From the Nope Files

My hilarious friend (from Halcyon Hive) regularly posts on Facebook what she refers to as the “Nope files…” and showcases all kinds of awful insects and bugs from her part of the country. I crack up every time. For example:

This little Nope is also known as the Arrow Spider. Bonus resentment towards it because I had to image search “yellow abdomen spiders” for identification and NOPE. Small, but with red daggers growing out of its abdomen, this monster get points for extra nope-ness. #nope

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See what I mean?! Hilarity to deal with intense loathing of fearsome creatures? Yes please!

We are plugging away into the school year, managing deployment ups and downs and kids are doing as well as can be expected. We are continuing on our vegetarian exploration.  Eating meatless has been an adventure and in many respects easier than I thought it would be. There have been many foods that would fit that same sort of “NOPE” file, but instead of cringe-worthy creatures, it would be frighteningly awful franken-foods.

For example, the bean burger fiasco. OYVEY. Why?! Why would I ever think that smooshed up beans would be tasty on a bun? And carrot dogs? Nope with a capital N! Do not get me started on nutritional yeast trying to masquerade as cheese. IT’S NOT CHEESE. It’s yeasty and gross.

What people choose to eat is really not of any earth-shattering importance or interest, but if you are leaning toward a more plant-based nutrition plan, let me save you a bit of money on some of the freak fake foods we’ve sampled (and promptly stuffed into the garbage!)

  • Bean burgers. We’ve tried the homemade version and one made by Beyond Meat. There are plenty of meat substitute companies, but this brand had rave reviews. Mealy and blah, even with condiments, that’s a big NOPE from Hannah and I. She prefers the Boca Chik’n patty and I like the Spicy Chick’n. Boca’s veggie burger is also a good one.

 

  • Cauliflower tots.i-just-didgosh-now-gimme-your-tots.jpgI love tots. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m typically not a fan of making cauliflower into something it’s not, but the riced veggies from Green Giant were pretty good. The tots? Not so much. It tasted like it had paper bits in it and had a mealy gross texture. the seasoning was overdone to compensate for the fact that it is cauliflower, not a tater. NOPE.Unknown.jpegUnknown-1.jpeg

 

  • Cashews as sauce. Cashews as cheesecake. Cashews as anything other than cashews or cashew butter. Cashews are nuts. They are awesome. But not mixed with water and nutritional yeast and trying to be Alfredo. Just NOPE.

 

  • Vegan Butter Not a fan. Oils and other yuck. Some people swear by it as an alternative to dairy. I would rather just go without and eat the food plain. Big non-buttery NOPE.Unknown-2.jpeg
  • Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. Lightly seasoned, Beyond Meat was beyond gross!Unknown-3.jpegLet’s put it this way; if burned skin and body odor had a taste, it would come in this package. Stinky NOPE. (Just do tofu. At least it’s not pretending to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Tofu just soaks up the flavors of whatever it’s paired with.)

 

  • My son gives all plant based milks a big NOPE. I disagree. We don’t care for soy milks, but Hannah and I really like almond milk. He keeps trying new brands and flavors so time will tell on that one. A friend recommended Ripple milk, made from peas. That’s a NOPE all the Stoffers agree on. Pea milk. We giggle every time we say it out loud. Because we are 12.

 

  • Red Robin French Fries. In the freezer section, I was surprised to see Red Robin fries. Since we don’t have a Red Robin in town, I was excited to have a taste of the seasoned deliciousness. I should have not been excited. They were over seasoned and tasted NOTHING like Red Robin. Big Red Bird NOPE!

 

  • Tempeh Okay, so Tempeh. Fermented tofu. Not technically a franked-food, but it gets a giant fermented Nope from me. I’ve tried it, more than once, and more than once it’s ended up in the garbage.

 

I keep experimenting, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion; foods morphed and masquerading as something they are not = NOPE. They don’t taste the same and usually end up in disappointment.

