The season is finally over and it has definitely had it’s ups and downs.  But, we survived our first gymnastics competition season and The Fellows if very ready to get to work on getting stronger and learning new skills.

We are so proud of our little gymmie.  She has worked so hard and pushed back from injury.  Skills were gained and lost and gained again.  Many huge accomplishments and minor setbacks.  This is the nature of this sport and her passion and dedication never ceases to amaze me.   Her strength and grace under pressure astounding.

Congrats on a great fist season baby.  Onward and upward!

Well, if you have been around this place for a while then you will have noticed that not much has been going on with the site. That hasn’t been the case in my real life. Our family has been experiencing the ups and downs and highs and lows of life and death.

About six months ago, we welcomed a new addition to our family. An eight week old Entlebucher Mountain Dog named Dulcinea Berlin de Tierra Alta. We just call her Nea (Nay-a) or as she seems to come to best Nene. Leave it to this family to have a dog that comes to the name of trashy reality TV star.

She is full of beans and very drivey. That means that her herding instinct is very strong. She is super bossy, especially with EB who she sees as that naughty small cow. That naughty cow really needs a lot of management.

So, very sadly, my father died about five months ago when Nea was around 3 months old. So, while she needed us to be strong and stable leaders for her, we were a total mess. This was a very bad combination of events and we ended up in a big mess with Miss Nea. She was out of hand.

My father dying has been a strange and unsettling experience for me. Please don’t think me callous or unfeeling, it was very traumatic and sad and heart breaking. But, my father and I had just reunited only a year prior after being estranged for over 20 years. He left me when I was 13 years old and was not a father to me after that. I have very happy memories of my childhood with my Daddy, but that was a long time ago and that man was no more. I had spent years in therapy getting over the anger I had towards him. I had let that anger create havoc in my life for many years. After settling these things with myself, I felt it was time to settle things with him as well.

When I saw him, I was so surprised that he wanted anything to do with me. He had never reached out to me before that, yet according to him he had tried to be there, but my Mom wouldn’t let him. As we compared stories, it was extremely upsetting for me. I didn’t know whose version of my childhood was true as we had three distinctly different versions. I was really angry with him and my mom because it was really apparent that neither one of them could put their own stuff aside long enough to see what would have been the right thing for me. What happened to going to court and getting shared custody like normal people? I know that they were doing what they thought was best at the time, but as a parent I simply don’t understand what circumstances could have led to such a debacle and I don’t understand how you can know your child is in so much pain and not do anything to help them.

But, I also know that I will never know the real truth as we all have been steeping in our perceptions for 25 years. My only choice is to forgive and move on and that is what I am doing.

When he died, I learned what grieving was all about. For many years I was so full of anger that I didn’t even know what it felt like to be sad. I lost all touch with my emotions. It was just all anger all the time. My therapist has been helping me a lot with sad, that seems to be the hardest for me. I still don’t feel like I have had the chance just to miss my dad and be sad. I hope that comes with the settlement of his legal affairs and the final and official removal of his crazy life from mine.

Unfortunately I have had to deal with this crazy woman who fancied herself his wife, although that was not the case and the way my father spoke about her as well as her behavior since his death has proven to me that she is in fact a little crazy, just like he said she was. It is so sad. I tried so hard to do the right thing and be respectful of her and their relationship, even though my dad told me time and again that she would pull all the things that she has and that I shouldn’t trust her and should prepare myself for what would happen when he died. I so did not prepare myself and he did not finish what he needed to finish to make sure I wouldn’t have to deal with all this.

Death does funny things to people and I have learned more than I ever cared to know about it all. Finally, I just hired a lawyer because it was all just too much. Losing a parent it hard enough without having to deal with someone else’s crazy bullshit. It brought up all that anger all over again. It has been really hard. I am looking forward to being able to spend some quite time with my dad and my thoughts and my memories. I am looking forward to letting go of the anger and being able to just remember the short time we got to spend together.

