Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Kitties

Iwanski and I have two cats, Autumn and Hattie.

They are both old-ass 15-year-old cats. And recently, they have both decided to be more annoying than EVER.

 Lately, Hattie has taken to crying/whining/meowing every night, a few times a night – usually after she eats her dinner and also sometimes when we’re sleeping at night. She starts her series of little pitiful meows, and then we call to her, and she comes running to us, wanting to be petted. We pet her for a minute, she runs away, and sometimes she even starts crying again a few minutes later. But when we call to her and pet her, she always shuts up. What is UP with that?!

But she’s cute. So we cut her a break.

At bedtime, her usual routine is to wait for Iwanski to get into bed, and then she’ll jump up and curl up next to him, under the blanket. I have to admit that it’s pretty cute – she loves Iwanski.

And then there’s Autumn – our little troublemaker. Autumn only wants one thing every night – to lie next to me on the couch and get a continuous belly rub from me all night long before I go to bed.

So to accomplish this, she does the following:

1. She perches on the coffee table in the dining room – which is often cluttered with books, magazines, etc. (We’re slobs, what can I say?)

2. She then proceeds to walk all over the table and swipes at objects on the table, knocking each one down and staring at me every time she does so.

3. She repeats, repeats, and repeats this process until the annoyance gets to be too much, and I invite her to lie down with me on the couch.

I cannot TELL you how annoying that behavior it is. And yes, it’s freakin’ funny. Damn cat, she’s got me trained well. :)

Oh, and if I pet her for only just a little while – not enough to her satisfaction – then she starts the whole annoyance routine over again.

Oh my gosh, these cats are crazy!!

So anyway…

I just sent Iwanski the picture below and said “Here's a picture of you and me at night.”

His response?  "Where's Hattie?"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Treats and Splurges

Wow, I haven’t written on this blog in quite a while. Oh well, there’s no time like the present!

I just wanted to make an observation about Thanksgiving dinner – and eating, in general.

Before my husband’s heart surgery last year, both he and I used to eat pretty much whatever unhealthy food we wanted (except that I would make myself eat veggies every day, at least). Fried chicken with the skin on it? Sure, why not. A big, juicy, bacon cheeseburger? Hell, yes!

But then, of course, we had the BIG WAKE-UP CALL last December.

And we both got healthy. A quadruple bypass can be quite convincing.

Now, we eat very healthy – and particularly heart-healthy – diets.

Except for on splurge days. I LOVE splurge days!

You see, every two weeks, we have a full-on splurge day where we eat anything we want – cheeseburgers, barbecue ribs, chicken wings – you name it, we’ll eat it! And of course, we’ll have a splurgey dessert, too – candy bars and ice cream have definitely been consumed on splurge days.

As Iwanski’s doctor said, “It’s not what you do on occasion that matters, it’s what you do on a daily basis.”

So we invented the concept of splurge days. The rules of the splurge are as follows: 1) Splurge days can only happen every two weeks OR on holidays and birthdays, and 2) Whatever you eat, you are not allowed to feel guilty afterwards. Because splurge days actually keep us eating healthy for the rest of the time. Whenever we’re craving something unhealthy, we just think…I can eat that in ___ days…and before you know it, it’s that magical time again! And we’re eating pizza and chocolate chip cookies and enjoying the hell out of ‘em.

But of course, because splurge days are only every two weeks and on holidays, we have to carefully evaluate what we’d like to eat on the next splurge day. So during the pre-splurge two weeks, we have a lot of discussions about what would be the next good thing to eat. Pizza has been a favorite splurge of ours, as have cheeseburgers, and bacon & eggs.

So this whole “splurge” concept has really changed the way I view food, in the sense that I would never want to WASTE a splurge day on something I don’t really love to eat. And for that matter, why should I ever eat something that I don’t really care for?

And yet, I realized that during my lifetime, I have certainly done that.

Back then, before the BIG WAKE-UP CALL, my thinking would go something like this…

A coworker makes a veggie dip that I find rather repulsive? Well, I would still finish the portion that I took. I don’t want to hurt her feelings – plus I should clean my plate – after all, there are starving people in Africa right? (Childhood thinking sometimes takes a while to get rid of.) Or I am at a restaurant and just paid $15 for an asparagus salad that I’m really not enjoying? Well, I still better eat it – gotta get my money’s worth!

