner try to sprout wings and make this trip under my own power.  But my style, my ability to pick any small detail and craft it into a paragraph that paints a vivid portrait, compares to Koontz like Koolaid to a fine Merlot.
Today is the fifth time in less than five months I’ve been in the air.  Whose life is this anyway?  While I have many times in the past six weeks mourned the loss of the money spent to fly twice to Texas, I no longer feel lost or confused in airports or on airplanes.  I feel like a bit of a road warrior, and I don’t know how the true road warriors tolerate it.  While I’m more comfortable with air travel than I was, I enjoy it less.  In fact, taking off from this second leg of today’s flight I didn’t even put down my book.  Taking off and landing doesn’t draw from me the same awe that it once did.  I feel like cattle, except that cows aren’t typically hurled from farm to farm in a tin can.  PETA would not allow it.

During the earlier leg of this flight, crammed into roughly two square feet of cabin space, between a window and a broad shouldered elderly gentleman…wearing a coat for crap sake (he, not I)….I thought of several things that I would have written about if I had the elbow room with which to extract my laptop from under the seat in front of me.
Now, I got nothing.

Mr. Broad Shoulders played Angry Birds on his iPhone the whole flight.  I found that interesting.  He was probably 60.  Maxine the cartoon character points out that in 40 years we will have a large population of elderly women with tattoos.  Maybe at that point I won’t find a 60 year old playing games on an iPhone to be interesting, but today I do.
So anyway I’m on my way to DC, to attend a meeting that leaves me once again feeling like a kid sneaking up to the grownup’s table.  I need to get over that.  It’s getting tedious.  I will be joining hundreds of people (edit…2,946 to be exact) who are in the business of running the same business my boss runs.  The company I work for owns a chain of franchise locations on the East Coast and also provides Accounting and Payroll support to two other franchise groups.   So I will not only be schmoozing with coworkers, one on my level but mostly above me, but I will also be hobnobbing with customers, some of whom I have never met. 

No pressure right?  Already I’m wondering if there’s anything between my teeth or hanging from my nose.
Tonight we will have a company dinner in a very nice restaurant.  My guess is when the name of the establishment was emailed to me I should have recognized it, but it neither rung a bell nor stuck in my bellfree.  As much as I appreciate the opportunity, the sentiment and the opportunity to experience something of this sort…it intimidates the crap out of me.  When faced with more than one fork I always freeze, scenes from Pretty Woman playing in my head.  What would Julia do?  I’ll tell you what she would do!  She would smile brilliantly and nobody would care if she used the wrong freeping fork. 

Why didn’t my mother get me braces? 
Tomorrow will be a blur of meetings, much of which will be greek to me, some of which will hopefully sink in and help me to better understand the people I serve.  Tomorrow night I will visit the Smithsonian, again with my oh-so-intimidating superiors, and once again try not to embarrass myself.

Then I’ll come home.
Oh and I should mention that I’ll be staying in a beautiful hotel, in a very expensive room. 

I really am very fortunate, and should try not to let my fear and inferiority complex cloud the experience. 
Soon I will be instructed by the captain to turn off all electronic devices and return my seat and tray table to their upright and locked position.  I saw the captain as I boarded.  I don’t think this should be allowed.  He’s just a dude.  Human and fallible.  I didn’t need to be reminded of that.

They all have the same voice, have you ever noticed that? 
When we land I’ll gather my ridiculously overpacked bag from the overhead compartment, ever cautious as articles may have shifted during flight, and as I exit the tunnel into the airport it will strike me that every airport looks alike.  Am I the only one who feels, when I exit the little plain-to-airport tunnel, that maybe there was a mistake and I’m back at the airport from which I departed?  Was it just a carnival ride, scenes of hazy skyline, patchwork farms, lakes and ponds and roads which I can’t distinguish from rivers being somehow projected on screens resembling windows?

Nope, it’s real.  My ears are killing me.
Shoulda just read more Koontz.

Today's lunch (at home, six days after I wrote this, when I'm finally getting around to transferring it from laptop to website): Shakeology.  Atoning for last week's sins never tasted so good.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Lumberjack in Drag

Today I worked a snowblower for the first time.  The cold and the wind biting at my face, the smell of exhaust sticking to my hair and clothes.  I am not a fan.  But it needed to be done and The Boy was at a friend's for the night (probably the weekend if he gets his way) and being that I don't have the luxury of a four wheel drive vehicle that I had when last I was single, it needed to be done.  And it was not lost on me that I could have been shoveling.  Trust me, I was holding my breath and praying that the snowblower would start all the while cursing the fact that I need to use it.

My life now is very...utilitarian I suppose.  During the week I get into a grinding routine of work (a lot), cook (as little as possible), exercise (more than most, less than I should), shower (shaving is optional), sleep (fitfully), repeat.  On the weekend it's laundry and groceries and cleaning and maybe a rented DVD.  Sometimes it's plowing snow, sometimes it's mowing grass, sometimes it's weeding, sometimes it's painting.  So it's not all that surprising that when I put on makeup and 'girl clothes', when I flat-iron my hair..it all feels like a costume.  I feel like I'm covering up who I really am.  Honestly I feel like a lumberjack in drag. 

But the lumberjack isn't who I WANT to be.  I WANT TO BE the pretty girl with the long eyelashes and silky hair and nice clothes and cute shoes (GOD I miss cute shoes).  I am not a lumberjack by choice, but by necessity.