Life has just been crazy. I am working through my grief as the lawyer works through the estate. We are working very hard to help Nea recover from her complete lack of leadership and to become the strong, loving and stable pack leaders that she needs so badly. She has come so far.

On the exciting front, The Fellows is coming to the end of her first competitive gymnastics season. It has been a long and bumpy road, but we are so proud of her and all her work and look forward to years of gymnastics to come. She is our super star.

EB is crazy as ever. He is enjoying soccer and very excited to start Kindergarten in the fall. I can not wait to see who he becomes over the next couple of years.

Welcome to the new and improved Redesigned Mom. This will now serve to chronical our family journey. Take a look at The Redesigned Group to see what else I’m up to.

Take care and talk soon.

Last week, The Fellows and I went to see Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the 5th Avenue Theater. This was her first big musical and I was a little concerned. At first, she was a little luke-warm about the whole thing.

She promptly informed me that she didn’t want to go if she had to miss practice. Always dedicated, she is. Well, I promptly informed her that I had purchased the tickets and we were going, but that we could compromise and go to the first half of practice and leave straight for the show.

Besides the gymnastics factor, we had several more stacked against us. First, she is not a princess kind of girl and Cinderella is her least favorite of the princesses. Also, she had seen a children’s performance of another play and had enjoyed it but wasn’t really all that impressed. I don’t think she really had any concept of what a major theater production was all about.

As the day arrived, she seemed to be a little more enthusiastic. It probably didn’t hurt that she had accomplished two major feats at the gym that week and was putting a little less pressure on herself for the upcoming first meet ever.

She also found out that several of her teammates had gone to the show as well and they had liked it. A little friend endorsement certainly never hurts.

So, we went to dinner and over to the show. The lobby was overflowing with little girls in princess dresses and tiaras. Meanwhile, The Fellows is dressed very cutely in a cotton dress and leggings over her leo. We did the best we could to clean up but a sweaty pony and chalk smudges were unavoidable. She still looked beautiful to me. I think she looks the most adorable right after gym; sweaty, red, and covered with chalk. Someone asked her where her tiara was, and she just looked at her blankly and said “HUH?”.

But, then the show started. I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite of the musicals I have seen lately, but watching her loving it so much was absolutely priceless. She got a little restless during the slow numbers and romantic parts, but she thought the stepsisters were hilarious and the fairy godmother’s pyrotechnics were awesome. There was a point when the entire stage was lit up like the fourth of July. Very cool.

The one thing I thought was really great about this show was the message. The story was updates, the cast multiethnic and the moral was very good. The focus was on taking responsibility for your dreams and doing the work and then anything is possible, even if everyone else says it is totally impossible.

Here is Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother rehearsing our mutually favorite number “Impossible”.

My absolute favorite part of the evening and my most recent flabbergastedly proud mama moment was the car ride home. Here is how it went…

The Fellows: Mama, are impossible dreams really possible?

Me: Well, yes, most of the time.

The Fellows: Then I want to be a princess when I grow up.

[At this point my jaw dropped and heart sank just a little. Great, taking her to see Cinderella had turned her]

Me: Wow, so what does being a princess mean to you?

The Fellows: [Thinks for several seconds and then answers] Being responsible for yourself and really really nice.

Me: [I think I may have made some strange sound at this point] I think that is a wonderful thing to want to be honey.

God, I love that kid. She makes me so proud every day.

Line of the night…

Well, unless your camping, it’s kinda gross.

Adam Braverman to his dad in regard to wearing his shirt two days in a row.

Perfectly delivered, excellent writing.

I am very excited about all the upcoming changes I will be making to the site. I have exciting news and updates to share!

Just as a teaser, there will be a major redesign and new features as well as new, more targeted content to enjoy.

I am so looking forward to embracing the researcher and writer that I now know I am.

Things may be a little messy during the transition, so please be patient. In the end it will all be worth it.

Big changes folks. Stay tuned!

“…I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

You may recognize this as the last line from the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Although I would find it hard to pick up and leave everything behind like that, I see the appeal and I definitely related to her personal journey in a profound way.

