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Entries from January 2016

Sunday Stealing: Laundry Day Meme

Stealing today? Link up here to thieve along with the rest of us!

Cheers to all of us thieves!!! 

Laundry Day Meme

Do you know any couples that have been married for a very long time?
My grandparents were married over 50 years, but both are gone now. My father-in-law and his wife have been married over 35 years. Hubs and I just celebrated 15 years. Those are some of the longest-term marriages of which I'm aware.

What are you tired of people telling you?
"This too shall pass." I know it will, but in the meantime, I'm IN the situation, and THAT does not help. I hate trite clichés like that and the f***ing "Everything happens for a reason" that everyone loves to say. STOP SAYING THAT SH*T!

Which type of ice cream do you prefer? 
I can no longer enjoy ice cream, even froyo, or anything like that for some reason. But when I could, it was definitely chocolate with big, thick, hard chunks of peanut butter. Mmm... so good.

Do you have a little sister? What’s her name? 
am the little sister. I have a big sister, by a whopping 17 months, named Stacey. I also have a much-older half-sister, named Pamela, whom I've never met.

What was the last movie you watched on TV
That was random. I like random. Anyway, I'd have to go back 10 years at least to answer this question, and my memory is not that good.

If the internet was not available right now, what would you do instead? 
I have some lovely knitting to work on, because my 10yo is pestering me for the completed project. It will be hers...

Do you complain a lot?
I do. I'm aware of it, I try not to, and I hate that about myself, but I do. Hubs, on the other hand, rarely complains. And I complain about that!
Name a movie that your favorite actor is in. 
Oh, gosh. I haven't seen a Matt Damon movie in ages, like maybe Ocean's Ten and Ocean's Eleven. I need to see more of that scrummy boy...

Do you like your toes? 
Absolutely not. I do not have nice feet at all. My toes, like my feet overall, are short and stubby. And, by the way, I don't understand the whole French manicures on toes thing. Why is that a thing?!!

Would you rather go to an authentic haunted house or an ancient temple? 
I'm definitely not into the haunted house thang. I vote for ancient temple, all the way, hands-down please!

Have you ever had champagne? Did you like it?
Of course I have. Lots. And I love it. I prefer sec or demi-sec over brut, please.

Are there any seashells in your room? 
Not in my room, but most assuredly in my daughters' room, you'll find shells.

What was the reason for the last time you went outside? 
I had to take Hubs to the ER after he sliced his finger open with his knife. :/ He's still bleeding profusely over an hour later...

Do you like fruity or minty gum? 
I rarely chew gum, but when I do, I prefer the fruity kind.

Are you looking forward to any day of this month? 
PAYDAY!!! (It was Friday.)

What was the last graduation you attended? 
Probably my own from college in '97. Obviously I don't attend them very often.

Do you rummage through the $5 movie bin at Walmart every time? 
I have never done that. Ever.

What day of the week do you usually do laundry? 
Um, every day. Like, EVERY. DAY.

Do you like using air fresheners? 
I prefer to light scented candles and/or some oils (and no, I'm not an essential oils freak rep) over the aerosol fresheners.

Are your nails ever painted red? 
Actually yes, all the time! Red is my color, y'all.

When you were a baby, did you have a favorite blanket? 
Wish I'd had one like that! But yeah, I still have my blankie that my grandma crocheted for me. ♥

Ever been on a cruise? 
I have been on ... (thinking) ... six? cruises. Not counting the scientific research ones.

Would you rather go to Alaska or Russia? 
Well, I wouldn't mind seeing both, but I'd go to Alaska over Russia - in the summer, preferably!

Strawberries or bananas? 
Strawberries are my favorite fruits, so... but bananas are close behind them!

Are you wearing socks? 
No, and I hardly ever do unless I'm uncontrollably shivering from cold.

When’s the last time you went to the mall?
I think it was for a mystery shop? Definitely before Christmas. I think. I don't know. I *hate* malls!
Well, we've reached the end again. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday 9: Don't You Care?

Link up here if you're playing along today!

Saturday 9: Don't You Care? (1967)

If you're not familiar with today's song, you can hear it here.


1) What's something that seems to fascinate everyone else, but you just don't care about?

I tried to get on the Steven Avery bandwagon, but I only watched two or three episodes before I gave up out of boredom. Personally, I will never know the truth of the matter, so I don't have the room in my mind to devote to it. Sorry, Steve...

2) The lyrics refer to "the times we cried and laughed." Which did you do more recently, cry or laugh?

Oh, I cried. I cried and sobbed and bawled last night, in so much pain. Whatever the f* is eating up my bones, or so it feels, is excruciating.

3) In the song, our hero seems surprised that his girlfriend doesn't believe him. Are you more believing and trusting, or suspicious and skeptical?

I trust very easily, entirely too much, entirely too easily. I was looking at the "author" of the above quote, but I find "Abandonment Issues" instead, which I know is a big issue for me. Huh. Interesting, Self.

4) This song is just over two minutes long, which seems short for a song but awful long when Sam is waiting for her chicken soup to heat in the microwave. What's the last thing you heated in a microwave?

I'm not a big fan of using the microwave, but I did slightly thaw/melt a stick of butter for 15-20 seconds the other day when I needed to use it inmediatamente.

5) This week's band, The Buckinghams, was one of the first acts to perform at Chicago's premiere summer festival, The Taste of Chicago.  Let's think ahead: Have you made any plans for Summer 2016?

I totally haven't planned that far ahead. I usually do, so this is unusual, but I'm not sure where I'll be in April yet, let alone Summer 2016. I do know one thing, though: I will be watching the Olympics! (Hey, there's a plan!)

6) In 1967, when this song was popular, Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue. What magazines do you subscribe to? Do they arrive in the mail, or do you read them online?

I hate reading magazines digitally, I really do. I don't know why, because it's wasteful to get sooo many print issues in the mail as I do (I literally get one - or two! - in the mail every single day. Rolling Stone is one of them. I get everything from parenting mags to design and crafting magazines, to music, to mags for ethnicities of which I am not a member!

7) Country star/American Idol judge Keith Urban was born in 1967. Are you watching the final season of American Idol?

How about a big fat can of NOPE! I haven't watched in about ten years.

8) In 1967, the average cost of a movie ticket was $1.25. By 2015, it had risen $8.60. What's the last movie you saw in a theater?

I took Chloë, my 14-year-old, and Sophia, my 10-year-old, to see the final movie in The Hunger Games series. It was awesome, as I expected. And if you're a fan, you'll understand when I say that Hubs is the Peeta to my Katniss.

9) Random question: Sam's taking everyone out to dinner and she's buying. Would you prefer the steak or the lobster?

This quote, I love it! But then, I love pretty much everything ol' Al said... anyway, I'm mostly vegetarian*, at times vegan, so I'll have some kind of delicious salad, please. (*Occasionally, I'm pescetarian, because I have no other protein sources at home and require ~100g of protein daily.) Gosh, I haven't had a steak in over 20 years, I realize now.


Well, that was fun; thanks, Sam! Gratz to all you stopping by, too!


