Thursday, May 24, 2012

Katie's Graduation from NYFA

I had no intention of actually going to up to New York to help Katie pack out of her dorm room. I didn't realize they were having an "official" graduation. I knew they were having something to commemorate the end of the year at the New York Film Academy, but I didn't realize it was an actual graduation. As the time rolled closer, I spoke on the phone with one of Katie's friends who lives in the dorm with her. He was telling me that his parents were there and they were sightseeing and suddenly it dawned on me...this IS a big deal. Turns out, Katie had downplayed it a bit - I think she was all too aware that her year in Manhattan was a pretty pricey deal. So she didn't want to ask me to fly up and stay in New York again. As I poked around at the details of the weekend though, it was clear (to me, at least) that this was something I didn't want to miss.

So, there I was on Friday afternoon, needing a flight the next day, the earlier the better. And I found it!  I don't know what I was thinking, but I didn't even get a hotel room until we were driving to the airport on Saturday morning - at 5:30 a.m.!

Anyway, when I landed at Charlotte for the connecting flight, I decided I needed to clue Katie in. She was making plans for her day and I didn't want to somehow get squeezed out! She was so surprised - and so happy I was coming!

After some confusion at the hotel (never try to get a reservation while you're driving to the airport that same day!), I met Katie at her dorm and we walked to The Barking Dog. Katie and I had eaten there when I first left her at the dorm last fall, so this seemed apropos!

After dinner, we took a cab down to Union Square, where the graduation would be held. But we arrived a little early, so we walked across the street and wandered around the Farmer's Market You can see one of the NYFA campus buildings in the larger picture here. The weather was lovely, so in spite of the Saturday afternoon crowds, this was great!


Then... on to the Graduation!

NYFA had a lovely reception set up, prior to the festivities. We were still full from our dinner, so we skipped the food. Katie introduced me to all of her friends - Section G. At NYFA, they are grouped into a section and then they stay together for the semester for all of their classes. I had heard about most of them through phone calls from Katie throughout the year, so it was nice to actually meet them!

After the reception, we went to the auditorium where we watched 15 minute short reenactments from films we all knew. Usually, the actors were paired up and Katie was in 2 of the final film performances, The Great White Hope, and The Fighter.

Accepting her diploma!
She warned me that the language was pretty bad - but I was pretty surprised to hear how BAAAAAD it really was!!! Add to it that she had had the flu during the shooting, so her voice was a little raspy. It added to the effect, I think!

Her Shakespeare teacher told me that he thought Katie was good enough to stay in New York and find work. But she really wants to head over to Los Angeles to take the 2nd year of Film Acting. NYFA has a campus at Universal Studios, so that sounds pretty exciting. Plus, she'll end up with an Associate's Degree and Katie's excited about that!

Katie's fellow students also gushed over her acting abilities, how they loved working with her in various scenes, and just how incredibly talented they think she is.  This was really one of the reasons to step out and see how she'd do in New York. We knew she did well as a Big Fish in a Little Pond....but how would she do as a Little Fish in A The Big Pond? I think it was clear - she did just great!

I'm so proud of Katie! She did a great job fending for herself in New York City and had a wonderful learning experience at NYFA.

 Katie wrote a blogpost about her last semester: Birthday, Sick, Final Performances, and Home for the Time Being. She has a lot of pictures up there, so that's fun to check out.

On stage with her section





 THE GRADUATE!



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ron's "New" Boat











So... I leave for NYC for Katie's Graduation, and what does Ron do?
He races off to the lake and buys a sailboat! 
That's a little exaggerated for effect, even though it is factually correct.  We had talked about it and decided that if everything was okay with this one, this would be the one to get. It's not like I'm that knowledgeable about boat-buying, so I didn't really need to be there. I care about things like lighting in the cabin, how much air circulation goes through there, or if the cushions look nice. Ron only cares about "how she sails." So he went on up to Lake Texoma, where he looked at 3-4 boats he had been studying online.  After testing a few, he decided on this one. The name was already chosen long ago, Venus.

The Venus is 29 ft. 11 inches long, with a beam (the inner cabin part - very important to me/not so important to Ron)  is 10 feet, 2 inches wide.  It has a 13 HP inboard Volvo diesel engine. It has 3 single berths and 2 double berths. So we can sleep a few people. It really looks like a pretty sailboat.

While the 4.5 hr. drive from our house to the lake is quite a bit longer than I wanted, Lake Texoma is a fun lake. We've had lots of camping fun with friends there - we used to go in the summer with friends from Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls.  Even though I would have preferred Lake Belton, Texoma is a really good choice for a sailboat. Lots of wide open water and even some islands to explore.

