December 7, 2003 was a cold, wet, dreary day — much like this one.
I know that because while my husband and daughter were occupied with other things, I decided to follow the lead of my online friend, author Andrea Buchanan, who at that time ran a website for moms in Philadelphia. Andi was the first person I knew who had set up one of these new-fangled things called “blogs,” and because she is an exceptionally prescient and thoughtful woman, I decided I wanted to set one up, too.
So I signed up for a free Typepad account and wrote:
It’s a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, and the house is a little chilly. “I’m going to make some tea,” I announce to Gareth. “Would you like some?” Silly question. He loves a spot of tea in the afternoon, even when it’s 90 degrees out. He insists that hot tea is cooling on a hot day. I’ve never found any logic in this, and although I’ve heard the same from other transplanted Brits, I think it’s just an urban myth cooked up by an ex-pat who can’t embrace American-style tumblers of tea poured over ice. Iced tea in summer is refreshing. Hot tea is a perfect drink when it’s cold – like today.
We were planning a Christmas trip to Britain to visit my husband’s family, and I thought the blog would be a cool way to share our adventures with our family and friends here in California. I never expected to continue it once we returned home. I certainly never expected that I would still be writing it ten years later.
A lot has happened to us over those ten years. We’ve had our share of ups… and downs. (And I’m not just talking about my weight.)
We traveled a lot — until we didn’t.
We said good-bye to beloved pets — and welcomed new ones.
My daughter threw herself into a sport and so we became devoted supporters — until she decided it was time to move on, and we were forced to move on, too.
In 2003, my daughter was in the second grade. Today, she’s applying to college.
Before I started my blog, I felt isolated and alone as a stay-at-home mom up here in the north San Fernando Valley.
In 2005, I attended the first-ever BlogHer conference for women who blog and that community has grown and given me more than I can say. Now, I have hundreds of friends throughout the country (and other parts of the world). I have even met some of them in real life (too many to list in this short post).
A few months ago, I despaired over the difficulty of re-entering the workforce after taking so much time off to raise my child. Today, I have a job… a job I landed because of skills and experience I developed as a blogger.
This blog — which I began as an experiment on a whim because I didn’t have anything else to do on a rainy Sunday — has changed my life, for the better.
I can’t wait to see how it goes over the NEXT ten years.
I finally had that appointment with my doctor last week. And the news was good: That thing on my ovary appears to be just another fibroid. We will continue to monitor it, but for now, no surgery or other treatment is required.
Can I hear a “whew?”
Thankfully, I did not spend a great deal of time worrying about it. I have had too much to do cleaning up the new website and setting up a blog for my nearly full-time client. For the first time in years, I am cautiously optimistic about the future (like in realizing I actually HAVE a future, as this gig is made-to-order for my re-entry into the world of gainful employment).
However, I confess that while I was driving to my appointment, my mind did turn to the possibility of a morbid outcome.
Since the dawn of the great recession, I’ve limited discretionary spending on myself. The first thing to go was stuff like manicures. I bartered for a couple of years with an esthetician (waxing in exchange for managing her client newsletter). This arrangement worked until she decided to go into another business. Unfortunately, this is not something I can completely forego because my menopausal face keeps sprouting hair in all the wrong places. But I don’t go as often as I should, because it’s expensive. Thankfully, my eyesight is now so bad and the lighting in my bathroom is so dim that I rarely notice my whiskers.
Likewise, I put off getting my hair cut and colored for as long as I can. When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I tried coloring my hair myself and botched it so badly that I decided this was something that should be left to the professionals. At the start of the recession, I toyed with the idea of allowing my gray hair to come in naturally. I didn’t like the way I looked (you know – OLD). So then I experimented with getting these services done on the cheap at a beauty school – but all it took was one sloppy dye job to quit that idea. Since then, I just stretched my visits out until my hair was so limp and dull that I can’t bear it any longer.
This is where I was last week, and I remember driving off to the doctor and thinking I needed to make some salon time.
And then, I realized that there was this little, teeny chance that I might have bigger things to deal with, and that going to the salon NOW would be a waste of time and money.
I promised myself I would see a hairdresser this weekend if the news was good.
