Life is a full circle

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Life is a circle

“There are patterns which emerge in one’s life, circling and returning anew, an endless variation of a theme.” – Jacqueline Carey

Isn’t it funny how life is a full circle?

I remember it so clearly, though it was almost 32 years ago. We had just gotten married, and my husband and I loaded up my not-so-cool 1980 Mustang (a sorry excuse for a “hot” set of wheels… it was the model year when one could buy a four-cylinder, fuel-efficient, nothing-under-the-hood quasi-sports car).  We were heading from Michigan to Arizona, where we’d spend a few months while my husband was in school. I was pretty excited as we set off on our new adventure. Of course there were no cell phones, GPS or any other technological conveniences that we are accustomed to having when traveling today. We tossed the bags in the trunk, grabbed the maps, said our teary goodbyes and we were on our way.

Continue reading “Life is a full circle”

How I Celebrated Small Business Saturday

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“Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.” – Paul Ryan

This past Saturday, my husband and I helped stimulate the local economy when we stepped out onto Main Street and took part in “Small Business Saturday.”

The idea isn’t really new to us. A few years ago, when we took the kids for a weekend get-away, we stayed away from stores and restaurants that we could patronize at home. The goal was to get a flavor for the towns we visited, to try foods indigenous to the area, and it spurned a habit that has continued today.

When our son worked at a small independent grocery store, I began to really see the need in supporting a business that supported my child through his high school years. The grocery store still receives a sizable portion of our grocery budget. They were flexible in working around his school and sport schedules. And now that our daughter works at a family-owned pizzeria, we support that business as well. These small, local businesses have been the springboard for students, first-time job holders and career paths for generations.

In addition to frequenting these businesses, we shop at our local Farmer’s Market almost every weekend, buying the freshest, locally-grown produce, farm-raised meats, flowers, honey and other grocery items. It is tastefully rewarding, to say the least. And we are getting to know the farmers that grow our food.

On our Saturday outing, we first stopped at the market. In addition to the usual load of produce, we discovered two local bakeries who have stands in the market, and, well, we started on our mission to stimulate the local economy. Then, we visited a few of the antique and vintage clothing vendors, where I found a winter jacket and – bonus – a vintage hat to match my previous week’s vintage coat find. The cost of the coats, plus the hat and dry cleaning bill came to the same price I would have paid for one coat at a big-box chain store, and the coats are unique! And warm – amazingly warm.

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apple peeler We loaded our finds into the car, and off to the next stop, a thrift store, where there were all kinds of cool items from clothing to furniture to kitchen gadgets. I found an apple peeler – which would have been very handy when making my apple pie for Thanksgiving. (It was suggested that I now have no excuse to not make another!)

On we walked down Main Street, where we found yet another bakery, several unique clothing stores where we purchased Christmas gifts, and then we happened upon a mom and pop burger joint where we enjoyed sliders, fries and a beverage – lunch for two for $10. Not bad.

We couldn’t complain about the weather – sunny and around 40 degrees in November for our neck of the woods. It made the day even more enjoyable. Fresh air and fashionable finds – I found myself enjoying shopping, which is always more of a chore than a pleasure for me. I loved the fact that each shop we stopped in had friendly owners willing to take the time to assist us with our questions, and just chat. It felt good to purchase items right here in our community – the businesses that support our local schools and churches whenever we call looking for an item for a charity auction or a raffle.

I would be remiss if I didn’t disclose that I was a bit miffed at the larger retailers who opened on Thanksgiving this year, and I grew insanely weary of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday commercials that ran on television and on the radio – not to mention the explosion of emails landing in my inbox.  So, in my own small way, I’d like to think I sent a message  of support to the businesses who did not participate in all the marketing hoopla.

For me, going to a big-box store was part of my usual routine when looking for a gift, furniture or clothing. But, taking a day and really exploring and walking the shops through my town, I now have a better idea of the unique options available. And I have a better appreciation for the folks who have chosen to make their living by being small business owners. I plan to support them more frequently, as they support my immediate community and schools. Who knows… I may end up becoming a shopaholic!

Did you participate in Small Business Saturday? If so, did you find the experience favorable?

 

 

 

Taste-testing, again!

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Disclosure: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network Healthy Choice campaign. I have been provided with free products and remuneration in exchange for my honest opinions about the products. All opinions are my own and were not influenced, nor reviewed, by Healthy Choice prior to posting.

