Finding Your Tribe

It was an article from one of my favorite happy web sites, Positively Positive, that got me started thinking about tribe.  The article was about finding your tribe, the people who are most like you and accept you for who you are.  It stressed the importance of having a tribe, whether family or friends, and the importance of feeling connection to a tribe on our health.  

I love this idea, and it brought up so many follow-up ideas and questions, like:  can you create a tribe or do they just form naturally?  How many big and small life decisions do we make that involve tribe;  getting into one, staying in one, getting out of one? In order for a tribe to remain intact, do they punish dissenters or kick them out or just ignore them?  Then I started thinking about the internet and tribe.  I was amazed at how much of what we do online is in the name of creating and developing tribes.  

By definition a tribe is a social division of people, a family or a group of people with something in common.  Before the internet you were pretty much limited to the tribe you were born into (family and community) and if you didn’t feel like you fit in, you could get the hell out of dodge and go find someplace you felt more connected when you were old enough.  I would imagine there was a lot more personality bending for the sake of conformity in those days. 

The internet brought us a new way to connect with others with like interests. I have found like-minded people online to connect with as a new mom, writer, blogger and book lover.  Facebook has recreated my tribe of silly girls from high school and my closest sorority sisters from college even though we are all living in different parts of the country.  We can now instantly turn to each other for memories or advice, for connection.  

Ironically we are in an era of rampant individualism.  This blog is me, expressing myself to anyone who is interested.  Haters call it narcissistic, I call it finding my tribe, those who have ideas and opinions in common with me.  The more I feel connected to (you) fabulous blog readers, the stronger I sense of self I feel.  I feel accepted, so I am more accepting of myself.

Many days I don’t leave my house.  All of my jobs involve either writing on the computer, working online or doing things at home.  It would be easy to feel isolated and at times I have, so now I reach out through my blog and Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter and other blogs.  I’ve found my tribe(s), my connection, my hommies. 

Here’s a link to a great website for a dose of happy everyday:

Less than 50 thoughts on 50 Shades

The announcement of casting for the “50 Shades of Grey” film prompted me to start reading the series again.  I’ve read all three books once, but it’s been a year and a half and I read them fast the first time. I remember absolutely loving them the first time through, and I wanted to see if I would enjoy them as much again.  I also have the hindsight perspective of all the controversy that surrounded them.  Not everyone saw these books the same way I did.  

As someone who is trying to write a romance novel, I have been fascinated with the over-the-top popularity of the books.  The researcher in me wants to pick them apart, dissect each character and chapter and find the magic formula that made these specific books top the charts to a whole new extreme. 

My theory goes something like this:  it was a combination of factors, both the books themselves and the time when they were released that created the firestorm.  

I do think that there is a really sweet love story there that appealed to romance readers.  But there have been billions of love stories before this one. 

I think the BDSM aspect played a part in their popularity.  The author, E.L. James, admits that she wrote these as her midlife crisis.  It doesn’t sound like she built her own ‘red room of pain’, but she explored the idea of a looking at sex and sexuality in a different way.  Like billions of other midlife baby boomers she had reached the point where sex was no longer about making babies and she had a deep relationship with her partner that could withstand a little spice.  So, I can add midlife sexual curiosity to the mix of reasons for meteoric popularity. 

Then there is the media.  Having studied media in college, I am fascinated by the effect the internet is having on mainstream media (stay with me, I’m not on a tangent here, I swear.)  There is no way the newscasts of my youth would have covered this book, I don’t care how many copies were sold.  But now with the boundaries being pushed by unregulated cable and online shows, the networks pounced on the chance to dance around the ever-popular and titillating topic of sex.  The media was ripe to add their push to the growing popularity.

Finally, I think E.L. James hit on a fantasy that resonates with women, more than any of us in a post-feminist world would care to admit.  No, it’s not being tied up or spanked.  (Although I’m sure that rings quite a few bells.)  It’s having a man take care of us.  As I reread, I can’t help but sigh and turn pea green with jealousy when he does all the work to create some super fantastic dates.  I keep thinking of that stupid commercial jingle that defined our attitudes growing up:  I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget you’re a man.  Ummm, did we fail to notice that we are doing all the work in that scenario?  Cause that’s what billions of us are doing.  There is nothing sexier (and more loving) than your man taking the time to create a date that doesn’t let you forget you are a woman.  Christian Grey plans dates (OK, he plans to tie her up, but he plans!)  And he is beyond attentive on all of those dates.  (That definitely rang my bell.)

For the record, I am excited about the movie. Charlie Hunnam might not be who came to mind for me when I was reading the books, but I have faith in E.L. James’ stamp of approval, the director and Charlie’s sexiness. What about you?  Excited about the movie? Read the books?  And if you would rate them high enough for a reread, why? 

