Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hunger Games

Does this color make you hungry?
Actually, I think it is the color orange that is supposed to make you hungry.
I vaguely remember hearing that while at a McDonalds many years ago.  Probably back when all the booths at McDonalds were orange.
It must have been in the 70's or 80's.
Anyway, I never go to McDonald's anymore.
My friend Sarah did the "put a hamburger on the shelf and let it sit there for a year to see what happens."  It's true.  It looks exactly the same.
For some reason that isn't what stopped me from eating fast food.
It was some article I read that said the "beef was rinsed in ammonia so it would be safe for human consumption." That got me.
I am pretty leery of ground beef anyway(what is really in there??) that put me over the edge.
 I was actually quite grateful.  Who needs that junk anyway?
Now...if I could only convince my kids of that.....
Yesterday, I forced myself to go grocery shopping.  I was at an early rehearsal, and had to drive by the grocery store anyway on my way I stopped.
I should mention that I have recently come to despise grocery shopping.  Actually, shopping whatsoever.
I think it really is more the "leaving the house, spending gobs of money, and then having to haul bags of heavy stuff into the house....and the worst....putting it all away.
It even sounds exhausting, doesn't it?
Yes, I have become that lazy.
Another interesting fact.
My scale and I are fighting.
First of all, I'm not sure that he has been telling me the truth.  (I always thought it was a "she"...but lately I have determined it is, indeed a "he."
Why? Well, for instance, he tells me I am a different weight depending upon where I set him.  (I assume that the lower weights are given in his "happy spots.)
The dog peed on him a week ago, and ever since, he has been increasing my weight gradually...just to get back at me for not letting the damn canine out in time.
Wait.  As I am typing this....I am realizing that this sounds like something a pissed off, vengeance seeking woman might do.
Okay.  The jury is out on this one.  I have no idea if my scale is a he or she.
All I know is that I am NOT happy with the number IT has been showing me.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time at the grocery store.
I probably should have just brought a cot along to leave in the produce department.
Since I loathe exercise, I am going to start with food to begin my weight loss journey.
Here is a sample of my cart's contents from the produce section:
leaf lettuce
sweet potatoes 
squash (2 varieties)
You get the picture.  The only unhealthy purchase was a couple boxes of mac and cheese for the kids, a pizza and some cake squares from the bakery that Sam loves.  (They were WAY on sale.)
The woman at the check out counter said "Wow, you really eat healthy!"  I almost laughed.  All I could think was "Right!  I am going to get all this stuff home, and stare at it....wishing it would just turn itself into something yummy."

It was pretty funny when Mark came home from work.  Usually after a big grocery trip, there are lots of snacks and easily accessible foods to eat.
He kept digging around and would find a squash, or some sweet potatoes....nothing you could just snack on.  
It then was very apparent that this "healthy eating" was going to be a lot of work.  I have attempted to change up our diet before....well, really change up MY diet before.  
I tried going gluten free.  That lasted less than a week.
I did a protein shake program for a month.  That wasn't fun.
I have attempted to get rid of all the junk food in the house...but the kids were not having that.  Not having Ramen or Mac and Cheese or pizza was just about enough for Child Services to be called, and for us to be declared unfit parents.
Well, this time I am going to give it another whirl.
The hardest part for me is the planning.
I am a "wait until I am starving, and then find something to eat" kind of person.
That works with processed can throw a lean cuisine in the microwave and have lunch in 3 minutes.  However, I have to wonder how all of those chemicals and God knows what else in processed food relate to my migraines and stomach issues.

I am 100% sure I have a big-time sugar addiction also.
I crave sweet foods all the time.  Even if I am completely stuffed, I still feel the need to seek out something sweet after dinner.  I don't know how much is psychological... as we would often have dessert after dinner when I was a kid.  But the sugar has to go.

