Packing Up The DVDs For Veterans

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Happy Memorial Day!

I’ve been meaning to post about packing up my DVDs for months and I suppose this is as good a day as any.

When I was decluttering, my extensive DVD collection was one of the most emotionally charged items for me to go through. I had spent years collecting my favorite movies. Movies are one of my most favorite things!

However, inspired by minimalism and affected by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube and On Demand services, I found that I didn’t watch my movies all that often. Why pull out a DVD when I can watch the same movie with the click of a button?

So, I decided to go through my movies and discard.

It was hard but what made it easier was finding a worthy cause to donate to.

I discovered DVDs for VETs and they accept donations of used DVDs to be used in Veteran’s Hospitals and Nursing Homes and Veteran’s Centers.

It was easy to donate some of my favorite movies when I asked myself, “If a disabled veteran asked me if they could have some of my DVDs, would I give them to him/her?”

Of course!

So, I packed up my DVDs and shipped them off to DVDs 4 VETs.  I also put a link my sidebar.

Here’s a link to an AARP article with a list of good causes to donate to. I found it was easier to discard when I had a worthy cause to donate to.

Happy Memorial Day! and Happy Decluttering!

Peace,

Jill

Smash Cake Crazy!

Ok, if you know me at all you know that I run about 2 years behind trend. However, I hate to admit it but this time I’m about 10 years behind trend!

But let me say that it’s because I haven’t had a baby in like 28 years!

So, Skrunchkie Gideon is getting ready to be ONE YEAR OLD! He’s so big! And we’re talking about his birthday party. I’m so excited!

(I take FaceTime screen shots, so sorry about the quality.)

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And his Mom said she wanted him to have a Smash Cake.

Now, I knew that birthday kids were having little cakes that they could dig into so that the party guests wouldn’t have to eat a slobbered, destroyed cake. But I didn’t know it had an official name.

Daughter shared some pinterest ideas with me (and you know Distance Family depends on Pinterest) and I decided to try my hand at making a Smash Cake.

I’m not much of a cook but I love to bake and since I’m trying to improve my health and husband is diabetic, I don’t bake much around here.

So, I had SO much stinking fun making Smash Cakes! Now, I’m not a pro and I haven’t done cake decorating in like over 25 years, so don’t be judgey. But here’s a practice run on Gideon’s Smash Cake.

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I’m serious, don’t look too close. But while my technique needs some practice, I was happy with how I was able to tint the icing to get the colors I wanted. I had to add the little mini vanilla wafer clams with pearls. Too cute not to try! I don’t know if we’ll use them, the candy pearls are really hard for somebody with just 5 teeth.

And since I had the kitchen covered in powdered sugar, I decided to try my hand at making a Smash Cake for Manny the Man since his birthday will be in a couple of months.

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He loves Elmo, so I made him a big, red, Elmo head.

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I showed the kids and they approved so I’ll pack up my pans and tools and take them with me when I head out to Texas for the birthdays.

In my research about Smash Cakes and the best icing to use, I ran across Cupcake Jemma and all her YouTube videos. They were very helpful! You should check her out!

I’m going to be experimenting with different icing and practice my techniques so the Smash Cakes will be just perfect before they get destroyed!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

Distance Family & The Joy of Pinterest Boards

I have to give credit to my daughter-in-law for this one. Shout out! Woot! Woot!

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Maintaining a close family over a long distance is a challenge and so I’m always looking for creative ways to stay connected.

There are so many things that we take for granted when we are able to live in close proximity with our family. We don’t realize that stopping by for a quick visit or a trip together to the store or grabbing lunch periodically can give us information into our family’s lives that we miss when we’re not able to do those things.

Not to mention that our kids and grandkids change everyday and that subtle information that is communicated when we see them often is not available to distance parents and grandparents. When you’re with family often you’ll notice little things like color choices or hear them casually talk about things they like. When you don’t see your family often and only talk on the phone or FaceTime you don’t usually get down to those little, subtle details. And you only see them through the small window of the phone.  A lot of information is missed.

