My Not-Quite Homemade #GlutenFree, #EggFree, Extraordinary Pumpkin Pancakes


Tonia’s Pancakes

FIRST – Buy Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Pancake Mix.


Follow the recipe, but double it, and  substitute every egg with one tablespoon of Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter. I also used canola oil in the recipe (butter optional).


Pour batter onto a hot griddle spritzed with coconut oil spray. Cook until lightly brown and flip.

Remove and stack two on a plate. Drizzle with melted butter. Skip the syrup and dollop with pumpkin butter. Garnish with a basil leaf.

 

 

A Family Christmas Pictorial


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Underwood Family Farms. We found the tree!
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Come here, cute stuff! Let me squeeze the dickens out of you in front of a tree that isn’t ours.
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Sure dad. Park the car under a big tree that overshadows the tree we picked out on top of our car.
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I cropped out the fact that both of my men are wearing shorts on a day we picked-out our Christmas tree. Note my chilly weather attire. In their defense, it was 73 degrees outside. I was burning up.
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As I was shooting this picture. Santa told Miles that I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll when I was a little girl. I reminded Santa – yes, but it never came. Miles smiled.
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A big old wad of tangled lights. John can handle this. I’m not equipped.
What was in the 20-gallon storage bin (labeled “SHOES”) taking-up all that space in the garage, you ask? One string of lights and three bows. No shoes in sight.
You thought I was kidding about the SHOES, right?
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Found the tree skirt!
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What are these weird, fake plants doing in the holiday decorations? Hmmm.
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He always looks like he’s waiting for me to leave the room so he can pee on the tree. He never does. But, I always think he will, eventually pee on the tree when I’m not looking.
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Time for wine.
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Found another giant bin in the garage filled with only one angel, one star and one string of lights. WHO puts this stuff away?
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I’m going to need more wine.
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You thought I lied about the peeing on the tree thing? There’s my dog again just waiting for me to turn my back so he can snatch a chocolate. (Note the glass is almost empty.)
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The stockings are up! My husband asked me if I could iron them. What? They are made of felt. No one irons felt. Wait. Do they?
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I asked John to stand behind the tree while he was stringing the lights, because he was in boxers. No one needs to see that. P.S. That’s his annoyed face.
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“Here mom! Let me help you hang ornaments!” What a good son.
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After Miles helped hang one ornament.
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One of those is a crystal wedding present. He’s broken two ornaments after hanging five ornaments.
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It was a three glass of wine kind of night. #deckthehalls
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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
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Where do all the unstrung ornaments go? #ornamentgraveyard
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Time to focus.
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I love this Santa. He takes up too much room, but I love him.
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Time for the star!

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A Dream Coming Closer to True


By Tonia Allen Gould,
AKA: #ArcheryMom

Miles and his bowThere’s a common theme in my family and it has to do with all of us daring to dream BIG. Allowing our children the freedom to dream is a value my husband and I have instilled in our children, pretty much since birth. We believe that no one should ever squelch someone else’s dreams no matter how crazy and impossible the dream may sound. After all, I’m currently working on developing an entire 28-acre island along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua for social good. Had I not dreamt the impossible, and had my family not supported me along my journey, I wouldn’t be in the throes of conquering my dream in such a magnificent way through the Finding Corte Magore project.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that my son, Miles, has a gargantuan dream of his own.  For the past two and half years, ever since he picked-up his first bow and arrows at a resort during my husband’s company picnic, Miles has dreamt of one day making it to the Olympics. But, being “good enough” is only half the battle for him. The trouble is, his bow is making his dream impossible–that is, unless compound bows are ever allowed into the Olympics alongside their counterparts, the recurve bow.

Still, all that isn’t stopping Miles from going after his dreams. My twelve-year-old currently holds the California State Champion title in both indoor and outdoor archery in the compound bowman division. During this year’s California State Outdoor Championship, in Long Beach, Miles set a new California 30M state record held since 2009 of 355. Miles broke the record with a score of 356 out of 360.  It takes laser-sharp focus to shoot a nearly perfect score in a high-stakes tournament like that one.

Maybe there is hope on the horizon for our young compound bowman yet. All his successes have taken Miles one step closer to his Olympic dream, because Miles has been invited by USA Archery, the archery governing body of the Olympics, to try-out for the Compound Junior Dream Team at a week-long selection camp held at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.  Up until now, the Junior Dream Team consisted of 36 of the most skilled and promising Olympic-style archers in the country, all shooting recurve. But, recently, compound archers have been added to the program and Miles hopes to earn his spot on the team, as a compound bowman, and one step closer to his Olympic Dream.

Even if the compound bow never makes it into the Olympics, if selected to the Junior Dream Team (JDT), Miles will intensively train weeklong at the Olympic Training Center once a quarter with some of the best junior archers in the country, regardless of which bow they are shooting. Between training camps, JDT coaches and archers will continue to train together by utilizing video conferencing via the internet.