January '16 Wrap-Up


Black-and-white portrait of the man I love, Robert Allen Odette

So, I haven't blogged as much this infant year as I had planned, because I became even sicker than I had been all throughout the latter half-plus of 2015. That sucked. Basically, I had my iron infusion chemotherapy on December 21st and 28th, and I did not react well to it. I had a semi-kinda-fake-it-'til-you-make-it rally on New Year's Eve, when we went to South Beach for the big par-tay. And then I rested a whole bunch on New Year's Day, before we drove up to Orlando on the 2nd of January to celebrate Rob's and my 15th wedding anniversary.

Well. That sucked. That was actually for a mystery shopping assignment and fun though it was, I almost did not make it home. I had to stop and rest several times along the way, once for several hours, because I was in excruciating pain again. I never did complete that report. That was a Sunday.

By Tuesday, I was calling my father and my BFF, "Dr. Lisa," to say my good-byes. No, I did not call my sister yet at that time, because I knew she would rush down if I told her that I needed her to come help with the kids and Rob after my demise, and I was hoping for a Hail Mary.

Well, obviously, I got my Hail Mary! We still aren't sure what happened yet, because my ER lab results and my primary care doctor are calling it iron toxicity from an overdose of the chemo, but my hem/oncologist swears that I received the correct dose. So, I have no idea, other than that my death definitely seemed imminent but was clearly averted.

Whew. Anyway!

I spent a ridiculous amount of time lying on the couch recovering from that episode. I felt like I got NOTHING accomplished for the whole month other than recuperating. I did, however, manage to take a bunch of pictures of stuff, and lo and behold, as I discovered last night, that means I actually did stuff worthy (at least to me, so, good enough folks!) of that photography. I'm going to share it all here because, uh, that's kinda the purpose of this interwebular space, amirite?


Black-and-white profile of my sleeping beauty, Sophia Lorelei


This is from the 8th of January, when Sophia was feeling poorly from a yucky cold virus, and I was feeling poorly from all the aforementioned whatever-the-feck. We were lying together on Rob's lap, if you can discern his camouflage trousers in my sepia tones. A selfie? I asked. Of course, she responded. Snap


I rarely wear jeans, and never wear boots - certainly not leather ones - so when Rob pulled out my man-made pleather knee-highs from the depths of our closet, I decided to go for it and rock the cowgirl look at one of Sophia's showjumping lessons. Or something. No stetson atop my head, though. The big accomplishment here, though, is that I was up and about, ready to attend her lessons again!


That night, I felt like crap again and learned that my recovery would not come all at once but in slow bursts and small backslides each day and night. I rested and kvetched about how miserable I was... so much so that my awesome hubs asked what he could do to make my awful night better. Five minutes later, he was giving me his first pedicure. Not a bad job, either!

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Puppy love from Otterbox (Otto von Dieter) and the Doodle (Paco)


Rob and I, starting our 16th year of wedding bliss, are connecting on a whole 'nother level lately. Our marriage has had some really high highs and some really low lows, but right now we are absolutely soaring. It takes work, every day, absolutely. But we are both crazier about each other now than when we first began this story of true love.

January 2016

Rob and Jack both received NERF guns from Grandpa Al & Grandma Denise (thanks, y'all!) for Christmas, and Jack received several more from Ye Olde Maw an' Paw, so the boys were thirsting for an old-fashioned (water) gun fight! Okay, so that wasn't truly an accomplishment of mine, per se, but at least I got up off my duff and out the door to take some piccies!


On Wednesday, my neighbor drove Sophia and me to see my hem/oncologist. Sophia had a lesson right afterward, and I could not drive. The visit went well, I had blood drawn, blah blah blah. Afterward, our vecino, Frank, insisted us taking to the Sports Grille next door for a bite to eat before her lesson. Selfie time for me and Sophie!


And here's that neighbor, Frank, with me watching Sophia's lesson that day. He absolutely loved watching her ride Buddy. Frank clapped and cheered, and he called her a champion! It was really fun watching it through his fresh eyes, and it's true. On Wednesday, Sophie really did an amazing job!



Sophia walking Buddy to get saddled up


Buddy doesn't like to get his riding gear on, and he gets a little nippy. Once ridden, though, he's a gentle giant. He loves Sophia, though - and that might be due in no small part to her bringing him a treat at the beginning and end of each lesson!

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Sophia had achievements in January, too. She and buddy jumped together for the first time, and she got up to a canter, too! Way to go, kiddo!



It looks so freeing...


This is the only picture I have gotten of Sophie and Buddy jumping so far, but there been many perfect jumps since then. Gosh, I'm so proud of how far she's come in just four short months!


Sweet sign made by one of the other 'horsey moms'



Craftiness happened this month, too. I was bound and determined not to let the extreme pain in all my joints stop me from doing what I really love and find so calming: knitting. So... I started with this top for myself (and yes, some champagne might have been involved in a few mishaps there):


But, they're fixable.


I'm pretty happy with it, even though I would do a Small instead of a Medium next time, and extend the belly ribbing so it covers more of my, uh, mommy pooch... lol. But it's good. I might even wear it out one day?!


All the kids got onboard with Mommy knitting again, and all have asked for projects for themselves. We had a bit of a cold snap there, and Sophie already loves gloves and mittens, so together we picked out a pattern that's a combo of both.


Meet Tatiana. Yes, there are booboos and it's a bit tight, but my fingers are out of practice and frankly, my eyes just don't see as well anymore! But Sophie is happy and that's what matters. Now to work on the bottom halves some...

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Speaking of craftiness, Jack and Sophia received their Tinker and Doodle Crates for the month, respectively. Their arrival is always a fun day.

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For Jack's project, he had to build a gravity game. He really enjoys doing the Tinker Crates along with the YouTube videos for each one, so his tablet was trotted out for the assist.

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I told Jack that if he could get the ball into the 50-point hole at the end, he could have a day off from Math work. Guess who had the next day off from Math?!

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Sophia's project was about Watercolor Painting, which is something she knows and loves.

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She had to learn about color gradients, which was new and challenging for her. And then she painted some dishes, including my FiestaWare, which, um... was NOT okay with me!!! (But now I can laugh. A bit.)


For a bit more craftiness, Sophia fashioned these awesome sandals out of fallen palm fronds. I got a kick out of it!


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I needed a lot of help to get out to Bee Heaven Farm this month, which is where we get our weekly CSA shares, but Rob, Sophia, and Frank were happy to help me get there and get our box of fresh, local, organic goods!


You know what fresh food means? Cooking. This first dish, I went pretty simple: Salad. I wilted the kale first and did a stir-fry with some watermelon radish, some kind of pepper I forget the name of, and then just threw it together with pecans and shredded Colby Jack. Meh, it was all right, but Rob had to finish my dose portion.


A made-up dish: fried egg with (also-fried) French Couscous, topped with a conglomerate of stir-fried veggies from Bee Heaven Farm. And Spanish peanuts. I guess I was going for a whole fusion thing? I dunno, but it was tasty.