Especially when it comes to gift giving or wanting to be involved with our kids when they’re making a home and raising kids.

For example, my daughter may say, “I want a new purse for my birthday.” Well, you’re not around to see what kind of purse she’s carrying. You’re not shopping together to see what kind of purses she’s looking at and commenting on.

You’re not with your son to see what styles of sweatshirts or sneakers he’s wearing currently. You don’t know what books their reading because you’re not stopping by the house to see what’s on the shelves or coffee table. You don’t know what colors they’re using to decorate the kitchen.

Also styles change so quickly and what we might think is cute for the baby, they might think is hideous! And we don’t want to be “that” grandmother do we? That Crunchy Old Lady, no!

Well, that’s where Pinterest Boards are our friends!

My daughter-in-law helps me by keeping a Pinterest Board for gift giving. She makes a board for herself, my son and my grandson for birthday and Christmas. She also has boards about her house, clothes and accessories she likes, the colors she’s using, little helpful things like that. So, if I want to go off the board for gifts, I can at least stay in the ballpark because of the things she’s pinned on her boards. Her boards really helped me when my son turned 30 and I needed to figure out how to celebrate the milestone from a distance. You can read what I did, here.

Then I don’t have to ask so obviously, “Do you happen to have a set of mixing bowls in pastel colors? And would you like some?”

Another great benefit is that most of the time the links to where to buy those items are included in the pin. So, shopping is easy! I can just click and buy and have it shipped to them.

Not only is it great for gift giving but also for planning events. Right now we are working on the grandboy’s first birthdays and Pinterest is helping us communicate ideas for the parties. Now I can help with the party by sharing ideas and figuring out ways I can contribute.

If my family has to be separated by distance then I’m really thankful for technology and the ways it helps us stay connected!

Thanks Pinterest! Thanks daughter-in-law!

Peace,

Jill

What To Get A 30 Year Old For Their Birthday?

My son just turned 30 this month and I just started feeling substantially older, haha!

He’s also a new father and while we are spending a lot of time, money and energy spoiling the new guy, I wanted my son to know we still think he’s special, too!

He lives 5 states away and we wouldn’t be able to be with him this year, so whatever we got him would have to be sent.

So, what do you get a man to celebrate a milestone birthday and your not a Rockefeller?

30 Gifts! 

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It seems extravagant and outrageous and that’s the perfect thing to celebrate 30 years!

He’s 30 years old and a new father and I’ve noticed that he’s been more interested in reminiscing about his childhood lately. So, going back in time was a pretty good idea I thought. I sat down and listed 30 things that reminded me of my son from his first word, to his love of reptiles to his upcoming trip to Peru. I listed things he loved as a kid to things he needed for his trip in 2 months. I combined memories with current events so I was recognizing his whole life.

Then I looked at the list and considered what I could get that would represent those memories or events. I thought of things that might be meaningful. For example, my son loved Steve Irwin as a kid and so I ordered a patch from the Australia Zoo. He had a pet duck that he loved as a kid and while I’m not going to get him a real duck, I got a little toy one. He also played basketball and loved soccer, so I got him a basketball and soccer ball neither of which he owns right now and he’s got a growing son and those items will be necessary for his sports equipment arsenal. (You see the Grandma heart is strong in this one! I’m still thinking about my grandson while celebrating his father. I can’t help it!)

And, of course I loved my son as a kid, but I think it’s important to recognize the man he is now, so, I got him a few things he’ll need for his upcoming trip to Peru. His wife is always helpful in putting together a Pinterest board for  holidays with gift ideas and links to items. (She’s cool like that, and I tell you about it.) So, I was able to choose some items that he’ll need.

So, I bought 30 gifts ranging from a little plastic snake to an inflatable camping pillow. Wrapped them all, which was no small chore I’ll tell you, and put a number on each one.