Josh and Alyssa have already explored the fishing situation at Lake Texoma. It's an odd lake, in that more than half of it is in Oklahoma and the other half is still in Texas - it's right along the Red River. The lake has a surface area of 74, 686 acres! If you find Lake Texoma on Google Maps, you'll see how the state border is all over the place. In some places, it's right off the Texas shore. Fortunately, they offer special Lake Texoma fishing licenses because it's difficult to determine whether you're in  Texas or Oklahoma!

The Venus was actually built 40 years ago! In 1968 - I was only 7!  With most purchases, this would not be a good sign. But not a Bristol sailboat! Ron is so excited. He says that the newer boats just aren't built as well as this one. With all the boats he looked at, this was the only one that the bilge was dry. The owner took great care of the Venus.

We've had other boats, more of Project Boats, needing lots of work. Michael and Ron would work on them together, and we'd take them out on the weekends and swim off the side. This one is bigger than anything we've had before. Plus, it's already in really nice shape.

Katie and Alyssa are both excited for a sleepover at the boat! I think it will be a lot of fun this summer. Katie likes the quiet that sailboats bring, listening to the squeaking and the rigging. Alyssa, on the other hand, likes a little more adventure. I'm sure it won't be long before she wants to tie a Jet Ski to the side, so she can speed around!


The camera lens they used really distorts the cabin in the photos here. It makes the galley area look much longer than it really is. Still, it's plenty of room for us.

I've grown up on lakes: Lake of the Ozarks as a child, Lake Ray Hubbard outside Dallas - I love boats. I have to confess, though, I've not really been a sailor. It's a lot of work, and honestly, sometimes when the boat tilts, I get a little nervous. Ron thinks I should run down to Corpus Christi and take a couple sailing courses, just so I'll know what to do. That's probably a good idea. What would I do if he got knocked overboard? Don't ask me, I haven't taken the course yet!

Ron is hoping to retire in a couple of years, and he can really see himself puttering around on this boat. He's had to let hockey and horses go, so this is a nice retirement hobby! So if you can't find him, he'll probably be on the boat!







Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

I wrote this post at the table and then finished it in my hotel room on Mother's Day. But I didn't have WiFi in my room, so I just waited to upload it when I got back home.  I've backdated it as well.  I should add that I did later hear more from Michael and Alyssa. And, I spent the rest of the day with Katie, helping her pack, going out to eat at this lovely Italian restaurant in walking distance of her dorm, and then we went for a walk in Central Park.  Lovely.


I've been a mom since 1989. And Mother's Day has been a pretty big deal to me. The first year I was a mom, I invited my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law all to my house. I gave each of them a dozen Lammes chocolate-dipped strawberries - you know the kind that come in the egg cartons? I felt like I was part of The Club. 


Growing up in Kansas City, my dad made sure we always celebrated Mother's Day in style.  We'd often do our family Mother's Day activities with just our immediate family, but then go to my grandmother's for a big meal.  I remember buying corsages for my mom to wear to Mass, and gifts for her and my grandma.  Then after I had kids of my own, and the military took us all over the country, my mom ended up with the short end of the stick. She had to settle for a flower delivery and a phone call. Good, but not great. 


Since we were far from family, we created our own traditions.  Sometimes it was breakfast out, always there were flowers, gifts and cards. As the kids got older, breakfast in bed became the norm. And now that we've moved back to Texas and my mom is nearby, we have a more multi-generational Mother's Day again. 
Mother's Day 2011
Last year for Mother's Day, I cooked a huge brunch for everyone and then we went out to a show at the Paramount Theatre afterward. I think I may have known then it was going to be some kind of last hurrah. All the kids were home. I focused more on making something for my Mom and I think she had a good time.  It was really just... perfect.


I think I've always identified myself as a mom, first and foremost. It's something I've always known I wanted to be. I expected to have a variety of careers over my lifetime and I have: student, nurse, teacher, entrepreneur, volunteer. But being a full-time mom stayed constant through each of these periods of my life, and in my mind, trumped them all. 


Now, in my self-proclaimed Year of Transition, Mother's Day also takes on a new look. Michael called from Nicaragua last night. My first baby boy is 1500 miles away. His call wasn't really about wishing me a Happy Mother's Day, as much as a call to fill me in on his latest adventures.  But I'm counting it as a Mother's Day call. When we lost the connection, as we usually do, I texted to tell him that it could count as a Mother's Day call - and I think I reminded him. In Nicaragua, they celebrate Mother's Day at the end of the month, so it's a little confusing.


