There once was a girl from Vancouver,
Who loved baking soda so much that it moved her.
She scrubbed and she cleaned, 'til things glistened and gleamed
And she giggled when she saw what it cost her.
Oh baking soda, you're not just for pancakes after all!

I use a lot of baking soda but hardly for cooking. The stuff is just so darn handy, I'm always discovering new uses. Here are a few things that I do with handy dandy, trusty Baking Soda.

1.    Cleaning my bathroom
2.    Cleaning my floor - used it this week with grease Mac tracked in from the railroad tracks straight on to my floor. A spray of vinegar, then a sprinkle of baking soda. Magic.
3.    Laundry
4.    Washing my hair.  Yup its true.
5.    Brushing my teeth.  True dat.
6.    Facial scrub

So numbers 1 and 2 have been discussed before. No 3 is known by everybody. So let's dive straight in to numbers 4, 5 and 6 shall we?

#4 - First off - I haven't used shampoo in my hair since last summer. I need to clarify that, when I had my hair professionally lightened in January the hair stylist used shampoo and I tried some 'get out the brassy' shampoo last week one time only (and I regretted it) and that is it. Other than that no shampoo. Yes that's right. No shampoo at all. My hair. Listen people, I have rather lovely hair. I am known for my hair. It's soft. It's manageable. It's in great condition. And I don't use shampoo. What? Really? Yup really. I make a paste of baking soda and a little water in a plastic cup. Then I massage it into my scalp for a minute or two in the shower. Then rinse it out like normal. Next I pour some Apple Cider Vinegar in the same cup (a couple of tablespoons) and fill it with water. I rinse the ends of my hair with that. Sometimes I don't even rinse the ACV out of my hair.  That's it. Done. And no I don't smell like vinegar after.

My hair is in better condition than it has ever been, and it's processed. I would NEVER use regular shampoo again. It took a bit of getting used to, and I had to work through the natural oils in my hair figuring out what was going on. But do you have any idea at how little it costs me to wash my hair now? And, my hair is in better shape! It holds a curl better - something it never did before. It's shinier. When I do a show I have to put product in it, but other than that it's always just my hair. Thank you baking soda. You are the best!

#5 - It has been one year and two months since I brushed my teeth with toothpaste. I have been wary of telling any of you this as I may be labelled as crazy (which isn't far from the truth), or at minimum 'out there'. But I've got to tell you, I don't think I'll ever use toothpaste again. It started  January 2011 when I read an article in the Vancouver Sun about Dr. Gerard F. Judd author of Good Teeth Birth to Death. The article went on to talk about brushing your teeth with soap. That's right Soap. Not liquid soap, but regular bar soap. Natural bar soap. Here is a link that will give you some of the details that I read in the article. I was intrigued, I mean after all it was The Sun not the National Enquirer. I thought that I had probably done enough swears in my lifetime that a brushing of my teeth with soap for one evening wouldn't do any harm. The first time I did it I'll admit was a little odd. It tasted like soap, not mint. My gag reflex came into action. Hmmmm, not so much soap next time. Then I went to bed. When I woke up I didn't have fur in my mouth. Hmmmmm. I brushed with soap again. The taste wasn't as bad this time. I decided I was going to try for one week and make my decision after that. Each day I noticed my teeth getting cleaner and cleaner. Pretty soon they were looking straight from the dentist clean. I was liking this soap thing... a lot! But what about whitening? I missed whitening. That's where my trusty baking soda comes in. Once a week I dip my tooth brush into some baking soda, spray my brush with Hydrogen Peroxide and brush away. My teeth are very healthy. Clean and strong. They are not coated, just clean. I would never go back to regular toothpaste again. Never. Call me weird. Call me crazy. Just don't call me Grandma.

#6 - And finally, I use Baking Soda to gently exfoliate my face. About once a week  I put a trace amount of baking soda in my hand (and just a minute amount is good) and some of my cleanser. Then I gently massage it on my face, and my lips (makes for smooth lips). Rinse as usual. Smooth skin. Nice.

So there you have it. Three new things to add to your arsenal about how weird I have become. In case you're interested here are recipes for household cleaning that use baking soda.

This Mama's Floor Cleaner

1 Cup Vinegar
1/4 Cup Baking or Washing Soda
1 Tbsp Liquid Dish Soap
Hot Water

Mop as usual. It's Clean. It's Fresh. It's Easy. It's Cheap. AND it works. No toxins.

Click here for bathroom cleaning.

My husband has this dumb joke he likes to tell. Spoken in an atrocious Scottish accent that goes something like this. The old Scottish farmer looks at the slop left on the table after the butchering of a sheep. "You'rrrrrre no gonna thrrrrrow that away, arrrrre ye? I knowww I cin make somethin' with tha'!" and that's how Haggis came to be...according to my husband.