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I also included a handwritten tag on each gift that said why I chose that particular item. For example, I got a sketch book and attached a tag that said, “Because we have always been so amazed and proud of your artistic abilities!” I got a little plastic frog and put a tag that said, “Because of my refrigerator.” We all laughed when he opened it because we remembered the time he caught a box full of tree frogs and put them all over my refrigerator like magnets and I didn’t notice until he pointed them out to me. I thought it was funny until one jumped on me!

I packed it and shipped it with a note that said, “Don’t open until we can FaceTime with you.” I wanted to enjoy watching his face as he opened each item. I’m just that kind of Mom. So they called when they had some time and we were able to share the fun with them! (I LOVE FaceTime!)

So, the box was filled with fun memories and items he could use today. And as it turned out, the 9 month old loved the basketball and crawls around the house pushing it ahead of him! Win-win!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

The Challenge of Staying True To The Vision

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I always loved watching the plate spinners on Ed Sullivan or some other variety show. I love variety shows, why don’t we have those anymore?

Anyway, remember the plate spinning music? If you were here I’d hum it for you and you’d know what I was talking about.

My blog has been neglected as of late because I’ve been on the other end spinning some other plates.

That’s life, isn’t it, spinning plates? Having to give more attention to one plate, then move to another before it stops spinning and so on.

When I retired/quit my job of 17 years I quickly went into a frantic decluttering and minimizing phase. Now I’m into a “getting my s@#! in order phase which is soon to come to a close. Recently, I’ve been trying to take my time and think carefully about my choices and how they will affect my goal – to free up my life so that I can enjoy this next chapter.

So, in the past 7 months I’ve been resting, getting my health back on track, researching myself, exploring new interests and potential 2nd careers and generally figuring out what I want to do now that I’m in this chapter of my life.

There are a couple of “demons” that I am fighting right now. I have to keep them at bay lest they thwart my plan. Maybe you have the same ones: Money and Productivity.

I’ll be honest, money is tight since I quit work. I mean, we’re paying the bills but don’t really have much left to have fun or buy the grandkids stuff. So, it’s very tempting to take job offers that I’ve been given lately but I have to keep my goal in mind and be ruthless in making sure my choices support my vision of this chapter of my life. Otherwise, I will just be right back in the same boat – stressed out, fighting my blood pressure and not having enough time to spend with my grandkids.

This is my mantra, “It’s more important that I give my grandkids myself rather than stuff.”  That’s true, isn’t it? Tell me it is! They wont’ always remember the things I bought them but they will always remember the times we spent together and how I made them feel, right?

The other “demon” is productivity. I like to be busy, I like to feel productive. So, I’m tempted with filling my days with “doing stuff” to get that fix. I’m not comfortable (yet) with taking it slow, being patient, etc, etc. However, I know – from experience – that if I don’t chill out, take my time and be selective that my life will just be one big snowball of busy-ness that will crash and explode in a pile of illness and stress.

I also feel that mortality clock ticking and I want to spend my energy and effort doing things that produce goodness and help and bring joy to people. I don’t want to spend my precious time running in a hamster wheel going nowhere.

However, I have to gear down my passion to “help the world” and remember that cooking a good meal, making an encouraging comment on social media, loving my family, and all those other seemingly small gestures and actions are actually big things in disguise and are so important!

Taking It Slow

I’ve gotten involved in a couple of volunteer opportunities lately. I feel good with volunteering right now. I’m the kind of person that if I get paid for something I’m going to kill myself to make sure I give the person their money’s worth, and more. So, if I’m not getting paid, I feel freer to relax and enjoy the experience instead of obsessing about the work/pay exchange. But even in that, too, I have to put on the brakes. When I find something that is creative, challenging and that I’m passionate about I tend to get carried away. I have to pace myself. (Excuse me while I preach to myself!) And in my volunteering I have to keep my vision in mind and stay true to it.

So, this post, dear reader, is my attempt to slow my roll and re-center. Revisit my vision and make sure that I’m staying the course. And in sharing it with you, I give you permission to do the same.