Shooting at Miles’ level takes a lot of practice.  He shoots an average of 100 arrows a day on a range safely set-up on our backyard sport court.  Miles is privately coached by World Champion Compound Archer, John Norberg. He shoots a Hoyt Freestyle Compound Bow, 35 lbs., with 70% let-off.  He releases with a Carter Evolution Plus back tension release.  He uses PSA Radial X Weave Pro 100 arrows with Blazer vanes.

Here’s to dreaming big, son!  Good luck this month at selection camp and keep dreaming, no matter what the outcome is, this time around.

#GOTEAMMILES

Love, #ArcheryMom

Just a follow-up to the post: We are so proud of our dreamer, Miles B. Gould, who made the FIRST EVER COMPOUND Junior Dream Team under Head Coach, Linda Beck! Miles is elated beyond belief. (Needless to say, so is the rest of his family!)

My Pre-Teen Boy is Now Eager to Do Chores


Step 1: Seriously restrict your pre-teen boy’s computer time for two weeks on Minecraft. Give him an allotted time, to be on the computer and don’t waiver. Step 2: After two weeks, ask him if he’d like to earn a half-hour more (if all his work is done). Step 3: When he exuberantly says YES – look around the house for things for him to do, and tell him to come back to you when he’s finished. Step 4: Walk around the house and review his handiwork. Applaud his effort if everything is completed and done well. Step 4: Give him the extra time he’s earned. (Set a timer!)

#eagertodochores

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Like Mother, Like Daughter…I See the Thoughtful, Burgeoning Writer in Her


AA033461Dalliance
By Whitney Gould
Reprinted with Permission, Copyright Whitney Gould, 2014, All Rights Reserved

I am Soul; I move like a needle and thread.
I pierce the crisp air with elegance and grace.
You breathe me in as I dance.
You breathe me out as I dance.
The gentle breeze is my partner and I follow his lead.
Your soft whisper interrupts my routine.
I move about the room like a paintbrush
dancing across an endless canvas. There is no paint.
You want my warmth so I blanket you with my dewy kiss –
as I escape the walls you have entrapped me in.
I dance.
I dance until I can dance no more.
You breathe me in.
You breathe me out.
My endurance fades; I leave barely a trace –
only the remnants of my dewy kiss.
You thirst for my Body; you can’t wait until I die.
Handle with caution as I can burn.
Blow me away and I will soon return.
I am Soul; I move like a needle and thread.

My daughter, Whitney Gould, is a Sophomore at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. Whitney emailed me this poem to get my take on it. She said she had to write a poem, due tomorrow, from the perspective of another person or object. Her poem perspective is about the steam of a coffee mug. I think she nailed it. But, I’m a clearly smitten, biased mother.  How did she do?

Tonia’s “Upside Down Day” Gluten-Free, Vegan Pancakes


Pancakes. I took them for granted when I was a kid. Now that I am all grown-up with adult onset allergies to both egg and gluten, pancakes could have become a product of my past like so many other foods I previously enjoyed.

I’m telling you all this because I want you to know I’m not on some vanity diet. No, I really do have to get creative making meals due to my allergies. So cooking, for me, has developed into a creative, culinary exploration in both sustenance and science. All that said, if you are vegan, gluten-free, or egg-free…these pancakes are for you! Even if you’re not deploying a similar diet, I’m betting you like my latest creation, “Upside Down Day” Gluten-Free Vegan Pancakes. My pancakes involve two meals: lunch and dinner.

Tonia's Kale SmoothieFor Lunch:
In your juicer, juice two large handfuls of chilled, fresh organic kale, two stalks of celery, two green apples, two large basil leaves, and two large bunches of grapes picked off their vine. Serve the juice with a refrigerated celery stalk to keep it cold, or drink it down. Preserve your pulp in the refrigerator for your pancakes you’ll make later. Run to Whole Foods and buy the King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Pancake Mix and Egg ReplacerPancake mix

For Dinner:
“Upside Down Day” entails serving breakfast for dinner. Hubby is never home when we celebrate “Upside Down Day.” While he is a fairly good sport, I’m pretty sure he would suck all the life out of the occasion and dangle his fabulous homemade tacos in front of our kids’ noses instead. (Plus he’s not invited because it’s imperative he never witness my slothfulness firsthand). If you haven’t figured it out already, “Upside Down Day” translates to “Lazy-Mom-Doesn’t-Really-Feel-Like-Cooking-Tonight-Day.” We used to celebrate the event more frequently when my daughter was little and I’d serve up bacon and eggs for dinner. “Upside Down Day” is a rare, special occasion in the Gould house now that I can no longer eat eggs due to my allergy. I can’t even cook eggs without itching…something about airborne allergens and what not. Who knew?