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My second round of food tasting for Healthy Choice was for the new Cafe Steamers. I rarely purchase frozen meals, because they are usually not very tasty, and with the size of our family, we’d be waiting in line all night to use the microwave. And, again, as I stated in my previous frozen yogurt post, we are trying to eat healthier – more organic and more locally grown foods.

So, I admit I was a little nervous in trying out the Beef Merlot. The photo on the package enticed me to choose it. It looked delicious – beef, carrots, potatoes and green beans in a savory sauce. Plus, I was curious as to how the steaming method would work. Placing the bowl in the microwave, I left the plastic wrap on as directed. As my dinner began to cook, the aroma filled the kitchen. So far, so good, as the Beef Merlot smelled delicious. In fact, my teenage son commented on what I was cooking. As I carefully peeled the wrapper and tipped the food from the steamer section into the bowl holding the sauce, I was impressed that the food looked good! No shriveling, the color was good, the veggies appeared crisp. Carefully mixing the sauce into the meat and veggies, I was looking forward to tasting.

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I wasn’t disappointed. The beef chunks were tender, the veggies were crisp and the potatoes were just right. And, it tasted good. I was pleased with my quick dinner.

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For lunch the next day, I tried the Chicken Linguine with Red Pepper Alfredo. Using the same cooking instructions, I was again impressed with the coloring, texture and taste of the product. The veggies were crisp, the chicken was tender, and the noodles did not get mushy. Though I did prefer the Beef Merlot, the Chicken Linguine was good.

Apparently, the “tray-in-tray technology” that separates the ingredients while cooking works, as the vegetables are crisper and the pasta is al dente.

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers would be handy to keep in the freezer for a quick lunch or if you find yourself dining solo. There are several varieties to choose from, including vegetarian dishes. There are no artificial flavorings or colors – yay! My only recommendations to improve the product would be to try to add organic meat and veggies, tone down a little on the salt, and, for big eaters like me, add a little more meat or chicken to the dish. Pare up the Cafe Steamer with a fresh salad, and you have a nice, quick meal.

Wanting to learn more or see all the options available in the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer line? Just click on Cafe Steamers for details.

Have you tried Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers? If so, what do you think? Let me know in the comment section.

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

Sure, I’ll try some Greek Frozen Yogurt

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Disclosure: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network Healthy Choice campaign. I have been provided with free products and remuneration in exchange for my honest opinions about the products. All opinions are my own and were not influenced, nor reviewed, by Healthy Choice prior to posting.

One of my latest ventures in blogging is to test, review and write about products. In a short series, I will have tasted and tested products from Healthy Choice. I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to try frozen yogurt? And as much as I love Greek yogurt, I was really excited to try the frozen concoction.

Healthy Choice Greek Frozen Yogurt is made with real non-fat milk, yogurt cultures and dairy protein. It tasted just like yogurt – creamy and tart. Before I dived in with my spoon, I let the container sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften. I was pleasantly surprised, as other frozen yogurt I have tried didn’t really have that yogurt taste.

The flavors I sampled, strawberry and raspberry, were both good. The strawberries gave the frozen treat an extra tang and tartness. My favorite of the two was the raspberry frozen yogurt. I think the sweetness of the fruit really balanced the yogurt tang. The bad girl in me wanted to bust open another container of the raspberry yogurt and drizzle some melted dark chocolate all over it. But I figured three containers of frozen yogurt in one day may be a bit excessive!

I was really appreciative of the serving size. To me, it was perfect – enough of a serving to satisfy one’s sweet tooth without going overboard on portion. As someone who beat Type 2 diabetes by changing my diet, losing weight and exercising, I am all for smaller dessert portions. The best way to blow a diet, or give up a change in better eating habits, is to deny oneself things like dessert! The Healthy Choice Greek Frozen Yogurt has 100 calories with 4 grams  of protein per serving, so whether enjoying a container for a dessert or to satisfy a mid-day (or mid-night!) sweet craving, this product would fit the bill.

In addition to the flavors I tried, Healthy Choice Frozen Greek Yogurt also comes in Dark Fudge Swirl (which I am going to try soon!), Vanilla, Blueberry and Honey (Sweet! If I add wheat germ, would it be considered breakfast??!)

Now, I wouldn’t be true to myself or my readers if I wasn’t upfront about what most of you know about me – that I am doing my best to eliminate household chemicals and eat organic and locally grown foods. So, that being said, I was really happy to see that there were no artificial flavors or colors in the two Healthy Choice Greek Frozen Yogurt snacks I tried. And, since all-organic all the time is not always possible, or affordable, it is nice to see that there are some better choices hitting the frozen food section for those of us doing our best  to make better food choices. I would love to see Healthy Choice Frozen Greek Yogurt offer a line of organic snacks, or even just eliminate the modified corn syrup. So, while I wait for that day, I in the meantime, I will add this frozen treat to my “I can have this for dessert” list.