The irony is that I'm sitting at a lovely Sunday Brunch at the Marriott in New York City - all by myself. I've come to New York for Katie's graduation from the New York Film Academy. Since I surprised her yesterday by showing up unannounced, I didn't want to interfere with her afterparty plans. They all went to New Jersey to stay the night at a classmate's house. 


Katie sent me a Mother's Day text this morning when she got up and we plan to spend the day packing her out of her dorm room, take a little walk in Central Park, and maybe do some more sightseeing.
Alyssa, Josh and Ron were planning to take my mom out to breakfast this morning back at home, so I haven't heard from them yet. 


Life morphs and changes all the time, doesn't it? 


And while my FAVORITE Mother's Day consisted of my kids piled on my bed eating breakfast with me, those memories will have to suffice for now. Still, I'm noticing that I simply feel happy and grateful to be their mom. 


So here I sit, sipping my coffee at a table for one in the hotel restaurant.  They're all decked out ready to greet the Mother's Day Brunch crowd.  I thought that would bother me, but I actually feel... content. That's a little surprising, since this transition has been a bit of a melodrama for me.  But my children are all happy and strong, exploring their own lives. They know I love them and I know they love me. A little bit of distance isn't going to change that. But I am going to have to make a shift. Being their mom can't be my primary purpose any more. That phase is done. Frequently, that thought makes me a little teary, because I LOVED that phase! But that's okay. I'm feeling ready to face whatever great things the future has in store for ME. 


Time to get going on that!


Check, please!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sue's Monthly Update - Month 3

Time for another update.

FOOD-wise
My Vegan ways have veered off-track. When it's possible, I choose vegan. But I was probably at about 70% of the time. Healthier than not at all, but, I'd like to get a little better at this. I have pretty much ditched the dairy altogether, without a lot of trouble. I thought I'd have a harder time without the cheese, but it's not a big deal to me.

From last month, I didn't meet any of my food goals. So I'm bringing them over to this month:
1.) 1 skip day per week for Vegan
2.) Order the Vegan Cookbook I mentioned last month
3.) Do the Tofu "class" with Cydney - might actually get to that this week.
4.) Go eat Tofu Scramble with HeatherB and see how it is at Kerbey Lane


One thing I did do was contact Veggytopia. Last week, I had a week of Vegan meals delivered to my house!!! How cool is that? I loved most of it. But my main point in doing it is to taste the different foods and see what I'd like to learn how to cook. I didn't get it ordered for this week, but I might just go to Sprouts or Whole Foods to buy some pre-made vegan entrees. I'll let you know what works. 

Here's the breakdown:
Asparagus and brown rice - great!
Macaroni - not that great. It's too much of the vegan cheese.
Polenta and beans - delish!
**My 2 favorites
Blonde Brownie - yum - especially with coffee!
Quinoa & veggies - I really love quinoa recipes
BBQ - ok
"Chorizo" and potatoes - ok
**Mock Chicken salad - wonderful
**Parsnips, carrots, dates - wonderful

They tell me that your food consumption is 70% responsible for your weight, while your exercise is only 30%. So need to focus a little more in this area. 

I've lost 18 lbs. so far.

EXERCISE-wise
I'm still doing well with this. Better each month, really. I exceeded all the goals I set for myself last month. Now I just have to keep up with them. I got a trainer and worked with her twice a week for a few weeks. We're starting once a week this week, and I really have to prove to myself that I can push myself as hard as she pushes me. I can't afford her forever, so I simply have to make this happen.
  • Lake walking  (3 miles) - doing that at least 4 times per week
  • Weights - 3 times/week is the goal. I've done about 2x/wk consistently
  • Water Aerobics - 4x/week (Tues & Thurs this happens twice/day)
  • 1/4 mile swim 3x/week - my goal is to do this after the weight training (I did it twice last week, now have to keep it up)





With the switch to healthier lifestyle, I've been reading more about being meatless and dairy-free.  I have a hard time explaining to people what and why I'm doing what I'm doing.  So all this reading helps. Many people have given me suggestions, so I thought I'd share some of them here.

