Monday, February 28, 2011

Right On Target

Having survived my husband's latest actuarial exam, I am now in that in-between-tests mode of shoving every last bit of life into the days that exist between tests.  For a few weeks, we move frantically through life getting reacquainted with our other selves- the selves we know are still there waiting for us when we emerge from the haze of yet another exam.  Yes, I am so looking forward to the day when the last exam has passed and this household can get back to the business of learning life lessons in the ways that most others do.  Until then, these exams serve as life learning that comes up and kicks you in the butt.  But then, it feels like we're going around with a note on our backs that says "kick me", so really what do we expect?! 
One thing that has come as a side benefit from all this testing stuff is that the friends that we do have are true friends.  Especially over the last couple of years, there have been many reasons to sort of trim back on the people in our lives that just don't belong there any more.  These tests have certainly taken up enough time to hack off those who need more than we can give.
One person who I have made sure to spend more time with lately is a woman who is battling mightily with colon cancer.  (I wrote about her here.)  Even though she is on an every other week chemo regimen, she has chosen to take life by the horns and is filling every day to the brim.  So naturally, when my friend asked me to take her shooting, I was thrilled.  I do love and respect my second amendment rights and I love sharing that experience with others.
My friend was a little concerned that she might not be able to manage the proper handling of a gun because she has had a type of chemo treatment in the past that left her with some neurological problems in her hands.  Luckily, I had been a part of training another person who has similar difficulties.  So I felt that I could help my friend learn to handle the gun safely and proficiently.  It turns out I didn't have to do much.  Sometimes the will to do something overrides any physical limitations.  My friend was shooting one of my favorite 9mm Glocks' at 21 feet with beautiful accuracy in no time!   She did tire quickly so we ended up going back to a nice little laser guided 22 to end the night.  I was just so happy to have helped her fulfill one small item on her special 'to do' list.  When she remarked what a 'rush' this had been for her, I have to admit that I was experiencing quite a rush of my own.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


1,213 pages.
Way over 300 hours of study.
More ups and downs than a world class roller coaster.
Missed social engagements.
Weekends that seem longer than the work week, for all the wrong reasons.
Second guessing.
Three dry erase boards.
7 dry erase pens.
2 dry erasers.

One very proud wife.
Exam C, Construction And Evaluation Of Actuarial Models is history.
Never again will there be all or nothing.
The rest of the actuarial exams allow for partial credit.
So you can demonstrate knowledge.
Not worry about whether you've made a small arithmetic error.
It's onward and upward to a whole other level.
Today we greet the challenge with big ol' satisfied grins!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Keepin' Busy

Up until this morning, I was super preoccupied with my husbands study efforts leading up to his test today.  I stay as involved as I can, helping him go over practice problems and being a sounding board for him to work out the details of some devilishly detailed math.  Now it's finally the day of the test and I have become super busy doing anything I can to keep my mind off the fact that he is plugging away at his exam even as I type this.  I have every right to believe that he will pass this time.  I really do.  But I thought he would pass last time and he didn't. So I also have this gnawing feeling in my gut that is making me stir crazy.

So far I have done some official work for about 3 and half hours this morning.  Then I stopped at two different stores on the way home.  When I was out the weather was doing this annoying snow/raining thing again.

So I did what any half crazed woman not quite in her right mind would do.  I bought some pretty primroses-

and went straight to work planting them as snowflakes fell into my hair.  I think it was sort of my way of protesting this way too long winter and giving this stressful day a little lift while I was at it.

Now I've gone to work on the laundry even though the bins are practically empty.  I think I'll go and see if I can find anything else that needs bleaching...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Know Better, Do Better

Lately there have been numerous discussions between my nephew Nathan's Dad and I about his progress.  (To get some back story on Nathan, read thisthis or this.)  He has only lived with his father for about 2 and a half months now.  It has been a wonderful time of much healing and love for both my nephew and his father.  We all expected to see changes in Nathan, but never realized just how quickly they would come.  He already speaks noticeably more clearly, even through the phone.  His confidence is much improved.  I think we are all surprised by how much having his son living with him has changed my nephew's father as well.  There is new hope surrounding both of them.