What never disappoints? What we eat on a regular basis: veggie soups, grown up ramen, stir frys, bean burrito bowls and salads, tacos, veggie sandwiches, whole grain pastas, fresh yummy fruits – just as they are!

 

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Interest

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Be the Good

Feeling antsy and not knowing what to do, I have been glued to news outlets following the coverage of Hurricane Harvey. Many of us have been lucky in Corpus Christi with minor damage. Our neighbors to the north, and of course Houston, have been devastated. Inland flooding in small communities that the news will likely never mention have been destroyed. A friend of mine, who was in the middle of a move, will likely lose all of her household goods as they were sitting on a truck in Houston. There are countless others facing complete losses.

Two things keep popping up for me personally. One is the saying, “Be the change you wish to see.” The other is a verse from the Bible.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

Give where you can. Do what you can. Giving blood, donations, prayer, food, toiletries, basic necessities – they are all needed. If you are finding you are far removed from the area, but are heartbroken by the images you’ve seen of the gulf coast, please consider donating. Here are some great local – and national –  organizations that could really use your help!

Together Rising 

The Diaper Bank

Driscoll Children’s Hospital

The SPCA of Texas for animal Relief

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Victoria Food Bank

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank

Salvation Army Relief

Samaritan’s Purse

Thank you for your prayers and donations.

Chaos, Gratitude and Harvey

It was predicted to be a Category 3 hurricane. We evacuated Corpus Christi as Harvey intensified over the gulf; reached Cat 4 status and then hit the Texas coast. The storm has slowed, but flood watches and warnings remain. For now we sit, watch and wait. Neighboring cities in the direct line of fire have been devastated. I’ve been all over the emotional map. We had a front row seat for Hurricane Ivan when we lived in Pensacola, and it feels eerily similar and simultaneously very, very different.

This go around, I’m doing it solo. Solitarily responsible for 5. Three canines and two humans. Not only navigating my fears, but calming the fears of the kids, managing hotel boredom and the needs of the furry babies.

I’m tired. Also surprisingly… grateful

No, I’m not glad a hurricane has taken aim at the gulf coast. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. What keeps popping up is little things that have given me pause, swelling with gratitude.

We’ve been so touched by friends and family reaching out, offering a place to stay, clean up help and prayers. Being checked on is love.

I’m thankful for LaQuinta and other hotels that are pet friendly. It’s been so fun to see so many pet parents out and about with their fur-kids and it’s all very normal. Walking through the lobby, the oohs and awes over Frenchies, Chihuahuas, Labs and all other assorted balls of fur. These people get it. I’ve been so impressed with accommodations, discounts given, and willingness to be so gracious and welcoming to us during such a stressful time.

I think it’s human nature to try to find some sense of meaning to tragedy, natural disasters, or other such events; or at least to find some kind of order in the chaos. As the dogs have been out on potty breaks, chatting with other evacuees has become common. We exchange where we are from, how many animals we have (1 person had 8 dogs!), and what information we’ve gleaned from those in our neighborhood who chose to ride out the storm. While we are all worried, there is comfort in these brief exchanges. Sometimes a “Me, too!” provides that needed order we desire.

I’ve been grateful for the dog’s excellent behavior. Staying in hotels, traveling out of town in their crates has been a good experience for them, as well as for me. It has been good practice for our move next year. They have even ridden in elevators. Buck didn’t like it much, but he didn’t wig out or anything!

One of our hotels had a 2 pet max limit. We have 3. They made an exception for us. “Where else would you go?” The front desk staff said shrugging. “We’re making an exception. Don’t worry about it.” I asked if they needed a pet deposit. I was told no.

The first night, every single noise startled the dogs. I didn’t sleep but about 4 hours the first night. We decided to move farther north from the San Antonio area after tornado warnings were issued.

We are staying outside of Dallas and not seeing much except cloudy skies and scattered showers. The dogs are sleeping peacefully. We were given a room on the end of the building, minimizing noise from neighbors. The dogs are doing fabulous!