I need to make an effort to treat myself like a girl more often.  I need to make time after I'm done pulling weeds or unstopping toilets to soak in the tub and shave my legs even if nobody is going to see them.  If I get a little extra money, rather than using it to buy mulch or paint, once in a while I need to go get a pedicure and get my toes painted a pretty pink.  If I do this more often, will I feel like a ballerina who just happens to have to weatherproof the deck, or will I still feel like I belong more in steel toes than pumps?   I dont' know, but it's worth a shot.

So as I sit here watching it snow, frigging horizontally for crap sake, knowing full well that I will have to go back out there before the day is over and try to undo what old man winter hath done, later I will take a nice long bath, shave my legs even though I know nobody will see them, put on some nice smelling lotion and make dinner for a man who I am very cautiously getting to know.  Yes, my friends, I had a date last week that I didn't write about.  I didn't write about it because it wasn't a disaster.  See how that works?  And hopefully I won't write about this one either.

Today's lunch:  McDonald's Sugar Free Vanilla Iced Coffee...I had a big breakfast...like any self respecting lumberjack would.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Enough is Enough

Self confidence is a funny, fragile thing.  Maybe not everyone's, but mine is for sure.

I can go weeks at a time thinking I'm doing well.  During those times I'm able to clearly see my blessings.  My son is healthy, my career is thriving, I own my own home and vehicle, and I even have a side job that I enjoy.  My health is on the upswing, my weight is on the downswing, I have a love of words that can make me smile whether I'm playing Words With Friends, shuffling words around here or listening to the sad lyrics of an Adelle song.  During those times, life is good.

Then something will happen, usually an ill-timed criticism or some sort of personal setback.  Some days I can take something like this in stride.  Other days, and I don't know what the differentiating factor is, but the same situation will put me into glass half empty mode in which I tend to stubbornly wallow for a bit.  For a while I will only see the discipline problems in my son, the long hours in my job, the mortgage, the car payment and the long way I have to go to make the second job a success. 

I had such a situation last week.  What I'm doing is obviously not good enough for someone, and they feel the need to "help" me do better.  This person hasn't bothered to ask me if I'm happy with what I'm doing, or with the results I'm getting, she only feels the need to tell me that my ego is getting in the way of my success.  One of my best friends, someone who knows me better than anyone else in the world save possibly my ex husband, responded to this news with two words..." Ego?  YOU?"....but I was full blown into glass half empty mode and didn't see that as evidence that the shortcoming in this situation was in the person who was pushing me, in her complete lack of knowledge of me as a human being, and I was deeply into feeling sorry for myself because, in my head, nothing I do is ever enough. 

If you're picturing me staring vacantly toward the sky, with the back of my hand against my forehead, you have my posture about right.

Woe is me.

While I would have completely deserved a smack in the head at this point, followed by an order to get over myself and see the good in my life, instead the universe dealt me two good turns.  I am truly not worthy of the blessings I have received in the last two days, but I am wide awake now and to the universe I say a deeply felt "thank you".

First I spoke to a Beachbody client who is finishing a challenge and was trying to figure out how to proceed to continue improving her health.  I am not at all comfortable in the capacity of "salesperson" and so often feel like I should apologize for offering people the products I sell.  But early into this conversation, the craziest thing happened.  She THANKED ME for getting her involved with Beachbody.   She told me she felt good and was seeing results and wanted to continue.


Yes I was trying to sell her a product, but I had also helped her get closer to her fitness goals, and she was grateful. 

This boggled my mind. 

Here, in this business where I have thought I wasn't good enough, I helped someone.  And I am so humbled and grateful for that.

I told her what I thought would work for her.  Time will tell if she follows through.  I hope she does, but if not, I've made a difference.  I brought to her something that helped her and nobody can take that away from either of us. 

Now I'd love to say that after that conversation my attitude completely turned around, but I honestly didn't recognize that event as the bop on the head it should have been.  It should have completely wiped out all of the "you're not doing enough" messages I received earlier.  In all honesty it took a bit of time for me to let the good sink in enough to cancel out the bad.  But it eventually did.

I'm a lil' slow sometimes.

But wait...there's more.

When I woke up this morning I was still brooding about the criticism and the not being enough.  And I would have completely deserved for the universe to throw up its hands and say "if you can't see what I'm throwing at you...forget it"....but somehow that didn't happen.

A friend told me on Facebook last week that she wanted to talk to me about something, so we made arrangements to meet for breakfast this morning.

When we sat down with our menus she told me that she's been reading my blog (I'm NOT just talking to myself here!!!) and seeing me go through the breakup, witnessing me finding myself and becoming stronger has encouraged her to make some difficult decisions to improve her life.

I'm not going to go into too many details, it's her private stuff, but I think the decisions she has made, which somehow I helped her make without knowing it, are going to lead her away from something that could have been a disaster. 

So here is my question....why would I allow the comments of someone who thinks what I'm doing isn't enough ring louder in my head than the thanks of two people who I've helped.

I won't.

Universe...I hear you.

I am doing exactly what I should be doing.  For myself, for my child, for the Day Job, for The Night Job, for my health and for my friends.  If the paint on the front porch is peeling that's because I was too busy working out to paint it.  If I don't sell as much Shakeology as someone else it's because I feel the need to stay true to myself and not be pushy or fake to make a sale.  If I miss a workout one day it's because I felt the need to spend some quality time with my son.  If my house isn't as clean is it should be it's because I sat down to write this blog rather than dust and if my laundry remains undone today it's because I sat in a booth at Perkins for five hours catching up with a friend.

And that, by God, is enough.