Sleep

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Sleep is a funny thing. I haven’t slept more than 5 hours in 8 to 10 weeks, since our dog got diagnosed with a huge mass on her spleen. She needed to go out 5-7 times a night and I was on overnight duty. I would go to bed as early as 9pm so I could get a few hours of sleep as my husband would taker her out at 11pm. I would sleep til 1:45am or 3:22am or…and the nights got long. But thankfully due to the season, I was able to watch Holiday movies overnight or catch up on blogging or whatever. I drank way more coffee than any human should to make it through the day but our dog was having good days, albeit bad nights, and the kids were happy that she was doing ok. That all ended on Friday when our dear Snickers passed away at 2:20pm. She had gone to doggie daycare as normal on a Friday and they called me saying she wasn’t doing well at noon. I ran to get her, did my part time driving job with her in the car. The boy in the car was even like “oh, she’s so cute” as she was just sleeping on her doggie blanket. She was happy to be with us but she wasn’t doing so well. The vet took us at 2pm and one look at her they knew and I knew walking in the door I wasn’t walking out with my dog.

It’s sad, yes, but it’s ok. The weird thing is, is that since Friday I have slept 8-10 hours each night and I feel sleepier than I did on no sleep. HUH? I swear I have been on alert and hyper-vigilant for weeks and that kept my adrenaline up. I was healthy- never got a cold the whole time. I was awake and alert and high functioning the whole time. I am now a big pile of mush. I have a headache, a sore throat, a stuffed up nose and I am exhausted after having gone to bed last night at 8pm and waking up at 6am. That’s what- TEN hours of sleep and I feel worse than not sleeping? What the heck? It could be the release of the adrenaline after weeks of being ON, and it could also be just grief. She’s our dog, and I’ve always been one to be like “no matter what they are only a dog..” but she was my cuddle buddy. She was my walking companion, she was my reason to get my butt off the couch and get outside person. Yeah- she was more than a dog to me and to the whole family.

What’s hard is that she is the third dog who has died in 3 years. Tyke fell ill and died in October 2015. We adopted Scout in August of 2016 and he was dead by late September due to a weird infection that he must have had from the shelter. We adopted Snickers in October of 2016 and just 15 months later she’s gone. We are not going to get another dog. I promised my husband that we would not (this after promising him we wouldn’t get one after Tyke – I kinda had my fingers crossed behind my back on that one). We will get our doggie love from our neighborhood dogs and from visiting the shelter but we don’t need another one right now. We need to rest, grieve and be busy. Our kids are teenagers now and have so many after school and weekend activities that it was me with Snickers 24/7 and them for 10 minutes here and there. I am open to another dog but I know we won’t be getting one and I have to be okay with that. I will just have to walk my friends instead to get my exercise (ha ha ha).

Sleep is a funny thing- you need it- we all need it but apparently you can live without it for a stretch while someone else needs you. When that ends you not only need to catch up on sleep you need to reboot your body so you can function. I will work on the reboot this week. That’s the interesting thing about this, I have gained 15lbs in the past 10 weeks of not sleeping. I imagine my metabolism shut down due to being in survival mode or something. Either way- I am on a mission. I saw a # on the scale that I haven’t seen since early 2000 so I am determined to get rid of the excess 25lbs and reboot my body. Meanwhile I might go back to sleep.

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Books

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I love books and it’s no wonder that my first real job aside from babysitting was at the public library. I have always been a reader. From reading all of the Trixie Belden series when I was a kid to joining a book club in Massachusetts to my newest one here in Palatine, IL, I love books. The latest book we read was Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was easy to read but some of us thought it was depressing and a bit hard to read. I didn’t feel that way but maybe that’s because of my life experience and the fact that I related to Eleanor. Either way- reading books as an adult is fun. You get time to yourself and if you are in a book club it culminates with good food and wine! What more could you want?

Great books make good company, they fill the voids of insomnia and it’s just fun to read. I find a sunny spot, curl up in a chair, and get into it. I am a read-all-at-once kind of reader. I will read my book club books in about 3 days in 3 large chunks. I have a busy life and don’t have time to read daily although that is my new goal. I can only imagine how many books I could read if I read an hour before bed. My kids all read before bed. It was a habit we established when they were babies. We read to transition them between day time activity and bedtime and they continued the habit into their tween/teenage years. I however lost the habit with the chaotic life we have had with little kids growing up and busy lives. I am grateful to my book club for getting me back into reading and I hope to reestablish evening reading soon.