What is your vision, dear reader? Maybe today is a good day to ponder your vision and goals and think of ways to adjust your trajectory to achieve them.

Hope you have a great day!

Peace,

Jill

Naming the Grandparents

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I thought for sure that I had written a post about this but I couldn’t find it. I wanted to check to see what I had said before the grandboys were born to see if I still felt the same.

Because, you know, we’re just making this up as we go along! “This” meaning, life.

So, I was talking to someone today about a mutual friend who is about to be a grandparent and we were talking about the naming of the grandparents and how that happens.

So, in the way I always try to be honest with you, dear reader, I’m going to tell you how it is happening with me and the more I talk to people it seems I’m having a pretty common experience.

So, when you find out you’re going to be a grandparent there’s shock, disbelief and then denial. You won’t be able to believe that you’re old enough to be a grandparent. Then you don’t want to believe you’re going to be a grandparent, not because you’re not thrilled, but you know, being a grandparent comes with all that baggage about being ancient and knowing Moses when he was a youngster in short pants.

When you just begin to warm to the idea then the name bartering begins. I say bartering because you are going to grandparent this child with 3 or more people and everyone wants their own unique name. Names get snapped up pretty quick.

So, you begin trying on names, privately, or maybe people at work start putting them on you. “Hey Granny!” “Nana’s in the house!” “Meemaw, want to go to lunch?” Stuff like that.

Your first reaction will be that it just feels weird but you mentally know that one of the names is going to have to fit. So, you begin to see which ones just make your skin crawl and which ones are tolerable. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents and grandparents some of the names are already taken, so you got slim pickins’.

Some of the names will remind you of somebody’s grandmother who was a crunchy old mean lady, and you don’t want to be associated with her. Still other names give you mental pictures of old Russian nesting dolls or Granny on the “Beverly Hillbillies.” Still others make you think of body functions or body parts like “Peepaw” or “Mammy” or “Mammaw.”

Then The Pressure Comes

Up until now deciding on a name was purely a mental exercise. But pretty quick the kids start holding up the grandchild and saying, “Here’s your _____________.” Or “Say bye-bye to ________________________.” And not long after you have to sign a card or a gift tag and the pressure’s on to choose a name. What will it be?

I really wanted a good name. I wanted something unique. I remember I had a young student once who told me all day that his Honey was coming to lunch. I asked him who it was and he would shrug like he didn’t understand the question and say, “My Honey.” His grandmother came to lunch and I thought that was the sweetest thing. Not to mention that they were really precious together.

My kids kept asking me what I wanted to be called because as good parents they wanted to teach their child to associate me with a name. I just couldn’t think of anything. So, I told my kids that I wanted to be called Stella so when the boys got older and they wanted me for something they could yell, “Stella” just like Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and I could have a good laugh.

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Being the cool kids that they are, they thought it was funny, too, so as of now, for the moment, I’m Stella.

The Downside of Cute Names

When I first found out I was going to be a grandmother and I was getting teased relentlessly at work a wise, sage of a co-worker pulled me aside as if to give me top secret information. I listened carefully as she whispered in my ear, “You’re going to be grandmother to two boys, let me give you some advice. Forget the cute names. If you tell them to call you some cute name, they will in private. BUT they will NEVER call you the cute name in front of their friends or in public. They will refer to you as their grandmother.” That is wisdom from the trenches right there.

The Real Truth

The honest truth though, dear reader, is that I could barter and scrap and demand but I will be called whatever those little boys call me.

Whatever rolls out of their mouths will be fine with me.

I am so in love with them that if they called me “Poopy-head” or “Ancient of Days” I will think it is the greatest name in the world!

Right now, it seems that Gideon gets my attention on FaceTime by saying, “Huh.” I’m good with “Huh.” Manny says “Dada” and if he wants to call me that and call his Dad something else, I’m good. I can’t speak for my son, though.

The Bottom Line

So, the bottom line, right now, dear reader, is that you might be very adamant about not being called a certain grandparent name, but when that grandchild comes, you won’t care anymore. You will only care that they call you.