Over the last several years I have stripped myself down to the core and taken a long and arduous journey. I have learned so much about myself and those that I love and love me back. Every stop, every person along the way revealing more than the last. I am so grateful for the truths that have presented themselves and very much look forward to all the exciting thing coming in the future.

I have been rather absent this year, but I am excited about what is coming next. Check back soon to see what happens next…

Last year, I really enjoyed sharing my random thoughts as I watched the state of the union speech so I decided to do it again.

I love the state of the union speech.  It is such a time capsule, capturing the political landscape and always full of interesting moments.  I am always curious what the President has to say, whether I agree with some or all or none of it is really irrelevant.  Well, other than the amount of wine I need to consume to keep my blood pressure stabilized.

Please keep in mind that this is my random train of thought.  There are summarizations of what was said as well as my own opinion and commentary and it may not be clear what’s what. There may even be some grammatical and spelling errors, I didn’t do much proofreading.

Take it for what it is and watch the speech yourself. I encourage you to create your own running commentary and share it with the group. That would be really cool.

Oh yeah, I am so not interested in being yelled at for my opinions.  That’s what they are, my opinions.  Feel free to share yours, but disrespect will not be tolerated.

So here we go.  ”Mr. Speaker,  The President of The United States ” …

I guess we should first note that many democrats and republicans are sitting intermixed next to each other.  This seems to be in a statement of good will during this time of strife, with the shooting and all.  I think everyone realizes that more civility is needed and that the violent rhetoric was a little out of line.  I would think they would feel this way personally, even if they won’t say it out loud.  Of course, there is a group of republicans that are refusing to participate.

It makes me sad that some people refuse to see the value of working together toward best solutions for the common good.

Let us all take a moment to send good thought out to Sen. Giffords and her family.  Tragedy.

Wow, I teared up just looking at that little girls father.

I always love that the vice president and the speaker have to sit up there and try to keep a straight face the whole time.

Governing is a shared responsibility.  Please please please can we start to work together and stop all this insane fighting.

Funny, all the corporations are making money again, but people and small businesses are suffering and my house just lost another 15%.  Your right Mr. President, I would like you to work together to fix this.

This is a changing world.  Other countries are kicking our butts. It is time to come to terms with the fact that there is no going back. It is time to embrace change and move forward folks.

I am so tired of hearing about how great we are.  Stop fluffing everybody’s feathers and start telling me what you are going to do to fix this and how you are going to get bipartisan support for that.

Out educate, Out innovate and Out build the rest of the world.

Winning the future…

1st step.  Encourage innovation.

It doesn’t just change our lives it is how we make our living.  Invest in research.  biomedical, information technology and green energy.

It’s like a good rock band, we have to constantly reinvent ourselves.

Hmm, I like that.  Take the money we subsidise the oil companies and give that money to people doing research and building clean energy technology. 2035, 80% electricity from clean energy.

What kind doesn’t really matter, let’s work together to get it done.

2nd step.  Education

Over half the jobs require more than a college education, while over a quarter of kids aren’t even graduating from high school.

Calling out to parents to take responsibility for their kids education.  Make sure your child does their homework, give accolades to those who do well in academic ventures, not just sports and entertainment.   Set a good example and instill a love of learning in your kids.  Be encouraging and supportive.

Success in not a function of fame, but of hard work and discipline.

Expectations should be high in school.  Must reform our school systems not throw more money at a bad system.  Here Here!!!!

Get rid of no child left behind and replace it with a better program.  Yay!!!!

Reform is a bottom up process, not a top down.  We must empower each child to acheive.  Tell them that they are smart and can accomplish whatever they put their minds to and guess what?  They will.

Give teachers some respect, would you.  And, guess what?  Being a bad teacher isn’t going to cut it any more.

Become a teacher, you country needs you.  But how are you going to make sure that being a teacher doesn’t require having a second job?

Boehner looks annoyed.

The goal.  The highest percentage of college graduates in the world.