And then there is the traditional Thanksgiving food that everyone else seems to love – turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Every year in the past, I would take a small portion of those items and force-feed them to myself. After all, that’s what you eat on Thanksgiving – it didn’t matter if you really like it or not.

But you know what? I really don’t like turkey, or stuffing, or mashed potatoes. (Gag!)

I’d rather eat ham, and veggies, and of course, pumpkin pie!

So this year, during our Thanksgiving “splurge meal” – and without even really thinking about it – I skipped right past the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and went right for the honey-baked ham. (Yum!) And continued to fill my plate with things I loved – like my sister’s cheesy hashbrowns, cranberries from a can (much better than the real thing, you know!), and pumpkin pie – not to mention my new favorite – a heavenly, decadent pumpkin pudding pecan concoction that another one of my sisters graced us with this year.

And OH MY GOSH, that was the best splurge ever!! I didn’t miss the turkey, stuffing, or mashed potatoes one bit. And I was full – but very PLEASANTLY full. I felt like I had just treated myself to my favorite Thanksgiving dinner ever.

Later, as I reflected upon the meal and the day and our lives, in general, I thought, “Shouldn’t that be the way we always treat ourselves? – with kindness?”

To me, eating healthy is being kind to myself – but so is having treats on occasion. And if I’m going to treat myself, then I’m really going to treat myself.

And the same is true of life. I will continue to work hard at my job, exercise, and do some chores around the house…but when I take time off from all of that, I will enjoy the hell out of my time off – no guilt or worrying allowed.

After all, we only have one life to live – and while we should try to preserve it as much as possible, we also should really try to ENJOY it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Real Housedogs of Suburbia

A long walk to North Avenue Beach tonight, amongst the shimmering lights of Chitown, reminded me once again how happy I am to be home in my city.

Recently, Iwanski and I spent some time in the Southwest suburbs. We were full-fledged suburbanites. We drove everywhere and spent lots of time hanging out in the backyard, watching two big puppies duke it out on a daily basis in their playful puppy way that sometimes seemed a bit violent to me. Just for the record, we were housesitting and dogsitting at my sister-in-law’s house whilst she and her family whiled away the hours in southern Califor-ni-ay.

And it wasn’t so bad. For one thing, there was a pool in the yard. And it was like 80 degrees and sunny pretty much every day. And there were forest preserves close at hand – well, at least close at car. We enjoyed many a hike in the forest and prairie, and even got lucky enough to see a coyote, three garter snakes, and a pair of fluttering bluebirds.

But Lordy, oh Lordy did I miss my city. And I missed my cats. Yes, I missed the little pukesters – no, I did not miss their twice-weekly bouts of vomiting, but I did miss them and their quiet, unassuming ways.

For I realized once again just how different cats are than dogs – and just how much easier it is to take care of cats than dogs.

While we were on suburban dogwatch, it became a daily ritual to be awoken at 7 AM by pacing, collarbell ringing wide-awake big-ass puppies. Here’s a fun fact for your doggy facts repertoire: an English Setter and a Labradoodle are definitely NOT your garden-variety little yippy dogs. They are freakin’ huge.

Anyway, once the 7 AM pacing and collarbell ringing took place – one time, accompanied by a huge-ass Labradoodle jumping up on the bed next to the snoozing Iwanski – either I or Iwanski would drag our sleepy butts down the stairs to let the puppies out in the yard for their morning constitutional. If I were lucky enough to be on morning puppy pee pee duty that day, then my stumble down the stairs also consisted of having a Labradoodle’s nose nuzzled against my butt, trying to sniff me in a most unpleasant way, while I shoo’ed her away. Nothing like having a puppy’s nose shoved up your ass first thing in the morning! I cringe just thinking about it.

And then of course there was the morning that I was having quite a lovely sleep-in, with Iwanski on morning puppy patrol, when I heard Iwanski yelling “No, Ginger! No!” downstairs…and came down the stairs to find out that Ginger (the big ole’ Labradoodle puppy once again – poor pup) had chewed through a bottle of Pepcid that she had stolen off the kitchen counter. Luckily, she had not actually eaten any of the pills – but she had definitely chewed through the bottle.