We evacuated fairly early on, so there was minimal traffic. We had a handful of slow downs here and there, but it was not a big deal. People were letting others in, not driving like maniacs. Not panicking or being ridiculous.

Hannah lost 2 of her teeth. The kids are playing games. We went to Target and got some legos and cards to play with. So thankful for the “normal” in the not normal.

COFFEE. The hotel has really good coffee. I packed a small cooler and brought my creamer. Little things are big.

We thought we would be starting school this week. It’s been postponed. Neighbors are reaching out to each other via social media, checking in with one another. City officials are keeping us informed. We sit, we watch and we wait.

I may be doing this one solo, but we feel far from alone.

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Solitary

40 Thoughts

As of yesterday, I have survived 40 years on the planet.

I am not blah because I’m depressed about getting older. I’m just blah for no reason. My love is deployed and it sucks. We are in the last few days of summer before school starts. The kids are blah. It’s hot as hades here (110-115 degrees with the heat index!) Other than swimming or spending a load of money, there’s just not much to do. We’ve been to the library. We’ve been swimming. We are all just blah.

Usually for my birthday I do burpees. Birthday burpees to celebrate physical fitness, and the fact that I CAN do burpees. I can do 40 of them and that’s awesome, but I wasn’t feeling it this year. What I am feeling is a bit introspective. So here are my introspective/sober/blah/40 thoughts on turning 40.