Picture from the last time I took Nathan to the Newport Aquarium on the Oregon Coast

There are also signs that this is going to be a long haul.  It is apparent that Nathan has never had anyone sit down and do homework with him.  Heck, he doesn't even remember to use utensils to eat his food all the time.  (He prefers his hands.  He is nine.)  He has acted out aggressively at school on several occasions.  He has verbalized that he is worried about having to go back to live with his mother.  He says, "I never wanted to be there."
But Dad is working diligently with the school and a really good councilor who sees how intelligent Nathan is and knows that his real issues are all personal and social.  (She called to get more family history on my sister, Nathan's mother, and I could tell she really gets the situation.)  Dad has been volunteering in Nathan's classroom every week.  He makes sure Nathan gets plenty of exercise and sleep.  Nathan has been taken for full check-ups at the doctor, optometrist and dentist.  The dentist said it was obvious that Nathan had never had his teeth cleaned before.  The poor kid had to have deep cleaning with the gas over several days.  (Nathan's mother had him on state medical and could have had this done for free.)    He got a couple of cavities filled too.
Even as Nathan's Dad and I have discussed the progress and how amazing it has been, we have both been plagued by guilt.  How could things have gotten this bad without any of us really noticing?  There are several behaviors that Nathan displayed over the years that were never normal for his age.  Somehow we just bought the idea that he was 'a little behind'.  Nathan's Dad and I are both ashamed of ourselves.  Loving him and hoping that things would change were just not enough.  Fear and drama got in the way of what this boy really needed.  
By the time we realized all of this, it took nearly 2 years to get him out of the hell he was living in.  Anyone who has read any of the other stuff I have written about Nathan knows how much I really do love this kid.  I won't beat up on myself too harshly, but I will say that I am sorry and really mean it.  Now that I know better, I will do better.  I promise. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Is The True Inspiration For Motivation?

There is a question that I have pondered for many moons.  It is the question of what the root cause of motivation truly is.  It seems to me that I have never found a really good answer to this question.  Some people claim that seeing others succeed or not determines much about how motivated they are to do the same.  Either they see a good example and want the same for themselves or they witness what brings about a lousy life and want to be sure that they do anything they can to better themselves.

Still there is the flip side of that coin.  Take a second person who sees the very same things that motivates one person to do well in life and they may end up doing little or nothing with themselves because they had a great life and didn't feel like they needed to work that hard to get anywhere or their life was miserable and they just never learned how to step above that and ended up wallowing in it instead.

Even two people who grow up in the same household can turn out very different from one another.  (Yes, I'm thinking of my sister and I here.)  So maybe the question is more about what determines the way that one person will react, as opposed to another, to the very same situation even if both people share very similar back rounds.

What brought this all to mind today was a rerun of an interview that I had seen when the movie 'The Blind Side' first came out.  The guy who inspired the story, Michael Oher, was being asked about what a difference the family that took him in had made in his life.  I was surprised to hear him say that although the family that helped him had made things a lot easier for him, he always knew that he would be successful.  He had no doubt that he was going to be different than his rough upbringing might have justified for him.  He was very appreciative that because of the help he received he was able to concentrate on his talents and did not have to work several jobs.  He knew things had happened sooner for him, without further hardship, but he had full confidence that he was going to do the things he dreamed of no matter what.

I am inspired by this guy and still left wondering. I too have been asked over the years what it is or was that made me different from where I came from. And in turn why my sister was not similarly motivated. I know that for me it was a simple truth. What I saw around me was nothing I wanted any part of. I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no way that I was going to allow myself to continue life like that. I would do what I had to do to get where I was going and never look back.

But the question remains. It can't possibly be that some people are just born motivated and others are not. I believe there must be some turning point, some reason. No higher power or order in the universe could possibly allow that kind of randomness. God, I wish I knew.