So: My hair is now dark and shiny… and it occurred to me that I no longer HAVE to go two or three months between salon visits. I can now afford to go every 4-6 weeks, as I did from the time I turned 18 and had my first regular paycheck.
This is going to take some getting used to. And even though I am now benefiting from a regular paycheck and have received a clean bill of health, I am having trouble letting go of the blanket of dread I’ve been living with for the last five years. I can’t allow myself to feel happy for very long, because I’m afraid of getting blindsided again by events I cannot control.
This is no way to live. I know that. I have felt insecure for a very long time and I think it’s going to take me at least as long to shake it off and feel like myself again.
One of the tasks I’m doing for my new business client is managing their social media. This is a piece of cake, since I’ve been active on Facebook, Twitter, et al for years — especially for the MOMocrats.
And there’s my dilemma. Partisan politics has no place when conducting business. And while I have a right to express my political views (and have no intention of stopping), I think it’s only appropriate in my personal space. My clients and their customers don’t want to know what I think of Obamacare, and frankly, I don’t feel the need to tell them.
I am also wary of those instances where corporate tweeters got in trouble for controversial updates that offended half their stream.
This isn’t a problem with Twitter, where my tweets go out under the company account. It’s not really a problem with LinkedIn, which only gets limited feeds from SoCal Mom. But Facebook is another matter. I am now administering the company page there and it occurred to me that I did not want any of my MOMocrats posts to bleed over to the news feeds of the people I’m now working with. Yes, I can set privacy settings that would limit my status updates just to my friends — but I am likely to begin adding new business colleagues and clients to my friend list.
Besides, we all know how much Facebook respects your privacy. They change their terms all the time and your settings along with them (and rarely notify you). Right now, I go into my privacy settings monthly to see how they are set and regularly discover that they’ve changed without my knowledge. It’s a pain.
So over the weekend, I decided to create myself a second Facebook profile under my company email address. And then I friended some of the people from the company.
And then I realized that “Donna Mills,” with her whopping TWO friends, looked fake. And a little bit creepy. So I sent friend requests to about a dozen family members and close friends and posted a status update explaining why I had created the second account.
The following day, I received a text from another good friend (not one of the original dozen) asking me why Facebook was suggesting she friend me when we were already friends? After I explained the situation to her, I checked my email and discovered that about 20 people who are on my “real” Facebook friends list had also asked to friend my other account.
As of now, “Donna Mills” has 46 friends and the requests keep on coming.
I don’t think any of them are going to see a lot going on with “Donna Mills.” For one thing, she’s a lot less vocal than “Donna Schwartz Mills.” She posts links to general interest articles that may be funny and status updates that don’t say a whole lot. And I have a feeling she’ll be calling attention to a number of videos she’s making touting the joys of Microsoft products (Did I mention that the client is an IT company? “Donna Mills” is about to become an expert on everything coming out of Redmond. “Donna Schwartz Mills” is still in love with her iPad and iPhone.)
How long can I keep up maintaining two separate Facebook identities? For a long, long time, I hope. In the meantime, if you are already a Facebook friend of “Donna Schwartz Mills,” you don’t need to prove your love by friending “Donna Mills,” too. But if you do, maybe you want to show the company Facebook page a little love while you’re at it? I’d truly appreciate it.
It has been a long time since I participated in one of the November writing challenges like NaNoWriMo and NoBloPoMo.
The one time I attempted the novel writing challenge, the resulting manuscript was such a pile of dreck that continuing on to another draft seemed absolutely pointless.
And I think it is silly to join the daily blog posting activity because posting daily should always be my blogging goal. The fact that month after month I fail at it only makes me less determined to join in the fun.
But now that 20-30 of my weekly hours are being spent in the service of a paying client, finding time for my personal blog is proving to be more difficult than ever. So last week, I found myself once again toying with the idea of signing up for NaBloPoMo, if only to force myself to find a sliver of time.
And then it was November 5. So that train has passed.
My last full post was written while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I suppose it should come as no surprise that this one is also coming to you from a waiting room. It seems that is the only place right now where I am able to empty my mind of work-related tasks, enabling me to focus long enough to write.
In other words, I am bored. And desperate enough to blog from my iPhone.
My last post referred to my fear of the other show dropping in the form of some kind of medical disaster. The fact that my doctor has ordered additional tests means that I am still watching for that shoe to maybe drop… But for right now, all is well.