I do believe my greatest hurdle will be the fact that I am L.A.Z.Y.
I am actually sitting here right now, wishing I had something that would just magically appear to eat for lunch.  I have no desire to make anything.  I certainly am not craving vegetables!  I am trying NOT to go over to the table and grab this:

And I only have myself to blame.
I woke up with a terrible headache.  I was laying in bed, feeling miserable and sorry for myself, and Lexie walked in.  I suggested that perhaps she should run to the store and get something from the bakery for us...because surely that would make me feel better.
See? Self sabotage.
I reward myself with food....or pity myself with food....or congratulate myself with food......or comfort myself with food.....
It's a vicious cycle.  Food makes us feel GOOD!  Until it doesn't.
I wish there was an "off" button for the part of our brain that makes us think we are hungry when we aren't. 
I will get to work on that. ;)
Until then:

Friday, November 7, 2014


Okay, so here is the deal.  I try to post my daily blabberings before or around 8am.  It is sort of my self-established "here-comes-the-blog time."
Most days, I carve out some time in the afternoon or evening to write my post for the following day.  When I am really on the ball, I may even write a few posts, and be way ahead of the game.  (This is very rare.)

Well, it is now 11:17pm....and I am just getting started. 
I will cut myself a little slack, considering I had to play for a marathon of a concert this evening....(it lasted nearly 3 hours.)
Upon arriving home, it was absolutely necessary that I watch tonight's episode of Scandal, accompanied by some chips and salsa.
A girl has to have priorities.
Tonight's concert was the annual Fall Fest (aka: Marathon of Mayhem)
It is soooo long, but it is a good concert. 
The second half features the two middle school show choirs, followed by the two high school show choirs.
I remember the first time I attended this craziness.  
My daughter was in 7th grade, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I sat in the bleachers, thinking this would be short and sweet.
2 hours in, I was ready to die.  Who the hell invented bleachers anyway? 
They are simply torture devices.
My point is, I have been watching the "show choir progression" for the past five years now, and it is quite the transformation.
There really isn't anything quite as adorable as middle school boys on stage, singing and dancing.
We all know that simply walking and talking at the same time, when you are in seventh grade, is a challenge for the pubescent male.
Watching them dance, while attempting to sing songs that are way beyond their current 3-note range (since their voices will take another couple years to fully change) and you have got ENTERTAINMENT!
AHHH!  So adorable.  
A little painful....but so adorable.
It is insane how, over the course of a couple of years, these kids go from VERY average performers, to pretty amazing performers.

I will admit it....I can see the same show 100 times, but I still get that adrenaline rush, and build up of excitement when the top group gets on stage to start their show.  (The fact that both of my kids are in that group now makes it even more fun to watch!)

Tonight was the big "reveal" of parts of the competition show.  These new additions were pretty amazing, and every soloist was fantastic.  
I will admit, I am a tough sell.  
I will often sit and critique rather than just enjoy.  I can't help it.
My daughter hates it, because I will try to get her to tweak her solo if I don't think it went as well as it could have.  (Tonight it was no battles!)
I can't wait to see this year's closer.  (It's the one piece they haven't "revealed" yet.) From what I have is going to be fabulous!
I think they have a winning show on their hands this year. :)
My point in all this show choir madness is.....these kids were babies 5 minutes ago.  They were awkward, fumbling, goofy middle school kids.  It seems like overnight, they were transformed into these polished, talented, poised, fearless young adults.  It happens so fast.  
I suppose it hits me extra hard, since my kids are part of it.  
I look at both of my kids, and wonder when the heck they turned into these confident people?

It was just yesterday when Lexie wouldn't dream of singing in front of me.
Now she struts her stuff in front of hundreds of people, and it doesn't phase her.
Sam was always our "I'm never going to sing or dance" guy.  Now he is up there rocking it out, along side of his sister.

I wish I could have held on to my little kids longer.  When Sam was three, I would always tell him to quit growing, because I wanted him to stay three FOREVER.  If only it were possible.  I can already feel them slipping away.  
I miss those fat baby cheeks and snuggles....and being the person they always wanted to be with.  I'm still that person...when they want money. ;)
I guess I will just hold on as long as I can....and be happy that even though they keep growing older, I will always be their mom. :)
And I will let you in on a little secret....I kind of love the fact that my daughter is a sassy diva. (and I mean that in the very best way.) :))

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Donkeys and Elephants

Today, I am feeling a little blue. ;)
Honestly, though, I did wake up with what felt like a steak knife stabbing me through my left eyeball.
It may or may not have been directly related to Tuesday's election results.