And that baby will quickly turn 3, 6, 9 and 12 months old before you know it. And just like your own kids seemed to go from “Mommy” to “Mother” (with attitude) overnight, so will the grandchildren. So, our grandparent name will probably evolve as well.

So, to quote The Bard, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So, instead of stressing about a name, focus on “lovin’ the fillin'” outta those grandkids and whatever they call you will become a term of endearment!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

Motherhood: The Art of Triage & Planning The Garbage Event

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I was talking to my daughter this week and we had one of those conversations that I love. She was telling me about a struggle and immediately the memories of being a young mom came flooding back and we had a good commiserating laugh.

All my dear mothers will understand.

Being a mother prepares you for a 2nd career as a triage nurse or an event planner and here’s how.

Taking out the trash at dinnertime. 

To take out the garbage you must first evaluate the entire situation as a triage nurse would.

Ok, it’s 5pm. You have peeled the potatoes and are holding the skins when you realize there’s no room in the trashcan! Crapola! Emergency!!

Assess the situation:

  1. Can I possibly smash the garbage down anymore? No.
  2. If I lay them on the top will they fall off alerting the baby and dog to investigate? Probably. Then dog will eat them and vomit later causing clean up. Baby will play with them and cry when I take them away requiring a halt in dinner making and requiring me to change directions and plan and delay dinner for an hour or more. What are plans for the evening? Can dinner be delayed? No!
  3. Can I just lay them on the counter or table? No. The ants might come back which will require another Pest Control bill and we have that trip coming up. So, the peels have to go now.
  4. Think back to what was thrown away in the can. Will it leak? Will it be too heavy to pull out of the can? I can’t remember.
  5. Is it worth the risk of dripping garbage juice across the floor which will attract said baby and dog? (Doing probability and percentage equations in my head.) The odds are borderline.
  6. The toddler (who is normally fussy at 5pm) seems to be playing peacefully and facing away from the path of the exiting garbage so he might not even notice I’m gone (laughing in my head because that’s just wishful thinking).
  7. Do I give him his favorite toy to perhaps get more time or will that just make him realize that he’s hungry and then demand to be held and fed? No, leave him alone.
  8. Does he have a dirty diaper? No.
  9. Any small objects, technology, outlets or other dangers around said child? Oh yes, the wire bundle behind the entertainment center. But the child will have to overcome an American Ninja Warrior course to get to it. Evaluating distance and rate of speed of said child to wire bundle gives me a small window of opportunity given that the bag doesn’t break, the husband returned can to it’s place, I don’t have to cram the existing garbage down in the outside can and no neighbors stop me to talk. Risky. But I’m willing to take that risk.
  10. Will he demand to eat in the 3 minutes it will take me to take the trash out? (Quickly assess schedule for eating, napping, bathtime and bedtime.) 3 minutes is fine.
  11. Will I run into any neighbors who will want to talk to me and delay the process? (Quickly assess arrival and departure tables of neighbors.) I think we’re good.
  12. The pot of potatoes is not quite to boiling. I can turn it down for safety but it will delay dinner. Got to prioritize! Safety first!
  13. The dog who will run to the door and try to escape and alert said child to my absence is distracted by licking himself on my throw pillow (which is another crisis that will have to wait. Mental note: wash the throw pillow.) Do I put the dog in another room to keep him from escaping? No, that will just alert child to a change in events setting off another chain of events. I think I can beat the dog to the door.

Even with the risks and chances of success being low, I need to get these potato skins out of my hands. Taking the garbage out is a go people!

Now comes the event planning. 

You have to strategically organize, coordinate and execute the plan.

Coordinate steps in the plan:

  1. Pull bag out of can.
  2. Bolt toward door as fast as possible.
  3. Throw bag in can.
  4. Return

Double check for safety:

  1. Distracted child? Check.
  2. Licking dog? Check.
  3. Boiling potatoes? Not quite. Turn them down to be safe. (Delays dinner, dang I’m hungry!)
  4. Doors unlocked? Check.
  5. Hear any neighbors outside? No, think we’re good. Check.
  6. Is outside can by the house? Yes.
  7. Sniff. Dirty diaper? Still no.