Anyway, I digress. Back to making “Dinner”:
Mix the gluten free pancake mix following box instructions, except substitute the egg for the egg replacer (following those box instructions as well) and also substitute the cow’s milk with VANILLA Almond Milk or VANILLA Soy Milk. Mix in the leftover pulp (where all the fiber is) from your lunchtime smoothie. Add more vanilla soy or almond milk to play with your desired thickness. Pour your batter onto a HOT, lightly greased griddle. I used canola oil because I was out of rice bran oil, my new “go to oil” because it cooks at high temperature points. You know your griddle is hot enough if a drop of water dances off of the surface. Pour your batter onto the griddle. My pancakes poured thick and imperfect, and I quite liked them that way even though they took longer to cook. If you like yours thick too, avoid burning them by turning them frequently once the batter has set. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter if you have OCD and prefer a perfectly round pancake. My husband’s banana pancakes are always perfectly round. Again, it’s your night to be a sloth, because you’ve kicked your husband out so you can make my pancakes.

I served ours the conventional way, with Earth Balance natural spread from Trader Joe’s and a hearty drizzle of Canadian maple syrup. My twelve-year-old son loved them, and he’s fairly hard to please, plus he got servings of both fruits and vegetables. I got to be a sloth and he ate his greens. It was clearly a win/win. If you try them, be sure to check back. Oh, and Happy Upside Down Day!

Enjoy!

ABC’s of Discipline


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I picked up something somewhere about parenting that really works. I wish I could credit the concept to whomever created it. If I understand correctly, think of it as something like the ABC’s of Discipline. A-is the Antecedent or the precursor to B- a child’s Behavior (acting out) which leads to a parent doling out the C-Consequence.

Parents become reactionary and often jump straight to C, because they don’t identify the Antecedent, and only see the Behavior. I’m not sure that’s effective. What works for me and my son, Miles, is to nip things in the bud when he starts to misbehave in a consistent way, so he always knows what to expect.

What works for me and Miles is if he starts to misbehave, I recognize it and let him know he’s in “A-mode.” He can then choose if he wants to continue to act on his Behavior which always leads to Consequences, because he understands how the ABC’s works. Rarely does Miles ever get to C-mode since I’ve deployed the strategy. On the rare occasion that Miles gets himself in “B-mode” and continues to act on his behavior; I very clearly look him in the eyes and say, “Would you like to go to C-now?” That question always backs him right up to A-mode, and the behavior ends.
(He’s no dummy. Consequences are never fun!) I think the whole thing works because a child has real control over what he wants to do next. Miles always wants to roll back to A-because don’t we all wish for a “do-over” sometimes?

Thanks for the ear,

Tonia Allen Gould

Remember Who You Are


Simba: Father?!
Mufasa’s ghost: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No! How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back!? I’m not who I used be!
Mufasa’s ghost: Remember who you are.
©Disney

My father was a salesman. I don’t think I realized this when I was a little kid growing up in the Midwest, but he definitely was one, even though his real occupation was working as a foreman for the Indiana State Highway Department. Back then, I’d spend time with my dad who was always looking to find ways to supplement his income to make an honest living. On weekends, Dad would drive me around in one of his old, beat-up cars or trucks he fixed-up himself. My family and I wouldn’t get too used to whatever vehicle he was driving at the moment, as it generally wouldn’t stay around long. The car merely served as a short-term means of transportation, and a roving billboard that advertised its own sale. While he didn’t have any long term relationship with the vehicle, he did have a certain attachment to it that came from having pride in his work, illustrated through his own mechanical abilities, which enabled him to fix things that were broken.

On any given Sunday, Dad and I would be out on a mission, looking for other “For Sale” signs on tractors, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, boats or trailers parked haphazardly in some stranger’s yard. We’d spend hours on end in search of whatever we could find that not only suited Dad’s liking but also matched his mechanical skills to buy, fix-up and sell again for a profit.

On any one of those days, my handsome dad would pull our car into some random driveway, climb out, smooth back his hair, hoist his pants and walk confidently up to knock on the stranger’s door as I stayed lingering, paces behind. “I’m here about the lawnmower you’ve got for sale out front,” he’d say, and then he’d follow the owner out to the yard to look the product over, while I stood quietly nearby.  I learned a thing or two about the basics of selling alongside my dad back then. After all, he was the master of the “wheel and deal,” and one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met. But while my father would sometimes negotiate the terms of the sale or offer a barter or trade when he didn’t have just enough money, the biggest lesson I learned back then is that my father, ultimately, didn’t mind paying a fair price for the right product.

Part of my father’s “business plan” included his self-reliance on his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix-up something that was broken, while still keeping in mind its full potential or value. This is what differentiated him from other buyers and sellers in the local area. He understood the cost of parts and labor as well as what was involved in buying something that needed to be fixed for resale. He’d buy it, only if he felt he could breathe new life into it and if he was guaranteed a profit for it when he turned the product.

Looking back on all this now, I realize my father would have made an amazing entrepreneur/business owner. He had the right mindset and business acumen. He never compromised who he was or deviated from his goal of turning a profit to put food on the table or to simply provide for his family. He’d buy something. He’d fix it up. He’d resell it. And, then he’d start that process over and over again, honestly and fairly, always being mindful of his profit margins along the way. If he were still around today, and if he had an actual business, I know that he wouldn’t have wavered from his business approach much along the way. After all, he was in the business of making money.