For readers wanting more information on Healthy Choice Frozen Greek Yogurt, feel free to click on this link: httpsss://bit.ly/132oiw1. Additionally, if you would like to try Healthy Choice Frozen Greek Yogurt, you can download and print off a $1 off coupon with this link: httpsss://bit.ly/14MKQ5O

Happy snacking!

rasp yogurt

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

Hello world!

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Greetings from my new, improved blog space! Please be patient as I figure out how to add my old posts to the new site, and get to writing new posts…basically, I am starting from scratch! But that’s okay – this process has taught me a lot about transferring domains, decoding “geek-speak,” saving and backing up files – all good – as I am continuing to learn in the ever-evolving technological world!

So…If you have moved a blog from one domain to the next, let me know how you fared! And I will probably pester you to help me from time to time!

Geez – I just can’t seem escape constructions zones this summer 🙂

Have you gone from your technological comfort zone? Feel free to comment!

This #Boomer is having too much fun

“Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program, and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.”

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A few weeks ago, I posted a blog letting the world know that I was chosen to be part of a group of #Boomer bloggers. It was wonderful to meet so many talented, articulate women, whose blogs are great! (Note: I will get to adding them to my BlogRoll – soon.)

As members of the #VZWVoices, we were traveled to Chicago, put up at the Allerton Hotel, and attended classes where we learned about the device that would become an integral part of our lives: the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD. To get us to really use this device, we have been given unlimited data – and anyone who has data constraints knows that is an addicting feature.

So, the requirements we have for sharing our experiences with our phone is to be completely honest. And honestly, I am in love with the camera. 

Leaving the conference, my head was swimming with facts and features and I couldn’t wait to get home and play with my new tech toy. But I admit, I haven’t tried even a smidgen of the features, because I keep playing with the camera! It takes great pictures. And since I am not a professional photographer, and haven’t ever owned a “really good” camera, I am spending way too much time taking pictures and playing with the photo editor. And, for those who know me too well, I freely admit I don’t have a lot of patience. So, for me to take a picture, edit and play and tweak the features in an instant – well, yes, I am hooked.

Above is a very simple shot I took of some sunflowers I bought yesterday. Below, I have posted the images as I tweaked them:

Black and white:

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Documentary:

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Posterized:

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Auto Fix:

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Again, all done in seconds! Just remember to “save” any changes you want to keep (yep – learned that the hard way!).

Stay tuned for more updates, and photos!

© 2013 – Lynne Cobb

A brand new opportunity!

“Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program, and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.”

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Yep! It is true! I have been approached and asked for my opinion! So, you will see this disclaimer on my blog when I write about my adventures with the new device.

How cool it that?

I am really excited on so many levels. One, a new tech toy to play with! Two, my opinion will matter to someone other than me! Three, I will get to meet some other “Boomer” bloggers, which is really going to be great. The chance to meet new friends – fellow writers – and network and pick their brains about the blogging world is just wonderful.

It has been a crazy few years. In fact, I started this blog to help journal my feelings with my dad’s Alzheimer’s. Then, he got so sick that I didn’t have the heart – or the time – to write. After my dad died, my blog kind of morphed into my own little “column” of random ramblings, grief therapy and observations.  I have shared some ups and downs, and I am happy to say that, yes, sometimes, out of the blue, an opportunity lands in your lap.

So, stay tuned. I plan on capturing the moments and sharing them with you. The journalist in me can’t wait to investigate this product! The writer is dying to know if I can blog from it! The traveler in me can’t wait to get to my destination and meet everyone!

And the blogger in me can’t wait to share all of this with you soon, soon, soon!

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

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Graduation thoughts – decades later…

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“Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.” – Roger Babson

So today, June 13, is the 33rd anniversary of my graduation from high school. Wow. I know, I know… I just dated myself…

Maybe I am nostalgic because my third child graduated last month, and baby number four will graduate in two years. Maybe I am nostalgic because my granddaughter graduated kindergarten on the same day of my graduation anniversary. Maybe it’s hormones. But today truly has been a day of reflection.