And maybe it’s just me, but puppies sure do play rough. I don’t know if I could ever really get used to the biting, clawing, pinning down, and mounting behaviors that happen during puppy play.

I can’t imagine our cats ever sniffing our butts, or eating a medicine bottle, or violently playing—well, okay, the cats are a little violent when they play, but they are much smaller and definitely quieter.

Clearly, dogs are more of a challenge to deal with than cats.

But the dogs weren’t the only challenge for my “urban elitist” self. Although Iwanski and I tried to keep as active as possible during our suburban housewatch, we pretty much had to drive every where that we went. Relaxing? You betcha. Healthy? Not so much.

So when we took the el train back to downtown after our suburban stint, and we arrived home to find our tiny quiet housecats giving us a little “meow” and weaving a little tail-rub around our legs, I just took a deep breath and felt so very grateful to be home.

And when we walked 8 miles in the city the next day, and 7 miles the day after that, and we spent a lovely Friday night on a 50th floor Marina City balcony with our good friend Jonathan and his fun Texan cousin, I felt even more grateful.

And tonight, as we gazed at the twinkling lights of the city from the shores of shimmering Lake Michigan, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more grateful to live here.

I am home. And I love my city.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Out of Place

At my job, I am very organized and efficient. If a task needs to get done quickly and accurately, I am often called upon to complete said task…and if asked, I am usually able to find needed documents or files at a moment’s notice.

Not so much at home.

Home is where I cut loose, where I walk in and casually throw my coat on the couch and my purse on the living room floor…and then throw my work clothes in a crumpled heap on the bedroom floor whilst I change into my comfy play clothes (which were also previously lying in a crumpled heap on the bedroom floor).

I just don’t really care too much about being neat and organized at home.

Now mind you, I’ve tried to change these bad habits. I’ve bought and read several books on organization and have followed some of the advice—but it always comes back to one simple principle: I just don’t care enough about staying neat and organized at home. At home I just want to RELAX. And somehow hanging up my coat and putting my clothes in their proper places just doesn’t seem like relaxation to me.

And in particular, one of my really bad habits is that I love to put stuff on the floor. Books, magazines, purses, water bottles…you name it, I’ll put it on the floor. I think that somehow my brain looks at the floor and thinks “There’s a big, open, clear space to put my stuff!” It’s that simple. And it really drives Iwanski crazy.

Anyway, one of the problems with being so—I like to call it “carefree”— at home (besides driving my husband nuts) is that when I have something that I really need to do—like send an e-mail to someone or sew a button on my shirt or put chicken in the refrigerator to defrost—I really need to set up a strong reminder for myself to remember to do that task…because otherwise I will totally forget.

Often, I remember these “things to do” when I happen to be working late at my office. So I’ll call home and leave myself a message on our answering machine. Or even better—if Iwanski is home, I’ll ask him to “put something out of place” to remind me to do that task. For example, if he puts our model Blues Brothers car on top of our stove, that helps me to remember that there is something that I need to do. I know, it seems pretty weird—but to me, it’s easier and quicker (not to mention more fun) than writing a note (as if writing a note is that challenging!—whatever)…it works for me.

In the past, Iwanski has put many things out of place for me—like the time that I came home and found his guitar tuner sitting on the back of the toilet. (“What is the guitar tuner doing in the bathroom? Oh yeah…I have to e-mail my Mom.”)

It’s a pretty good system, don’t you think?

So today, while working late, I called Iwanski and asked him to “put something out of place” to remind myself to send a postcard to my Grandma (I send my 95-year-old Grandma a Chicago postcard about once a week or so). Then I promptly forgot about it.

Later tonight, while exercising, I thought about it again and asked Iwanski, “Hey, what did you put out of place for me?”

“Oh, I put that bird identification book on the floor, on your yoga mat,” he replied.

“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t even realize it. It didn’t seem out of place to me.”

“Of course it didn’t!” He laughed. “I forgot, you put everything on the floor!”

We both laughed, and then he continued, “I think that for you, I’d have to put something REALLY big on the floor. I think you’d have to walk in the house and see an Alpaca standing there.”

I laughed harder.

He continued “…And there would need to be a sign around the Alpaca’s neck that says ‘I am out of place.’”