Shattering The Meat Myth: Humans Are Natural Vegetarians
I liked this article. Some of the arguments I've heard are disputed. People often point to our canines saying  that's why we are designed to eat meat. But the size of our canines compared to animals that are REALLY carnivores - much different. And our hands, more designed for berry-picking than ripping and tearing. Meat-eating is simply a tradition we've adopted, and we're slow to let it go for cultural reasons.
"Although we think we are, and we act as if we are, human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us, because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores."
What Eating Too Much Sugar Does to the Brain
This was good because it talks about how sugar IS needed by the brain to function, but the amount of ADDED sugar is simply not necessary (and quite harmful). The article gives links to several research studies, and makes a lot of connections to some of the health problems I'm seeing in myself. Even memory issues - an area in which I seem to have an increasing problem.
In other words, chronically eating added sugar reduces "brain-derived neurotrophic factor" (BDNF), and then the lowered levels of the brain chemical begin contributing to insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which eventually leads to a host of other health problems.  
Changing Food Choice and Dietary Habits Requires Breaking Old Behavior Patterns
He talks about the problems and the reasons people have with creating new ways of dealing with food - why people resist the changes when they know that some of the foods we eat are toxic for us. For instance, with the typical bacon cheeseburger:
Sodium nitrite in the bacon -- that's going to cause colorectal cancer.
Saturated animal fats in the bacon and in the burger itself -- that's going to promote heart disease and atherosclerosis.
The bun is made from refined white flours -- that's going to cause nutritional deficiencies and promote diabetes and obesity thanks to its high glycemic index.
The fake slice of cheese melted across the burger -- that's made with saturated milk fats which are going to further promote heart disease, and also, since it's a dairy product, it's going to cause system-wide stagnation, meaning it may clog up your sinuses or cause constipation.
The ketchup has tomatoes and lots of corn syrup, so you get more sugar.
Tons of salt in the whole thing: there's salt in the bacon, there's salt in the cheese and of course there's salt in the burger itself. So you're going to get hypertension and high blood pressure from the salt, plus you'll promote chronic dehydration of your internal organs due to excessive consumption of salt. Then you've got kidney stress, liver stress, uric acid in your blood, suppressed immune system function, impaired oxygen diffusion in lung tissues, and so on.
Not to mention all the preservatives and chemicals!
Now, I didn't know there was anything wrong with TOMATOES! And I know this list sometimes makes us all gloss over with a big "whatever!" But then I read this:
Pretty soon, you're into a self-perpetuating cycle: you eat well, you feel great. Then you have the motivation to eat even better, and suddenly you feel even better! Little by little, you transform your diet because it makes you feel good: better energy, improved mental clarity, better sleep, fewer aches and pains, heightened physical performance, improved sex drive, you name it!
That seems like a better motivation to me!

Meatless Mondays, a Movement that Has Legs
This article starts with Chef Mario Batali instituting a Meatless Monday in his 14 restaurants. The authors give a little history of the meat industry's resistance to people choosing to eat less meat in their diet, which was interesting and expected. The article is simply showing how plant-based dieting is making its way into the mainstream.
It's enough to make the meat industry nervous. Over the past year, lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum. They have fired off missives to institutions that embrace the call to reduce meat consumption, and they have posted talking points for meat producers on the Internet. They are also making a final push to ensure that the government recommendation of two servings of meat per day remains enshrined in the new dietary guidelines that the Department of Agriculture will release this fall.

Engine 2
Engine 2 is what started me on the Vegan path. I started last year, with reading the book, discovering their website, recipes, encouragement, etc. The Forks Over Knives website has been revamped, and has more info there too.

New 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Plan (Pam & I talk about doing this one)
Beauty that Moves - 30 day workshop (thinking of doing this with Heather Boothe, but I may have missed the deadline)

Blogs
Mighty Vegan
Salad of the Day - Pam's blog about ....um, salads

Friday, May 11, 2012

Family Updates

OK, somehow I fell way behind on Family Updates. I guess I was chatting with them a bit at Facebook, and didn't do it here. One of the reasons I prefer here though, is that it's recorded. Facebook just scrolls away.
So...since last we talked, a few things have happened....

Alyssa...
... GRADUATED from Avenue Five Institute (a Vidal Sassoon School). The way cosmetology schools work is that once you have done all the tasks on the list and completed 1500 hours, you're done. She completed the tasks in record time - she was driven! All she had to do was continue to work through her 1500 hours. Her attendance was 105% (she came in early, took short lunches, never skipped), so she was one of the first 4 to graduate that had started with her back in June '11. We're really proud of her! She graduated on Friday, April 27th and then took the licensure exam the following Monday. She's got a pretty good case of test anxiety, but she pushed through it and PASSED! She has the 2nd part, the practical hands-on part to do next week.

Alyssa has a couple of job interviews set up and she's waiting to hear back from some. So, hopefully, the next update will say where she's working. We're so proud of her and sure she's going to do great!

She and I made a little website for her future clients. You can subscribe to Alyssa's Salon and get notifications when she updates, has changes, or offers specials for clients.