Seeing that I am half Scottish, this latest blog post is a natural for me.

I love finding new uses for things that I used to throw away. My latest goal has been to create as little food waste as possible. Not little waist as possible - that doesn't seem to want to come about. But little waste.  Over the past few months I have really tried to use what I have. Not waste anything - or as little as possible. Oh, there are times that it happens. I'll wait too long to use some parsley, or forget about the kale in the crisper. But for the most part I have been really good. This has come about by doing the following.

1.    Each week I create a family meal plan, and I stick to it.
2.    Each Sunday I purchase food based on that meal plan and nothing more.
3.    I try to use up what I have on hand first and eat out of my pantry and fridge.

The results have been this. My food budget is more under control - although it could still use some tweaking. The anxiety of what's for dinner is over. The daily stops at the grocery store has come to an end.

Now I am honing things a bit more by trying to make meals stretch. Getting more than one meal out of one chicken or pork roast. Using up everything. I now make my own broth, something I used to hate doing. But that was because I was always making a turkey broth with some humungous carcass and it was just a pain in the butt. But my weekly broth from a free range bird is a breeze. Or from a small package of chicken thighs. It takes no time at all. Tastes great. I know what went into the making of it - which may gross some of you out. And above all it's CHEAP! Once done, I have left over meat for meals, soups, lunches, salads - etc. Even better, to make my broth I seldom use items from my pantry. Its true! During the week I keep all my peels from onions, garlic, the bottom portion of the celery bunch, the ends of carrots and parsnips, the outer leaves from cabbage etc. in a bag in the freezer. Then, when it's time to make some broth I put the chicken pieces in the bottom of a pot. Add my frozen bag of leftover peels. Add a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. I may add a carrot or two, since I tend to not have too many end pieces (I have a bunny in the house). Cover with some water and brew at a gentle simmer. After 45 minutes I take out the chicken pieces. Discard the fat (sometimes I cut the fat up and put it in the dinner for the dogs), take the meat off the bones and put that in the fridge for later in the week. Then put the bones back in the broth and let it simmer away for another hour or so. Strain out the veggies and bones and discard. Put the delicious broth in the fridge to be used during the week. It's so easy and costs me nothing extra.

The thing is I was purchasing chicken broth every week. Even with coupons and buying it at Stupid Store, I was still spending close to $10 per week on broth (I use a lot). That's $40 per month! Crazy. I stopped. Now it doesn't cost me a thing. I like that. My cheap little heart goes pitter patter at the thought.

HOWEVER; I have upped myself. This latest one makes me bubble with excitement. If you look in my fridge at any given time during the week you'll see a dollar store freezer bag that has peels in it. What kind of peels you may ask? Why citrus peels of course. Lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime. I use these during the week and make sure that if I am not using the peel for a recipe I remove the peel and throw it in my little bag. Then, later on in the week I run a hot bath. I add a handful of Epsom salt (because I have some) and dump in a bunch of peels. OMG! You have no idea how fabulous it is! Now granted, at first you feel like your bathing in your compost bin, but if you close your eyes and take in the scent, tt is absolutely amazing! Your bathroom smells of this glorious citrus aroma. You slip into the bath and the scent overtakes you. It is so relaxing and invigorating at the same time. I squeeze the peels to let out even more of the oils. Your skin feels amazing at the end. Silky smooth - no need to moisturize, and it has a lingering citrus scent.  I'm telling you it is the most amazing bath and it doesn't cost a penny. I love it!

My only advise is to make sure that the peels are large enough so that cleaning up the tub afterwards it a breeze. I'm sure there is always a possibility of allergies so if things don't feel right get out. I know for me 15 minutes is about the right amount of time. After that I'll start to feel my calves a bit - nothing too much, just a little warmer than normal. That's my sign that I've been in long enough.

Orange and lemon peels are the best to use I've found. They give the most fragrance and feel luxurious. But I use grapefruit too and lime of course. They're all fabulous.

So there you have it. Bathe in your garbage! Go for it. You'll be glad you did!

__I know. I know. I haven't been posting. I think I am having my own mid life crisis and am too afraid to put all of my thoughts out there. What if I'm going crazy? Do you all need to know that for sure? Well, some of you already know that, but still - better to not remove all doubt.

I never have been good at keeping my mouth shut, just ask my husband. So, here I go again. This past weekend and the coming weekend I portray the beautiful and talented Peggy Lee in a show. This is a remount of a show I did last year - about 20 pounds ago, and of course have to fit into the same costumes.  There is this certain dress. The "Fever" dress. My show stopper dress. The dress I was terrified I wouldn't be able to zip up. The dress that I thought I may look like a stuffed sausage in.