Have I mentioned lately how much I love that man? He is the funniest person I know, and I’m so grateful to have him in my life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dukin' It Out

I know, I know, I haven’t blogged in so very long…and you know what? The longer I’ve been away from it, the harder it is to start up again. It’s like I feel like I have to write something really profound or something. But no. I am about to write about some absolutely meaningless crap. I hope you enjoy it!

Lately, just for silliness’s sake, Iwanski and I have been watching episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard. I’m telling you, if you grew up in the early 80’s, there is nothing like watching the Dukes of Hazzard to make you feel like a kid again. Every time we turn it on, I am immediately transported to a Friday night back in 1982, watching Rosco P. Coltrane and Boss Hogg battling it out with the Duke boys. Too freakin’ funny. It was a fun show to grow up with.

I may have written about this before, but when I was a kid, my two good neighborhood friends and I would play the Dukes of Hazzard as we raced around on our bikes. Since there were only three of us – one boy and two girls – we had a very limited cast of characters. The boy, Jeff Flanders, was blonde-haired, so of course he had to be Bo Duke. And then there were us two girls, my best friend Cari and I…and both of us wanted to be Daisy Duke. What to do, what to do? Well, a very simple solution came from our very simple eight-year-old minds – we would be…Daisy One and Daisy Two! I still laugh when I think about that.

Anyway, I’ve realized that even as an adult, the Dukes of Hazzard is still entertaining…especially since Iwanski and I spend half the episodes pausing our Tivo and making fun of the show. We laugh at the fact that in every single freakin’ episode, the Duke boys are always somehow held at gunpoint, and always by just some random evil strangers who just happen to be traveling through good ole’ Hazzard County. And at least once in every episode, Bo and Luke have to dodge barrels or rocks or some kind of huge boulders rolling down a hill right at their car. Oh, and the police just generally look the other way at the fact that the Duke boys act as vigilante crime-solvers and always end up catching the bad guys. In fact, Boss Hogg and his police brigade (Rosco P. Coltrane and Enos—later replaced by Cletus) generally welcome the Duke Boys’ assistance in solving crimes. It’s just assumed that the Duke Boys will catch the bad guys in whatever way they can; no questions asked.

And by the way, the guy who played Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke) was freakin’ brilliantly funny. I don’t know why I never realized that when I was a kid—I was just too busy hating that character. Now, I think he’s an absolutely amazing actor—completely committed to the part.

I guess the thing that I like best about the show is that even though the good guys always end up in sticky or dangerous situations, through all of it, there’s always this sense of community with the main characters. You know that no matter what, when it really comes down to it, any one of them would do anything to keep the others safe. Yup, the Dukes of Hazzard really shows the love.

And now I’ve written an entire blog post about the Dukes of Hazzard.

Aren’t you just so glad that I’m back to blogging again?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Inspiration (or Lack Thereof)

I am officially Miss Healthypants.

I’m down 15 pounds, and after a recent Treadmill Stress Test and blood test, I can confirm that I am indeed healthy.

Healthy heart? Check. Good cholesterol levels? Check. Good calcium levels, iron levels, and all other associated “levels”? Check.

And Iwanski? Oh yeah, he’s healthy, too. He’s down almost 40 pounds, and doing just fantastic. We’re just a couple of healthypantses.

Now the question is…what’s next for me?

I feel like lately, I’ve been asking myself the same question over and over and over again:

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I like my job as Customer Service Manager…but is this what I want to be forever?

I like to write…but I’ve barely written two non-work-related sentences lately.

I like to be “counselor” to my close friends when they are having difficulties in life…especially when I feel like I can really help them. So do I want to somehow pursue a psychology-related career?

And then there’s the old acting bug. Some days, I do feel like I’d like to try acting again. I know, I know, the acting field is fraught with disappointment and rejection—it’s just the nature of the beast—but I just feel like somehow, I need to express myself.

But what do I really even want to say? What is there about me that even wants to be expressed?

And then I think, what if somehow I could be a motivational speaker or something cool like that? Wouldn’t that be fun?

But how exactly does one become a motivational speaker? And what would I talk about?

And how can I motivate others when it seems that sometimes I have a hard time motivating myself?

Oh sure, I can motivate myself to exercise and lose weight. But the real motivation for that came from Iwanski’s experience. I want to have a strong and healthy heart. Period.

But what motivates me? What inspires me? Sometimes I feel lacking in inspiration.