Kitchen Sink Mashed Potatoes

I don't think any of this was comfort food fare was from the farm, but that's okay. During my recuperation from the chemo debacle, I ate and ate and ate like a mofo! I've never eaten so much in the seven years post-op. And I still lost weight! It was cray-cray. Anyway, I used to make this in my poverty-ridden days as a vegetarian college student: loaded mashed potatoes. I add corn, sautéed Vidalia onions, cheese (I loves me some cheesy goodness), garlic... and all kindsa' salt, pepper, milk and butter. Mmm. So. Freaking. Good!


I made Ethiopian food for the first time ever! This vegan Gomen Wat was soooo good, I ate like five platefuls. Okay, maybe six? I'm definitely going to make it again. And no, I didn't serve it on a beautious bed of injera, because... um. Because and that's why.

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Southwestern Chili Mac


Chloë wanted to hone her cooking chops in the kitchen with me one night when I was too manic to cook, so I somewhat crazily guided her through the recipe from Hello Fresh for Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto with Feta and Pepitas. She somehow, despite my sabotage, managed to pull off a stellar dish! Rob and I inhaled the goodness she made. Way to go, Chlo!


Sophia wanted to join her sister in preparing a meal the kids would actually eat, and she lovingly put together a vermicelli and sauce dinner for the three of them. (There was supposed to be garlic bread too, but Mom forgot to keep reminding her to check the oven and, well, I'm just glad we didn't burn the house down.) Well done, ladies! ♥


I baked a scrummy loaf of bread, nothing fancy but tasty as all-get-out.


Jack and the girls pal around with the neighborhood kids, so one day while they held yet another NERF gun fight, I baked them up some peanut butter cookies to share with their friends. That plate came back EMPTY. Go, Mom. (Yes, I did diligently check for allergies first.)


Plátanos fritos

 I had never fried plantains before, in all my years of living in South Florida, though I sure have enjoyed eating my share of them! We did a quickie grocery trip to Publix and talked about making our own, at which point I just thought, Why not now? Some super-green plantains, a bunch of kosher salt, and a healthy squeeze of lemon, et voilá! Talk about tasty. I'll definitely be doing that again!


One week, our CSA box came with two of the most beautiful, juicy red grapefruits you ever wished to have. Oh. Em. Gee. (NO accomplishment here, I just wanted to drool over it some more. Moving on...)


I had planned on making these Honeyed Butternut Squashes from the CSA box myself, but after chopping up two good-sized gourds, I was petered out. Rob had to finish the cooking for me himself, and he did an amazeballs job. They ended up too sweet for my grumpy pouch, Oscar, and I experienced a lot of Dumping Syndrome. But I swear, I would've eaten them all if I could have!

January 2016-001

And lastly - but surely not least - on the cooking front, I made some of my favorite Artisanal Rustic Pizzas. The dough recipe comes from a back issue of Martha Stewart Living but the toppings are my creation. The kids don't like my fanciful ideas, so I made them a plain cheese-and sauce one. Only, we only had cheddar in the house and no sauce, so I had to improvise and make some sauce from scratch. Jack didn't care for it - he's no cheese fan (tha' heck?!) - but the girls devoured every last piece of Pizza #1.

Pizza #2 was the same but with a bunch of roasted organic scallions from the BHF CSA box on top. I unvented a different homemade sauce for that one. Rob is lucky he had any of that one, because I snatched up every last piece after he had his share!

Pizza #3 was way more unconventional: a third different homemade sauce, using torn-up fresh organo from the CSA box. Cheddar cheese, natch. And for toppers? I threw on chopped walnuts, pea sprouts from BHF, capers, and a drizzle of honey. I didn't think I would like that. My scale says the opposite! (Rob loved it, also.)

Whew. Now I'm getting hungry!



Random January blooms in the neighborhood


Rob and I were startled to find Jack, Sophia, and a neighborhood boy carrying a box with this "abandoned" duckling in it one day. They insisted its mother had left it and gone swimming with the rest of her brood. Of course, I had my camera with me. They took the ducky out of its box, I snapped a picture or two, and then... he waddled off, like a bat out of hell! Ahaha. So much for being helpless.


Here, leezard, leezard... 

Just an anole visitor who ran away from me at the horse farm after I let out a belly-bursting sneeze

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Lest you were thinking you'd get away from me without sharing some puppy pix... heeeeere's PACO! ♥

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Otterbox is really a beautiful GSD, but he's hard to photograph well sometimes. Anyway, this month, Robert declared that he has chosen ME as "his person," which about blew my heart up with joy. Our previous German Shepherd, Tiger Lily, was supposed to be my dog, but she chose Rob for her person. The exact opposite happened this time. And I love Otty-bot soooo much. He was a bit of trouble at first, but now he is just the most fun, loving, sweet thing, and I'm glad he is a part of our wackadoodle family!

And that's about it for the round-up! Here's another cookie, if you read the whole danged thing.


Throwback Thursday: 15 Years Hence #TBT


The other day, Rob told me that he considers the time from our engagement on December 8th, 2000, through our elopement on January 2, 2001, and beyond to our second wedding on the beach on February 17th of that same year, to be our whole "anniversary season." I thought that was rather sweet. So... my throwback for today is of him in his working blues (now US Navy, Retired) shortly after our marriage. It was difficult for me to call the uniform that, though, as these are clearly black! And back and forth we would go...

What are you thinking back to, today?


Wordless Wednesday: Our 15th Anniversary Celebration at WonderWorks Orlando

On January 2, 2016, Rob and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! To celebrate, we took the kids and headed up north to Orlando, Florida. We spent hours at WonderWorks, a really cool hands-on, science-y museum. We had a great time, but I won't bore you with words, since this is WW. Without further ado, here are a whole LOOOT of photos:

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Whew! That was a lot of uploading... I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Feeling WORDLESS today? Link up here with 5 Minutes For Mom to share your pix!


Seven Year Surgiversary!


Seven years ago today, while we were still in Virginia Beach, I made the decision to undergo Gastric Bypass (with a vertical band in addition) Surgery

Here I am now, still down over 200 lbs and only having gained back five pounds of the 206 lb I originally lost. Sure, I've gone up and down over the last five years of that, but I've come back down again every time.

I've had my share of health problems, some completely unrelated to surgery, some related but not serious, and some potentially life-threatening complications. But I'll be 40 this year, and I intend to have many more birthdays after that!

Ultimately, I'm glad I had "Drastic Bypass," as I always call it, because my quality of life at my max weight of 341.3 lbs was virtually non-existent. My health was exceedingly poor, and I was quite suicidal. It was just badness all the way around, and of course, I had tried various and sundry other "normal" ways to lose weight, unsuccessfully. It's NOT the easy way out, as those of you who have undergone similar operations realize.

The only time I was able to lose any quantifiable amount of weight was the first time I went on Weight Watchers. Sophia was a mere babe then, only about 4-8 months, and I was of course breastfeeding her. I lost quite a bit of weight, but I my milk also dried up as a result of my low caloric intake. I had to stop dieting so she could nurse. Don't poo-pooh that, either, because it was crucial for me to be able to bond with all of my babies in that way.