So, today's post is going to be about
"How to live in the moment...and not dwell on things that cause you pain or stress." ;)
This will be one of the very rare times anything political will ever appear in my writing!

The older I get, the more I realize that there are so many things in our lives that we have no control over.  Don't get me wrong....I will take what we have here in our country any day compared to what women have to deal with in the Middle East!

When I look back 20 years, when both Mark and I were teaching, our salaries would increase each year.  Our insurance was fantastic.  Since I was under his insurance policy, the money that would have been spent on my insurance plan through the school we worked at was automatically put into a TSA.  
The didn't just roll it back into the school's budget....they still gave me that money!  (I couldn't believe it.)
Sometimes I wonder why we didn't stay there.
Funny how quickly life can change.

I, obviously, got out of teaching at the right time, considering the hardships teachers have been dealing with over the past few years.
However, we rely heavily on Mark's salary, and insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, things are working backwards these days.  His salary goes down, and the cost of insurance goes up.  If only we had been born 30 years earlier.  We could be enjoying a comfortable retirement right now!
A couple days ago, I got the statement for that TSA I mentioned.
Granted, we were only in that district for 3 years, and I only worked full time one year, before I had Lexie and went part-time.
I figure that money will pay expenses for about 6 months.  So, if I live to be 90, I can retire when I am 89.5!!
I am sure I will be blind and deaf by then, so I would like to apologize to everyone at my church right now for the "music" I will be providing in the future. 
I won't lie.  I am worried about the future.  I am worried about the next four years, because in the past four years, we have definitely taken a hit.
And, four years from now, we will have two kids in college.
(Thank goodness Mark built his "collapsable ice shack" aka: "The Lake House" last year. ) At least we will have a place to live!

 Beautiful, isn't it?  And SO spacious. 

Of course, many are happy with the way the vote went, so I am happy for them.  I would guess that things have changed for the better in the last four years in their lives.  
I do think all educators are worried right now.  It is really stressful not knowing what the future holds.  Not knowing if the job you work so hard at every day will be enough to provide for your family anymore.  Not knowing if there even will be a job down the line.

I think the best thing we can do is pull together and support one another, regardless of who we voted for, what our tax bracket is, what we do for a living....seriously, none of that matters.  
 My hope is that every person who holds a place in our government does his or her job with the people of their state in mind.  As long as he/she always has our best interest at heart, I am ok with that.  When it's about money or power or having the "right" people in your pocket....that is when I lose complete faith.

We would never allow a doctor who wasn't completely capable, and didn't have our best interest at heart operate on our children or ourselves.

A person who did not care about children, had no desire to educate their students, and only cared about the paycheck, would never be hired as a teacher.

We check references, and make it a priority to inspect previous work when hiring a contractor.  We don't just hire some guy because he says he is good.

I sure hope we hold the same standards for the people who run our state.


I am thankful for our freedom to vote.  For the freedom to, on some level, have our voices heard.  
I do have to admit, there are days that I wish I could just enclose my home and family in a bubble, and lock ourselves away from the corruption and atrocities in the world.  However, if I did that, we would also miss out on the beautiful things that are happening around us as well.
So, I will focus on the good, try to make a difference where I can, and hope that  any the lost souls will find their way back to peace.
Tomorrow is a new day.  I plan to make it a happy one. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trimming the Fat

A couple of years ago, my Dr. put me on some new meds for my migraines.
They caused a few strange side effects.
For instance, any carbonated beverage would taste horribly acidic, so I stopped drinking soda (a great side effect!).
They also made my stomach feel a little queasy and upset, and I guess that I didn't eat as much or something...because over the course of a year, I dropped almost 30 lbs. without making any effort whatsoever.
For a woman who has constantly been unhappy with her weight...this was the "Christmas miracle" I had been waiting for my whole life!
I should have known it was too good to be true.
I made the mistake of buying some new cupcake cookbooks last fall, and I turned into a baking fiend.
Apparently my body had adjusted to my new meds, because the weight slowly began to creep back on.
So much for that Christmas miracle.  
Now I was the New Year's Blimp.