But I did have a bit of a thud last week, when my car underwent some unscheduled and expensive repairs… Followed by a plumbing event that cost me about a week’s pay.
Thank goodness I am being paid now, right? And no wonder I am so silent here.
Here’s hoping I find the time to write again soon… In the comfort and accessibility of my home office.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
I have a good reason for neglecting this space for the last two weeks:
I got a job. A real, honest-to-goodness, employment situation with a boss and meetings — and a paycheck, too. And I have been putting all of my energy into showing them that taking a chance on me was not a mistake.
So far, I think they are happy with the work I am doing for them, and it feels good. It feels really good. It feels so good that I’ve been a little bit afraid to talk about it, lest I tempt fate and force the other shoe to drop.
You see, for the last several years, whenever I’ve had a lick of good fortune, something dire hits me on the head with a great big thump. And I so don’t want to have that happen now. I need this job. I needed it three years ago. And I am terrified of screwing it up.
Right now, I am looking at something that might be that other shoe: Do you remember that doctor’s appointment I had over the summer, where they discovered I had developed a new uterine fibroid (after the onset of menopause, when that is not supposed to happen)?
I was advised to come back in two months so they could check the progress. The two months have now passed, and I wrote the bulk of this post while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room with a full bladder, waiting to be called in for another ultrasound. And while it was easy to put it out of my mind for eight weeks, once I was there — I was scared.
Because it would be just my luck to finally see the light at the end of the financial tunnel only to learn that I had problems with my health.
Unfortunately for me, my OB/GYN was called to the hospital on Wednesday when I had my appointment, so she was not there to interpret the results of the scan. It’s now Saturday morning, and I still have not heard from her. I am thinking that’s a good sign — but I will call her on Monday, just to make sure.
I hope that shoe stays right where it is.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
“Don’t forget – my friend’s mom is picking me up from school and taking us to that play tonight,” my daughter said this morning as she slammed my car door shut.
I had forgotten. And now that she mentioned it, I realized that with my husband out of town this week, I am going to be alone until late tonight. What should I do about dinner?
And then I remembered that I have a stash of Healthy Choice meals in my freezer. I’m kind of laughing about this: When I was young and single, I lived on this stuff for dinner most nights. (Maybe that’s why I didn’t have to worry as much about my weight back then.)
These meals have come a long way since the 1980′s: they’re tastier, feature more natural ingredients and make use of new materials and processes. For instance, Healthy Choice’s line of Baked Taste entrees are packaged in a tray that’s designed to cook more evenly in the microwave, meaning fewer burnt bits on the edges.
My favorite food is pasta, so I guess it’s no wonder that weight is an issue for me now that I’m at an age where my body has trouble metabolizing the carbs. I mean, there is nothing easier to cook — but I have a major problem with portion control, especially if I’m the only one eating it. That’s why heating up one of these Healthy Choice Baked meals works for me on a night like this.
I really like the Healthy Choice Italian Sausage Bake and the Ravioli Marinara Bake. I especially like the fact that the pasta in the former Baked Taste entree is the more nutritious and better-to-metabolize whole grain type, and the Ravioli Baked Taste entree is a vegetarian choice. Both weigh in at fewer than 300 calories.
Tonight, I am thinking I’d like to switch it up from the pasta. Maybe I’ll try the Healthy Choice Chicken and Rice Cheddar Bake, featuring a blend of brown and wild rice (which isn’t rice at all, but more of a grass — and so a cup will have way fewer carbs to digest). Or perhaps the Slow Roasted Turkey Bake, made with roasted potatoes, butternut squash and green beans (in a gravy, topped with crispy onions). That one sounds like a little Thanksgiving preview; perfect for this time of year.
Which ever meal I choose, I know it will be fast, easy — and nice to my waistline. Maybe I’ll engage in some of my other “single girl behavior,” like dancing – in front of the TV. Because I may be temporarily single, but I need a lot more motivation to leave the house on a cold night.
This post is a mushy love letter to the folks at Disneyland, whose kind invitation to their annual #Halloween Time Media Day allows me to bask in all my Disney dreams… despite the fact that my child is no longer a little kid. I am living proof that you don’t have to be a kid or have young children to have a good time at a Disney park. You can even be a woman in your 50′s and have a great time there. It’s just that the experience becomes a little different.