Perhaps it’s this endless wintery-type weather that’s driving me a little nuts. Surely I can’t be the only one feeling this way. As a matter of fact, I know I’m not. I’ve seen countless postings of “I’m sick of winter” peppered throughout my Facebook friends’ pages.

But it’s more than that. I want to feel inspired. I want to find the “thing”—the catch that sparks my imagination and creativity. I want to be creative—but even more so, I want to FEEL creative.

But how? Where do I start?

And then I think that it’s merely my ego talking. My ego is never satisfied with how things are—it always wants more, more, more!

And then I am reminded of a Buddhist saying that I once read, “Strive to be ordinary.”

Strive to be ordinary. What does that mean? Does that mean that none of us should hope to be more than what we are today? Or does it just mean that we should not become attached to the idea of ourselves “standing out” somehow; that we should be content with being?—just being?

All I know is, this spiritual hunger won’t go away. I crave creativity, I crave inspiration…and somehow I need to find exactly what it is that inspires me.

Yes, I know that I certainly feel inspired and moved by basic human emotions—like love, and empathy, and pure joy…and I love animals, in all their lack of ego…and I feel inspired by the words and the images that others share on a daily basis.

But how can I translate that feeling, that appreciation for all of these things, into an expression of my own creativity?

Or am I wrong for wanting that? Should I just be satisfied with who I am, with living an ordinary life?

I will meditate on this…and I will meditate on all that I have to be grateful for…because somewhere, in that list of a million and one things that I am so very grateful for, has to be my inspiration. I will find it and do what I need to do.

Whether I write a poem or sing a song or paint a picture…I will express what’s inside of me.

And perhaps...I've already started.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Learn, Baby, Learn...

Sometimes in life, I get this feeling like I get it--I mean, I really get it--I'm happy and solid and have learned all I really need to learn in life. I know what I'm doing, and I'm in control.

And then a two-by-four smacks me over the head and forces me to learn much more than I ever thought I needed to know.

That two-by-four was my husband's sudden unexpected heart surgery on Christmas Eve. It was almost two months ago now, and sometimes it seems unreal that it ever even happened. I mean, my 36-year-old husband, who takes three or four hour walks with me every weekend day--him? He had to have open heart surgery? Unbelievable!

And yet it happened, and certainly every day I'm ever so grateful that he's doing so well. During this time, I've definitely learned the importance of family and good friends...but I feel like I've learned so much more...some little things and some bigger things. But most of all, I've realized that I probably won't ever have it all figured out--and I suppose most of us won't. I believe that a big part of our purpose as human beings is to learn, and unfortunately, sometimes the learning comes from a really crappy situation.

So without further adieu, here are some things I've learned (some of them a little silly, but I've learned them all the same!) over the past two months:

1. The American media/culture is very concerned about making sure we lose weight and look skinny, but they couldn't give a crap about how healthy are bodies are. I mean, for evidence, look at all the diet pills that are out there--and how many of them turn out to be bad for your heart--or at the very least, give you very explosive diarrhea. But that doesn't matter to those who are manufacturing those pills. It's only important that we be skinny--even if you're skinny and your hair is falling out. That's okay--just as long as you can fit into your size 2 jeans.

2. The number of fat grams in food doesn't matter as much as the kind of fat in the food. I used to just look at how much total fat a food had...but saturated fat is absolutely the worst kind of fat. Some kinds of fats are actually good for you. Saturated fat is absolutely not. And I never used to look at the cholesterol content in foods, either. Now I've learned that saturated fat and cholesterol directly contribute to heart disease--both in men and in women. Oh yeah, and just in case you're wondering, heart disease is the number one killer among WOMEN. Yeah, I had never even considered that; I always thought that it was more of a man's disease. I was certainly more concerned about breast cancer or something like that. Heart disease? But I ate healthy! (Or so I thought.)

3. I've learned how to spell cholesterol. (I don't know why, I've always struggled with the spelling of that word.)

4. Most of the food that is sold in restaurants--both fast food and sit-down restaurants--is really bad for you. I know, this is probably a duh! thing for many of you...but for me, I really sincerely thought that if I was eating a simple Chicken Caesar salad for many of my non-homecooked meals, then I was eating really healthy.