First, there are no photos so don't even ask. I would more than likely be mortified because I will fully admit I do not see what everyone else sees. I can unequivocally say I do not look like Jessica Rabbit in her red dress. I see flab there, wiggles there and bulges over there and oh I pick myself apart like you wouldn't believe. I am supposed to be perfect, and yet perfection is far from my grasp and I'm turning 50 not 20. My head knows all of this yet still I don't seem to give myself a break.

Here's the thing. The dress zipped up. I almost cried. It was tight granted, but I could move. I could sing. I wasn't uncomfortable. Here's the other thing the audience saw Peggy Lee. They loved me. In fact they loved me from the first moment I walked on stage. I could feel it. They were with me the entire show. They didn't pick me apart. Oh I am sure there were some out there that were less than kind, but I don't need to think about them. I heard the majority of the response.

In my time of performing before an audience I have had some amazing moments on stage. One time was after singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with just the piano and me - the audience of about 900 just exploded when I finished. It was an incredible moment that I will never forget. There are others, but another one for the memory book was this past weekend. I performed "Fever" and the audience reaction was incredible. They clapped when the bass started. They clapped again when I started to sing. The snapped along the entire time. The packed house absolutely cheered and clapped for what seemed like forever when I was done. And my typical excuse when something like that happens - Oh, I had friends in the audience - it had to be them. But in this case - no. I knew no one. No one knew me. Another part of me says that they are obviously starved for entertainment, but still they loved it! It was obvious. Me, in my too tight red dress, with the flabby bits here, and the wiggles and bulges over there. Me. Not my body. Me.

Now I just need to start doing that.
Frustration abounds right now. I have not seen a grain nor eaten a slice of bread since since December 25th. I haven't had a piece of fruit since then either. I have eaten eggs, meat, vegetables, 15 pistachios per day, dark chocolate 3 pieces (until my Christmas bars were gone), once slice of cheese per day (pre cut) olive and coconut oil. I had two glasses of red wine on New Years Eve and a gin last night because my husband brought it to me and said "For crying out loud it's not going to kill you - enjoy your drink!" So I did. And it was good.

I've been 'exercising'. I started with dancing with the Wii - much fun with my daughter. Then I bought Jillian Michael's 30 day shred - That's what I wanted to do right? OMG! That is one tough work out! I mean it's like boot camp all over again, but in 20 minutes. I thought I would get it and be on level 3 in no time. Ha! I don't dare move on to level 2. But I feel good after. She is hard hitting, no excuses, get your butt in gear and work. I like that. It's the first tape that I feel like I have a personal trainer telling me to move it! And when you feel like packing it in she says "Don't you dare. Keep going. It's not for free!" So, I have to admit - I kinda like exercising with her. Here's the thing ...

I haven't lost a pound. Well I did and gained it back. Argh. That red dress is looming and what the hell am I going to do?

I'm figuring my body likes this plump weight. I've plateaued before I even started. So I'm going to do a soup thing for three days. Three days only. It's a healthy soup and nothing too drastic. It has meat and vegetables in it. Just certain types of vegetables to help cleanse the body. I'll eat some protein for breakfast and then the soup for lunch and dinner for three days. Then I'll go back low carb until the show. Let's see if that makes a difference. I have two weeks until the first show and another week until the next show.

I don't think two weeks is enough time. Oh lord. My chest just got tight.

_This is what happens when I take the day off and play. I found an online writing course and was asked to write 20 words about something that was important to me, or an idea. So I did. Then I was asked to put those words into a poem. I wanted to start with "There once was a girl from Nantucket", but restrained myself. This is what came out.

My Journey To Fifty

We each have a road and we walk it alone.
It’s a journey only death can sojourn.
Man’s perception is simple, the more aged we are,
our health and our value take turn.

Youth is fleeting. How life swiftly passes.
Like time elapsed photos I’ve seen.
Yet our dreams stay in tact, lost behind the wrinkles
and eyes that state what might have been.

__I am on that road; on a path bound for fifty.
“How old.” is the thought come to mind.
Yet inside I am twenty with a life full of promise
and dreams of many a kind.

I hang on to the saying “You are never too old
to become who you wanted to be.”
And recite this phrase as I walk down my road
kicking fences that create my boundary.

I want to lose weight before I am fifty.
And I yearn for that elusive breakthrough.
It will take discipline to win the battle
of my love/hate connection with food.