First, how on earth did 33 years fly by so quickly? I haven’t done half of what I had planned to accomplish on that sunny day back in 1980. My plans were to head to college and become an accountant. Fame and fortune and a corner office downtown were waiting. Those plans changed quickly when I bombed pre-calculus and realized I didn’t love accounting enough to waste the time on trying to pass the class a second time around – on my dime. (Yes, I am one of those rare breeds that paid for my schooling.) So when I saw that the accountant gig wasn’t going to pan out, I fell back on to my childhood dream of being writer, and I was going to be the next, best reporter. Ever.

But then, marriage and four kids came along, and I never finished that journalism degree. In hindsight, maybe that was good, as print journalism took a nose dive. The military life had us moving around, and by the time we finally settled back home and my brood started to enter school, I had left the world of newspaper advertising and began freelance writing for local and daily papers and magazines. It was a wonderful balance.

I married a great guy – my soldier, a true hero – and we have four great kids of our own, and two recent additions – our son-in-law and daughter-in-law. We have two beautiful granddaughters. We receive wonderful accolades on our children – better than a Pulitzer or a byline in a newspaper.

The gal with the diploma didn’t have a clue that she’d meet her husband on a blind date, become a military wife, a mom times four, a military mom or a struggling writer. She didn’t know she’d live in Hawaii or visit other areas of the world. She didn’t know the joy and pain of being a parent; how hard it would be to watch her children struggle, face disappointments or to send a son off to basic training; she also had no clue as to how it would feel to have her husband and son deployed back-to-back in a war zone. She didn’t know she’d watch her dad succumb to the ravages of the worst disease ever – Alzheimer’s.

She didn’t know that she’d realize what her faith meant to her, and that she’d echo the same sentiment as her dad – that the only thing that really mattered was that her children came to know Christ. She didn’t realize what her mother went through, until she, herself, faced similar life situations and drew on the strength of her insanely strong mom.

That very shy graduate, the one who rarely opened her mouth back in the day, couldn’t possibly have known that one day, she’d have op-eds published in two Detroit dailies. That she’d defend her babies and march right into the school on two occasions, confronting teachers that bullied her daughters. That, paid or not, she’d keep her dream of writing alive. That she could face her fears and shyness and actually perform a few skits on a stage. In front of large crowds. That above all, God, family and love would be the priorities in her life.

She couldn’t have known that her fellow graduates would also face life struggles: divorces, deaths, job losses – and that they’d find fellowship in supporting each other as they grew older. That the smaller, more intimate gatherings weren’t to see who was the most successful, but to support each other and cheer them on – during the good times and the bad.

When I think back to the 18-year-old girl grasping the diploma, I wonder – did I disappoint her? I didn’t become the bang-whiz accountant or the ace reporter – that’s for sure. But, what I didn’t achieve for her career-wise, I sure think I made up for in other ways. She has a Master’s in the school of hard-knocks, which went a long way in developing her character. You see, that young kid is pretty damned content with how it has all turned out, and she learned that true success is measured in love.

And by that measurement, she knows that she has been repeatedly and abundantly blessed.

Do you ever reflect on your high school graduation? Let me know in the comments below.

© 2013 – Lynne Cobb

The World’s Most Beautiful Woman and the Sexiest Man – um, no

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“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.” – Markus Zusak

A few weeks ago, I watched the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video, (httpssss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE&feature=youtube_gdata_player). This is pretty profound, as a sketch artist draws women based on how they describe themselves. Not surprising, the women are very critical of their own looks, and really don’t see themselves as others see them.

So this morning, while on Facebook, I saw the Dove Sketch once again. I scrolled further and learned that a Hollywood actress has been named by People Magazine as “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman.” I am not naming her, as this commentary isn’t about her at all.

It is about the wrong messages we continue to pump out to our children and teenagers.

I guess I am just reveling in the irony.

We tell our little children that beauty is skin deep, and it is what is on the inside that really counts. And I believe that. I believe that the more beautiful and confident you are in yourself, the more your beauty is projected to the world in through your actions, your smiles, your attitude, your eyes. It has nothing to do with the size of your nose, the space in your teeth, the color of your hair or the size of your chest.

Beauty lies deep within your soul.

So, just how does an actress get to be the “Most Beautiful in the World?” Or, for that matter, what makes an actor the “Sexiest Man Alive?” Let’s face it. Physically, if I had a trainer, a personal chef, a make-up artist, a clothing coordinator, etc., I, too, would have a shot at being the most beautiful woman in the world.

I guess my “most beautiful person” check list is different from a magazine’s, or society’s in general. Especially when the person is given the additional “Of the World” title.