While all of this may be nothing more than simple lessons I learned early on in life, they made a fairly significant impact on me, nonetheless. In this crazy, mixed-up economy we are experiencing today, it’s so easy to become desperate and to sell yourself, your qualifications and your talents short. If you devise the perfect formula for success, it should include differentiating yourself to create value, to make an impact and to stand out, while still minding those margins to make sure you get fairly compensated in the process of all of that hard work and steadfast determination. For my promotional products industry friends, remember to rely more heavily on what you know: Buy a product, fix it up with your client’s brand and sell it–at a fair and honest price. Showcase your skills and knowledge, and this will differentiate you from the masses. “Remember who you are,” but most importantly, don’t compromise yourself along the way.

 

How Did it Get So Late So Soon?


We moved our daughter into her dorm at Loyola Marymount University this week.  I haven’t found the right words to express how I’m feeling.  Someone very special sent the following to me from a writer I admire very much.

 

How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time is flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?

Dr.  Seuss

 

Reflections


I sat under the pavilion sheltered from the sun, snacking on real images of my home and life, with my laptop finally open, pecking away at that novel I’ve only half-way finished writing. Occasionally, I would glance up to watch my son’s newly perfected dive permeating the pool’s crystal clear surface, and revel in the fact that hubby was home from his travels for a spell. Both of us, I’m sure, wondering what life will be like, just the three of us, when my daughter left our foursome to begin her journey off at college.

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Remember Who You Are


ImageOriginally Written by Tonia Allen Gould for PromoKitchen.com.

Simba: Father?!
Mufasa’s ghost: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No! How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back!? I’m not who I used be!
Mufasa’s ghost: Remember who you are.
©Disney

My father was a salesman. I don’t think I realized it when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, but, still he was one, even though he worked as a foreman for the Indiana State Highway Department. Back then, I’d spend time with my dad who was always looking to supplement his income to make an honest living. On weekends, Dad would drive me around in one of his old, beat-up cars or trucks he fixed-up himself. My family and I wouldn’t get too used to whatever vehicle he was driving at the moment, as it generally wouldn’t stay around long. The car merely served as a short-term means of transportation, and a roving billboard that advertised its own sale. While he didn’t have any long term relationship with the vehicle, he did have a certain attachment to it that came from having pride in his work, through his mechanical abilities, which enabled him to fix things that were broken.

On any given Sunday, Dad and I would be out on a mission, looking for other “For Sale” signs on tractors, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, boats or trailers parked haphazardly in some stranger’s yard. We’d spend hours-on-end in search of whatever we could find that suited Dad’s liking and matched his mechanical skills to buy, fix-up and sell again for a profit.

On any one of those days, my handsome dad would pull our car into some random driveway, climb out, smooth back his hair, hoist his pants and walk confidently up to knock on the stranger’s door as I stayed lingering, paces behind. “I’m here about the lawnmower you’ve got for sale out front,” he’d say, and then he’d follow the owner out to the yard to look the product over, while I stood quietly nearby. I learned a thing or two about the basics of selling alongside my dad back then. After all, he was the master of the “wheel and deal,” and one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met. But while my father would sometimes negotiate the terms of the sale or offer a barter or trade when he didn’t have just enough money, the biggest lesson I learned back then was that my father didn’t mind paying a fair price for something he wanted.

Part of my father’s “business plan” included his self-reliance on his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix-up something that was broken, while still keeping in mind its full potential or value. This is what differentiated him from other buyers and sellers in the local area. He understood the cost of parts and labor as well as what was involved in buying something that needed to be fixed for resale. He’d buy it, if he felt he could breathe new life into it and if he was guaranteed a profit for it when he turned the product.

Looking back on all this now, I realize my father would have made an amazing entrepreneur/business owner. He had the right mindset and business acumen. He never compromised who he was or deviated from his goal of turning a profit to put food on the table or to simply provide for his family. He’d buy something. He’d fix it up. He’d resell it. And, then he’d start that process over and over again, honestly and fairly, always being mindful of his profit margins along the way. If he were still around today, and if he had an actual business, I know that he wouldn’t have wavered from his business approach much along the way. After all, he was in the business of making money.

While all of this may be nothing more than simple lessons I learned early on in life, they made a fairly significant impact on me, nonetheless. In this crazy, mixed-up economy we are experiencing today, it’s so easy to become desperate and to sell yourself, your qualifications and your talents short. If you devise the perfect formula for success, it should include differentiating yourself to create value, to make an impact and to stand out, while still minding those margins to make sure you get fairly compensated in the process of all of that hard work and steadfast determination. Rely more heavily on what you know: Buy a product, fix it up with your client’s brand and sell it–at a fair and honest price. Showcase your skills and knowledge, and this will differentiate you from the masses. “Remember who you are,” but most importantly, don’t compromise yourself along the way.