More importantly I want to grow as a person,
a lover and as a friend.
Be an example to my children and never give up
on my dreams or passions and then

Live my life to its fullest. With belly laughter and tears
not letting fear dictate which way I may choose.
I want to cannon ball into my next pool of years,
with anticipation and nary an excuse.

And when I reach the sign post that proclaims my next decade
with my new retro swimsuit in sight
I’ll relish my success, celebrate the moment
and look forward to dancing all night.

Cayla Brooke
January 2012

_Every journey has a rest stop. Doesn't it? Mine just did.

I haven't forgotten about my journey to 50 - trust me it's been on my mind a lot. And I certainly haven't forgotten about my two loyal readers. Are you still out there?

December 2011 was an interesting month for me. To be honest it's a blur.

I have been bragging for a while now that I haven't been sick in years. I haven't. That is until December 2011. I start to get sick like everyone else. I catch a cold or flu with all the rest of the population. The only thing is it doesn't take. I can usually fight it off. You see I have my secret weapon Ginger Tea. I make it by simmering fresh ginger in a small pot of water for about 20 minutes. I drink this mixture all day. Sometimes adding lemon, honey and or cayenne to the mix. I take hot baths to raise my internal temperature and rest for a day or two then take it easy for a couple more. When I do this I  fight off whatever is in my system and voila my record of not being sick in years. That is until this December.

I came down with H3N2 as it was later diagnosed. My body started to fight it off as it usually does. I was even feeling a little cocky about it all - ready to blog about my blessed Ginger Tea. Unfortunately I became ill the week that I had to sing 6 of 7 days. Performing takes a lot out of you physically. Doing a performance on stage is like doing physical labour for an entire day. I tend to be ravenous, exhausted and wired at the end of a show. Trust me, it's not something you want to do while sick. There's a code amongst performers though. The audience doesn't care if you're sick, having a fight with your husband, or just lost your dog. They came to see you perform and perform you must and perform I did. I always love to perform. After all it is my passion. Performing is not work for me. It's not like a job. When I get paid for it I go 'woo hoo! You want to pay me too?' Not this time though. This time was hard to do. This time I felt like I was pulling something from my toes. I performed with a fever. I performed with 'man voice'. I did my best under the circumstance. And I wouldn't change it at all. But I paid for it.

In order for my ginger tea to work the body must rest. I didn't. I couldn't given the circumstances. And then when it was all said and done it was Christmas time. There was shopping to do. Presents to wrap. Projects to complete. There were client deadlines that needed to be finished. I simply couldn't rest. So I kept going. And that's why December is a blur. I was sick for almost the entire month. Boo hoo and lets have a pity party.

The first thing to go was the blog. The second thing to go (about two seconds later) was all of my little changes. And I'm talking every one. I ate poorly. Had no energy to do anything including cook properly, take the dogs for a walk or drink a glass of water. My charitable nature said 'buh bye'. I didn't fall of the wagon - I leaped off and caught the train in the opposite direction.

So all this 'feel sorry for myself' blather to tell you why I didn't blog. The reason why I fell off the wagon in such a commanding way. The reason why my pants are so tight. The reason, the reason, the reason.

But it's done and I am finally feeling like myself. And it's a new year! Happy New Year to my two readers. I turn 50 this year! Ahhhhhh.

The good news is when I weighed myself this morning with fear and trepidation I was the exact same weight I was in January 2011. This means that I didn't gain anything for a whole year. That would be good if I hadn't have lost around 20-25 lbs and then gained them all back. Argh. But still I am not heavier.

Here is the bad news. I have a show coming up in January. The first performance is the 20th I believe. I have to fit in the costumes I fit into in May 2011. These are desperate times people. Some of those dresses were tight on me then! I shudder at the thought. I'm going to look like a piece of sausage stuffed into some red satin with feathers. My worst nightmare could possibly come true.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. As you know deprivation is not my idea of fun. Neither is exercise in the 'one more, two more' sense. However I am going to take on both for the next three weeks or so. I am saying good by to my beloved carbohydrates for a few weeks. Good bye Carbs - I'll miss you. No bread. No grain. No starchy veggies. No dairy. No fun. And I'm pulling out some old exercise tapes and dusting them off. I may even put them in the Blu-Ray player and push play. Lets face it I have to do something. I don't recommend to others what I am doing. I prefer to do things simply - but it is what it is and I must do what I have to do. I do promise I won't do it for long. I'll go back to my healthy way of eating once I am feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin and not afraid to stand sideways or breathe on stage.

As far as my journey is concerned I'm going to stop making myself come up with something each week. I need to concentrate on the changes that I have made and put them into real action.  There are too many right now to keep adding. For instance today I was writing in my new 'to do' notebook - I give myself a new one each quarter - I was rewriting my goals etc. and I noticed one of the changes - eat slowly. I thought "Whoa. I forgot about that one." That's not right. What's the point of making a change if you can't keep them all in your head? So I'm going to simplify things a bit.

