A Case of Winter Snark: Five-Step Recovery Program

For two weeks I have battled a case of winter snark. Despite an appearance of happiness, peace and goodwill my inner voice continues to have more snark as the winter days linger on. Last night, the snark would not shut up. I was trying to fall asleep. It kept listing one complaint after another. Finally, I demanded silence.

While I am not anywhere close to being snark-free, I stopped living in denial last night. I admitted to having winter snark and signed myself up for a self-imposed, five-step recovery program.

1. Listen to my favorite music when and wherever possible. Blink 182, Foo Fighters, Korn, Rob Zombie and  Journey are among the artists who help take me to happier places.

2. Girlfriend time puts winter snark in its place: out in the cold where it belongs. Without fuel, the snark does not have energy to thrive.

3. Exercise is my number-one defense against any kind of snark: winter, cleaning, marital, parenting, alcohol shortage, etc. Fitness is a natural outlet for all negativity to escape. Too bad this doesn’t work while I’m driving. Sign language isn’t enough.

4. Writing is my second line of defense. Again, it is another method I use to relieve stress. Once I write it, it’s no longer a burden. I may still need to resolve a problem. But, I no longer feel it clouding my thoughts. Somehow, I achieve clarity on the direction I should take.

5. Attack action item list, which is always growing. After crossing items off, I felt accomplishment, not dread from excuses for not “doing.”

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Moms’ Escape Night to Partridge Creek: PF Changs and Charming Charlies

I’ll tell you. I love my fellow moms. Kelly, one of my girlfriends, sent out the e-mail inviting a dozen or more moms to join her for an evening away from the rigors of parenting. Last night, she and I were the two who managed a successful escape. PF Chang’s and Charming Charlie at Partridge Creek — an upscale, outdoor, pedestrian mall — in Clinton Township were our destinations for the evening.

I truly enjoyed the respite from being chef, waitress, and table referee; and conversing with Kelly about grown-up books, summer plans and our children. Also, I was nicely surprised to see my favorite dish — caramel mango chicken — back on PF Chang’s menu after a multi-year hiatus.

After an amazing dinner, Kelly took me on my first tour of Charming Charlie, which offers just about every kind of styling accessory — handbags, clutches, bling, belts, hair accessories, shoes, etc. — a women — at any age — could possibly want; at a reasonable price. Thank goodness the store was almost about to close when we entered. This place could entice one to do some serious damage due to the selection in just about every color imaginable.

In conclusion, a big thank-you to Kelly who put the idea for this evening out there; and for making it happen. She and I met through a local moms’ club, which offered support to us and other women during the early years of motherhood. While neither one of us are current members of this organization, we — and several former members — still make a point of planning moms’ escape nights and occasional play dates for our children.

Girlfriends, Chocolate Martinis, Education and Bingo

Last Thursday, I took a much-needed break. I left my hubby in charge of putting the kiddos to bed, abandoned my NaNoWriMo characters on some beach near Jakarta, and squealed my tires as I zoomed off to catch up with two girlfriends.

My two girlfriends and I met at Nick’s 22nd Street Steakhouse, in Shelby Township, Mich., which I’m going to plug. Not only did they take good care of us there, martinis are half-off on Thursday nights. Regular price is $7.50. You do the math.

While I slurped down two chocolate martinis,  my girlfriends caught me up on family matters, tempered my enthusiasm for running in the Freeze Your Fanny 5k in January (so far I have no takers – not good), said I was insane for trying to run a mile in five minutes on my elliptical, and gave me their viewpoints on our crumbling national education system.

Our elementary-school-aged children are students in the highly-acclaimed, Utica Community Schools, the second largest district in Michigan.  As we discussed various triumphs and challenges in relating to school personnel, we turned our conversation to the No Child Left Behind policies as well as a special education millage that was voted down November 8.