Turn off the music player to watch the video below.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When I'm Bad I'm So So Bad

Today's post is brought to you by a little exchange that I had with Candance over at Crazy Texas Mommy.  She was cookin' up a storm during the recent snow in Texas and I saw a recipe of hers that I needed and offered her one of mine in return. 
That brought up some interesting memories, which brought me to this post.  Somehow everything reminds me of something else...

When I was a kid, I moved a lot.  One of the places I lived in was at the end of a block, on the corner.  At the other end of the block there was another little girl who it turned out I had something in common with.  Both of our mothers had just given birth to our first siblings when we were both 8 years old.  And, coincidentally, it turns out our moms both had better things to do with their time than raise said siblings so this girl and I were the only 8-year-olds raisin' babies around.  Of course, we became quite close.
It turns out that there is one problem with this whole scenario.  (Besides, the obvious one.)  When you meet someone who is doing something that you are doing that is fairly rare, it seems you inevitably find out that there's not a whole lot else that you do really have in common.
Over the years I did try quite valiantly to keep my ties with this girl in tact.  Way more than I should have, it turns out.  Way after I figured out that the things we did not have in common were so much more important than the things we did.  Anyway, I kept in touch with her off and on for about 25 years.  She ended up living in B.C. Canada.  I guess it was a good thing she wasn't closer as many of the phone calls we shared were when she was in a mental hospital.  Or times she should have been but wasn't. 
I look at this situation now knowing that the things I learned were priceless, but the price of learning them was a little too much.  There were good things that I got out of this whole scene, but I'm not sure I couldn't have obtained them in some other fashion.  Sometimes the price to play is just too high.
So, to pass along to you one small thing that I got from this that I feel kind of embodies the whole shebang within the confines of a very tasty treat, I give you this:

Nanaimo Bars (pronounced Na-Ni-Mo, named after a place in B.C. Canada)
Yield 2 dozen (you will so regret that it doesn't make more) 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
1.     Mix 1/2 cup butter, white sugar, cocoa, egg and vanilla in a heavy sauce pan or double boiler. Stir over low heat until mixture is of custard like consistency.
2.     Combine graham crackers, coconut and walnuts and add to the melted mixture. Mix well and pack into buttered 9 inch square cake pan.
3.     Cream 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla custard powder and milk. Beat until creamy and spread over melted base.
4.     Refrigerate till hardened.
5.     Melt semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter and drizzle over custard icing. Refrigerate. When totally hard cut into square bars.
These suckers are so good that they will haunt you.  Kind of like that friendship did for me.  I really only make them for Christmas, but my husband actually asked me just the other day if somehow there were not some still left over in the back of the refrigerator somewhere.   After I had first tried these up north of the border I had always wanted to find a good recipe for them.  Now that I have, it is oh so dangerous.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl, Live And In Person

Sometimes it's a really good thing to take an interest in your spouse's interests, even if you're sure you're not really that interested!  I'm not a huge football fan by any means, but my husband sure is.  Ultimately, this little difference of ours landed our lucky butts in the Super dome in New Orleans on February 3, 2002 to experience Super Bowl XXXVI live and in person!

For several years prior to this event, my husband would torture me during the regular football season with this local contest that involved putting in entries to win a trip to the Super Bowl each and every week.  He wanted as many chances to win as he could get, so he would put in entries for me as well.  Fine.  But there's one thing you have to know about my husband.  He is honest to a fault.  He wouldn't just put in the entries for me.  He would make me actually do it.  Seems he was afraid of winning and then being disqualified or some dumb thing.  I remember laying on the couch and signing form after form every week and actually having to put something on them about my pick for that weeks winning team.  Like I even knew who was playing?!  Let's just say that some of my answers were a bit controversial.  I would pick teams based on the weirdest reasons while my husband was, of course, running all the stats and trying to be intelligent about all of this.  Turns out my system was a winner.  Or as my husband likes to point out, it also turns out that a barking seal has just as much likelihood of choosing a winning team as the experts do!