Illigal imigration.  Needs adressing.  Difficult debate.  Let’s have it.

Step 3. What is step three? I don’t know but it starts about here.

Infrastructure.   We got a D in the quality of our infrastructure.  Sad really.

Re-double the efforts of the last two years and put americans to work.  Pick projects based on the economy, not the politicians.  Good luck with that.

Hee Hee.  He made a funny.

Oh dude, wake up.  You almost got caught with your finger up your nose.

Rigging the tax code to benefit the few.  Must change it.

It disgusts me that there are so many loop holes that a few corporations pay no taxes while other pay through the nose.

Boehner is not being very successful controlling his grimace.

Regulation is not the problem.  Protecting people is necessary, but I agree that we shouldn’t put undo burden on business.  But no rules is simply not an option.  You can not avoid that some people are greedy and selfish and will exploit people to make a profit.

Is that booing over the health care law?  tacky.

If you have better ideas, bring it.  Let’s here em.

Disagreeing and pointing out flaws is not even close to coming up with solutions.  Help solve the problems and stop you bitching.

Like so many people have stated in the past.  Are you going to be part of the problem or part of solution.  Really it is that simple.  Nothing comes of all this negativity, it just doesn’t.

Finally.  Live within our means.

Freeze domestic annual spending for 5 years?  Let’s cut what we can do without, but not on the back of our most vulnerable citizens.

Let’s stop pretending that cutting annual spending alone will be enough.  It won’t.  Cut excessive spending anywhere we find it.

Did you hear that?  Repealing the health care bill will increase the deficit by more than 250 billion dollars.

Malpractice reform is back on the table.

strenthen Social Security without slashing benefits or putting it at the hands of the stock market.

Say by by to the tax cuts.

Simplify the tax code, best for everyone.  Good plan.  Don’t repeal or extend anything.  Reform the whole damn thing.

I love the scale of his vision.  Go big or go home.  Think bigger

More competent government, imagine that?

Hey, it’s Gary Locke.

Ooh, another funny.  Hee hee.

Wow, re-org the federal government.  Well now, that is a current concept.  I think I was re-orged six times during my five years at a software company.  Can’t say whether it was good strategy or not.

He will veto any bill with earmarks.  Look at the grin on McCains face.

The Iraq war is coming to an end.  Over 100,000 troops home so far.

A little rose colored on the Afghan war, I think.  Gonna start bringing the troops home next year though and that is good.   Enough war please.

Oh god, here comes the stand up sit down portion of our program.  There should be rules about standing ovations and applause.  Let the man speak.

Well hello Patty.  Looks like people are starting to get tired.  Me too.  That can’t be a good sign.

Wow, those old generals look pissed about gay people serving in the military.

Get over yourselves people.  Stop being threatened by things and people you don’t understand.  Different than you does not mean evil or scary, just different.  You might be surprised how much you can learn from someone who feels, speaks, dresses or lives differently than you.

Solar roofing shingles.  Now that’s cool.

We Do Big Things.  We are country of ordinary people who dare to dream.

Well, not left teary eyed with inspiration, but a good speech none the less.  Big ideas, big arguments, big reforms.  I like that.

I agree that the first half of the speech was better than the second half.

Watch the speech now!

Part 1:

Part 2:

So I got this email today touting the benefits of drinking tea. There are many benefits to drinking tea. They are very high in anti-oxidants which can help prevent and even help in fighting existing cancer cells in your body. There are also elements in tea that are reported to increase the fat burning ability of your body by increasing metabolism and helping your body burn fat.

This is all great stuff, but what kind of tea do you choose?

First, you should know that all true teas come from the same plant; Camellia sinensis. The difference in teas is simply in how the tea is processes. There are also herbal teas and others such as rooibos that are made from plants, fruits and flowers and contain no actual tea.

Types of teas include white, yellow, black, green, oolong and post-fermented. In China what we know as black tea is referred to as red tea, which is what rooibos tea is commonly called here. Post-fermented tea is what is called black tea in China. It’s all very confusing, right?