Of course, I exercised! I have always loved rollerblading and did plenty of that. I did yoga and Pilates. In fact, two weeks after I had Sophie, I was back to my hardcore Pilates workout and split open my c-section incision. Yeah, my floor was a disgusting mess, and I had to go back to the hospital... but I was gung-ho, man!

Anyway, all of this has a point: If you're considering bariatric surgery, take ALL the time you need to figure out whether and which one is the right choice for you. There are serious financial costs, and you're rewiring some pretty MAJOR organs. A ton of risks are involved. It hurts. It's depressing. There is a grieving process afterward. You need a lot of support. And so on... I recommend the website for anyone at any stage of the process.

Thank you to the many, many of you who have supported me through this long process - especially Rob and the kiddos. Without you, I'd be lost.


Sunday Stealing: Feisty Twenty-Five Meme

Link up here if you're stealing today, too!

I'm glad to take part this week. I had last week's almost finished when my computer shut down in the middle of it, and I was so frustrated by that, I didn't blahg all the rest of the week.

Wah, wah, wah. Anyway. So. Let's go!


Cheers to all of us thieves!!! 

Feisty Twenty-five

Do you like to see it snowing outside?

Listen, I live so far south in Florida I'm almost to Key Largo. If I saw it snowing out my window, I would damn near blow a gasket!

Do you tell your family you love them enough?

I tell them all the time! I hope that my actions show it, too. I adore these people who family with me!

Do you like getting jewelry or do you not wear any?

I do like getting jewelry, but it doesn't have to be super blingy to win my favor. I don't like tacky and huge so much as... unusual. I'm a big fan of jewelry from the Novica website.

Do you watch a lot of NFL football?


Have you ever used the word ‘lame’?

I say lame all the time... so? This meme kind of is, speaking of which...

Are you/were you in a band? If so, what was your band name?

No. But I love to come up with funny band names, a la Dave Barry. Does that count?

When is the last time you went to the doctor?

Shit. I live at the doctor. I don't think I went this WEEK, though? Which would be a first. Saturday may have been my last visit.

Do you own any shirts with a peace symbol on it?

In college, I bought a shirt tie-dyed in Jamaican flag colors, with peace signs and MLK on it. My racist pig of a father threw it out when he found it. Asshat.

Would you ever go to Japan?

Abso-freaking-lutely! After Australia, Japan is second on my wishlist of places to visit!

What was the last thing you went to Walmart for?

Milk, probably, though I avoid the place like the plague on society that it is!

Ever gotten in a car accident?

Yeah, a few. The worst was when my dad was driving and I was sleeping, and we were hit in the middle of the night by a drunk driver. It was pretty horrible. We didn't end up pressing charges, though I'm sure he got in a serious amount of trouble nonetheless!

Have you ever been in a choir?

I was in choir all through school. I'd love to be in one now, but I'm I don't have the confidence to audition. Maybe I'll work on that this year.

Do you like the color of your eyes? If not, what color would you want them?

They're brown with hard-to-see rings of green around the brown. My sister and grandfather have had green eyes... I wish I did, too.

When was the last time you went ice skating?

It's probably been about 20 years... if not 30! I really can't remember.

Do you like to brush your teeth?

I do, but I take out all my stress on them. I brush way too hard, and it's eroding my poor gums. It's a problem!

Have you ever had a surgery?


I had three c-sections to get our four babies out, then a hysterectomy and then, after I ballooned up to 341.3 lbs, I had gastric bypass surgery. This is me now, six years later.

Do you look older or younger than you actually are?

I don't know. You decide; I'll be 40 this year.

When is the next time you’ll be up on stage?

Never, if I can help it!

Where did you spend your last birthday?


We went to the Melting Pot for my birthday, Hubs' and oldest daughter Chloë's birthday too!

What is the last show that you watched a full episode of?

I watched at least three hours' worth of back-to-back Reba episodes while knitting this evening. Silly.

Do you know anyone who lives in Utah?

I have one or two Facebook friends up there, whom I have never met in person. Maybe one day!

Is there anything you need to work on doing soon?

2016 is the year of decluttering this crap, and we are working on it a little bit every day. I need to do today's 'little bit.'

Do your feelings get hurt easily?

Oh, God, yes. I am HIGHLY sensitive. Ridiculously so. It's irksome, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it, so eh!

Do you, or do you know someone who has taken karate lessons?


My youngest two, Sophia and Jack, took lessons this past Autumn. Both hated it.

Were you ever a boy or girl scout?

I was a Brownie, and big Sis was whatever the next step up was back in the early 80s. Hubs was a Cub Scout. All of our kids used to do Scouting, but none do now. I know the oldest wants to get back in, so I will be pursuing that soon.

Well! It looks like I reached the end of one, finally. Yay!

Thanks for stopping by. ;)


Saturday 9: The One You Love

Playing along this weekend? Make sure y'all are linking up over here!

Saturday 9: The One You Love (1982)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

In memory of Glenn Frey (1948-2016)


1) In this song, Glenn explores one of the great romantic conundrums. This week, Saturday 9 is confronting it, too. If you had to choose, would you prefer to be loved, or to be in love?


Being in love feels GREAT, but being loved is even better. Luckily, after 15 years of marriage, I'm still madly in love with Hubs, and he with me. Crazy, but true.

2) The song describes an awkward moment: an old boyfriend calls when a woman is on a date with someone new. To whom did you last say, "I can't talk now?"

Oh, are you supposed to actually answer the phone and say that? Because I pretty much always just ignore my phone...

3) The lyrics talk about heart vs. head. When you find yourself in that predicament, which usually wins - heart or head?

Heart. I think? I think my heart wins. It sure fights to the death!

4) This song was from Glenn Frey's solo album, No Fun Aloud. What fun stuff are you looking forward to this weekend?

Listen, If I'm upright, showered and dressed, it'll be a damn miracle. You want fun on top of that? Hmm... Maybe I'll convince Chloë to go to the Y down the road, where we're members, for the family Zumba class in the morning. 

5) Glenn Frey was born in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. The Motor City is known for car manufacturing. Is your car domestic or foreign?

It's foreign, but please don't export it, m'kay, Donny Trump? I rather like my Kia.

6) The popular 1990s sitcom Home Improvement was set in Royal Oak. Are you handy around the house?

Nah, I'm really not. Everything I hang up is crooked, and you're lucky if I change a lightbulb. Nope.

7) Glenn Frey co-founded The Eagles in 1970. What's your favorite Eagles song?

I'd have to say "Hotel California," but maybe that's just really the only one I actually know?

8) The Eagles helped define "California Rock," but in recent years Glenn and his wife lived in Tribeca. Have you ever been to New York? If so, did you like it?

Yes, I'm a native New Yorker. My dad is from Staten Island, my mom is from the Bronx, and I lived near that area until I was 6½. After that, we still had family in Manhattan and across the border in Jersey, so I've spent lots and lots of time in the city. It's my favorite place in the world... so far.

9) Glenn wrote "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong to the City" for the iconic 1980s TV show, Miami Vice. What else comes to mind when you think of the 80s?

Gosh, that's my whole childhood right there. I think of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. I think of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I could go on all night!

