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Sunbeams      

Have you ever come across a person so sullen that you don’t think it is physically impossible for them to smile or laugh?  Every interaction you have with that person is tenuous at best and horribly unpleasant at worst.  Every interaction you observe between that person and another is equally poor.  No matter how well you or anyone else treats them, they are always unhappy. In their unhappiness, they try to drag you into their dystopian world, but don’t take the bait.  Don’ let their unhappiness define your happiness or lack thereof.

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In life you have a choice, you can radiate bitterness and unhappiness as characterized above or you can be the antithesis to the negative Nelly.  I’m not suggesting by any means that you become a Pollyanna, but rather that you don’t allow the negative Nellys in your life to define the way you see the world.  Dealing with people that are consistently negative is difficult and taxing by radiating positive vibes you can counter the negative.  So don’t be a Pollyana; be the anti-negative Nelly.  Be the person that takes time to compliment someone on their outfit or their hair or hold the door for someone at the coffee shop.  Be the person that chooses to radiate kindness, generosity and goodness.  Small gestures of kindness go a long way in counteracting the meanness and negativity of those who choose to be miserable.

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Long before I was reading Les Miserables, I was reading Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. What kid growing up in the 1980s didn’t read Super Fudge or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Roald Dahl wrote that “If you have beautiful thoughts they will shine out of your face like a sunbeam and you will always look lovely.”  Nothing makes someone uglier than a mean spirit or a negative or hateful constitution. The choice is yours. What will you radiate?

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Infuse a Little Pineapple and Cut a Couple Calories

If you’re like me and you like the occasional cocktail or are a hockey mom and need a low calorie go to drink for hockey season.  Here are a couple of ideas for you:

Vodka pineapple vs. Pineapple infused vodka

A vodka with pineapple juice will give you 182 calories with 28 gram of carbs.  As a lighter alternative, you can substitute the pineapple juice for a pineapple infused vodka as a martini or on the rocks with or without soda water.     This substitute is only 70 calories with 18 gram of carbs.

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You can purchase the infused vodka as a flavor or you can infuse your own vodka.  Since we live in Florida and grow pineapples in our backyard, we can make our own pineapple infused vodka.   To do this you can use a 750 ml bottle of the vodka of your choice.  I prefer Grey Goose, Ketel, Tito’s or Ciroc depending on what I’m using it for.  Keep in mind, the smoother the vodka, the better the infusion will taste.

The pineapple will need to be cut up into chucks and placed into a carafe big enough to hold all of the pineapple and the vodka.   Once the pineapple is in the carafe, pour in the vodka and let it sit in the fridge for 3-6 weeks.  The longer is sits in the fridge, the stronger the infusion.  Once the infusion period has ended, strain and serve cold.

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Vodka mixed drinks vs. vodka sodas

The problem with mixed drinks, aside from their awesome taste, is that they’re often calorie and sugar laden.  It does us no favors the morning after and does no favors to our waistline.  Hockey season lasts from August to well June here in Florida, so drinking that many calories is not conducive to maintaining a healthy weight or lifestyle.  Here are some examples:

Vodka with diet cranberry calories: 108 calories

Vodka cranberry calories: 182-210 depending on type of vodka and juice

Vodka with orange juice 193 calories

Fuzzy Navel: 253 calories

Here are some suggestions:

The hockey mom fit cocktail: 65 calories 16.3 carbs.

Pour one can of Peach/Pear LaCroix over ice, add one ounce of Peach Ciroc mix and garnish with slice of lime.

Other variations:

Cran-raspberry LaCroix served with Berry Ciroc or Goose/Ketel or Tito’s.

Orange LaCroix served with Peach Ciroc

Perrier served with Grey Goose and a slice of lime

Calories per 1 ounce of vodka used:

Ciroc: 65

Grey Goose: 69

Ketel One: 69

Tito’s: 60

Of course over indulging in vodka (as with anything else) with or without a mixer will pretty much derail any attempt to: live a fit life, maintain a healthy weight and  maintain healthy relationships, so enjoy in moderation.

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Savings Alert!

This morning I finally had a chance to sit down and put together some on the weekend’s best sales.  The goal is to make this post weekly. Here are a few of my favorites:

Kohls:

  • Take $10 off of $25 with code: Take10
  • Save 15% off of $100 with code: EBATES15
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates
  • Get $5 Kohl’s cash for every $25 spent

Macys:

  • Get $5 Macy’s money for every $25 spent
  • Save 20% (15% on some departments) with code: SUNNY
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates

Petco:

  • 8% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online and in store with linked card.
  • Save up to 50% site wide

BCBG:

  • Take extra 50% off of all factory items
  • Take 40% off of all purchases
  • 12% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates.

Lancome:

  • 20% off during Friends and family sale with code: friends
  • 4% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online.

Finish Line:

  • $15 off of any order of $150+ with code: 15SEASONSALE150
  • Running shoes up to 50% off
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online.