I'll continue to blog each week letting you know my progress. So let it be heard I'm on the road again. After all, it's a new dawn. It's a new day. It's a New Year. And I'm feelin' fine.
_I seem to be spinning my wheels. As much as I love the BS&T song "Spinning Wheel", I don't want it in my personal life. Here I am 13 weeks into this journey and I seem no better off than I was when I started. That's not totally accurate. There are some improvements. I am more aware of a lot of things and when I think of them I make the change. But nothing is lifestyle. Nothing is habit. Nothing is changing. I'm frustrated.

Christmas time is a tough time to make changes. There are so many things to do. So many errands to run. Decorations to put up. Things to prepare. Lists to write (Santa included). Adding remembering to walk enough; drink my water; don't eat in the evenings seems insurmountable. Argh. It's frustrating. I feel like I am failing at every turn.

This challenge has turned out to be harder than I realized. I guess it would be easier if I was seeing phenomenal results, which I am not. My skin is nicer - I did notice that. And I've lost the 5lb I gained when I was 'budgeting' my groceries and eating more beans and legumes. But other than that? Not a whole heck of a lot.

Again, that's not totally accurate. Last week my goal was to do something kind to someone every day of the week. When you're at home all day it can prove difficult. But I did find moments to add some kindness to the world or NAAMM's as I call them (Not all about me moments)

Sunday - I donated some clothing.
            - I talked to the Grocery Clerk and found out about her school. Her dreams. Her bunny.

Monday - Made my husband a lunch while he was outside working and brought it to him
            - Complimented two people at Choir Rehearsal
            - Went out of my way to talk to someone I didn't know in Choir and get to know them more

Tuesday - This guy phoned the house right in the middle of my work day. He is a friend of my husband's and a terrible 'babbler'. At first I was frustrated and rolling my eyes, kicking myself for picking up the phone. Then I thought of my challenge and I stopped and listened. I gave him the respect he deserves. That was a big one for me.

Wednesday - I talked to the kid at the Deli. Called him by name.

Thursday - I brought a treat for my nail technician
              - I made my daughter's lunch just because.

Friday - I let an older man in front of me during a long line up at Sears.
          - I donated to the Harvest Project.
          - I held the door open for a lady with her shopping cart, and the 6 or so people who followed behind her.

Saturday - I bought my daughter some gas for her car.

I haven't changed the world, but I've tried to make it a nicer place.

Still I am frustrated. I feel like I'm doing all of this 'stuff' but not really getting anywhere. There must be something I can do so that I am taking more steps forward than backward.

Focus. I need to focus. I find this a very difficult thing to do. Focus. I'm thinking all the time about anything and everything. Focus. I'm spinning my wheels. Focus. One thing at a time. Focus.

What does this mean? When I am at work I need to focus on work. Not Facebook, or what I need to do later, but work. When I am writing my blog I need to focus on it. When I'm rehearsing I need to focus on that. When I'm with my family I need to focus on them. When I am having coffee with a friend I need to focus my attention my friend and our conversation. Focus. When I'm eating, focus on what I am eating and how it tastes. Focus. One thing at a time. Not twelve. One. Focus.

Week 14 - Focus.

The Charlie Brown Tree. It's quirky like me!
_I love Christmas.

It's a time of family, love, giving and peace. I love what it represents. I love what it brings out in people. I love the decorations and the festivities. 

This year we chopped down our own tree. Our Charlie Brown tree. I love it!

I love bringing out all of my sappy Christmas albums. I love baking shortbread with my daughter. Shopping for the perfect gift. Filling the Stockings. Decorating the tree. My awesome Turkey. My mom's puke green jellied salad that I make every year. Eggnog. Singing in the choir. New pajamas and "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas eve. I love Christmas!

Here's what I don't love. Black Friday. Commercialism. Over buying of toys and gifts. Advertisements of Cars and big ticket items as Christmas gifts. Christmas decorations in October. Stop already.

There is however, a more disturbing trend that irks me to no end. The trend has been around for a while and is growing. Political correctness. "Happy Holidays". "Merry Xmas".  Holiday trees. Stores not putting up any Christmas decorations at all. Personally I'm sick and tired political correctness.

I have news for all of you. Christmas is a religious holiday. It is. Whether you believe or not. Whether you like it or not. It is. Why so offended by that? The original story of Christmas is beautiful. It is celebrated all over the world. Christmas is about hope, peace, love, and giving. All wonderful things. It brings out the best in people. Why squash that? Why take Christmas from those who do believe? How dare we? How awful of us to even think that we should. If you are offended by someone saying "Merry Christmas" to you, whether you are Jewish, Muslim or an Atheist, you need to get over yourself. Period.