Anyway, let’s refer to things in the US vernacular for simplicity.

Black tea has the most caffeine of all the teas, but it is still about 40% of a regular cup of coffee. Drink it as dark as I do and maybe it’s even a greater difference. Black tea is high in polyphenols, a common antioxidant. There has also been research completed stating that consumption of black tea can have positive effects on cardiovascular health.

Green tea has earned quite a reputation for it’s health benefits and some even claim that you can lose weight by drinking green tea. There is really no scientific proof of these weight loss benefits, although I imagine (with no authority) that some people, given their personal circumstances, may lose a little weight by increasing their water intake and/or balancing some internal chemical imbalance due to the beneficial elements of the tea.

Green tea is very high in antioxidants and scientifically associated with (not proof) with many health benefits including hear health and fighting cancer and glucose stabilization as well as an increase in fat oxidation during exercise. Guess I might have a cup of tea before my next workout :)

The newcomer on the weight-loss hype scene is “Wu-Long Tea”. Let’s be very clear here. There is no difference between Wu-long and Oolong tea.

Do not be fooled and do not pay the unreal prices that companies are asking for this “special” tea. You can pick up a good quality organic oolong tea as a high quality grocery store or health food store for the same price as any other type of tea.

Oolong tea is the same at wu-long tea. don't be fooled or cheated.

Oolong tea has many of the same health benefits as green tea. Preliminary research is stating that oolong tea may have a more significant effect on weight loss by increasing metabolism, burning fat and blocking dietary fat absorption. Oolong tea has been showed to have be a less effective antioxidant than green tea.

Overall tea is great for you and green or oolong may be a good supplement during your weight loss efforts, but don’t for a minute think you can drink tea or even take tea extract pills and lose weight without diet and exercise. Let’s be real folks. And for god’s sake don’t spend a bunch of money on the marketing hype of “Wu-long” Tea. Just try out a couple of varieties of widely available and reasonably priced Oolong Tea.

As always, thank you for following my personal journey and good luck with your own.

References:
http://www.amazing-green-tea.com/oolong-tea-health-benefits.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea – and links deeper

About a year ago, I ditched the sponge and started using dish cloths.  I bought them in bulk and then used a new one every day and threw the old one in the wash.  This has been working pretty well and I have been very happy to rid myself of stinky gross sponges.

A couple of weeks ago, we were at our amazing new local hardware store and, like usual, we were wandering around looking at all the things we would like to buy.  I swear, hardware stores are like toy stores for kids.

Anyway, I happened across the dish cloths and since they have a lifespan of about six months and mine are getting kinda grimy I took a look at what they had.  Well, I came across a very interesting product that claimed to be the perfect mix between paper town and dishtowel.   That looked interesting and so I picked up a pack.

Well, let me tell you.  These things are the bomb.  They actually are the perfect mix between dishcloth and paper towel.  They clean up like a paper towel with the re-usability of a dish towel.    They are washable in both the washing machine and the dishwasher and you can microwave it to sanitize it.  I put one through the dishwasher the other day and it came through beautifully.

We will see how long they last, but for now they get a big thumbs up from me.

Skoy Cloth – The perfect stocking stuffer!

This deal that Obama has made with the republicans just rubs me the wrong way. I get that he did what he felt he had to do for those American’s struggling the most right now. That is understandable and by itself even admirable. And, if I felt that the republicans had even the slightest good intention, I would feel that the cooperation across the aisle would even be a good sign.

But, I don’t trust the republicans and I know that they will do everything they can to block any legislation that doesn’t benefit corporate America in the future so these efforts are really meaningless.

I have had something in my craw lately about social security.  It is one of the most important fundamental things we provide for our citizens.  Without it, the overwhelming majority of Americans would work their entire lives only to end up unable to keep their homes, take care of themselves or even slightly enjoy their well earned retirement.  And this is the best case, much more likely is that millions of people would be forced into poverty, destitution or worse.