The conversation left me with a different opinion about the No Child Left Behind legislature. While I agree with giving children equal access to a competitive education experience, I do not agree with lowering the standards our students are expected to meet. I believe our standards need to be set higher. Resources need to be committed to helping children achieve at those higher standards. Otherwise, our students will continue to lag behind those receiving their educations elsewhere.

Where does Bingo fit in? The PTO at my daughter’s school organized Bingo for last Friday. Approximately 100 students — including my daughter — bought tickets to play. Once play was underway, it was pandemonium. You would have thought we were at the Eisenhower Eagles football regional playoffs in Walled Lake, which we really were in spirit. Our school’s physicial education teachers called numbers for the game and kept us updated on the Ike game score. The commitment all parents have to the ensuring our students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for our competitive global economy is truly appreciated.

Bus Stop Chatter: Easter Snow

If I had stood with my girlfriends at the bus stop this morning, I am sure the topic of conversation would be the 2-4 inches of Easter snow expected today. The last — I hope — of this wintery mix began just 30 minutes ago. Snow for Easter is as Pure Michigan as is 80-degrees and sunshine for Christmas.

Bus Stop Chatter: What Not to Say

What can I say? My girlfriends and I had just put our angels on the school bus; and I was only half way through my venti-sized coffee — mixed with So Delicious coconut milk.

One of my girlfriends mentioned the big pile of donation bags for the Vietnam Veteran’s Association sitting on my front porch. She and I have been on a mission to clean out all unnecessary material possessions from our closets, garages, attics, bonus rooms, etc.

Not thinking, I casually mentioned the upcoming neighborhood garage sale — scheduled for May 19, 20 and 21 — for those of you who know where the Woodside Village and Shelby Orchards neighborhoods are in Shelby Township, Mich. I didn’t say I was a sure thing. But, I did mention my daughter’s interest in trying to sell some of her stuffed animals and toys.

Before I could take another swig from my coffee mug, my two girlfriends reserved space in my garage, discussed merchandise labeling, requested a couple of kid-sale tables for the driveway, and suggested we grill and sell hotdogs. Come to think of it, some of my spicy rum lemonade would be the perfect beverage for this event.

So, I’ll let you know how our impromptu garage sale party shakes out. Maybe we will see you there.

Living in the Moment

A few weeks ago, I watched Piers Morgan interview Oprah on CNN. One of the most engaging, memorable sound bites was when Oprah talked about living in the moment. She talked about being able to thoroughly enjoy the dialogue with Morgan because she was focused specifically on life in that particular moment; not about the past and not about the future. Oprah identified living in the moment as one of her greatest life achievements.

I have been thinking about this portion of the interview for some time. Living in the moment is an ability to aspire to. But, is this a reality anyone can really achieve? Can anyone truly filter out — completely — all past reflections and forward thinking while doing something else at any given moment, consistently?

As I write this post, I am living in the moment; focused on the topic at hand. I am also listening to Foo Fighters and thinking about making my daughter’s lunch for school in 30 minutes.

But, I believe Oprah’s challenge was to savor each living moment we have; because our past is just that; and the future is unknown. Anything could happen. The irony of my reflections is that a girlfriend and I discussed this very issue just a few nights after the Morgan-Oprah interview. It was Janurary 15 and we had attended a Pistons’ game with our husbands. We were nicely surprised to witness a win against the Sacramento Kings. As we drove home from Auburn Hills, the roads were slushy and snow flurried across the windshield. It was a cold, dark night. All of us expressed how anxious we were for spring. My girlfriend agreed, but noted we were wishing our lives away. By thinking forward to March and April were not allowing ourselves to truly enjoy what we had that evening.

She was so right. The fun, cozy night began with a delicious Mexican meal at Miguel’s Catina in Rochester, Mich. Our good times continued with coffee at Caribou and then the Pistons’ game with fantastic seats in Section 102, Row E complements of a charitable organization I made a donation to in November. The four of us had it all; and we still do even in arctic-like Shelby Township, Mich.