I do not get offended when someone says "Happy Hanukkah" to me. Why would I? In fact I feel honoured to be included in something so important to the Jewish faith. I don't get disgruntled at Chinese New Year. I say "Gun Hay Fat Choy" and eat Chinese food and sometimes go to China Town to watch the festivities. And I don't have a drop of Asian blood in me. Really I don't. I am impressed by those from Iran who honour Ramadan and fast for a month. That's an impressive feat if you ask me, I can't seem to go more than a couple of hours without food and water.

Then why oh why has "Merry Christmas" become so Taboo?

I realize there are a lot of 'Christian' idiots out there. The Teletubbies are not gay. Morons like Terry Jones burning the Koran. Some Christians preach hate, legalism and are an embarrassment to anyone who is 'normal'. They can be anti-drink, anti-makeup, anti-movie, anti-Halloween. They are fire and brimstone. Dance with snakes. The Bible thumpers. You know the ones? The ones who if you're talking about a turkey dinner turn it into a Christian statement somehow or other. Who's Facebook status, that if you read them every day you'll have read the entire bible in a year. Remember Jimmy Swaggart? Pat Robertson can make me cringe with some of the stupid stuff he says. Honestly, the man needs an edit button. And Jim Baker? Ha. He was the butt end of jokes for years. He's still on the air you know. Selling something or other to help us all through Armageddon. Christianity is full of stuff like that. That said, there are also Jewish zealots, and certainly Muslim zealots. I am not fond of what China stands for. Are you? And I've heard some mean spirited, rigid Atheists in my life time. Oh on a related note, since I'm ranting, I have to point that "Atheists" have a belief. Their non-belief is a 'belief' and they can be just as pushy and preachy as a Jehovah Witness on your doorstep. That I've witnessed first hand.

But I digress. What I am trying to say is there are idiots everywhere. In every culture. In every city. In every country. In every religion. In every 'non' religion. The world is chalk full of morons.

Back to the subject at hand, why has "Merry Christmas" become so Taboo? I allow everyone their freedom of speech. I allow other cultures and religions their time. Why are we as a culture not allowing Christians theirs? We have no right to cut them down. This is an important time of the year for them and we slap them in the face, undeservedly so, every time we say "Happy Holidays" and my personal favorite "Merry Xmas". Who do we think we are? Why is it that we protect everyone else but Christians are fair game to persecute. And yes, we in North America persecute them. We shut them down continually. Now, like I said there are a lot of idiots out there. They are fair game. But just as we should not hate every Arab because of 9/11. We shouldn't hate every Christian because of religious baboon like Terry Jones. My apologies to baboons.
_Why oh why are we wanting to squash something that is so beautiful in its roots in the first place? Zealots and religious fanatics aside, the Christmas story is beautiful. It should be told.

Here is something radical - it should be told to our kids. I mean It is a part of our culture as Canadians and as Americans. To those of you who say, "What? I'm not telling my kids a lie." Well, first off it's not a lie. Jesus was a real person. Second, it is the true meaning of Christmas and the root of why we celebrate. Third, you don't seem to have a problem telling them that Santa Claus is real. And fourth, our Country/s was birthed with this. It is a part of who we are as a Nation. Like it or no. It is.

I will not have my culture taken from me. We have so little. I will fight for that freedom tooth and nail. So please. Do not say Happy Holidays to me. Do not say Merry Xmas to me. That offends me. A normal (or semi normal) person.

And to all of you during this beautiful time of year - Merry Christmas and to all a good night, or good morning or - well you know what I mean.


_Confession #1: I used to (and still do) look at people who write blogs as ego maniacs. It's a pretty big ego when a nobody like myself thinks that people are interested in what they have to say. I fought writing a blog for years for this very reason and 'poo pooed' anyone who did. Then I started this blog.

Confession #2: Blogging is so therapeutic. Even though I ramble on and on to my possibly two readers about how to do this or what to do about that, when it comes down to it I am the one who has benefited from the whole thing. It's like I get my words out. This incessant need to get my thoughts out there is abated for a few days.

Confession #3: I have narcissistic tendencies ... I'll admit it.

But then, nowadays who doesn't? If I tell my daughter I have a flat tire and am going to be late, it becomes about how long she is going to wait for dinner. If I tell my husband my neck hurts, it becomes about how I never listen to his advice and blah blah blah blah blah. OK, so I'm exaggerating, but not that much. It's what we do. We are a 'me' society.