I have always had this "spare tire" that I have loathed with every ounce of my being.  Why can't I carry that weight in my butt, like a normal person?  Why, considering I have NO waist anyway...being all of five foot nothing, do I have to carry all of my extra flubber and blubber right in the middle?  
Why can't I be J-Lo?!!!

Well...genetics didn't help.  However, I am doing nothing to help myself either.
Here is the stupid thing:
I say that I hate to work-out, when in reality, I hate the thought of working out.
Once I actually get started, I feel good.  I feel energized.  
Several years ago, I got on a huge work-out kick.  I was on a daily regimen, and I loved it.  I felt so much better than I had in a long time, and I was seeing results.
However, my scale was off.  It was 10 POUNDS, when I went to the Dr. for a check up, and saw that I weighed 10 lbs more than I thought I did, I got mad.  And I just quit.  
Totally stupid, I know....but I am the queen of self-sabatoge when it comes to getting things done around the house or exercise.

I always listen to that rotten little voice in my head that says "just wait until Monday."  Or "Just wait until after the holidays."  I have been waiting 42 years....I think it's probably time to stop waiting and get off my butt and do something.
Another problem is that I get into these cycles.  Currently, I am in a "I could care less what I look like" cycle.  I can't remember the last time I have put any effort into my hair or make-up (or have even worn make-up, for that matter.)  I barely make it out of my pj's to go out in public..and believe me, I have to FORCE myself to do that.  When I am in the "I could care less" mode, exercise doesn't exactly fly to the top of my priority list.
However, when I do have to put on something that doesn't have an elastic waist, it is then that I realize, "Oh crap.  I'm getting fat."

Today, I dug out my "Wheat Belly" cookbook, the "Paleo Diet" cookbook, and the "21 Day Sugar Detox."
All three look horribly tedious and no fun whatsoever.  But, I fear I may be at the point of having to resort to this.  If I am gaining weight on my current diet (which is not much food....however, the caramel apples may have done me in) something has to change.

So, it looks like all of the fun and games at Lakmann-land may soon be coming to an end.  It is time to say adios to my beloved cheetos and the occasional pepsi.  Bring on the air popped pop corn, drizzled with coconut oil.  Mmmmm!
It also looks like it's time to dig out those 362 workout videos from the storage room.  I suppose they will be more beneficial if I actually put them in the DVD player, and give them a go, rather than hide them.
Who knows, maybe I will turn into a fitness guru, and will start writing reviews on workout videos.  All I know is that once I am slim and trim, if I get a gig doing reviews, I am so wearing a leotard, leg warmers and terry cloth headband, ala 80's Olivia Newton John for my bio picture!
I mean, why not?  I plan to wear that everyday for my workout anyway. I will start with food.  I am going to clean out the cupboards, and stock up on vegetables, and whatever else my cookbooks tell me to buy.
If I find any good recipes, I will post them for you.
If anyone has any desire to join me in my "Farwell to Fat" quest, let me know.  We can create a support group, and discuss our days filled with eating cardboard dipped in hummus, while running in place for 90 minutes.
It's going to be GREAT!! :)

Happy Hump Day, my friends. :)

P.S.  Yes, this would have been the perfect day for a political post....but I have no desire for to elevate my blood pressure to dangerous levels. 
Perhaps tomorrow I shall write about "my future: the trials and tribulations of living in a cardboard box."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

(IN)security Breach


The fear of imperfection.  
The fear of never being good enough.
Have you ever felt that way? 

I know I sure have.
I used to be the QUEEN of insecurity.
It began at a very early age, and stuck with me until not so very long ago.
I certainly had those who helped me along in my insecurities.
I don't think there is ever a shortage of those people in our lives.
You know, the ones who really seem to enjoy playing off of our insecurities, and making us even more miserable than we already make ourselves!