But I won't! Because you have other stuff to do... So thanks for stopping by!


P.S. Hubs adds, "Van Halen!"

Saturday 9: Let's Dance

Perfect song choice for this week, Sam! Link up here if you're playing along this weekend.

Saturday 9: Let's Dance (1983)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

In memory of David Bowie (1947-2016). 

1) In this song, David encourages his partner to "put on your red shoes and dance." When did you last dance?

I dance nearly every day, even for just a few moments. Rarely in public, but I danced on South Beach on New Year's Eve in a red dress, barefoot. Fun night!

2) Mr. Bowie recalled that he and choreographer Toni Basil developed a dance step now known as "the moonwalk" for his 1974 tour, nearly a decade before Michael Jackson performed "Billie Jean." Can you think of something you should have gotten credit for, but didn't?

Not really. I'm sure there are things, but I guess I don't need credit for them that badly!

3) Similarly, the band Roxy Music was upset because Bowie copied their "catsuit look" for his own stage wardrobe and made it famous. What do you usually wear, Monday through Friday?

Normally, as my daughter's riding instructor jokingly put it this week, I'm in "little dresses." However, we have had some rather crazy El Niño weather here in Miami this week, and it's been downright chilly for us. (I admit it, I'm talking about 60ºF here, and I am a wimp.) I rarely wear jeans, but I have been living in them for about six days now. Warm and toasty, I am!

4) David Bowie was particular about the aftershave he wore, and one of his favorites was by Guerlain. Do you regularly apply cologne or aftershave?

I have a lot of different JAFRA scents, and right now Hubs is loving the one I have been wearing especially for that him: Risqué. Likewise, he wears a JAFRA cologne I like, when he wants to come at me. Hee.

5) In school, David's best subject was art. Think back to your own school days. In which class did you excel?

Science, which is a "duh" for anyone who knows that I have a degree in Marine Biology. Physics is my downfall, though, and I think it's because I have lack any understanding of spacial relationships without a serious amount of thinkering devoted to it. History is my least best subject, especially when it comes to the subject of war. Kind of surprising that I married a military guy, then, eh?

6) In addition to art and music, David Bowie displayed a keen head for business, leaving a fortune of more than $600,000,000. Would you describe yourself as "good with money?"

Absolutely not. I would say more like "bad." But I keep trying!

7) Bowie also appeared in a variety of movies from The Man Who Fell to Earth to Zoolander. Who is your all-time favorite movie actor?

It's probably Tom Hanks, and I like him as much for being a decent human being as I do for his thespian artistry.

8) One of Bowie's hits is "Life on Mars." If you had the opportunity to travel into space, would you take it?

Oh, hell yeah. I have dreamed - literally in my sleep as well as in my waking moments - of going up in space since I was a young girl. I would go in a heartbeat, no hesitation or thinking required. Ciao!

9) The creators of SpongeBob Square Pants are huge Bowie fans and were thrilled when, in 2007, he appeared in an episode. Sam suspects that she may be the only person who hasn't seen that cartoon show. What about you? Have you ever watched an episode of SpongeBob, start to finish?

Nope. I have seen it, as the kids and even Hubs will sit still for it on the occasion I don't protest too much or too loudly, but never a full episode. It's... not for me!


Thanks for stopping by!


My Existence Is Valid.


Jack, 12; Sophia, 10; and Chloë, 14

I've been thinking about this for a week.

One of my friends has embarked on a mission to ask a new question of her Facebook friends each day. I hadn't participated until Monday, the 4th, but that day she asked, "What is your proudest accomplishment?"

I didn't hesitate. The first one to answer, I wrote simply, "My kids!"

Her answer completely frustrated, shocked, and yes, angered me: " I knew that the moms would probably toss out kiddos! What's next on your list?"

Again without hesitation, I quickly responded, " After that, my 15-year happy marriage to Rob Odette - and counting!"

Apparently, that still wasn't enough of an answer for her.

So, I had to dig deep, think about it, and finally after a long while, I replied again: "I have had a full life, complete with getting a college degree and doing both very difficult and fulfilling work on my master's and Ph.D. degrees. I have traveled much of the world. I have experienced extreme happiness and profound sadness. This is all both separate from and BEFORE getting married and having four children. So I can still say that, as a wife and mother, those two things right there are the accomplishments of which I am most proud. What is this dismissive suggestion then, [friend] and other respondents, that this is not a worthwhile and legitimate response? I'm kind of offended by that, actually."

And you know what? The friend still doesn't get it! This friend is a married and a mother herself, which may or may not mean anything, but I have been chewing on that and the ensuing private conversation with her ever since.

If you don't get it, if you don't understand why I would answer that way, quickly and without hesitation even after thinking about it for a full week, then I am here to tell you something.

My existence is valid.

My answers are valid.

My life is valid.

My family is everything.

Without them, I am nothing.


No. I do not need to prove anything to you.

If you are a parent, and your kids are not your proudest accomplishment, then good for you.

If you are married, and your marriage is not your proudest accomplishment, that is fine.

But I built this family. I designed this family. Together with Rob, yes, and God, of course. But it was not an accident, and if these things, my kids and my husband, my family together, were not my answer, then I would seek to change things so that they would be the answer the next time the question rolls back around this way.

You see, I had a pretty shitty family situation until I graduated from high school at 17 and literally ran for dear life to get away from it, as far as I could go at the time. I left Syracuse, NY, and headed to Miami, FL, for college. I did not look back. I will never go back. Visit, sure, and I have... but back to that life, that situation, that level of awfulness? No, thank you!

No, my family is not perfect. I am the first to admit that. I make mistakes, Rob makes mistakes, the kids are learning how to people... Our house is a mess, I curse like a sailor, and there are things about myself I do not like.

But we have the one thing, shared amongst ourselves, that I did not feel after my mom died, in my growing-up family: LOVE. It's palpable, when you walk into our house. We are together. Always. We are a team. We do things as a family, we pick up the slack when one of our members weakens, and we support each other when we are working on improving something. We LOVE each other.

What is so wrong what that? Why is that not a valid answer? Why is that not good enough? Because I'm a mom, because I'm a woman, does it invalidate my existence to be proud of that thing that right now, at this point in my life, most defines me?


I do not think it does.

I think it validates me.

I have four measly years until Chloë becomes an adult, six with Jack - really closer to five - and hardly more than seven with Sophia. That's not enough time!

I don't want to look back, at the end of my days, and think, Gee, I really wish I had parented differently, or related to my husband better, and not FIXED that. Whatever was wrong, I want to fix it and make it good. Truly, really good.

You may not understand. You may not like what we have. You may not like what you have.

But it's ours. And it's mine.

And I am proud of it.




Sunday Stealing: Why Do You Want To Know THAT Meme, Part The Third

I missed Saturday 9 yesterday, but I'm back now and that's what counts. Joining us today? Link up here!

Why Do You Want To Know That Meme, part three


50. What do you spend most of your money on? 

Everything, every penny, is on our family, either directly or indirectly. They're what matters.

51. Would you rather visit the past or the future?

Why go back to the past? No. I want to see what the future brings. More importantly, I want to be present right now.