Execute plan now! Go! Go! Go!

Pulling the bag out of the can and bolting toward the door alerts the dog who almost knocks me off my feet as it squeezes between my ankles and the door frame. No matter how much I try to trap it in the doorway with my calves it manages to slither by like a greased snake. My yelling it’s name as I toddle to the can with the overflowing bag holding it out so as not to get the garbage juice on me seems to only propel the dog further down the street. It’s frantic barking and running at being freed scares small children and brings thoughts of rabies into the minds of their parents. Is it up to date on it’s shots? How much will that cost?

At the can, I set the bag down on my foot getting juice on my shoe – can it go in the laundry that is in process now? No! Gross! It needs serious sterilization! I cringe as I feel the juice seeping onto my toes. I open the lid and the lack of weight in the empty can causes the can to topple back. I have to set the bag on the ground and it falls over dumping eggs shells and potato peels on the ground. I set the can back up and pick up the debris all the while my neighbor is yelling, “Your dog is out!” Like I don’t know that.

Leaving the dog to his fate I hurriedly limp back in (because of the garbage juice on my foot) and find the child has crawled through the juice that was trailed along the living room floor directly for the wire bundle but was halted as his body has been wedged between the chair leg and the wall and is crying as he is straining for the wire bundle. Is the child in pain or just angry at having his plan thwarted? Just angry. I must quickly determine if the chair will hold the straining child from electrocution long enough for me to wash the salmonella, botulism, and Lord knows what else off my hands and my right foot.

Seeing the chair give way to my child’s determination and stubbornness that he must get from his father and since the child already has garbage juice on him I kick off my contaminated shoe toward the bedroom door and pick him up and take him directly to the bathtub but not before I stop by the kitchen to turn off the potatoes that are now boiling over onto the stove top which will require sandblasting to get the potato foam off. In the effort to keep the child from the boiling pot as he strains with every ounce of energy in his minute body toward it,  the garbage juice gets smeared all over both of us now. Pulling him away from the scalding steam inflames his stubborn streak and that combined with hunger sets off wailing that wakes the dead.

In the bathtub the running water thankfully distracts the sobbing child. I take off my slime covered shirt and with a disintegrating dab of toilet paper clean my right foot. I only sit on the toilet for a split second before there’s a knock on the door. In only my bra and my child in the tub, I decide to just let them knock. They continue undeterred. They hammer! They’re tearing down my door! I grab a towel and wrap up the baby who begins to cry again from being taken away from the water that distracted it. With the banging on the door echoing through the house, I run like a kidnapper clutching her screaming victim, avoiding windows and doors so as not to be seen half dressed and fling myself into my bedroom. I toss the naked child on the bed and grab a tshirt from the dirty clothes pile, scoop the naked child back up and go to the door. My neighbor thinking he has done me a favor, with a smile, holds my dog out to me and says, “I think your dog rolled in something, he smells.”

With the naked baby dangling from my arms I reach down, grab the dog’s collar and choke out a “thank you” to the neighbor. I close the door with my shoeless foot as he is telling me about how I need to better keep control of my dog and other helpful pet owner tips.

Limping and struggling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame I keep hold of the dog’s collar and with dangling child walk the dog to the back door so that it doesn’t touch any furniture or rugs or anything that will require a cleaning episode later and shove it in the back yard.

Back in the bathroom, child playing happily in the water, I sit on the toilet to catch my breath. I hear the husband come in. “I’m in the bathroom” I wheeze. The husband looks at my frazzled appearance. “Are you ok?” I can’t speak. The child coos and laughs at the father as if the last 15 minutes of hell never happened.

Husband says, “When will dinner be ready? We have that thing tonight, remember?”

Don’t even.

Happy Mother’s Day. Just know there is someone out here who understands!

Love and Peace,

Jill