But surprise! Most Chicken Caesar salads are just loaded with fat and cholesterol. And you know why? Well, of course chicken has some fat and cholesterol...but the dressing is usually really really full of that nasty stuff...and the cheese! My God, the cheese! Cheese is the absolute worst culprit when it comes to saturated fat and cholesterol content. And I grew up in Wisconsin--I grew up on cheese! When I was younger, I never gave it a second thought. But Lord above, now I avoid cheese as much as possible. And don't get me wrong--I love the stuff. But I love the idea of having a long life even more.

5. It's very, very important to give yourself time to process and grieve over a scary or sad event in your life--even if everything turned out okay and you think you're fine and you think you can handle everything with no problem at all.

I was learning to cook, I was helping take care of Iwanski, I was doing a lot of the housework, and I was working full-time. No problem, I could handle this! In fact, I even mentioned to a good friend of mine that I was really proud of myself for how I was handling this whole thing. (Note to self: Pride cometh before the fall.)

And then I started getting chest pains. And then back pains. And then both.

And I was scared. So I went to see two different doctors, and the diagnosis came back the same from both of them: It wasn't my heart, it was just stress. I had an EKG. It was normal. I had my cholesterol checked. Perfectly normal.

Just stress?! But I was getting chest pains like 4 or 5 times a day, and they certainly didn't feel like just stress! I was feeling panicky, and silently thanking my previous doctor for giving me 10 extra Xanax pills last time I saw her.

And then one day, as I sat in a nearby train station, eating my lunch, I suddenly felt like I just couldn't take it any more. I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and I just broke down and cried. Right there in front of men in business suits and the tourists with their children, who were scarfing down their Panda Express and Taco Bell...I just started sobbing.

And the worst part was, I kept thinking, "Why can't I handle this? What's wrong with me? I'm stronger than this. I'm usually a positive person. Why am I feeling so damn negative?"

So I did what many girls would do in my situation. I called up my best girlfriend--and even though I was pretty sure she'd be at work, she actually answered. And for the next half hour, as I cried and cried and just let everything out--all my fears, all my stress, all my sadness, she just listened. I will be forever grateful to her for that.

And later that night, I cried even more still, this time to my beloved Iwanski. And he sat and listened and then cried a little himself.

We both needed to grieve a little. This was quite a traumatic event in our lives, and we had to grieve the fact that we weren't going to be going to the Chinese buffet every weekend any more, or drinking beer as often...and we now have to be more vigilent about our health (especially him) was a big lifestyle change for both of us, and it certainly didn't come without some stress. But at least we're in it together, and changes are much easier to handle when you're going through them with the one you love.

That night, as Iwanski and I grieved together, we grew even closer, and he assured me that I didn't have to do everything on my own. He was getting better every day, and I needed to stop trying to do it all and let him help me, too.

And the next day, I had no more chest pain. And none the next day. Or the day after that.

As my best girlfriend said, "You just needed a release." Indeed, I did.

6. When you're tired, it's important to rest. Even if--and I would say ESPECIALLY if--you feel like you shouldn't be tired.

One day a few weeks ago, after a workout on our exercise bike, a three-mile walk with Iwanski, a trip to the grocery store, and doing the laundry, I put a low-fat, homemade pizza in the oven, and then bent down to put some dishes in the dishwasher.

And suddenly, a wave of tiredness washed over me...and then came the chest pain.

"Push through it!" I thought to myself, as I continued to put spoons and knives and plates into the dishwasher.

But suddenly, the chest pain got worse, and I knew I couldn't push through it. I walked over to the living room and laid right down on the carpet and stretched out my arms and legs, taking some deep breaths.

At first, I admonished myself for not being able to keep cleaning. But then I finally gave up and gave myself a break, and just rested. By the time the pizza was done, I was feeling much better and had no more chest pain.

So I've learned: When you're tired, don't have a debate with yourself--just rest.

7. I've also learned that I enjoy some foods that I never thought I would--like baked kale chips (they're light and crispy and similar to potato chips--yummy!) and this awesome black bean soup that's incredibly easy to make. Quick, healthy, and yummy--whoo hoo!

But most of all, I've learned that I still have much more to learn. No, I don't have it all figured out, and I'm not perfect. And I know that some days I will struggle, but at least I now know that with each struggle, I will learn something new and valuable...and then happiness will follow again soon after.