Tonia Allen Gould is President/CEO of TAG! The Creative Source, a consumer promotions and marketing agency headquartered in California.

Snow Days!


The other evening, my husband sat me down for “a talk.”  I should’ve realized something was up when he paused the football game he was watching and then got up to pour me a glass of wine before he sat down across from me and started to speak.  “You know…I’ve been thinking,” he started, apprehensively.  “I’ve been thinking that we’re sending our kids the wrong message with all the excess every year for Christmas.  I think this year, we should keep things simple and not go too overboard,” he said. 

At this point, my brain went into instant recall to last Christmas.  “Uh-oh,” I thought.  Last year, I promised him a Christmas of moderation too, but it took nearly two hours for the family to open all of their presents.  It wasn’t the value of the gifts or how much really, I had spent that concerned my husband; it was the sheer number of presents that magically appeared under the Christmas tree, and it all looked and felt, excessive.  It wasn’t that I had intended to buy all of those gifts, either.  I had poorly planned Christmas and second-guessed myself up to the last-minute, and continued to buy more and more.  The kids opened each gift, one after the other.  They didn’t spend much time on each one and couldn’t wait to open the next.  My husband was right.  I had gone overboard on Christmas once again, and single-handedly, I lost track of what Christmas really meant to me. 

When I was a kid, Christmas gifts were sometimes sparse under our tree back home in Indiana, but still; we could always count on the fact that they would be there waiting for us, each marked with our names, and there by Christmas morning.  Back then, my father, who has since passed, was a supervisor for the Indiana State Department of Highways and he always made sure to take all the overtime he could, so that he could afford Christmas for his wife and three kids.  The phone would ring in the middle of the nights he would be on call, and he would selflessly, pull himself up out of bed to go out to plow the roads, together with his men.   

I remember those blustery nights, when the temperatures would drop well below zero, when Northern Indiana would get pummeled by all that icy, lake-effect snow sent down from Lake Michigan.  Mom would get up with my father, pour him his coffee in his thermos and watch as he’d walk out the door.  Those nights, she’d sit in the kitchen and listen to the police scanner, hoping that her own husband would be alright, out there in those sometimes, near-blizzard conditions. There were many days and nights in the wintertime when dad wouldn’t even get to come home because he was out there working, plowing roads so people could pass to do their holiday shopping and so that he could earn enough money to put presents under his own family’s tree.  For some, those days were called Snow Days and that meant that kids got to miss school.  But for us, a snow day meant that dad probably wouldn’t be coming home. 

Looking back on all of that now, I realize that working overtime was optional for my dad, like many public service providers.  It wasn’t something that he had to do; he didn’t have to get up night after night and brave the chilly night’s air.   After all, my dad was a supervisor and he could have sent any of his men out in his replace, but he didn’t.  Selflessly, my father climbed out of his own warm bed, put on his coveralls and boots and went out into those cold, blustery nights to plow the roads. 

I wrote this today to remind myself of what the Christmas season means to me.  In addition to celebrating Christ’s birth; it’s all about the time of year where we remember from where we came and learning to give selflessly, not excessively.

“43-04-10-7 Station-H-KFR640,” was the call my father made back to the highway department when his state-issued truck arrived safely, back in our driveway.   We’d always hear it loud and clear, coming through the scanner tucked on top of the refrigerator, and we would watch as our mother would shut it off, just before my father walked the front door. 

Merry Christmas!

To Be Uncouth


Random photo, gleaned from the web.

To Be Uncouth

I’m thinking about the word “uncouth”.   It’s one of my all time favorite words.  It means to lack in manners, refinement or grace. Refinement and grace are both learned behaviors throughout a long period of time. People are excused, in my book, from lacking in refinement or grace because maybe they weren’t ever exposed to what those things are.  Simply put, you can’t blame someone for becoming a product of their environment.   In some people’s lives, being graceful and refined isn’t a requirement to live and breathe, and that’s alright.  But, lacking in good manners is inexcusable in my opinion, because all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to find good people with good manners to use as your examples throughout your lifetime.  I think the word “uncouth” has the propensity to open up all sorts of debates about nature vs. nurture.  Does anyone want to debate or spar with me on this one? 
 
 

Caution: Children at Play


I’ve been writing about how necessary it has become for me to slow down to the speed of life.  Things had begun to get out of control, because I’ve been moving too fast and I’ve allowed things to pull me in too many different directions for too long a period of time.  My priorities started to shift and the most important people in my life started to feel less important.   I’ve been working on all of that, and in the last month; I’ve seen and done a few things that caught my attention in new and different ways, because I’ve opened my eyes and switched from “auto-pilot.”

I watched my son pitch his first strike-out in a Little League game, and win the coveted game ball.   Had I been fifteen minutes late to the game (which I generally am), I would have missed some of that.