 

Life Lessons Courtesy of Victor Hugo

There is no book or story I love more than Victor Hugo’s exquisitely written Les Miserables.  A beautiful (and long) story of redemption, love, sacrifice and life set in revolutionary France.  I first read the story in high school and absolutely fell in love with the book and then the musical.  The musical is equally extraordinarily.  I own both the 10th Anniversary and 25th Anniversary Dream Cast recordings on CD/DVD and the movie version on DVD.  I could watch it every day of the week.

When I first read Les Mis, I fell in love with the story.  As an adult, I have ready it two more times and I love it more.  Funny how a little life experience changes the reading experience.  I found this to be true in re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird as well.  The subsequent times I read Les Mis, the themes of redemption, pure selfless love, and sacrifice became really meaningful.

Victor Hugo once said, “We are all under a sentence of death, but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.”   The problem with this reprieve is that nobody knows the length of their reprieve.  In the midst of our busy lives, it is easy to get lost in craziness forgetting that our reprieve is not infinite.  All too often, it takes a gut wrenching loss or diagnosis to remind us that tomorrow is not promised.

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Jean Valjean, Hugo’s main character in Les Mis, could have chosen to live a bitter life as Javert pursued him relentlessly over stolen bread, but he chose a different path.  Rather than live an embittered life, he chose a life of selflessness, love, forgiveness and sacrifice that ultimately led to his redemption.  Much like Jean Valjean, we too have a choice.  We can choose a life embittered by our circumstances or we can choose a full life – a life that is full of love, experiences, selflessness and even forgiveness.

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Many people choose to exist and that’s all.  Before you know it, it is too late to do the things they dreamt about.  Don’t sit dreaming about your goals, places you want to see or experiences you want to have, go out and and make them your reality.  One hundred and fifty five years later, Hugo’s tale of redemption, love and life remains as timely as the day it was published.  So what are you waiting for?

Survive

This year has been an extremely difficult year full of pain and loss, which I had discussed in a previous post.  In these periods of difficulty, it is sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there.  Suffering is part of the human experience.  Learning to thrive and find meaning in the suffering is to survive.   While I’ve lost a lost this year, I have also learned a lot.

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Living in S. Florida, it is easy to get caught up in material things and a hedonistic lifestyle.    In doing so, however, material goods can take the place of experiences and people.  While some people’s budget can support both, mine can’t, but that’s really not the point.  The point is that learning to appreciate experiences with the people you love will help carry you through difficult times.  The shared memories you create will never leave you and are priceless.

Life is seldom stable with changes both positive and negative coming rapid fire. In addition to coping with the suffering, you have to be adept at adapting to change.  If you cannot adapt to the changes in your life, you cannot survive and thrive.  This isn’t something that happens real time or overnight.  It can be gradual or after weeks of nothing it happens all at once.  The goal is to learn to how to roll with the punches and be nimble.   Just like Darwin’s finches, you must adapt if you are to survive.

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Surrounding yourself with people who are your champions is an absolute must. Each and every one of us needs that person that can pull us up when we’re down.  A person that can remind us how fantastically awesome we are when we’re not feeling that spectacular.   Of course, it is just as important to return the favor and be that champion for your friends and family.

Mont St. Michel

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There have been many people, places and events that have left an indelible impression on my life.  One my favorite places can be found in the Normandy region of France.  Mont St. Michel appears almost as if it is an apparition in the distance as you approach via car.  It looks as if it is a castle rising out of the Atlantic.  Undoubtedly, there is something so absolutely and hauntingly beautiful about Mont St. Michel and something exciting about exploring its narrow winding paths and stairways.   The architecture of Mont St. Michel is breathtaking in its beauty and each of its evolutions and layers.  You can see the progression of culture vis-à-vis the evolution in architecture seen in the abbey’s construction, which is absolutely fascinating.

 

While Mont St. Michel is fairly commercialized now, we did still find it possible to get lost and explore a bit.  As the tide rises and falls at Mont St. Michel, it intoxicates you.  It both rushes in and rushes out, much different from how our tides behave here in Florida.  The difference in between low and high tides at Mont St. Michel is nothing short of astounding.  In low tide, you can walk to the abbey (if you choose, but beware of quicksand.)  If you try walking to the abbey during high tide, you’ll need either water wings or to stay on the paved road that now leads to island.

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Aside from the natural and manmade beauty that bounds at Mont St. Michel, it is a feat of human ingenuity and engineering. It is amazing to me that they were able to build such an amazing structure on this island without a paved road and without modern machinery.  It almost seems impossible.  I think that the beauty in travelling is discovering places like Mont St. Michel that speak to you and leave a lasting impression on your soul.

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As our kids grow older, we’re trying to instill in them that experiences/trips are more fruitful and significantly more meaningful than material goods.  Often these experiences and trips are shared with people who have made deep and beautiful impressions on our souls.  When I’m confident that they won’t break something in the Abbey I cannot afford to replace, I will certainly bring them.  I know, I know, after last night’s blog you’re probably thinking I’ll be waiting a long time and you’re probably right.  Can you imagine figs catapulting in the bay from Mont St Michel?   With my boys in the Abbey, I certainly could.

Catapults, Toothpaste and a Bass

Life as a boy mom is not for the faint of heart.  As I looked over today’s prompt, I first thought about how Jake’s graduation was about to catapult him to the next stage of life. I then thought about all the crazy schemes, inventions and concoctions my younger boys have come up with over the years.