I define beauty in many ways:

Beauty is: staying up all night with a sick baby, a distressed friend, a dying parent or grandparent, a stressed-out spouse. Beauty is seeing a child pick a dandelion and run to give it to mommy. (Have you ever seen the look on a mom’s face? Or the child’s? Watch it – that is beauty!)

Beauty is seeing your husband hold that baby in his arms the first time.

Beauty is celebrating someone’s accomplishments even when your efforts have failed.

Beauty is watching your sons and nephews cry at their grandfather’s funeral.

Beauty, in my opinion, is character.

My thoughts are the same about the “Sexiest Man Alive.

To me, sexy is also character. How does a man treat a woman, or a woman treat a man? With respect? I have heard beautiful men and women chastise, curse and otherwise “be ugly” to their significant other. In public! I’m thinking that isn’t too “hot” or sexy…

Sexy is confidence, without hanging the goods out for all to see (yes, this applies to men and women…)

Sexy is respecting one’s body, as well as others.

Sexy is character.

I know these magazines name the Hollywood types “most beautiful” and “most sexy” to sell more product. I get it. But the problem is, we are sending mixed messages to our kids. We celebrate exterior beauty by placing these folks on the covers of magazines, in centerfolds, on the big screen and so forth.

It would be so refreshing to see someone on the cover of People Magazine who was being honored for character.

Maybe that would help send the message to our kids that character counts. That being beautiful and sexy is only as good as what is on the inside.

It’s not just a few exterior assets that make one beautiful or sexy. It’s the whole package.

What are your thoughts? Do think we emphasize physical beauty more than we should?

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

Dear complaint department…

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“I believe in grumbling; it is the politest form of fighting known.” Edgar Watson Howe

Some days, stupid things bug me more than on other days, and today is one of those days.

Stupid can be okay, because it takes one’s focus off of bigger problems – at least temporarily. And when I complain, I usually preface the complaint with, “I know there are starving kids around the world, catastrophic illnesses and injuries, but…” and then I get said complaint purged from my system.

So…here goes. My complaint of the day is…

I will be a chaperone/driver for a field trip this week. After raising kids for over 27 years and counting, I still enjoy field trips, hanging with my kids and their friends, and feeling like I am helping out at school. But… I have seen some real stupid paperwork come home from school over the past two decades, and I have to say, this one is the topper.

Doing due diligence, I filled out my “Parent’s Form” to include name; insurance company; make, model and year of car; number of seat belts, noting that students won’t be allowed to ride without being belted in; blah, blah, blah. Okay, important stuff.

And then this: “Parents, no smoking on the field trip.”

Really?

So, as a more-than-qualified field trip parent, and a once smoker/ex-smoker/social smoker, I was a bit irritated. Have smokers become “evil?”Let’s not forget to mention that one can’t smoke in restaurants, on school grounds, in the museum, in a library, at the zoo, at hospitals and most other places that are field trip destinations, so was that line really necessary?

Personally, I find that somewhat insulting. Isn’t that a given? Don’t most parents know that we are setting good examples for our children and being ambassadors of the school? Honestly, if we are going demonize a bad habit on a field trip, why stop at one?

So, if smokers can’t smoke on the field trip, then parents using other devices as their vices are advised that the following bad habits and behaviors are also not tolerated:

  • No texting while driving.
  • No chatting on the phone while driving.
  • No drinking alcohol while driving.
  • No swearing on the field trip (I will cut you some slack while driving).
  • No road rage while driving.
  • No eating while driving.
  • No applying make-up or shaving while driving.
  • No reading while driving.
  • No sniffing glue while driving.
  • No medicinal marijuana while on the trip.
  • No Slurpees or Big Gulps or overeating.
  • No nose- or teeth-picking while driving.
  • Hide your tattoo(es).
  • No bastardizing, demonizing, politicizing or proselytizing.

When looking for volunteers, why this handy-dandy list will eliminate the scourge of the Earth from even thinking of assisting!

Seriously, I, of course, am not defending bad habits, just adding a layer of humor to a society that is hell-bent on making some people’s bad habits worse than others. Just offering a reality check that maybe folks shouldn’t be condescending to others, just because one’s choice of a bad habit is different from another’s.

We’re all human. Everyone has bad habits. Let’s start giving folks a little credit for being smart enough to discern the situation and do the right thing. Most people will behave responsibly, even without a note from the principal…

Do you get irked over stupid statements? Let me know in the comments section!

© 2013 – Lynne Cobb