What doesn’t make sense to me is that it has been said over and over again that removing the cap would completely eliminate the problem and instead they are talking about cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.  And in this new tax deal cutting funding to it by an extraordinary amount.  I just don’t get it.

I am so frustrated that people don’t seem to see the importance in taking care of each other, that in doing so we would lift the whole country up and build a solid foundation that will support us all and build a more prosperous country in the future.  I am tired of politics on both sides getting in the way of working together to find solutions to our growing problems.  It is time for them all to get their heads out of their asses and get to work.

Alright, enough ranting for one day.  I received the following email this morning and thought I would share.  Feel free to pass it on.

Top 5 Problems with the Tax Deal

Everyone knows that the “deal” that President Obama agreed to with Republicans will extend George W. Bush’s reckless millionaire tax bailout–but what a lot of folks don’t realize is that there are lots of other terrible parts of it, too.

Unemployed Americans desperately need their benefits extended to get by in this economy—so Republicans held them hostage to force through a slew of horrible economic policies in this deal.

Problem #1: The deal is a stealth attack on Social Security.

The deal will lower the payroll tax—the tax that funds the Social Security trust. This is a trap for Democrats. Republicans have been coming after Social Security for years and this cut is the biggest threat to the vital program in decades. It will cut one-third of Social Security’s funding this year alone and when we need to restore the payroll tax back to its current level, Republicans will cry “tax increases” and could gut it permanently. 1

Problem #2: For nearly one in three workers, it’s a tax increase.

Nearly 50 million working Americans—including all workers making less than $20,000 per year—and millions of federal, state, and municipal workers will see their taxes go up because of the deal.2

Problem #3: The deal has not one but TWO millionaire bailouts.

In addition to extending all the Bush income tax breaks for the top 2%, the deal will slash the estate tax. If Congress did nothing, next year the estate tax would be 55% and apply to everyone inheriting $1 million or more. But the deal reduces it to 35% and only people who inherit more than $5 million will have to pay. This second bailout will give a gigantic tax giveaway to a few thousand of the richest families in the country and add hundreds of billions to the national debt.3

Problem #4: Unemployment help is insufficient and inadequate.

While the deal extends unemployment benefits for another 13 months for people currently receiving it, millions of unemployed workers who’ve struggled the most and been out of work more than 99 weeks—since the giant Wall Street banks wrecked the economy—will get no help at all under the deal.4 It’s a gamble that there will be jobs in the next 13 months when the insurance runs out, but the tax cuts will go well beyond that. Better to just pass a stand-alone unemployment extension to help all struggling Americans.

Problem #5: Tax giveaways to the rich are a terrible way to create jobs.

Tax breaks for the rich are the least efficient way to create jobs and help the economy grow. In fact the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says extending all tax cuts would lower unemployment only 0.1% to 0.3% over the next year5 and that the cost of the tax deal would be $900 billion over the next five years.6

Sources:

1.”Tax Cut Deal A Hidden Threat To Social Security” The Huffington Post, December 8, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/08/tax-cut-deal-a-hidden-thr_n_793983.html

2. “Obama-Republican Deal Could Mean Tax Hike For One In Three Workers” The Huffington Post, December 10, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/obamarepublican-deal-coul_n_795187.html

3. “Estate tax deal: worst part of a bad tax compromise” The Christian Science Monitor, December 7, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Tax-VOX/2010/1207/Estate-tax-deal-worst-part-of-a-bad-tax-compromise

4. “Unemployment benefits: Extension won’t help ’99ers’” The Christian Science Monitor, December 7, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2010/1207/Unemployment-benefits-Extension-won-t-help-99ers

5. “The Deal” Paul Krugman, The New York Times, December 7, 2010
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/the-deal/

6. “CBO score shows tax plan ups deficit $900 billion in 5 years” CNN.com, December 10, 2010
http://articles.cnn.com/2010-12-10/politics/tax.plan_1_tax-cuts-tax-plan-bush-era-tax?_s=PM:POLITICS