This giant Jack o’Mickey greets visitors to Disneyland ‘s main park at Halloween Time. And every year, I take its picture.
My sister, Linda, is also a Disneyland devotee. She dropped everything this weekend and drove down here from Sacramento so she could enjoy the Halloween festivities with me.
“I really want to spend some time at California Adventure,” she told me. The last time we visited the Disney parks together, California Adventure was torn up for its $1.1 billion renovation, and she didn’t get to see much of it at all. It’s gorgeous now and better than ever. But she wanted to see that for herself.
As it turned out, the Media Day event included a reception in a “soundstage” on the Hollywood Backlot area of the park, so that was our first stop. On the way, Linda got her first glimpse of what a billion dollars buys you these days.
I took this photo last year, the first time I got to see the new Buena Vista Street entrance to California Adventure.
“This is beautiful,” she said as we wandered down Buena Vista Street, Disney Imagineering’s re-creation of Los Angeles circa 1923, the year a young Walt Disney arrived in Southern California. Buena Vista Street is very similar to the original park’s Main Street: It greets visitors by setting the stage for all the magic that’s to come, with period buildings, shops, restaurants and transportation (in this case, a replica of the old Red Cars, which criss-crossed the region and enabled residents to travel from one end of the city to the other).
Saturday was the final day for high school seniors applying to college to take the SAT, and so it was already past lunch time when we arrived at the Park and once we had checked out the reception, my daughter and her friend went off on their own, promising to check in with me by text every couple of hours. My friend Marsha (who blogs at Sweatpants Mom) joined us in a quest for something good to eat. Our first stop was the Carthay Circle, a restaurant designed to look exactly like the movie theater where Disney’s Snow White premiered in 1939. I remember seeing that theater, and also remember it being torn down in the late 60′s. This is probably the most elegant dining establishment inside either of the Disneyland parks — it is also tough to get a reservation on as busy a day as Saturday (I know — I tried to get one two weeks ago and the only available time for dinner was 4:00 PM).
So I suggested we mosey over to the Wine Country Trattoria, where I’ve always had good luck being seated. I had tried to take my sister here on her ill-fated previous visit to California Adventure, and we simply could not find the entrance behind all the construction. We were ushered to a table right away, and that’s where we made our first California Adventure discovery: There were cocktails on the menu. Now, California Adventure has always differed from the original Disneyland Park by selling wine and beer… but it you wanted a real mojito or martini, you still had to go to one of the hotels or Downtown Disney.
“Do you really have a full bar here?” Marsha asked. Our waitress assured us they did, and in the spirit of “if you build it they will come,” she ordered a margarita with her lunch. I toyed with the idea of having a cocktail and decided I might fare better on a hot afternoon with something a little lighter, so Linda and I each had a glass of white wine. Either way, we decided that feeling free to order a drink was a major benefit of enjoying Disneyland without our kids.
Yes, when bloggers get together for lunch it is totally normal for them to Instagram their drinks.
With lunch out of the way, it was time to explore the Parks. Our first stop — as always — was Space Mountain, my all-time favorite Disneyland ride, which adds a fiery ghost for Halloween excitement this time of year. For the few of you reading this who do not know, Space Mountain is a high-speed, high-tech thrill ride — the kind of attraction women our age are thought to avoid. And I will be honest: I am not as hardy as I used to be, especially when it comes to things like motion sickness. That’s one reason why I stay away from the Tower of Terror attraction at California Adventure. I think it’s a great ride — but the only time I tried it, I thought it was going to give me a heart attack. (My daughter, however, loves it and rode it twice on this visit.)
“Uh, maybe this isn’t such a great idea right after lunch,” Linda noted as we climbed into our “rocket.” By that time, it was too late. Thankfully, we made it through the ride with no ill effect, and later rode the California Screamin’ roller coaster, complete with 360-degree loop. What can I say? We may be middle-aged but we’ve still got it.