52. Favorite clothing store?

It's pretty telling that I first interpreted this question as implying you meant "for kids," right? Either way, I'm loving Hanna Andersson the most right now. Even though I can't really afford it new, there are ways... Thrift store, I'm lookin' at you!

53. What is the best advice you can give to those who are feeling down?

Honestly, it seems trite and cliché, but it's true. I have seen my fair share of bad times, but one thing that has always happened is: time marches on. It will change. It will. Try to ride it out, and you will see.

54. How often do you think about your future? Does it scare you?

I think about the future all the time! There is nothing to be scared of, there. I was so sure that I was going to die this past Tuesday that, with Hubs' help, I called up my father and my best friend to say good-bye. I was making my final plans. I wrote an entire book in that "last" day, again with Hubs' help! And look, I am still here. Now, to get better so I can go live it.

55. What angers you the most?

Apathy. Don't bitch, don't complain, unless you have some way to improve things. Otherwise, duh, you are part of the problem.

56. When was the last time you got majorly angry?

The last time I was supremely angry, I exploded with the injustice of it all. I'm embarrassed about a thing or two I said, not because I said it, and definitely not because I felt it, but because the person I was bitching about heard me venting. Eh, well. As Hubs says, "Nothing we can do about it now!"

57. When was the last time you got really sad? 

Tuesday, no doubt, was the saddest day I can remember having for a while. I couldn't bear the thought of not being here to see these babies of mine grow up and do whatever it is they will do with their lives, and participate, and celebrate with them. I didn't worry about where I was going, but I sure didn't want to go there yet. I'm grateful for another chance.

58. Are you good at lying? 

No! I'm a terrible liar. Awful.

59. What foreign language would you like to learn? 

I love languages! I want to learn them all. All!

60. How many languages can you speak and what are they? 

I speak English. I also speak Spanish and, therefore, can also speak/read/write/understand a lot of Latin, Italian, French, and some Portuguese. I know some Japanese, which utterly throws off the girl at the store who greets me in Japanese but doesn't expect me to respond back with a whole 'nother sentence or two! I know some Russian, German, Arabic, and Haitian Creole. I know some American Sign. I'm sure I'm forgetting some. 

61. How often do you go to parties? If you don’t, what do you do instead?


I am not a party girl. Truthfully, I'm painfully shy. Which is why it amazes me that I was able to put on my gutsiest outfit and drag Team Odette out to South Beach on New Year's Eve, for perhaps the biggest party I'll ever attend! And you know what? It was pretty epic.

62. What books do you plan to read this year? 

I'm going to read the whole Agent Pendergast series by Preston & Child. I have already read Relic and have just begun Reliquary. I will read one book per month this year, dadgummit!

63. Do you have breakfast every morning? 

No, not usually. However, this past week, I have eaten approximately nine meals per day and still lost five pounds. Small meals, yes, but many. I don't know why, other than that I'm freakin' HUNGRY.

64. Tell us a secret. 

Nope. ;)

65. How many concerts have you been to? 

Well, there are the big names: Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson. Taylor Swift. Bon Jovi. Whitney Houston. Crosby, Stills and Nash. Blue Man Group.

Then there are the smaller concerts of bands you've probably never heard of.

Then tons of concerts in which I performed in, myself. So how do you want to count?

66. Last hug? 

Oh, we hug all the time here, but this week I have been in too much pain for that. I'll tell you how we normally hug. Jack is so much tinier than everyone else, so the other four of us stand in a circle and "group hug" each other, and then Jack worms his way into the center and hugs back from the inside. It's fun!

67. Who knows you better than anyone else? 


Hubs, of course. Of course. We just celebrated 15 roller coaster years together a week ago, and we're more in love with each other today than we were then. It has to be Hubs.

68. Baths or showers?

 Normally, I hate baths. The water pressure in our bathroom is abysmally low, though, so I've been taking baths for nearly three years. I took a shower this past week and, I have to say, it's not as bad as I remembered!

69. Do you think you’re ambitious? 

I have to say that I am. In my late teens and early 20s, I had myself convinced I'd get a Nobel Prize before I turned 30. Haha! Anyway, I still have time for that, right?

70. What song is stuck in your head? 

"Harder to Breathe" by Maroon 5. I've sung that over and over this past week, because my lungs feel sticky when I try to inhale. I can't catch a full breath. It sucks, but it's improving at last, albeit incrementally.

71. Countries you’ve visited? 


Here's my map. As you can see, I have lots more traveling to do, yet!

72. What do you most value in your friends? 

Loyalty. Support. Understanding.

73. What helps you to sleep better? 

Knowing my family is safe

74. What is the most money you have ever held in your hand? 

Not that much. A couple thousand dollars, I guess.

75. What makes you nervous?

The unknown. New experiences. Coming out of my shell. Almost all, almost always, worth the effort.


Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: Sleigh Ride

Playing along this weekend? Link up here to join the rest of the Saturday 9ers! It won't hurt a bit...

Saturday 9: Sleigh Ride (1993)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.


1) Have you ever ridden in a sleigh?

A sled, yes; an actual sleigh, no... not yet.

2) This recording is from Harry Connick Jr.'s best-selling CD, When My Heart Finds Christmas. This year, did you add any new holiday songs to your personal collection?

I did! I added Kelly Clarkson's 2013 Christmas-themed album, Wrapped in Red. I love it! I love her. Beautiful voice.

3) Harry was born and raised in New Orleans, a city that seldom sees snow. Have you had enough snow to shovel so far this winter?

I hear it has been pretty mild in northern parts of the US this winter, so maybe thanks to El Niño, everyone will answer "no." It has not snowed in Miami since the mid-70s, and I was there then. Well, okay, I was visiting in Fort Lauderdale at the time, but I was down here and remember the snow! If we did get snow this winter, it would certainly be major (bad) news.

4) Speaking of weather, Harry hosted a mini-series on The Weather Channel called 100 Biggest Weather Moments. Do you frequently check The Weather Channel?

Uhhh, oops! Nope, but I do have the app sending me constant "It's going to rain in 3 minutes" warnings. Which is pretty stupid, being that it rains every three minutes here, but at the same time it amuses me. And so I keep the app notifications going...

5) Harry's mother was a very impressive woman - a lawyer, judge and Louisiana Supreme Court justice. Tell us about someone in your family of whom you're very proud.


I'm proud of my husband, Robert. He spent his entire younger adult working life - 20 years - serving in the United States Navy, getting married and raising an oft-challenging little family, and then retiring only to get the worst retirement gift ever: a brain tumor that had to be surgically removed. His recovery progress has been slow at times and faster at others, but he has not ever given up. He's amazing to me, and today we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary together. I love him!

6) Happy New Year! Now that Christmas is over, are you done with holiday music and decorations? Or are you sad to see the holidays end?

I am ready to move forward. That's done; let's GO, 2016!

7) The New Year's Eve fireworks celebration in Sydney, Australia is famous for coordinating pyrotechnics and music. Have you ever welcomed the New Year in another country?