TFS Wednesday: Shop the Whole Store

My tip for this week is along the same theme of not limiting what you eat while you are losing weight or keeping it off.  

Hands down, the best thing to happen to losing weight is the nutrition label.  Reading these is an eye opening experience, in both a good and bad way.  If you start reading and comparing, you will see that the numbers on some “diet” foods are not as good as, or very close to “real” food.  (And the real food almost always tastes better.)

My eyes were opened to this at my first Weight Watchers meeting when my leader explained that she wasn’t about to cook one meal for her family and different food for herself.  She pointed out that a serving of Stouffer’s Lasagna (with meat) was only 7 points per cup (on the old point system).  I was sold.  I could easily spare 7 points for a filling, easy-to-prepare meal.  I almost always have one of these in my freezer.  It is my ultimate backup meal plan.  

That led me to looking around at any and everything in the grocery store that caught my eye.  I found that Bagel Bites were one point each (old system).  Whipped cream cheese is only slightly higher than low fat cream cheese and it tastes soooo much better (in my opinion.)  When I was completely tired of the diet frozen dinners, I branched out to checking the calories on the regular meals,  I was amazed to see they were often only a point or two (or 100-150 calories) more.  This opened up so many more options for me.  

Now checking nutrition labels has gotten even easier with scanners on phones.  It’s important to keep a close eye on portion size, but I now scan away all over the store. Some of the foods that I never would have thought of as “diet” but I buy regularly, because they are low in numbers and versatile, include:  frozen hash browns, refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, frozen pizza dough, Alfredo sauce in a jar and dark chocolate syrup.  On all of these the nutrition numbers will vary by brand, but in the case of Alfredo sauce and chocolate syrup, a little goes a long way on flavor.

Writer’s High

I am riding the wave of a very happy high and I want to share it with all of you, the fabulous people who take the time to read my rambling writings. 

You know that delicious feeling you get when you finish a wonderful novel, or walk out at the end of a great movie.  It’s a contact high from being in the world of the characters.  You get to feel their adrenaline, their endorphins, their thrills, their peace, their joy. 

I’m writing my first novel and it is going better than expected.  Yesterday I wrote for hours and produced a chapter that I was proud of.  It will still need tweeking, but I knew I got it right because I had a contact high from my characters that I am still coming off of this morning.

I must have 20 drafts from trying to get started on this novel.  I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I couldn’t find my voice.  Everything I wrote sounded contrived or cliche or fake.  My breakthrough came when I started writing this blog.  It turns out that writing is a one of those skills that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you get (or at least I think so).  If I’m not getting better, this may not be the time to tell me.  To keep writing on the novel I will need to stay in my world of delusion. 

And I have to say, I am LOVING this fantasy world (delusional or not).  I am absolutely floating along in a bubble of sweet, happy love (it’s a romance novel). 

I’m not sure how many other jobs can list “contact high” as a benefit, at least any other legal jobs.  Sure, there are drawbacks, like no promise of ever making a red cent from your work and only having imaginary friends to play with, but the perks far outweigh the drawbacks.  Knowing that what I write might make even one person happy (even if that one person is me) is motivation enough to just keep trying. 

A Bus of Boll Weevils Found

In my very first post I wrote about my big ah-ha moment when I decided to embrace mid-life and really dive into the crazy, because it is all just so much more fun that way. 

Me and My Boll Weevil Buddy

It was a bright green old school bus with half the roof removed that got my attention; plus the fact that it was full of what looked to be grown men, dressed in green girl-scout looking costumes with big anteater heads.  They were all drinking beer at 10 a.m. on a weekday morning (that just happened to be my birthday) and I just knew I needed to get in on that fun. 

I couldn’t catch the bus that morning, but with a little help from my super smart husband, I’ve found them and I’m ready to join the party.  It turns out the bus was full of boll weevils, they are part of the Memphis Cotton Carnival, and they are exactly what I needed to get me back to a social life.

So, my update to the birthday bus story is, the boll weevils led me into a whole world of fun people and events.  This month alone there is a poker pub crawl, a white party, trivia night and next month we’re going bowling (I have a feeling bowling will be completely different with this group).  And, this isn’t even high season for the Carnival yet!  More updates to follow . . .

TFS Wednesday: PMA

I am a glass-half-full kind of girl.  It is my natural point of view to see the positive in almost any situation and I’m usually perplexed when others aren’t enjoying something as much as me.  I truly enjoy dieting.  Not just the results, but the process of dieting.  I see it as a big game and I love to win the game.  

Those who were successful on Weight Watchers,when I worked there, tended to have a positive mental attitude (PMA) and I am sure that is true for any weight loss program.  Seeing weight loss (and maintenance) as a challenge rather than a burden will not only increase your chances of success, but it will also make the trip a lot more pleasant.  