My daughter, who works at a video store, was telling me that hardly any customers look her in the eye when they come to the counter. With some of the choices they make in movies they rent, I can understand why, but it has bothered my daughter enough that she has mentioned it to me a few times, and even written about it in a Facebook status.

I find I can go through my day and not notice anyone or anything. I'm so busy rushing with a whole lot of to do about nothing. It's pathetic.

I've been thinking about this for a while. I've been trying to be more aware of people. More helpful. More kind. More generous. Then this morning a girlfriend of mine was mentioning on Facebook that today was the first day of Advent. I'm not Catholic so I am unfamiliar with the whole Advent thing, except for the chocolate calendars. Walmart had them for $1 this year! I digress. One of the traditions of her family is to draw a family member's name at random on the first day of advent. Then they have to do something nice for that person every day for four weeks. Four weeks of kindness! Wow. Of course being my narcissistic self my first thought was "oooh, I'd have 28 days of something nice happening" not thinking that I would have to do it too. As I only read about her tradition today I think it's a little late to spur it on my family - "Hey guess what we're doing? Now you have to do something lovely every day to _______ for four weeks. Have at 'er." I don't think that would go over that well.

But it got me to thinking what if I chose to draw the 'world' as my name in the hat. What if I do something nice for someone, anyone, each day for four weeks. Take the focus off of me for once and put it on to someone else. Sounds like a good plan to me. And with the Christmas season coming up - a time of giving and family and everyone seems to be in a better mood - what could be a better time for me to do it?

Now I'm not really into the whole buy someone a coffee at Starbucks thing. To be honest I find that rather lame. It's nice and all, but unless I felt drawn to buy a particular person a coffee I don't really see the point. Anyone who is at a Starbucks buying a Vente Soya whatever has more extra money than I do and if they don't what the hell are they buying non essentials at Starbucks for? So I can't see me buying the next person who comes to the counter their mocha latte extra whip.

What I am talking about is noticing people. Getting to know them. Taking the time. Like for instance, the teller at the bank. The Walmart greeter or cashier. The cashier at grocery store. The person on the street. The person waiting in line with you. The homeless guy at the grocery store testing out all the samples. I want to give those people my time, my energy, my focus, my charity. I want to make them feel special. And in order to do that I need to be aware of my surroundings and not be on the phone. I need to take the focus off of me and on to someone else. I need to be genuinely interested.

But I don't want to limit myself - for the next four weeks I want to do something kind, or be kind to someone every day. It may mean making my daughter her lunch. It may mean giving to a local charity. It may mean bringing cookies to a neighbour. It could mean a lot of things. But I'm going to keep track of my "Not all about me moment" NAAMM in my handy dandy little book.

I guess I take the chance of writing this and having it become all about me again. I am not doing this to show how wonderful a person I am. Trust me, I'm not. I'm chalk full of flaws. I'm doing this for me, so that I am not so self absorbed.

I started already today when I bought my groceries. I dropped off some clothes at a charity which was no big deal. The best part was when I found out that the girl at the cashier is in school studying art. She wants to be an document authenticator. What's a document authenticator you ask? Well, its the person who can tell who made what in the art world by their particular technique and style even when the work is not signed by the artist. She also used to have a bunny. A little attack bunny who used to bite her and be really mean. I would not know that if I hadn't bothered to stop and notice. When I left the grocery store, she had a big smile on her face, because I took the time and was interested in her. Now to me that is an act of kindness and yet I felt better. So maybe this is all about me anyways. Oh well you can't blame a girl for trying.

Week 11 - Not all about me moments every day.

Wow! It's been a busy few days! Wonderful and busy. Not too busy to type though. I find my blathering rather therapeutic. It's like I get my thoughts out. Out the abyss of cyber space. It's rather peaceful. I highly recommend it. This week my task was to log in at least 10,000 steps per day. I did just that! Except for yesterday - but even God rested one day so I figure I'm OK.

The task wasn't that hard when it came down to it. Mondays are a moving type day for me. A couple of walks with the dog and other types of activity I racked in another 15K that day. My days at clients are a lot more sedentary as was evident to me last week when I wore my Pedometer. So to fix that I make sure that I walk the dogs in the morning before heading off to work - something that they need anyways, and something that I enjoy. I try to be as active as I can at work. Taking the stairs when they are there. Getting up more. Standing while talking on the phone. Silly stuff like that. At home a little after dinner I hop on my Gazelle (again don't laugh). 15 minutes on the Gazelle is all it seems to take and I'm rocking 11K to 12K per day.