Of course, I had no idea that the people who were playing on my insecurities were actually horribly insecure themselves.
To me, they seemed like they had everything going for them.  So, when they would point out my flaws, and announce them for all the world to hear, it just added to their "power."
When I was younger, and I would try to "put myself out there" a little bit, be it through some sort of musical performance, or by participating in class, or whatever, the "bullies" would make fun of me.  (I should mention that the bullies were all girls.  I never had any problems with boys being mean.  I think girls and women are the ones who have the hardest time dealing with their insecurities.  I am sure men feel insecure as well, but don't attack each other the way women do.)
Whenever I would be teased or made fun of, it would deflate my spirit a little bit more. 

Luckily, this didn't go on forever.  The "ring leader" finally moved away, and her group just sort of dissipated.  Now that I look back on those years, I can absolutely see why she acted the way she did.  We were in 6th and 7th grade, which is tough enough as it is.  She was overweight and awkward. I am pretty sure her dad was no longer in the picture, and her mom didn't seem to have much control over her and her brother.  I am sure that being mean and loud was her way of getting attention.  This was how she "made friends."  She intimidated them.  It's actually really sad.  However, back then when she was using me as her bait...I didn't feel sorry for her at all.  She was just plain mean.
It's interesting how certain insecurities stick with you through your life.
If only we were born with the tools we need to understand that a lot of the crap people throw at us have nothing to do with us.  It is just their insecurities at work, and they are projecting them onto us.

In my adult life, I think my insecurities actually grew, rather than diminished.
Initially, I was secure.  In college, and right after, I was pretty darn sure of myself, and confident in everything I did.
However, life began to beat me down.
My first job involved working for a principal who was NOT a very nice guy.  He loved to call me in his office, pull his glasses down to the tip of his nose, lean forward on his desk toward me (though he would NEVER make any eye contact.....and he weighed probably 400 lbs.) and do whatever he could to intimidate me.  Luckily, I was still pretty confident, but I had just lost my dad at this point, and was emotionally fragile, so these meetings were not something I ever looked forward to.
I think my insecurities really kicked in when we moved back to the La Crosse area from the cities.
I had taken a "teaching" job that was doomed to fail.  It was one of those situations where whoever came into the position was going to be handed a nightmare on a plate.
It was so stressful, and honestly, quite humiliating.  I had to take any pride I had, put it on a platter, and annihilate it with a meat tenderizer.  It was hellish.
It also involved dealing with a lot of parents.  So, I had students who hated me, because, get this, I didn't "yell and scream enough."  I had parents who hated me because..who knows why.  It was awful.
My insecurities soared.

I only stayed there a year, but the next two years at my next job weren't a ton better.  It seemed as though no matter what I was doing, there was always someone there to criticize, or point out what they considered my flaws.

You would think that a church would be the last place your insecurities would come to a head, but, alas, they did.
I worked in my church for six years or so before taking a 2 year hiatus to another parish.
After hearing that my previous position was open again, I applied.
I have to say, it was the most uncomfortable interview ever.
I was surrounded by my former choir members, and some parishioners, (all who knew me) and the new priest (who did not.)
The worst part is that I was aware of three people on the interview committee who did not want me back.  The reason?  Let's just say it had nothing to do with my job performance.  If only I had written this post earlier. ;)

It all worked out just fine, but it literally took about 6 months for some choir members to get "readjusted" to having me back.  (Seriously? I had been there for SIX years!)
Once again, my insecurities flared up.

I believe the true collapse of my insecurities occurred during the big 
blow up of 2013.  Aka: The Icks
Have you ever known someone who has the ability to use their words to create a larger than life persona for themselves?  Someone who can twist any situation to suit their needs, completely turn everything around, and almost make you believe it in a matter of seconds?  It is quite a talent.  It is also quite a weapon when it comes to hurting people who are insecure.
I let this happen to me for such a long time.  Even though I knew exactly what was happening, I would get so emotionally wrapped up in the situation, that I would be too upset to form a cohesive sentence, much less stick up for myself.
I think the biggest issue was I didn't believe in myself....therefore I started to believe the things that were being said about me.