No, but Chloë wants to visit Paris sometime soon. Maybe this is the way to do it, so thanks for the idea!

8)  Do you have any New Year's Resolutions for 2016?

YES. I kind of make them up as I go, actually. I mean, a resolution I made yesterday may not be relevant in a month. And something that wasn't relevant to me a month ago may be crucial stuff to me right now. So I make, keep, quit, or change them as necessary. One that I am adopting for 2016 is decluttering the Konmari way. I hope it works for us - and sticks!

9) Looking back on 2015, what surprised you?

All throughout my 30s, I hoped to stop caring so much what other people think of me. For 39 years, I have put way too much emphasis in my mind on peoples' words, opinions, and judgments about me. Now that I'll be turning 40 later this year, I carried into New Year's Eve a sudden new change in perspective. It may have taken until the last quarter of the last day of the 2015, but I have decided that you know what? I just don't give a damn anymore. The only people whose opinions of me matter live in this house. And it feels so GOOD!


Thanks for stopping by!



If You're Going To Celebrate New Year's Eve on South Beach...

...Here Are Ten Things You Should Know:


  1. Arrive early. Parking is US$40 for the night pretty much everywhere on Miami's South Beach, but we got there before sundown, got pretty stellar parking around 13th Street and Washington Ave, and had that $40 spread over about seven hours. For SoBe, that's not too bad and takes the OUCH! out of it, when you do the per-hour breakdown. Also, as you can tell from this picture, I didn't prep properly. I had planned to take the kids to the beach there that afternoon, but I didn't plan for myself to go, too! Duh. So I got a million strange looks from the other beach-goers when I showed up dressed to the nines, but my whole "F-ck it!" attitude for the night - which is what I hope will carry into 2016 and beyond - got me through the would-be embarrassment. Whew.


2. Bring the kids. YES! Bring. The. Kids. (Or take them, whatever. I'm pretty freakin' awesome at obeying most English grammar rules, but the bring/take ones always mess with my ever-weakening braining skills.) Especially if you follow the first point noted above, your kids will have a blast at their SoBe NYE celebration. They can spend several daylight hours jumping in and out of warm winter waves, but when darkness rolls in, as you'll see below, there's plenty more fun for children to have, without interfering in responsible parents' amusements. If this is the one-and-only chance you have at celebrating this occasion at the world's #3 New Year's Eve destination, I vote hands-down for a "YES!" in the bring-them-or-leave them-home debate. (Of course, if I had left mine at home, the responsible parent in me might be writing a whole 'nother post, but maybe we'll save that for when they are older and don't declare partying with Mom and Dad their "Best Night EVER!" y'know?).


3. Take those damn selfies. I don't care whether you post them all over Instagram with the connect-thru to Facebook and Twitter, and later all over your own blahg, like I did, or if you are more of a Social Media Bah Humbug, but take them anyway. If you're an Interwebs Whore Lover like I am, your friends will at least pretend to enjoy seeing each others' festivities on such a hugely-shared date, as much as you (I don't pretend, so I won't write that) will enjoy seeing theirs for all 24 hours of the change! If you are more private about life (no, you cannot ever claim that I wasn't an open book!), you and your dear ones will definitely cherish these memories.


3. Wear whatever you want. Seriously, this is important. I selected three dresses from my closet and had Hubs pick the one I should wear. I had never worn any of them out in public, ever. I ended up rejecting Dress One, because the shoulder straps were all-satin and kept slipping all the way down, and you know what? My girls have nursed three children past their first birthdays and just need more support than that! I rejected Dress Two for that same reason - HELLO, clothing designer people, at least put a stopper on that strap-adjuster thingamajig! Dress Three was the one I truly wanted to wear anyway, and not just because it's bright red (it's kind of my signature color) and showcases the afore-mentioned 'girls' in a pretty fantastic way (and wasn't made in China...). I told Hubs I wanted the word to described how I looked to be "AMAZING" when I put it on. And it was! I rocked a size 5, sexy, kinda skimpy dress out in public for possibly my life's biggest audience, and the whole time until this morning (and by that I mean 5 PM on New Year's Day, y'all), I thought I was wearing a size 8. Hello, my head is for once bigger than my butt. 

After the dress fitting, I won't even go into how long it took me to choose the right undergarments, the perfect f***-me heels, the shades of make-up... it's exhausting, ladies, am I right? Rob just wore what he wanted, despite my nitpicking, and the kids did the same. In the end, I enjoyed wearing the dress, and nobody gave me an ugly glance about it, but I also would not have been completely out of place had I worn flip-flops and a tank with jeans. So. Don't over-stress. It's South Florida, after all, where the dress code is always "come as you are."


4. Don't forget your wallet. South Beach is not cheap on all the other days of the year, but when a humongously huge event hits the Oceanfront, expect to pay through the nose. I already told you about the quadruple jump in even the cheapest parking. Did you want to stay a while and maybe eat or drink? Expect to have at least a few Benjamins on hand that you don't mind parting with, or else stay home. I mean, you could always pack a picnic lunch and walk more than the three blocks we did to get to the main stage (Hubs is disabled), which would always be more economical when it's a possibility. But especially if you're bringing your offspring, there are bound to be unexpected expenses.

After parking and going to the beach, at 1820 (6:20 PM for you non-military 'Mericans) we went to a certain restaurant I won't name here that was just terrible throughout the visit, and this was during Happy Hour when all menu prices were supposed to be half-price. For a meal for five, including just water for the kids and my husband's constant habit of picking the least pricey thing on the menu (despite my also-constant urging him to eat what you want), they wanted us say adieu to US$200. After my calculations, I expected half of that. My grandma taught me to ALWAYS CHECK THE RECEIPT, everywhere I go, and I caught that not only did they charge us double without the supposed half-priced Happy Hour specials, they also charged us for TWO of Sophie's cheeseburgers when the first one they served her was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside! Are you kidding me?! Our bill was cut in half after the absentee server FINALLY came over and asked why I was shouting; I wondered why he didn't mentioned the colorful language I was also using?! Not only did the final US$103.xy check not eliminate some of the doubled charges, but this restaurant also had the enormous balls to charge us an automatic gratuity! For the first time in my life, I stiffed them on the check - but only by one-sixth of the $18 "tip" charges, and only because all I had were five $20 bills, didn't want to wait even longer for change, and did not want this bleeping restaurant to have our credit card information! (If you want the name of this particular restaurant, please let me know in the comments. I'm happy to share. ;P) )

After parking and the sucktastic dinner experience, we decided to make our way down Ocean Drive from the 1300 block to 5th Street. I don't think we shed any further weight in our wallets other than shakes and cheese fries at Johnny Rockets ($42 and infinitely better than the eyeroll-inducing, sarcasm-filled dinner experience) and hitting up a side-street market for prepackaged frozen treats (I sound like a marketing survey) and a four-pack of wine cooler-sized bottles of some decidedly brut champagne (again $42 total, which was fine since it would otherwise have cost us about $100 per glass to toast in a restaurant at midnight). Sure, there were lots of ways we could have scrimped even more to save our precious pennies, but there were also a ridiculous abundance of ways that we could have gone flat-out crazy in racking up expenditures. If you wanted flashy New Year's Eve-themed swag to embellish your stylin' look, for instance, the glow-in-the-dark sunglasses were $20 per pair. After I put my bugged-out eyes back in my head, I decided to pass. If there's a next time, we'll hit up Oriental Trading ahead of time!