I was lucky to start Weight Watchers with a super-positive leader.  Diane set everyone up to see all the foods they could have while losing weight.  She encouraged us to try lots of different foods, and keep enjoying the foods we love in moderation.  She never posted a list of bad or off limit foods (because I don’t think she had one.) It’s possible to see any diet plan this way, but I admit that it is much easier with Weight Watchers.

Somewhere along the line I started to look at my daily points (or calories, etc.) like money.  This made the game much more fun.  At the time I was allotted 22 points per day plus the bonus points.  I looked at it like someone (maybe the magic diet fairy) gave me $22 to spend everyday, plus bonus money for the week.  I got excited.  It was mine to decide how I wanted to spend it, and more would show up tomorrow.  The bonus points were just beyond fun.  I would buy all sorts of splurges and savor the thrill of every one.

I challenged myself every day to use my “money” to get the best food bargains I could find (like those I posted on Monday).  I felt like I was winning the game when I found foods that I love the taste, I knew I was getting good nutrition, and I only had to spend a little of my daily 22.  Birthdays, holidays and other events were challenging, but it was a fun challenge.  Our family always gets Gigi’s cupcakes for birthdays (16 points each!!).  Instead of whining that I can’t have an entire cupcake (and the diabetic coma to go with it), I just spread the yum (and sugar) out over three days.  

The way I see it, it’s just more fun for me.  

Awesome Food Finds

There is nothing quite as exciting as a great bargain; whether its clothing you love at a low price or super yummy food that doesn’t blow your diet budget.  When  I find either one I want to share them with everyone I know.  This past week I found TWO food bargains!  

The first was on Panera’s hidden menu.  How did I find the hidden menu, you ask.  Well, there was a poster showing four totally yummy looking salads near the door.  The Power Steak and Lettuce Wrap caught my eye so I tried to find it on the menu board so I could find the price and calories.  It wasn’t there.  The counter girl was sweet and looked up the nutritional information for me.  It was a BEAUTIFUL 210 calories.  I was shocked in a good way because Panera’s salads can be way over the top on calories at times.  There are three other salads on the (now not so) hidden menu:   Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (360 calories), Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad (320 calories), and the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl (330 calories).  

My Power Steak Lettuce Wrap was almost perfect.  I loved that it was healthy and filling with lots of protein and veggies.  However, I did swipe half a slice of my husband’s french bread to round out the deliciousness and get any leftover pesto out of the bowl (an additional 75 calories).  

My second awesome bargain of the week came from the fabulous Gina at   She used slices of zucchini to make mini pizzas.   I happened to have some zucchini left over from another recipe and I had just purchased some sundried tomato spread that I was dying to try.  I added a piece of string cheese and a little parmesean and voila, delicious, easy, and I was full on only 130 very nutritious calories.  YEA!! 

We’re going to Brazil!!

Well, OK, I’m not.  I can barely make it to the next big city let alone South America, but Team USA is going to the World Cup next summer!  By beating Mexico on Tuesday night we secured a spot in the tournament.  

If you are not already a soccer fan, you might not get the enormity of this news.  We are the underdogs.  Soccer is becoming more popular in the U.S., but compared the the rest of the world, the money and fan backing is still pretty small.  However, it is growing quickly. 

A few weeks ago I posted my guide to watching soccer (with lots of photos).  Today will be my guide to specifically watching team USA.  Here’s a few of the players I’ll be watching for:

Mix Diskerud                       Michael Parkhurst                         Matt Besler               Graham Zusi

 I’m sure they all have mad soccer skills, but hey, let’s face it, I’m cheering for the combo of eye candy and soccer playing.  

And there might be more on the way.  Our former team captain, Carlos Bocanegra, may still be added to the roster.  Some legal mumbo jumbo, contract something or other is keeping him off the roster right now.  This needs to be settled, because . . .

So, it may seem a little early to you, but I am ready to start getting my fan on.  We’ve got a few options for fan fashion styles.  

Option A                                           Option B

If you look a lot like the players on the field, then I suggest option A.  It’s minimal, but it works.  If you look a little more like fat Elvis, by all means, think about option B.  Out of sheer excitement I have started to create option C – cute tee shirts.  I created them on  Click on the shirt below to see both of my designs and my Spreadshirt shop.  (more tees to come, so check back often!)


TFS Wednesday: If You Bite It, Write It.

This week’s tip is sort of a continuation of last week’s “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”  Once you make a menu plan you will need a place to write it down and keep track of what you actually do eat (which sometimes will not be what was on your menu plan). 

When you first begin dieting (or begin again), it’s important to keep track of everything that you eat.  It can be a HUGE pain in the butt (and another major reason people quit in week 2 or 3), but there are ways to make the process easier.  First, let me point out why tracking is so important. 