What good books have you read lately? I highly recommend The Maddie Chronicles  by Hannah R. Goodman. They are well written YA that any adult would love. I also enjoy Deborah Nam-Krane’s book series The New PioneersThe first book, The Smartest Girl in the Room  is the first book in the series and I really like the books and the complex storyline. Both of these authors got me back into reading before I joined a book club. I met Hannah at the playground and heard about her books and began to read them and I also know Deb who was a fellow homeschooler that we knew back in Massachusetts. They also both have inspired me to write my 2 books. I am not quite done refining them and getting them ready for publication. I’ll be sure to post when they are available for purchase.

Meanwhile I am gearing up to read next month’s book, Stolen Beauty, and I can’t wait! Hopefully this book will be one that I can chug through during the entire month- reading a chapter a night. That would mean that I would in theory blissfully fall asleep each evening. That’s my New Year’s wish…so get out and get a good book and read more. It really is a wonderful past-time.

Editing Your Life

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Why does editing my book feel like editing my life? I’ve come to an impasse. I am not sure I want to finish it anymore. I mean I was all ready last week and now I’m like “nah I’m good.” I am not sure why. Part of me is nervous to share my life story, although I’ve shared a lot of it here so it should be ok. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m in the “editing” stage and feel like I am editing my life. How can you edit your life? It’s not like you can delete aspects you didn’t like or parts you didn’t think you did well at. I think part of it is because I can’t include it all so I feel like I get to choose what I am sharing and what parts I am not and want to be sure I let the big things remain unedited. I don’t want to sugar coat what I’ve been through but I also don’t want to drag everyone through all the details. It’s a struggle.

I find no problem editing my real life. Editing in the sense of removing what is no longer beneficial or things that don’t bring me joy. I loved the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It helped me realize that if an item didn’t bring me joy I no longer needed it in my life or my home. That was life changing for me and made “editing” and decluttering my life so much easier. But editing a book? Do I look at it the same way? Do I read passages and say “If this doesn’t bring me joy then edit it out? Remove it.” I’m not sure what the answer is but I do know that I must try to edit my book and yet keep it real and authentic. It’s not a work of fiction, it’s reality, my reality and I think that scares me.

I grew up in a small seaside town in New England. I had a fairly sheltered childhood but a good one. I loved my parents and my sister and we summered in New Hampshire and we spent the year just a street away from the ocean. It was an idyllic place. I didn’t explore much beyond our neighborhood and I was rather awkward and shy as a kid. At the age of 10 I was abused by a neighborhood friend and my life was never quite the same since. It made it hard for me to want to live in the area and I couldn’t wait to get out. When I was 18 I met a guy who was nice enough and my first “love” and we moved in together. He was nice at first and eventually became abusive. I left him as much as it wrecked me to do so and I moved back home. I met another guy a year or so later and quickly moved out again and this relationship was extremely abusive. I had such low self esteem that I didn’t care and luckily made it out alive in 1998. In 1999 I met my husband and life has been pretty great ever since.

All of that and more is in the book and I have to figure out what to include and what not to. It’s working title is Continue to Live and Flourish: A Guide to Surviving it All. I think it’ll be good and it’ll be raw and it’ll be honest but it’ll also be funny and have moments where you want to laugh and want to cry. It’s been cathartic to write it but I had no idea the editing process would be so tedious. Part of me just wants to shut the door on it and leave it undone but I know that I can’t. I started writing it in 1998 and I put it down for 19 years and I can’t let it sit any longer. So after I write this I am going to get back at it. I plan to edit it daily for the next 30 days and hopefully I’ll get it self-published by the end of February.

Meanwhile I am going to ensure that my life is filled with joy. I am going to eat well and exercise (I’ve got 16 lbs that somehow found my body during the fall/winter thus far) and I want to experience my New Year’s wishes (going back to see family in June etc.). So I’m going to leave you for now and remember- our life is our life and we can only edit out the junk that weigh us down but we do not need to edit the content of our life. Each life experience, the good and the bad, is important and worthy. If I hadn’t experienced what I had in this life I wouldn’t be who I am today and I think who I am is worth every bit of it.