5. Use your phone camera's FLASH-ON setting. I don't like to use a flash, because I prefer natural lighting, but obviously in a setting like this, there is very little of it. And if it's the difference between a bad photo and a halfway decent picture, then go for it! Even if it means people blinked and you have to take several snaps, use the flash. I wish I had remembered that last night.

SoBe NYE-001

6. Visit Lummus Park. You guys. Whether you're helicopter parents who can't bear to take their eyes off their progeny for one second, a staunch crusader in the usage of "child-free" vs. "childless," thank-you-very-much, or somewhere betwixt those options like me, seriously, you should go to this park. Adults should experience the carefree, childlike joy of swinging on the swings by seaside moonlight at least once in their lives, and this is a gorgeous place in which to do just that. I have glorious memories of swinging with my University of Miami BFF, Kristal, almost 20 years ago there, and I doubt those will ever grow cobwebs in my mind.

Children, on the other hand, will have so much fun exploring and discovering. I don't just mean the swings, the slides, or the cool exercise area... but specifically on this one night of the year, they will also experience so much more. I don't know how much the rest of America, particularly in the more remote areas, realize what a multicultural jackpot Miami is, but the rest of the world seems to know it if they do not. While hanging out for about two mostly uninterrupted hours on this giant tire swing, they made many friends. I recall Sophia and Chloë breathlessly telling me, running to and from the area, that they had met new folks from Australia, England, Italy, India, Brazil, and distant parts of the US. In two hours! (Jack was too busy playing there to visit Mom and Dad unless we signaled him over.) If only our phones weren't nearly dead and I hadn't brought the tiny clutch that certainly didn't hold pen or paper, they might have a novel set of pen pals.


7. Dismiss your expectations. Oh, my gosh, whoever said, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" might never have been to South Beach! You will see things you never imagined equally as often as you'll observe the more everyday stuff. Certainly if you have your kids with you, you'll want to know that we had a drug deal go down directly adjacent to us from where we were sitting on the brick wall separating Lummus Park from the extra-wide sidewalk, along with the tremendously skunky smell that permeated the air. Definitely if you're anti-smoking like I am, you'll think to yourself about 900 times throughout the evening, "How do THIS MANY people STILL smoke tobacco?!!" And of course, if you're more conservative-leaning and do not want your young folk to be exposed to things like open homosexuality ("Ralph, look at that! Tsk-tsk, they're holding hands!") and other walks of life being the norm, then maybe this isn't the place for you. (Psst: Don't go to Key West, either.)

On the other hand, if you are more progressive leaning, I promise you're in for the people-watching of a lifetime. And your kids will blossom in front of your eyes. Sure, their vocabularies might expand, but probably so will more of their other abilities. Take the chance and find out. For example, Sophia had never been exposed to one of these boxing heavy bags, to my knowledge. But when she started punching and kicking it, I was a little bit awed! For reals. I didn't know she could kick that high! I didn't know she had those muscles there! I didn't know she had that much stamina! The feeling, as a mother, was amazeballs. And that is just the beginning...


 8. Strike a pose. Oh, wait, I already gave you the "take selfies" advice, and this point may seem quite like that. But taking it was fun, and I look kind of hot for once in this photo with Chloë, and it was really meaningful to me to play like I felt good about myself in Model Mecca of the Universe. So really, this advice is more like I'm saying to you, let your inhibitions about yourself go - whether or not a drop of 50-proof alcohol is involved - and enjoy the moment. No, enjoy all the moments. Not just this one night in this one place, but every living minute you are alive. For my younger audience (I can say that, because this is the year I turn - gasp! - 40 years old), this may be my most important take-away message. What other people think about you doesn't matter. The ONLY people whose opinions of you matter are either the ones who drove, flew, or rowed with you to South Beach in the first place, or if you might have taken an Über ride, they might be the people you miss the most on Christmas, I dunno. Clearly, your own self-image matters the most. You know what? I have a billion what-if? messages that I send to myself the same number of times per day, but what if I had actually said and done things the "right" way? So what. I didn't. Shit happens. I'm letting it go and now, letting things flow. Because I am old enough to love myself enough to do, say, and freaking feel the way I do. And that, my friends, is what this picture represents to me.

(P.S. I totally got carded when I bought that champagne. Perhaps the dude was just humoring me, but he was also eyeing me and hitting on me, so I am still allowed to be flattered!)


9. Don't crop your photos in the editing room. If you're like me, as I suspect many women and a lot of men might be, you dwell on your negative aspects and completely miss out on the positives. I have been told time and time again, specifically by men, that I need to stop that! So do you. I spend so much time apologizing for my supposed flubs and flaws instead of having more meaningful things to say, or listening more, or sharing significant silences. I crop out so many of my pictures, if I haven't deleted them entirely, instead of realizing how beautiful some of them, or their parts, are. In the photo above, I did not crop out Chloë's bottom half, because in my mind she is physically perfect, as are all my children, don'tcha know - but my own. I don't like my legs. I don't like my belly. I don't like those flappy-fish arms of mine. But those legs have carried me around on so many important wifely and motherly - and yes, selfly - duties. And that belly carried and birthed four beautiful children in just 3½ years. And those arms carried those babies around until they could walk, and held their hands after they learned to go on their own two feet, and reached out to hug wherever hugs were necessary. So I need to cut myself some damn slack once in a while and show off those parts of me of which I should be more proud. Right?

For more on this subject, read this article I spotted while writing this post (ignoring the obvious complaints about that grabber of an opening picture, please).



10. Use the good camera, and take lots of pictures. No, I don't live my life behind the camera lens instead of experiencing it firsthand. As I hope you can tell from this post, I love both! I debated, not for the first but more like the hundredth time this month, whether or not to carry along my Nikon D5100 and accoutrement, which is basically just a starter dSLR. Even if it was just a small point-and-shoot camera (at least one of the newer ones), the pictures probably would have been a huge improvement over my awesome Samsung Galaxy S5's photos. lolz... Listen. I'm just an amateur when it comes to my photography skillz, but I learn more with every picture I take. Not just about lighting, magic hour, and angles, but certainly those, too. I also learn behind the lens about my kids' strengths I hadn't yet witnessed myself, I learn to take time and do things right instead of always being the first one to jump in or stop doing something I'm having trouble with or don't enjoy fully at first, and I learn to let go and let my kids handle the spendy camera once in a while to take pictures that may just stop my breath for a moment in time. Those are all good lessons for a parent to learn. So sling that camera bag strap over your shoulder and walk along, without stressing about sand or water. You'll thank me when your phone's battery drops to 5%.

What lessons learned from 2015 can you share with me? What lessons do you have yet to learn in 2016 or beyond? Drop me a comment and let me know!




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New Year's Eve flights from $30 round-trip with Frontier Airlines