Tracking what you actually eat puts you in touch with reality and lets you see the big picture (no pun intended.)  Tracking, if done right, can be shocking.  When you take the time to look up the calories or points or carbs in some of your favorite foods the big picture of how you  put on so much weight becomes really clear.  There are so many foods disguised as healthy that are amazingly  high in fat, calories, points, carbs, (or whatever you are tracking.)  Salads are usually one of the most shocking items.  Restaurant salads, especially those with the dressing already on the salad, are almost always up there with fast food hamburgers in numbers.  Now, the salad has more nutrition, but it is still too much. 

710 Calorie Salad versus a 510 Calorie Quarter Pounder with Cheese

 One way to make tracking easier is to stick to a few favorite items as I noted last week.  See how the foods you already know and love fit in your plan.  You might have to modify them a little (dressing on the side, half a serving with more veggies, etc.), but they are a great place to start. 

Lose It! App for smart phones and tablets

Another way to make it easier are all the apps and electronic gadgets available.  My favorite free app for tracking my food intake is “Lose It!”  There are many on the market, but this one is simple to set up and use and has the ability to input a food using the camera on your phone to scan the bar code on a food.  It also keeps track of my past meals, so repeat meals can be added with one or two swipes.

If you don’t have a smart phone or a way to track electronically, pen and paper still work just as well as they always have, although access to the internet will make it so much easier to find nutrition information on food you like. 

Which leads to my final point.  You want to be as accurate as possible, but this really isn’t rocket science.  There will be foods that you cannot find the exact nutritional numbers for, local restaurants are one category that comes to mind.  This is when I just get as close as I can.  If I have fish tacos at my local Mexican restaurant, they are probably close to those served at a chain restaurant, so I can use that nutrition number. 

Just be careful that you are not cheating (yourself) in lots of small ways.  Those are the calories that add up quickly and are forgotten just as quickly.  Samples at Costco count.  The last four bites of your kid’s pizza counts.  Liquid calories count.  It all counts, so bite it, then write it. 

Is That in My Job Description?

It’s both a benefit and frustration of the job that being Chick in Charge (aka Mom, homemaker, etc.) has no real job description.  Most days I get by on a combination of stuff I learned from my mom, advice from magazines and friends and just winging it.  There are are also no annual reviews or pay raises to let you know if you are doing a good job.  Occasionally you get a customer satisfaction survey, but that often comes in the form of teenage kvetching or flowers on your one holiday in May.  It’s hard to know if I am doing a good job or even exactly what my job is (or isn’t).

I’m a very analytical person.  I like numbers and solid proof, but I’m not sure what data I would or could use to verify my effectiveness as CIC.  Did my family eat this week (check) was it nutritious (ummm, most days, half check), did my kids show up at school everyday (check) on time (check) with the stuff they need (ummm).  

Women’s magazines seem to be very clear on what makes a “good” mom.  She goes above and beyond, always.  Her family always eats home-cooked meals that feature balanced nutrition, organic ingredients and come in under budget.  Not only do her kids have perfect attendance records at school (because she would never let them get sick), she is always at their school.  She’s a room mom, PTA volunteer and lunch monitor so she can spend more time with her kids.  

I see two HUGE problems with that job description.  First, if she does everything for her kids, they are not learning to take care of themselves, which leads to problem number two, eventually (hopefully) they will leave home and she will be out of a job that has consumed her life.  

There is a part of me who feels great when I do everything for my kids, when I make their life easier, softer, sweeter.  But, the reality is, I’m not doing them or me any favors if I don’t teach them to stand on their own and take care of themselves. If they don’t do their laundry (or don’t bother to put soap in when they do) the result is stinky clothes and friends who avoid them, a good lesson to learn.  Natural consequences are great at teaching life lessons, IF I can get out of the way and allow the natural consequences to happen.  For me, the hard part is ignoring how much it looks like I am failing at my job when I do this.  

This morning was typical.  My older son couldn’t find a belt (required at his school).  I knew he had left it in a suitcase so I told him where to find it.  It sped up the process, but he has come to rely on me knowing where all his stuff is (and he is definitely not the only one in this house guilty of that).  It’s hard to know when to stop; when to let him think back to the last time he saw it and find it himself or take the consequence of not having it on at school.  

In the next month both my kids have birthdays, moving one step farther away from me and toward independence.  My job is being slowly phased out and I’m being eased into mommy retirement.  My heart tells me to hang on, do nice things for them while I still can; but my head tells me to keep pushing them away, let them try and possibly fail, learning life’s lessons.  In the end, I will be the only one to decide if I’ve succeeded or failed at this job.  I’ve created my own job description and it looks something like this:  launch two happy, productive adults into this world and leave one satisfied, relieved CIC behind.