I had chosen a team that nobody in their right mind would have picked.  I remember the odds being like 24 to 1, again whatever that means.  I also remember the team that I picked being a college team with a name that was similar to a town near where we live.  That's why I picked them.  Somewhere along the line I must have decided to have some sort of a reason for my picks.

That's how I ended up wearing an Auburn Tigers t-shirt to the 2002 Super Bowl, in which the teams who were competing were actually the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.  Neither of those teams really mattered to me.  I was just thrilled that my husband got to be there.  It was such a dream come true for him.  It wasn't half bad for me either.  New Orleans was a place I had always wanted to see.  And because of the timing of Mardi Gras that year, we got more than just a taste of what fun New Orleans truly is.  I can also honestly say that the Super Bowl in person is so much more than just a football game.  It was easily one of the best events I have ever been a part of. 

I have to be brutally honest here and admit that at first when I found out that we would be seeing the game live, I was disappointed that I wouldn't get to see the commercials.  I know, totally ridiculous.  I had someone tape it for me, so I could go back and see those commercials.  Funny thing is, I never did watch that tape.  I didn't need to.  This was one time I have to admit that my husband was 100% right!  I am so looking forward to the day when we will be able to do this again sometime.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here's To YOU Thursday/ 80's and Beer, What Could Be Better?

One of my good blog buddies, Robin, over at YOUR DAILY DOSE does a really cool thing every Thursday.  Only this week she is feeling so crummy that she wasn't able to do it.  And I know that means that she is feeling absolutely horrid.  What a bummer.  She is super good at finding incredible footage on YouTube and then dedicating it to those she sees fit for, each and every Thursday.  I know she puts a lot of work into this and I know she's disappointed that it didn't happen this week. 

NEVER FEAR, Robin.  Your support for me and this here blog are always appreciated.  When I heard rumor that some were posting 'Here's to you Thursday' posts in your honor, I had to join in.

Robin lets people guess why they're getting whatever video she posts for them, but just in case you're not familiar with her I'll let you know that this one is because it's Superbowl week and Robin loves the 80's.  I miss how cool the commercials for the Superbowl used to be.  

So, Robin, this one's for you: (Pause my music player so you can check out the video.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow? I've Gotta' Know

In my household SNOW is a nasty four letter word.  I despise it and feel as if, when it snows, someone or something is truly out to get me.  My husband is from eastern Pennsylvania and has had his fill.  Besides, knowing how much I loathe it has only made him have even less love for the white stuff.
Snow makes me feel trapped.  Snow has been at least partially responsible for me wrecking my car right before our first anniversary and hence making it so we spent the money we were going to spend on a fun trip paying our insurance deductible.  The weight of heavy, wet, northwest snow has caused the carport at my old apartment to collapse.  Thankfully, that time I followed my gut instinct and moved the car right before this happened!  Once there was a sudden huge snowfall that caused a big tree in our neighbors yard to crack and drop one ton of itself onto my nice new car.  Funny, the old car was closer but somehow that tree had it in for the new one.  The car was never the same, even though it was fixed.  I couldn't stand it and traded it in with less than 8,000 miles on it.  Yeah, I really don't dig snow.  Maybe snow just has it in for my cars.

This winter has actually been pretty mild out here.  And I missed one really cold stretch while I was in Palm Springs, so that was awesome.  Naturally, I am feeling pretty darn good about the fact that I am NOT sitting in any of that crummy white stuff right now.  I mean, what are the odds that I would be in one of the best weather spots in the whole country right now?  O.K., I'll shut up about it.  But I am also feeling like my non-love of snow is really not fair.  It never gets that bad around here (OK barring the winter of 2008 in which Christmas was basically cancelled and I actually started to cry daily when the stuff wasn't melting AND a pack of raccoons took over the neighborhood because the garbage truck couldn't get there for 3 weeks, but anyway...)  So my thought is this:  while I have had my 'bouts with snow and my reasons for not loving it, tell me what's going on where you are.  Give me the worst of it.  The uglier, the better.  Oh and let me know what I am missing out on as well.  I'm sure snow has some redeeming quality, right?
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