  1. I like getting older. And wiser. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything. I want to be the woman who has long grey tresses and rocks them!
  2. Authenticity is paramount. I’m tired of all things artificial. Hair dye, fake nails, pretending, small talk, covering up, stuffing down, fake friends, and phony niceness. I’m done with anything that is not real. It physically exhausts me.
  3. I like the clarity of sobriety. I’m doing the work and it’s good. It’s hard. So damn hard to deal with myself. Liking clarity and enjoying the process are two very different things.
  4. I LOVE that there are so many books in the world. I want to read any and everything I can get my hands on. I love to read everything – trashy fiction, poetry, autobiographies, cookbooks, self-help books, parenting how-to’s, and anything else that strikes me. Blogs, articles and news, too! The thing that bums me out is there is not enough time to read all the things!
  5. Movies are a wonderful escape. I love movies and always have. Much like books, they provide a brief respite from the monotony of everyday life. I love the way I’m transported to faraway places and events through the medium of film. And I love watching my kids’ face light up while watching a movie or busting out in spontaneous laughter.
  6. Deployments suck. They just do.
  7. My dogs have my heart. We are so undeserving of their love, but I will continue to soak up all the grace they extend me daily.
  8. Coffee is necessary. Adulting is hard. Coffee helps.
  9. Will this matter 100 years from now? An old friend used to say this and it has stuck with me. “Will this (whatever the situation was/is) be important 100 years from now?” If not, perhaps it’s not as important as I’m making it out to be. In other words, don’t sweat the little stuff.
  10. Exercise is still a passion….but…. I think I will always love movement and working out. It’s one of my tools to maintain sanity, as well as physical health, but it doesn’t hold the same spot anymore. I’ve always gone in spurts and waves, loving it, being consistent, then taking a break, then getting back at it. Overall it all evens out. I will never be a couch potato like I was before 2011, but I’m currently riding a wave until I feel as passionate about it as I have in the past. Sometimes you just need a break, and that’s okay.
  11. Meatfree is for me! I have done the vegetarian thing off and on for years, but never gave up cheese and milk. I feel so much better without dairy and meat – I was shocked at just how much better I felt (less aches in the morning, fewer allergy symptoms, less sluggish, etc.) I will likely always loathe mock foods, but have no plans of going back to omnivore land.
  12. Going against the norm is hard, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. For sanity. Courage is required. Doubts and second guessing, yes, but ultimately you know when it’s time to disengage and self-preserve.
  13. Perfectionism can suck it. Some days good enough is sufficient.
  14. Therapy isn’t a dirty word. It’s not “airing dirty laundry in public”. It is a valuable tool to get out of one’s own head and see things from a different (outside) perspective. It provides not only a necessary and safe witness to unpacking baggage and pain, but the tools to move forward in a healthier way.
  15. This. images-1.jpeg
  16. There is something about water. I have some of the most profound thoughts in the shower. The minute the tap is turned off? Yep! All gone with the water down the drain! I need to get one of those waterproof notepads for the shower…
  17. Kindness counts. Just don’t be a jerk. Not that hard. Everyone has bad days, but don’t take it out on the other cars in traffic, on the barista, or anyone else.
  18. You gotta be some kind of stupid to drink then get behind the wheel. Just don’t.
  19. Be still. Sit in the uncomfortable. Feel the stuff. Breathe.
  20. Holding grudges holds you. Being angry and mad and hanging on, replaying scenarios (real or imagined) is exactly like taking poison and waiting for the other person to fall. It keeps you bound up in the past.
  21. Be creative. Do something, write, draw, make music – whatever – but express it. Even if no one ever sees it. There is value in creating.
  22. I don’t feel like an adult. When someone calls me “ma’am”, I’m still looking over my shoulder thinking they must not be addressing me. People keep getting younger, but some how I don’t age….Ha!
  23. Overwhelm and exhaustion are signs! Listen to them.
  24. Being alone and being lonely are different. Being alone is okay. Sometimes it’s necessary. 
  25. Self care is more than taking a damn bath. Self care is so much more than a stupid pedicure or some other temporary something to do. The phrase has become cliche. Self care in action is taking time, getting enough sleep, eating well, making yourself a priority on the to do list  and not a last resort. This doesn’t not make you selfish.
  26. All the Brene Brown things. Seriously. Read her books. Truth, truth, truth.
  27. Music is a must. All the music. The guilty pleasures, the tunes that make you think, the ones that make you cry….all of it.
  28. It’s only #28? Do I have 40 thoughts?
  29. Change is the only constant. Better to embrace it than to fight it. Change will always win.
  30. Self-improvement is a worthy endeavor. Even when it’s not successful. Even when it takes try after try after try.
  31. Sing. Even if you don’t sound good. Sing anyway.
  32. This too shall pass. Kind of tied to #9. Ride the wave. The intensity will likely fade over time.
  33. Few things feel as good as clean, crisp, sheets. Life is too short for pilly, cheap sheets to sleep on.
  34. Travel. It opens minds and hearts in ways you can’t imagine until you experience it.
  35. Home is where you make it. Home doesn’t necessarily mean where you grew up. Home is where you choose.
  36. Service. Serve others in some way. Both the giver and the receiver are blessed, but the giver is more than you might think.
  37. A good mug makes the contents taste better. I don’t know why, but a good, thick happy mug makes me smile from the inside.
  38. Little things matter. If something matters to you, it matters. It’s valid.
  39. The older I get, the less I know. There is so much I am unsure of, lots of grey area. I am wary of people who are certain they have it all nailed down.
  40. Grace, Hope, and Love. Without these, we have nothing.

Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

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Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

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“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

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It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

I Was Wrong

I remember writing about solo parenting many times throughout the last deployment. Reading many parenting blogs, military support websites and feeling overwhelmed by it all, but still armed with strategies and support to muscle our way through.

As we prepared for this round, I kept thinking how much easier it was going to be. The kids are older now. They can talk and express themselves! They can bathe and dress themselves, even brush their own teeth. They help out with household chores (albeit reluctantly at times). There are no diapers. They are in school, so there will be breaks that we will all get from each other. This will be a piece. of. cake.

Hindsight is not only 20/20, it wears big-ass rose-colored glasses.

Yes, physically, this deployment will likely be easier. Yes, they will have school, that's true. What I wasn't prepared for was the depth of emotions coming from the kids.

Duh.