I took pictures of my beautiful daughter and really “saw” her through the camera lens as I watched her board a party bus to Prom with her date, along with twenty or so other captivating, young women and their dates, and then I began to imagine life at home without her for nine months out the year when she goes to college, and I couldn’t.  Later, I took her shopping and sat on a bench and watched her come out in several different outfits.  I wasn’t on my phone or checking emails while I was waiting either;  I just sat there and marveled at both her inner and outer beauty and she caught my breath every time she exited the fitting room.

I’ve had a date night with my husband, and I had forgotten how good those are.   I thanked my husband each time he took care of something around the house that saved me some time.  He changed the air filters in the attic and I thanked him.   He took my camera into a camera shop and told them I said it wasn’t working and then laughed at me after he learned the lens wasn’t screwed on right, and I thanked him.  He hired the guy to chop down my beloved tree that I fought a whole year to try and save,  and still, I thanked him, because it was something that needed to be done and he knew I wouldn’t do it.

Instead of concentrating on my own philanthropic efforts, I’ve been helping my son get his first cause off the ground.  I’ve been encouraging his young entrepreneurial spirit and have opened my eyes even more to his big heart, filled with compassion for others.   I watched his entire classroom fold paper airplanes from art that could only be drawn from the eyes of child about the ugly tragedies in Japan.  I stood and watched as my son coached an entire classroom on how to make the paper  origami planes that he loves to make so much, and watched as  little their third-grade faces lit-up as they launched them into the air outside.  I noticed that when you look up on a sunny workday for no other reason than to see paper airplanes soar, you take in things you forget to see like the sun and the sky and the clouds and the very tips of tree-tops too.  You can check out my son’s efforts at  http://www.facebook.com/APaperProjectToAidJapan

I received TWO massages this month, and didn’t allow myself to fall asleep during either one of them, and even spent time relaxing in an infra-red sauna to rejuvenate my body and spirit.

I’ve said thank you and complimented more, and argued and criticized less.  (We humans don’t even realize that we are sometimes controversial just to be controversial.)

I stopped to pet and play with our animals more.  In time I had forgotten to stoop to pet my best friend who greets me at the door, every single time I’ve been away.

I’ve even eaten breakfast a few times…ok, so it was just a banana, but at least I had something to nourish my body besides coffee before noon.

And after all that, business obligations were met, deadlines at TAG! were kept, the laundry and housework still got done, and I am not one bit worse-for-the wear.  So, that’s all I really have to say about that.

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Life is a Balancing Act


Photo gleaned from E-how Article By Ma Wen Jie, eHow Contributor

The idea for this post, started with a Tweet. “Balancing work & life is like being on a teeter-totter. I’m the fulcrum w/ kids on 1 end & a biz, the other. I’ve got 2 hold ’em both up.” The idea for the Tweet started with my first day back in the office after being out-of-town in Dallas for several days. When I returned, both my family and my job needed me, and like every other time I’ve been away, I immediately started the balancing act I like to call, “My Life.”

A fulcrum, quite simply, balances two similar weights. If you are a working mother too, I know you can appreciate the analogy. At home, I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who is a junior in high school and has begun SAT prepping. She’s starting to think about where she wants to go to college. My daughter, is a smart kid, but is struggling in pre-calculus. Leading up to this point, absolutely everything in her life has gone her way. She’s good at everything she touches and could, quite frankly, skate through life on that notion alone. While she sometimes pushes me away, as teenagers who are getting ready to fly the coop often do; I know she needs me now, more than ever, to help her to figure out how to begin to orchestrate the rest of her life.

My son is equally gifted, or I think he is, from a completely biased mother’s perspective. He’s almost nine and spends hours on end making origami, drawing finite pictures, building rockets, making his own science experiments and looking-up answers that his parents aren’t smart enough to answer. He wants to be a rocket scientist and one day, go to work at NASA. Athletics only interests him slightly (which is a good thing, because he’s only slightly athletic) and my husband and I have to prepare to raise a true scholar.

Both of my children need me in very different ways, and every day, those needs change as sure as the shifting tides. But, I have a third child and one that I’m a single parent to, my company, TAG! The Creative Source. TAG! is my sixteen-year-old, thriving, teenaged marketing company that wants to grow, and I have to review strategies that will take my company through to its adulthood. At TAG! I’m truly on my own with no partner in place.

If you were to ask me, why I do it, why do I carry the weight of two separate worlds on my shoulders; I’m sure my answer would relate to some and probably differ from most. I work, not because I have to, but because I want to. I also require personal security; I don’t want to have to worry about what to do if something ever happened to my husband. In addition, I want to raise my children to believe that they can grow up to be absolutely anything they want to be. My son may well want to walk on the moon someday, and I know we are raising him to do exactly that, if he wants to. My husband and I are blessed with two incredibly independent children who can now think on their own two feet and who are able to contribute to the world with or without us.  Because my husband and I both work, our two children have learned to function on their own when necessary. 

So, this is how teeter totters are made. Mothers like me, sometimes root themselves firmly into the ground, and allow massive weights to be placed on their shoulders while two separate forces rise and fall despite the needs of the other. Sometimes, we falter, but we try to never crumble, for if we do, we know the weight of two worlds will come colliding down upon us.