This is good. I don't feel overworked or tired. But I have that feeling of oxygen in my lungs. You know that good feeling that you get? I'm not over hungry from working out like a crazy person - something that happens to me. This is very doable!

So I was thinking that the last 10 weeks I have focused my little changes on this Journey to 50 on my lifestyle. They are a lot of changes. None of which are habit yet. It seems like I focus on one and another one, or two or three changes slip behind. But there is improvement in all areas. These are the changes that I have attempted to put into place

  1. Walk with Purpose
  2. Drink 6-8 Glasses of Water per day
  3. Cut the cream from my coffee
  4. Eat slowly
  5. Interval walk when I can. Move in some way at least 6 days a week.
  6. No evening snacks
  7. Portion control
  8. Chew my food more
  9. Wear a Pedometer during November
  10. 10,000 steps per day
I have my personal favorites (not) #6, 7 and 8 come to mind. I read them every day, or try to and I am certainly more conscious. I'm sure eventually they will become habit.

I've been thinking -these changes are all good changes. If I make these 10 changes a real part of my life I will be healthier. My body will definitely be healthier. Granted #9 is not really a change - it's just a thing - but we'll forget about that for now. So what I'm saying is for now, it's time to move on. It's time for something completely different. A change of focus. I know - I'll focus on me! I like that!

I have a little book - not a little black book, my husband made me burn it. But a little book that I bought at Chapters for $2. It is a journal I guess and has a big flower on the cover. My little book is a system that I have used for a number of years, but I have become a little lazy as of late and need to get back on track with it.  My little book keeps me organized and feeling more in control. It's my own system that I started when I found I was forgetting things all the time. As a matter of fact, I thought I had the beginnings of Alzheimer. Not until someone laughed at me and informed me that it was just one of the myriad of symptoms of Mental Pause or the decade long lead up into Mental Pause did I feel relief.  So no, I am not crazy people - it's just hormones. God love 'em.

Here's how my little book saved/saves my life.

_My book has three sections.
  1. To Do
  2. Notes
  3. Groceries/Shopping

It seems pretty self explanatory but I'll explain it anyways. I have sectioned off each portion of the book with these little peel and stick tabs that I can write on. My To Do is the largest section. The Notes section is the smallest (but I think I need to increase it).

1. In my To Do I keep track of my Pedometer steps. My business meetings and deadlines. Phone calls I need to make. Errands I need to run during the day.  Stuff I need to do around the house. Walking the Dog. Gazelle. My Journey to 50 changes (which are starting to take up a lot of room) That sort of stuff. I keep the notes from my business day for billing purposes. It's really an important part of my life. A day timer doesn't do it for me. I need space. I need freedom. Sometimes my To Do's are 1/2 a page. Other times they are two pages long. If something happens of particular note during the day I'll write it down to be transferred to a different section (either my desk calendar, or blackberry or whatever) later in the day.

2. My Notes section is the coolest section of them all. I am finding this section to be so helpful. I have notes in there from last Christmas. Things like "Cayla DON'T BUY ANY TREE ORNAMENTS! YOU HAVE TOO MANY!", to Warde put the Christmas decorations away last year - you had better start looking for them early 'cause you have no idea where anything is. I also have - "Buy a new Trifle bowl - you need one" and "The Green Bean recipe in the Christmas folder is awesome. Make it again." Do you have any idea how handy that is? You think you'll remember but you don't. It's like Oh yeah! That's right!

I also write stuff I want to do at some point. There are things that I'll see or want to do that happen once a year and I'll have missed it for one reason or another. I write it down and I'm ready for it the next year!

I put ideas for gifts - which is helpful during the year when you see something or hear a loved one say "I need a new ______". I write down ideas for parties - My Julie/Julia party came from that book. Songs I want to learn. Ideas for writing songs. Books I want to read. I write down things I want to do around the house, paint the bedroom. Paint the office. That slugs don't eat geraniums. That putting flowers in the stump worked really well - do it again. My personal goals. My Journey to 50 changes. The mileage of my car at the beginning of the year (a handy piece of information for tax purposes).

I put in information regarding my clients (that only I can understand) so that I have it when I need to access it.  The list goes on and on and on ... sort of like me. Needless to say, I love my Notes section. It is the best.

3. The Grocery/Shopping - OK this is as boring as it sounds. But, when I am running out of something I jot it in here. If I need to pick up a couple of items I just look at my list and there it all is. It's boring but useful.

So my 11th change is -

_This cat is back on track and organized

I pledge to start each day more organized. Morning coffee and a To Do list it is for me. I will go over my goals each morning. My journey to 50 list. My list of things I want to do with the house. My personal goals. Keep them all fresh and in my mind.

Have a good week everyone and I'll let you know how it goes.