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Photo taken from the Mayor’s Drone

Before heading to bed several years ago, I remember walking upstairs to look in on them.  Their door was slightly ajar, but they didn’t hear me come up the stairs and I could not see into their room.  All I heard was Goalielocks says to the Mayor, “do it again, next time it will bounce higher!”  I never found out what “it” was, lord knows they wouldn’t tell me when I asked.  To this day, I have no idea what “it” was and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

During this same general period, Goalielocks and the Mayor did their best to give us a run for their money.  Somehow, again they are miracle workers of a special breed, they managed to get enough toothpaste on each of their feet to put prints from their bathroom into their bedroom and into the hallway upstairs.  My husband was so overjoyed that we ended up with a beautiful new hole in the wall.

A more recent story of their shenanigans comes from last October during Hurricane Matthew preparations.  As the storm braced down on Florida, or so we thought, we sent Colin off to Tampa with his coach so he wouldn’t miss his hockey tournament.  Jacob and I went into the backyard to start trimming the banana trees of the dead leaves that would become airborne if Matthew’s KAT 4 winds hit Florida.  I was supervising and Jacob had the saw.  We started with the plant closest to the house, so he pulled down the banana tree and naturally a large mouth bass fell out of it.   A couple of important points here.  First, we’re not directly on a lake.  Secondly, the storm had not hit yet, so it could not have been carried and dumped into the tree by said storm.

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There were only two ways the fish could have made it into the tree:  Goalielocks or the Mayor.   I asked the Mayor first since he was at home.  His dimples sucked in as he smiled as he quickly implicated Goalielocks, however, there is no doubt in my mind he was complicit in bassgate.  I texted Goaliocks, who then promptly called.  His response was that the bass had been in our small pond (we have a very small pond in our backyard) and was unhappy so it must have jumped out of it.  Perhaps the bass was hoping the banana tree would catapult it back to the much bigger lake less than 500 feet away.  I will never know…. What I do know is that I will never be bored as a boy mom.

Everything Changes

As your whole world shifts, it is easy to get lost in the newness being both frightened and excited by the transition from childhood to adult.  While everything may be changing and you may feel slightly adrift fear not, the moorings that have always anchored you, the pillars that provided safety and guidance, will never leave you.

Regardless of your age or station, these pillars in your life will always be there to provide you strength, guidance, friendship and love.  While they will not always be with you physically, their influence will be unending.  While growth will sometimes be painful and you’ll yearn for your childhood, look forward and look upward.  Understand that with every discomfort or every failure comes an opportunity to learn, to grow and succeed.  Don’t be afraid to fail!  Be more afraid of not trying.

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Throughout your life, you’ll find yourself feeling adrift for different reasons and different transitions.  At each of these points, you will always think back on the guidance and love that was given by family and friends that became family.  In many cases, you’ll reach back out to these pillars for advice and that’s okay.

 

The Last Mooring

Tomorrow we will untether the last of your moorings as you graduates high school.   I’m still in a state of belief that this day has come, after all, it seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital.  The point was driven home tonight as I drove to the rink with his younger brothers to watch you play a beer league hockey game.  You are now everybody’s favorite player because of your youth and because you can drive dad home post-game.

The process of letting you go and become independent doesn’t start tomorrow at high school graduation; it started way before you even set foot in high school.  I remember being struck by this fact when you started preschool.  When we dropped you off for your first day, it was tempting to walk in with you and get you situated, but on your grandma’s advice we didn’t.  You walked in to class confidently and got yourself squared away.  I won’t lie, there was a little pain mixed in with the joy of seeing you gain independence.  We parents like to feel needed.  This was the first time we as parents had unmoored one of his moorings.

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With each passing year, each new stage, trust was gained and with it more independence. More moorings were released.  While graduation tomorrow represents the culmination of this journey, even though the moorings are no longer tied to our dock, we will always be here to guide, advise, listen to music with, play hockey with and love you.

Carpe Diem

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the future. For some reason, we like ruminating over what has happened and what may happen.  This presents a number of problems of course.  When you focus on your past, you really never move forward.   Regardless of what has happened in the past, its best to live and learn.   I truly wish there was an easy answer for how to do this, but there really isn’t.

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In the moments unoccupied by thoughts of our past, we worry about our future.  What will happen in your career?  How will your bills get paid? How will your kids do in school?  A myriad of questions and worries that can eat away at you if you let it.  I know I’ve certainly had many sleepless nights worrying about what may be.  Silly, I know, yet I can’t stop.

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Here’s the problem.  As we descend into the madness these preoccupations can bring, we miss out on life.  The reminder of this usually comes as a harsh sad reality via regrets after the loss of someone we love.  I recently lost a dear friend, an excruciatingly painful experience, who taught me and many others about life.  The lesson was about living a life of no regrets.  A lesson about living a life full of love, loved ones, and experiences no matter what cards you are dealt.   Life isn’t always puppies and unicorns.  Although I would love it to be that way.  Instead of descending into the madness, grab life by the horns, carpe diem and #LiveLikeDebbie.

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