When you came across this post, you were probably looking for some great article to build your own teeter totter at home. If that’s the case, I don’t want to disappoint. Check out this great article on e-How, “DIY Teeter-Totter.” However, back in Indiana, where I was raised, all you needed to make a teeter-totter was a log and a piece of plywood.

Ramblings from the Car Wash


I’m sitting in a massage chair at a car wash, cleaning out my purse, where I have once again discovered over ten dollars worth of change. Lugging coin of this amount, along with two bottles of perfume, four tubes of lipstick, an iPad, a wallet, a make-up bag (with more lipstick), and legions of my sons Lego parts, may very well be the reason my lower back hurts. How do I let things get so messy in there?

I have the option of putting a hard-earned dollar bill into the chair for a five-minute massage, but I think I’ll save all of them to tip the guys outside. (The chair doesn’t take coins, or I would, for sure, indulge.) Besides, those guys outside deserve my money, because my car has been on two road trips in fourteen days and my kids seem to think that my floor boards are the nearest recycling center.

I’d have more money in my wallet, if I had a free moment before now, to run by the ATM, which I haven’t. So, here I sit, my purse is now rid of receipts and random, unnecessary stuff, and I’m reveling in a few moments to myself, listening to piped-in music from a car wash on a massage chair that isn’t on, taking a few moments to blog. Oh, the guilty pleasures of a mother and business owner who runs on a battery that needs a constant recharge. Was I really just on vacation?

Like most working mothers, we’ll take our guilty pleasures wherever we can find them. For me today, its at the car wash finding a moment to blog. Tomorrow, it may be in a twenty-minute bath with dimmed lights and a glass of wine. Sometimes, it’s standing in my kitchen creating a new recipe, while the rest of my family watches TV. Like a bounty hunter finds it’s felon; I’ll continue to seek out these moments to myself and revel in them when I can find them, twenty minutes at a time.

It’s a new year and there’s much I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. I know my head will be in the right place, if I continue to find moments away from the fray, to concentrate on me.

If you’re a stay at home mom, or a working mom like me, make sure your head is screwed on tight. What’s more important than finding them, those moments, is to revel in them when you do. More than likely you’ll be a better wife, mother and contribution at work, as a result.

The Constant Fight for Female Supremacy


For those of you that are female, and have had the joy and pleasure of giving birth to a daughter; you should be able to figure out what’s behind the topic of my post.

My daughter turns sixteen on Thanksgiving Day. She’s everything I am and everything I wished I’d be. From a completely biased mother’s perspective; she’s practically perfect in every way. Except she drives me crazy.

Raising a daughter that is so like me has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. The things that drive me nuts about myself are of course, genetically ingrained in her. She’s a veritable derivative of me, and because she is; she has the propensity to drive me crazy! I mean, come on, the kid never shuts up, can talk her way out of anything, and she doesn’t have an off button. Just like me.

Those same qualities about myself are the qualities that my husband finds endearing in both of us. Those qualities, when used in the right way, had a little something to do with some degree of success that I’ve managed to achieve in my forty-one years.

My husband says the battles in our home sometimes feels like he’s witnessing a constant fight for female supremacy. Before now, I happily carried the matriarchal torch all by myself. After all, who’s in charge here anyway? Someone’s gotta be, and of course, that’s gotta be me. My mother said it. Her mother said it. All good mother’s say it, “It’s my home and my way or the highway. When you move out and pay the bills, you’ll be in charge.” For sixteen years; I’ve exhaled the mantra.

But, recently, something’s changed. My child has grown into a young lady. She has real thoughts and concerns about the way things ought to be and she wants to share them, in her own voice and in her own way. And, someone has to listen, and that’s gotta be me. How else can my daughter learn to pass her own matriarchal torch someday?

So, despite myself and every female particle in my body screaming, “Don’t do it! Don’t let her control her own life! She’s just a kid”! I know it’s time to let her make some of her own decisions. Next week my little girl will be driving herself around in a two ton vehicle. I won’t be there to help her to navigate around the bicyclist on a winding road, nor be there to coax her into a gentle stop at a red light. I’ll have to trust her to do it on her own and in her own way.

It’s T-O-N-I-A


I was born at precisely midnight. All the hands on the clock were pointed at 12:00 midnight, even the second-hand.   There I was, all pink and new and ready to take on the world, but not before my mother had to pick my birthdate. “Call it,” the doctor said, “Pick her birthday.  You can choose either the 19th or the 20th. She was born on the 19th, but we looked at the clock on the 20th. So it’s up to you.” It was a life changing moment for me. I could either be born on October 19th, or October 20th,  and I didn’t get a single say in the matter. It was up to my mom. So, she picked the 20th and still calls me on the 19th to wish me a happy birthday.  She obviously wasn’t too committed to the process. If they had left it up to me, I would have gotten two birthdays. Somehow, I still feel entitled to the one that got away.