OH! Alyssa and Josh had their Engagement Pictures done in the middle of the Texas Bluebonnets.
Here's more about Engagement Photos - they're pretty spectacular!





Katie...

Katie is wrapping up her year in New York City. She's had an incredible experience there - hanging out with her fellow actors, learning tons about the business, performing in a variety of shows, going to see shows on Broadway. She's grown up a lot too, having to manage her way through the big city, getting her subway passes, hailing cabs, rushing through rain - all of these were totally unfamiliar when she got there. Now she's a Pro!

She did have to figure out what to do when you have the Flu a long ways from home. That was awful for BOTH of us!! She had to walk to the nearest CVS to get some meds so she could work on a group film project. I know, encouraging a person to go be with OTHER people, when they're sick is never a good idea. But she had no choice. And she really felt like all of them had either been exposed or had it already, so she pressed on. She dosed up on meds and they could barely tell she was sick.
Afterwards, she was a wreck though. She couldn't really get out of bed to go get food, so I ordered some from a nearby deli for her. When she went down to get it in the lobby, she said, "I just remember not being able to see anything then suddenly, all I could see was vomit." Great. She passed out AND puked in the lobby. They even called EMS. But she told them she was just hungry and had the flu. The housing staff walked her back to her room and EMS was turned away when they arrived in the lobby. After a couple of days, she was better. Thank heavens for DayQuil. But it's really tough to not be able to help your baby when she's sick and far away!!
At first, I was going to go up to NYC to help her pack out of the dorm. But since we'll have to do a flight to L.A. to find a new place to live for next year, we need to save money. And Katie is perfectly capable of getting boxes and figuring out how to ship some stuff out of there. I DO love New York and I would absolutely LOVE to see her final work there, but I'm afraid it's just not meant to be this time.
So, Katie's flight is May 18th!  I'm ready to have her home for a few months so I can take care of her!

Michael...
Michael's been having a pretty exciting time in Nicaragua. Apart from his work, he's managed to get out and go exploring. Nicaraguans get the week before Easter off from school. So he and his girlfriend Kathya took a trip to the beautiful Corn Islands. They have a bunch of photos up on Facebook.

A few weeks ago, Michael sent me a cryptic text saying he had "been robbed." It took a little while to get more specifics. He had had a situation earlier, prior to the elections, where all of the people on the bus were told to get off on the side of the road. Then the politicos commandeered the bus. So my disaster brain went to work with all kinds of worst-case-scenarios. I was certainly being reminded that there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him. After a little bit, he texted that he had been pick-pocketed by 2 Nicaraguans who were half his height. They systematically bumped him, then exited the bus as quickly as they came on - with his wallet. Luckily, he didn't keep his passport on him, so he just lost a little money and his ID. That was remedied the following week. His response? "Well, you just have to pay a little more attention when the rodeo is in town!"
Michael has had 2 articles published in the Peace Corps Magazine. This is his photo that actually  landed on the cover!  Some of his articles are at Nica Time on Tumblr . He's having a little trouble uploading them, so I'll post when they're available.

I just love the colors in all the photos he takes there. It really is just a little bit of civilization plopped down in the middle of a rainforest.


Ron
Ron has the Boat Bug again. He's looking at retiring from Hospice Austin in a couple of years, and I think he's trying to visualize how he wants to spend his time.  He seems to be relegated to spectator with regards to his hockey passion. This makes him a little bummed, but the idea of owning another sailboat perks him right up! He took a sailing course in Corpus Christi a couple of weekends ago. I know! Crazy since he's been sailing for 40 years! But he had to take the course in order to take the more advanced courses. He'd really like to charter a boat. And, he was happy to sail on open water - any chance to be on a sailboat makes him happy. He looked at some boats up at Lake Texoma. And, while that's a great sailing lake, it's a 4-5 hour drive from our house. I'm pushing for Lake Belton, which is only about an hour away. That allows for some last minute back and forth that couldn't happen if he puts the boat at Texoma. We'll see what he decides. And as far as boats go, he's trying to decide between a Bristol 29, a Cal 27, and a Hunter 30.  I'll keep you posted what he ends up doing.

Sue
I'm mainly focusing on my health. I'd really like to get rid of some of these medical diagnoses, and I think that could happen if I got rid of some weight. So, that's been my big focus lately. The gardening is continuing, though I'd like it to look much better. And I've been having a lot of fun with a series I'm doing  with other women working on personal growth. Busy! Busy!

That about sums it up for us for now. Hopefully, I'll do better at keeping this updated in the future!