To Write or Not to Write

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I’m in the process of writing 2 books. I have one in the editing process that is called Advice from Allie and it’s a compilation of blog posts that I have expounded upon and look forward to sharing with the world. My second book which is a bit scarier to consider sharing is called Continue to Live and Flourish: A Guide to Surviving it All. This is a bit harder to share because it’s a personal story of what I have survived and it’s honest and raw and well it’s sort of like walking outside naked for all to see. I’ll never be ready to do that but I do think it’s time to share my story as I think it will be helpful to others as much as I’ll feel exposed.

I have been inspired by fellow writers, Hannah R. Goodman and Deborah Nam-Krane to share my story.  Both women I met while we lived in Massachusetts. Deborah Nam-Krane, I had the pleasure of meeting while in High School and we reconnected on Facebook when we found out we both homeschooled our kids. I immediately fell in love with her blog and her writing and I have read all of her Pioneer Series books and they are amazing. I met Hannah while at a playground in Southeastern Massachusetts and we began to chat. Although I only knew her in person for a short time we immediately connected on Facebook and I have followed her journey and kept in touch. Her writing is brilliant and she is an inspiration to me. Both women have self-published their books and I’m thrilled to say that Hannah just got a book contract. These women help me to be a better writer, better person and have hope for similar success.

I think that writing is a career choice that isn’t one that is easily accomplished. There is no easy way to make money and you find yourself writing for yourself as much as for anyone else. It’s a part-time job even if it’s full time and it’s a labor of love. Writers keep working on their craft over time and they grow and change as they write. I look forward to self-publishing both books in early 2018 and I hope to finish editing them this month. I know I will make mistakes and I hope to learn along the way. I know that friends like Deborah and Hannah will continue to help me strive for more and to be a better writer. I am lucky to know them both and I hope that you will check out their work and see for yourself what amazing writers they are.

I look forward to continuing my blogs both here and also Advice From Allie. I try to blog on each a few times a week and also work on editing both books. I feel like there is always the question- To Write or Not to Write? But I can’t help myself. I feel the need to share my thoughts, my advice, my inner most feelings and impressions. I think that I have something to say and I think it can help others. That’s my other passion, helping others. I feel like I can accomplish so much by simply sharing my story. Surviving abuse, domestic and sexual, processing it all thru therapy and getting diagnosed with PTSD, pursuing more therapy to work through that and then getting married and having 3 kids and dealing with a myriad of medical issues with the entire immediate family for the last 14 years. It’s been a struggle but one that I know I have overcome and I think some of the ways that I dealt with these challenges should be shared. I think that I can help people going through the same things and even people going through something different. I am living proof that you can Continue to Live and Flourish despite whatever you have experienced in your life. Life can be good and you simply have to choose to make it so.

I look forward to posting when my books have gone “live” until then see you soon.

Dreams

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We all have dreams. Dreams to do more, live better, try new things. We all have them and sometimes it’s daunting to dream. Will I live long enough to accomplish my dreams? Will my kids want to dream alongside me? Will my spouse want to participate in my dreams? Sometimes our dreams are just simple wishes-  like dreaming about a day with your husband or kids. I love dreaming. It helps me realize that the here and now isn’t all there is.

Now some dreams I can live without like the ones I have between waking up and actually waking up. Last night I dreamt I bought a hair salon. A gross, mess, needing a make-over hair salon. I knew the woman a week, she sold it to me and there I was. Three kids at home, no manager, and a hair salon that I had no business owning. I opted to reschedule clients for the Sunday so all staff could come in and clean, paint, and rip up carpet. We did a little make-over. I was just about to have a staff- meeting when I woke up. What the heck does it mean that I bought a hair salon? I have no idea.

After some research there is no dream interpretation I could find about buying a hair salon. There was a dream interpretation of getting a hair cut or buying things but not buying a business or hair salon. I wonder what it means? I know that recently Snickers has been sleeping a bit longer and my body appears to want to wake up at 4am despite the fact she’s waking up at 5am so maybe I partially wake up providing an hour of wacky dreams? All I know is that I have to refocus and get onto the dream building of real-life.

My life is amazing. I have 3 great kids who are on school winter break. We return to reality Monday and Tuesday (depending on which kid you are) and life returns to the chaotic drop offs and pick ups and after school activities and evening runs from here to there. Soon in mid-January our Saturday mornings will include Stage School for the younger 2 kids. That means a 5 hr jaunt for me as it’s 45 min away and I don’t want to drive all the way back in between so I’ll find a mall to walk and get some exercise in (no shopping allowed though as apparently the buying a business dream could fall into the buying dream interpretation which means I will overspend soon – so NO shopping for me!).