Somewhere along the way, my parents had also forgotten the correct spelling of my name. I mean, come on! The date of my birth is understandable, because technically; I was born on the 19th. But, my name? On my birth certificate, it read T-O-N-I-A.  I had no idea.  Really, I didn’t have a single clue that my name was mispelled until somewhere around my twenty-third year when  the social security administration wrote to tell me that I didn’t exist.  “We have no record of you,” the note said, “You don’t exist in our database.”   Really?  There might have been a kinder way to put that. 

Apparently, my kindergarten teacher, Miss Swihart, disagreed with the spelling of my name and started spelling it T-O-N-Y-A.  She never really informed anyone that she disagreed; she just changed the spelling.  Phonetically speaking, she was right about the way it should be spelled, but that’s not the point.   It’s really the principal of the matter.  Kindergarten teachers don’t have the express license to go around changing their student’s names.  I, of course, had no idea how to write my name when I entered her classroom.  My five-year-old self pretty much left that all up to her to teach me.  Somewhere between learning the alphabet and how to ride a bus; I’m betting that’s when she changed my name. 

This is how my parents tell the story anyway.  They blamed the whole name change thing on some, poor Kindergarten teacher who had twenty other names to remember how to spell.   For all I know, my own parents may have forgotten how they spelled it in the first place, and wrote it down wrong on my school registration papers.  So, let’s blame it on teacher, for the sake of argument.   Even if it was poor, Miss Swihart’s fault, don’t you think it’s even a tad bit strange that my parents never corrected her spelling along the way? In any case, before I got married, I had to alter the spelling of my first name back to how it reads on my birth certificate to T-O-N-I-A.  I couldn’t get a marriage license until I proved who I really was, T-O-N-I-A, the little baby, all pink and new,  born October 19th or 20th, 1969.

People always comment that my name has an interesting spelling. My response is always the same. “Yeah, well…my parents can’t spell, and neither could my kindergarten teacher, for that matter.” The first part is funny, the second part just loses whoever asks, I think. 

If you grew up in the era of Bright Lights, Big City; click here for one of the most beautiful songs ever written with my name in it,  Ice Cream Days by Jennifer Hallhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUFhMBIUFAA

Life is about falling down

The Urban Dictionary refers to a clutz as someone who is extremely careless, stupid and a hazard to be around. Trips over shoes constantly, breaks anything he/she touches, should not be alowed around heavy machinery or anything that might put other’s lives in danger.
Mr Clutz walks into old, rich woman’s house with lots of v. elaborate, precariously placed ornaments and brakeables scattered around.

Clutz: Oooh look a penny!
(As he picks up penny, knocks down v. expensive china vase)
Old woman: Good heavens! That vase was my Great Grandmama’s!
Clutz: Huh? What vase?


Like a Kid in a School Yard

When I was in elementary school, I loved the playground. The playground was the one place that you could run around, uninhibited without a care in the world. On the playground, you could forget about all of your worries and just be a kid, but it also was a pretty dangerous place for a scrawny, little clutz like me.

Back then, I was a bit of a tomboy and when I wasn’t playing baseball or dodgeball with the boys, you could find me on the swing. The swings were always my favorite place to go when I just wanted to be by myself. I didn’t need someone standing behind me, pushing me from behind. It’s probably no suprise to people who know me today that back then, I’d push myself. All I had to do was pump my legs and I would soar higher and higher. From up there, it felt like I could touch the sky or punch a hole in it with my feet if I wanted to.

The boys would always pick me to play on their teams, because I was good at sports, despite how clumsy I was in real life. In real life, when I wasn’t throwing or catching a ball, I would fall down A LOT! One day, after the bell had rung, I jumped off the swing and landed forehead first onto a rock protruding from the ground. It wasn’t a big rock either, but I liked to tell people that it was a huge boulder. In truth, the rock was only about six inches in diameter, but it packed a big punch to that tiny little noggin of mine. Like every other time when I fell, I just picked myself up, brushed myself off and went about the rest of my day.

The following morning, I awoke with two black eyes. I looked ridiculous and, of course, my little eight-year-old, immature friends all laughed at me and called me a raccoon. That didn’t matter though; I loved having them, those two big black eyes. They hung around for a while and became a part of me for a short period of my life. I earned those black eyes, that time I fell down. Those two black eyes told a story; a seemingly nothing kind of story; a story about a kid who once fell down and bumped her head. Still, that story was mine to tell. I owned it and learned to form and shape the story, any old way that I liked. That’s why I love to write, because nothings sometimes have the propensity to turn into somethings, if the tale is told just right.

So, here’s my mantra. I think life is all about falling down. If we could just learn to get back up with as much grace and poise as we can possibly muster; we’ll be alright. And, hey, if you are someone like me, who fell down a lot in both the literal and figurative senses, then you’ll ease into old age with a lot of practice and hopefully you’ll spare yourself a broken hip.

P.S. I learned a lot from that swing, and I still push myself. Sometimes I have to push myself to get back up. You might have to push yourself to get back up, too. Trust me, it gets easier every time.