From there, we journeyed to the other side of the Park, past Frontierland and New Orleans Square to the Haunted Mansion. I was fortunate on a previous Disney excursion to enjoy this ride beside Disney’s Michele Himmelberg, who offered up lots of background on this most appropriate Halloween time attraction. I love how they pay tribute each holiday season to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Michele is the one who told me that the huge cake in the ride’s party scene is made of real gingerbread, baked by the Park’s pastry chef — and each year, he whips up something different. (This year it’s a Skellington-themed Advent Calendar.)
We did a few more rides in both parks and a bit of shopping before we met Marsha back for dinner at Catal’s UVA Bar in Downtown Disney, which is becoming a part of our new Disneyland tradition (this is my third year dining at either Catal restaurant or UVO). And this time, I did opt for an actual cocktail because the menu offerings all sounded yummy. (And they were.)
We finished by watching the spectacular Halloween fireworks show. This is another feature that is all-new every year: The one thing you can expect is that you will walk away saying it was the best fireworks you’ve ever seen.
The Park started to empty out after the fireworks, and we toyed with the idea of getting on at least one more ride. But my daughter and her friend put the kibosh on that plan: We found them sitting on a bench and looking really sleepy. They were tired and wanted to go home.
HAH! Score another one for the middle-aged moms, who were still up for more Disney fun. Then again, by the time we hit the freeway, we realized the girls’ wisdom in exiting when we did. We were tired, too. The Fitbit I wear reported that all in all, we had walked over six miles.
“You know, it really isn’t possible to do all of Disneyland in one day any longer,” my sister remarked.
She’s right. There is so much more to see than there was when we were kids, and the wait times for the “E-ticket” rides seem even longer. I’ve gotten used to leaving the Park still wanting more — which isn’t bad for an attraction that’s thought of as just a children’s place. I guess it just goes to show you that some kids never grow up.
DISCLOSURE: I received four park-hopper tickets from Disney to visit the park during their Family Media Day event, so I could experience this year’s Halloween Time. I was not compensated to do so and all opinions are my own. The print and broadcast media who were also invited don’t have to offer one of these disclosures — just those of us publishing on the Internet.
I’ve been even busier than usual this week: There have been conference calls and meetings and I have spent the last couple of days working on a new WordPress website. These are the kind of tasks that make me do the impossible: Forget to eat. I mean, almost forget to eat — because eventually, I realize I am hungry and that’s when my diet is in the most trouble, as I’m prone to go into a feeding frenzy. This would not be so bad if it meant grabbing slices of apples and cucumbers. But for me, deferred hunger usually translates into cookies and chips.
I’m pretty sure that’s why you find an aisle of junk food in the checkout line of techie supermart Fry’s: all those programmers and IT people who sit in front of a computer screen into the wee hours of the morning lose track of time and just want to munch on something they can grab with ease. This is a recipe for diet disaster, and it’s why I try to shop strategically for easy-to-prepare lunches that are healthy as well as convenient.
And so today, I managed to avoid one of those calorie-laden frenzies because I had filled my freezer with Healthy Choice’s new line of 100% Naturals Cafe Steamers.
These are different: For one thing, these entrees are vegetarian! (Although not vegan, so I don’t
have get to share them with my husband.)
They come packed with a separate little steamer tray that allows the vegetables and pasta to steam without getting bogged down in the cooking liquid, while ensuring that the pasta is cooked to a chewy al dente texture. And they are simply delicious!
Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers Cook in Their Own Steamer Basket.
So a half hour ago, I decided to take a few minutes away from the computer to cook up a lovely autumn dish of Pumpkin Squash Ravioli, with crunchy green beans, butternut squash, apples in just the right amount of yummy butter-sage sauce. It was as good as it looks.
Healthy Choice 100% Naturals Cafe Steamers Pumpkin Squash Ravioli. It tastes as good as it looks.
So far, the Pumpkin Squash Ravioli is my favorite. But yesterday, that title belonged to the Portabella Marsala Pasta (whole wheat pasta and mushrooms in a Marsala sauce, topped with fontina). And the day before, I was loving the Asian Potstickers, which are steamed in a sweet and spicy sauce with a kick of spice.
I haven’t yet tried the Portabella Spinach Parmesan or Tortellini Primavera Pasta — but I’ve got the weekend for those.
And because it’s Healthy Choice, I know it’s a lunch I can indulge in without feeling any guilt — unlike the cookies that are supposed to be for my daughter.
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