So start dreaming- come up with wishes and goals you want to accomplish. Make a list of places you want to visit, things you want to do in the New Year, and foods you want to try. We made a list of New Year’s Wishes on New Years Day and there are some fun things on there- going to the Planetarium in Chicago, going to a Red Sox game at Fenway, seeing more family this coming year by visiting them in New England, trying more ethnic food, riding bikes together as a family, a plane ride and more. Fun things that are actually conceivable and achievable. So go ahead and DREAM- you have the whole world available to you – DREAM up something you wish for today!

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New Year’s Wishes

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As 2017 comes to a close it’s a time of reflection on the past year and a year upcoming that is full of possibility. Our family makes a list of wishes for the New Year from small things like spending more time together, to going to certain museums, to learning something new. Some basic things that are on my list each and every year (the list I don’t write down) are as follows. Coffee, keep it hot, keep it fresh, keep it coming! Sleep- please let me have 6 hours of sleep a night.  A rested Mom is a happy and healthy one. Health- this is a no-brainer for me. Please keep me healthy so that I can take good care of myself and in turn my family. Food- please keep our sources of food sustainable and local as much as possible. Keep the recipes coming and continue to be inspired to cook from scratch. And grant me the ability to keep spending at a minimum so that we can save for amazing things like a new bathroom for 2019! These are a few items that are on my personal list year in and year out and most of the time I do well with them.

Spending less is a hard one at times. I have to give up shopping in order to save funds. It’s not that hard as long as I have a shopping fix. I like to grocery shop so that helps. Trader Joe’s becomes my happy place and I shop there about every other week. Mariano’s in the weeks in between and I have grown accustomed to the click-list where you shop online and pick it up and with a yearly fee it’s only $1.92 a week if you shop weekly- less if you shop more often. It ends up saving me time and money as I know the running tally as I put things into my online cart.

I will save my income from my part time job to ensure we have spending money without having to hit the ATM and I will stop shopping online. I tend to shop each fall and that usually sustains us all year except for birthdays. I save gift cards and use those when we need to buy something. So far in the past few years I’ve been able to do this and we saved for a down payment on this house for example. All you need is a little determination and creativity. The grocery store provides inspiration for cooking too. Making home-made restaurant inspired foods like Mustard Encrusted Chicken become an easy to make dinner and one enjoyed by all. It’s less expensive than store-bought Chicken tenders and it’s healthier since I know what’s in them. I am hopeful to find new recipes this year that everyone loves. It’s challenging at times with picky eaters and one vegetarian to make something everyone likes. I often make a veggie lasagna and a tray of butternut squash mac-n-cheese in order to make sure my daughter doesn’t starve all week long.

May 2018 be filled with good health and low medical cost. This past year nearly killed us medically. Jaw surgery- where the surgeon fee was not covered- and an appendix out, several doc appointments, a few ER visits, Hematology blood work and specialty visits and more. The blood work alone was over $5,000 and that was all on us and part of our co-pay. We have a high deductible plan as is what’s offered at my husband’s job and we have lower premiums (about $460/month) but we have to pay 20% of all costs up until a max out of pocket of about $9600. We have averaged each and every year since 2010 about 10-12 thousand in medical costs. That’s another $1,000 a month to come up with and of course we’ve never been able to afford it so we would make payments and the next year we’d be paying on last year and that years and so on and so forth. Due to the tax changes coming forward we opted to pay off all our medical debt before the end of the year so we can deduct the costs. It’s a lot and more than I’m willing to share online but it’s a reality for our family. I cannot say how much my New Year’s wish is to 1. not have medical issues and 2. not have to shell out more than a few thousand in medical this coming year. That would make it possible to save faster and to do more fun things as a family. So here’s to a healthy 2018 for all of us!

I look forward to new opportunities this year. I am excited to finish editing my 2 books and to get them on the “shelves.” The way authors can independently publish books is fabulous but it also means you have to do all the leg work yourselves. No, our books are not going to get into traditional book and mortar stores easily but we can spread the word and get them into people’s hands ourselves. I am looking to finish in early 2018 and get them on Amazon by February. I am hopeful it all goes well.