I know. I know this stuff. Nightly Hannah expresses frustration about missing daddy, sometimes crying, but not all the time. They will ask questions, randomly, catching me off guard. Everyone processes this stuff differently. I was not a military kid, so I don't have that experience. The spouse experience is just different. Both of them go from zero to meltdown far more quickly, which was to be expected. Logically, I get it. I've known the kids would have a hard time, that it would no question be an emotional upheaval. I guess what is surprising is that I wasn't as prepared for it as I thought I was.

I was wrong. Deployments and separations are NEVER easy.

Ever.

They don't get easier, you don't get used to them, and every one of them are different. They are their own unique snapshot of time. They all have their own challenges and victories. And don't get me started on the "Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married a man in the military. What did you expect?"

Bullshit.

For the love of all that is good and holy, stop saying that crap to military spouses! Comprehending it and walking it are VERY different.

The kids will survive, thrive, even though they miss their dad. We'll be fine. We will get through it, like every other time. It may not be perfect harmony, but We can do hard things, like Glennon Doyle Melton says.

We can do hard things.

The Life Raft of Gratitude

Navigating this deployment with kids old enough to comprehend time and distance more than they did the last time around, I’m finding that it’s teaching me how to teach them how to navigate tough emotions. One has to have a good cry, the other wants to not talk about it, for now. “Later, mom. We’ll talk later.”

The urge to fix it is there. It’s like this gene that makes us desire to make everything all better is implanted the minute we hold our children for the first time. I resist this “fix-it gene” because in the long run, masking over feelings is not healthy. I want them to sit in the middle of the mess and know it’s going to be okay. Cry, rage, be mad, exhaust all of it. Feeling all the feelings is healthy and normal. Stuffing, ignoring, masking, and distracting pain will only prolong the inevitable. You cannot go around, over, under pain; at some point you have to go through it. It takes guts. When I don’t know what else to do, I grasp for the things that ease pain. Exercise and physical exertion are often-utilized tools in my belt. I don’t always have that in me, though. That which eases without fail: gratitude. Gratitude is the raft for traveling through the gut-wrenching sludge of pain. It’s a survival vehicle that my kiddos will know well.

For today, I’m focused on the little things; a freshly mowed lawn, dogs that seem to sense a shift and are snuggling in close as if they know we need a little more love today, the dishes that were done last night so I could just sit and be today, teaching my daughter the exquisite release that comes from laughing through tears, the automatic coffee maker for preparing a warm pot before I even slipped a foot out from under the covers, and the quiet calm of knowing that the worst part for me is over, so I can focus on what the kids will need in the coming weeks.

Figuring out one thing – even a tiny thing – that I am grateful for can create a 180-degree shift in my mood and attitude. It creates calm in the midst of chaos, fear, and uncertainty.

I used to love browsing shops and looking for sales before kids. Getting lost in a store or the shelves of a Barnes and Noble was a way to pass deployment time. I still enjoy it a little from time to time when I am afforded the opportunity to escape alone. I really don’t like shopping with other people. While I would gladly stop a bullet and step in front of a train for my kids, I loathe dragging them to the store. LOATHE.

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As a person who gets distracted easily, the concentration of remembering what I need from the list I left in the car (but am too lazy to go back and get), mentally canvassing the cupboards and refrigerator from memory, checking ingredients and prices, all while attempting to keep the kids in line, not grabbing stuff, and preventing bodily injury to themselves and unsuspecting passersby with the cart – I come home exhausted and cranky.

The big thing I’m thankful for this deployment? Amazon Prime and our local HEB Curb-to-You online service.

Seriously. LIFE. CHANGING. I know I’m late to the party, but whoa! School supply shopping? DONE. Birthday shopping for August? DONE. The next upcoming birthday and Christmas will be done and done online. I will never have to leave my house if I don’t want to! No crowds, no hassle, no problem! I got this!

Table for 3 please. We’ll take gratitude for things large and small, with a big ol’ side of humor.