The kids- I can’t wait to see what their wishes are for the New Year. What museums will they want to go to? What adventures do they want to have? Where do they want to travel? What new experiences are on their minds? Some years it’s been going to the go-cart races or learning to do a new skill. I know each New Year comes with endless possibilities and I can only hope that 2018 will be a stellar year. I wish you all an amazing 2018 as well full of health and happiness!

Jaw Surgery and the 15lbs your wife could gain…

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So nobody knew- I sure didn’t that with double Jaw Surgery the recovery would be months long. I knew it would take months to heal the bone but I didn’t know it would be months of John not being able to eat normally. So I have been cooking, baking, and assuming he could eat the softish foods I have been making but often I get a response like “Thanks for trying, but this gets stuck in my braces too…and I just can’t eat it.” He’s been living off soups and Lasagna’s etc. It’s not a bad diet for him and he’s maintained 18lbs of his 25lb original weight loss from surgery. I on the other hand have acquired the Freshman 15! I have gained 15lbs and I honestly till this moment could not figure out why, and then it hit me. I am eating for two! I am eating anything he can’t eat. If he tries something and I’ve finished my dinner- why waste it right? Or if it’s a meal that I know the kids won’t like, I’ll eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner till it’s gone. I don’t waste anything and boy has it found my waist!

Yesterday we began to think about our New Year’s wishes and each year we put down things we hope to do in the New Year. This year I want to get healthier, lose the 15 – 20lbs I gained and just feel better. I take supplements and vitamins. I go to the Chiropractor to get adjusted to ensure optimal wellness and I used to walk miles a day with our dog till she got diagnosed with Cancer and she just can’t make those long walks anymore and well it got COLD out! So yesterday I began to use the exercise bike we have. It’s a nice recumbent bike so it won’t hurt my back and it’s a smooth ride. I did just 11 minutes yesterday and today 13. I’m building up to 30 minutes a day and doing 20 wall push-ups and some stretches. Once I build up to the full 30 minutes daily I will add walking at the community center. My plan is 30 min, 3 times a week. I think that will help. Then I can add 10-20 minutes a day of weights. Nothing fancy- 5/10lb weights for my arms and maybe some yoga too. I simply need to get back to the level of activity I had prior to October and also eat less. I need to get rid of all the cookies I baked in hopes John could enjoy them. I am fairly certain one human should not consume half a tray of 7-layer bars by themselves.

We are having a party on Friday and I will bake more and cook more but I will also send home the leftovers with people. I just can’t eat it all anymore. I had to buy a size up in pants just the other day- bought one pair- that’s it. I refuse to go up in size. I have maintained my weight since 2007. I never really had to think about it. If the scale began to creep up- 5lbs I knew how to adjust- eat less exercise more. It’s not that complicated for me, at least it’s never been before. Food and I didn’t always have such a good relationship. I had an undiagnosed eating disorder in high school. I would consume large quantities of skim milk to feel full and I’d eat a decent sized dinner and breakfast but I’d not eat the rest of the time and I’d obsessively exercise at times. I wasn’t happy with my body type- I was never meant to be thin. I was a size 10 in high school and went up to a size 12 once I had 3 kids. It is true that your hips widen after birth and they do not go back. I am fine with all of that. I have curves, I’m a 34 DD in a bra- thank goodness for getting sized correctly. I highly recommend Nordstrom’s for that. I got 3 bras from there when I first got sized. It was the one and only time I’ve gone to the store. I can now find plenty of size 34DD at Kohls, Bali brand is my thing, and they are comfy and about 1/3 the price of the fancy stores. I am content but when I feel sluggish and my flabby waist slips over the top of my pants, I know it’s time for action.

I found my Fitbit yesterday and charged it up and began tracking. I put it on mid-day but only clocked about 3,000 steps before bed. Yikes…In order to make 10,000 steps I’d better get cracking. Today we are going into the city to the Chicago History Museum so I should get a number of steps there. I got a great night’s sleep which hasn’t happened in weeks. Snickers slept til 4:50am which is unheard of as lately she’s up between 3 and 4am. Life is good and I am not obsessed with my weight or with exercise but I do want to feel great. So I will see how to manage my time and my food and I’ll keep you posted. It’s my New Year’s wish to feel good, no matter the number on the scale or the size of my pants. I am hopeful to find a way to make exercise fun and feel healthy again.

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