But then something happened.
An exchange in which I, for the first time ever with this person, stood up for myself.  Of course, the response back was very dramatic, blown out of proportion, and self serving.  As I read it over and over again, I realized that none of this was about me.  It was about this person's need to build themselves up.  To feel important.  To be the center of attention.  To, as always, make sure the entire collaboration would revolve around them. insecurities started to wash away.

I didn't CARE about this person's opinion of me anymore.
Quite frankly, I didn't care about anyone's opinion of me!
I knew I was doing my job well, and had all my bases covered, so there was NOTHING anyone could complain about.
It felt so GOOD!  I felt so FREE!

I had no idea that self confidence would be so upsetting to those who enjoyed "pushing my buttons" though.  Apparently, our relationship wasn't working when things were 50/50.  Interesting.
In was soon evident that there was no relationship left at all.
Even though it hurt to be pushed out of someone's life, it was also an eye opener.  For a brief time, I allowed myself to believe that I had done something wrong.  Then I began to think clearly, and knew that I had only done what any self-respecting person would do.  I simply stood up for myself, and did not allow anyone to tell me how to feel or how to act.

I was done feeling small.  I was done being bullied.  I was done feeding someone else's ego, and allowing them to build themselves up by tearing me down.  I. WAS. DONE.
And then something amazing happened.
That constant worry that lived in the pit of my stomach began to dissolve.  That little voice in my head that was always so concerned about what other people were saying about me finally shut up.
I just didn't care anymore.

Who did I need to win over?  Who did I need to prove myself to?
If I was authentic, kind and compassionate, and treated others with respect, why did I need to constantly worry about other people's opinions of me?
I actually find it ironic that the apparent reason my friend "broke up" our relationship is because of my "negative energy."
In reality, I think the only negative energy came from whatever time and energy had been spent brooding over this whole situation.  
I extended an olive branch.  It was not accepted.
End of story.
My conscious is clear, and I harbor no ill feelings.  In fact, I actually feel gratitude toward this person, because this whole ordeal has brought me to this place of peace, contentedness, security, and happiness.

It's sad that it took me this long to figure it all out....but I'm so glad I finally did. 
I hope I can help others in their journey to find that confidence much more quickly than I did.
Do I still have insecurities?  Of course.
I struggle with them everyday....especially body issues.
I doubt those insecurities will ever go away.  However, I think I can live with that.  They are much lower on the "how much do I really care" list than they used to be.  At this point in life, my happiness on the inside is more important than my happiness about the outside. :)

We all have wonderful gifts to put out into the world.  Don't let the words of others extinguish your fire.  Keep an extra set of matches with you wherever you go.  If someone tries to smother your fire, light another match, and make it burn twice as bright.

There is only one you.  Why not live your life in love with that one you?  You are going to spend more time with yourself than with any other person on the planet.....and there is no getting away from yourself!  If there are things you don't like, change them.  We are all a work in progress.  How sad would it be going through an entire life, never loving who you are?
It is time to take all that negative crap, and dump it.  It serves no one.
You can be ANYTHING you want to be.  
You have the ability to mold yourself into the person you have always wished you were.
Will it take work.  Yep.
Will it be worth it?
Hell yes!
The only thing holding you back is the person you see in the mirror.
Change your relationship with that person, and amazing things will start to happen. ;)

Be grateful for YOU!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Bucket List

I have never made a bucket list.
Part of me feels like I am supposed to.  Like I will miss out on something exciting and important in life if I don't make that list.
I remember first hearing the term "bucket list" and wondering "what the heck is that?"  "So, you make a list and stick it in a bucket??"
I did eventually figure it out.

When I have conversations with others about their lists, travel is typically one of the most important items.  
They want to visit different countries, and see historic sites.
Swim with dolphins, and stand under the Eiffel Tower.
They want to explore all the places they have yet to see.
While I enjoy exploring new places, I have found that travel typically is not a great experience for me.  Don't get me wrong...I have had some great trips.
In college, I went to Europe twice with the choir.
There really is nothing like touring Europe for two weeks with all of your friends.
We got to sing in some pretty amazing churches.  We occasionally stayed with families in the smaller towns and villages we visited, so we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture.  And we were all 19-23 years old, and it was legal to drink over how could you not have a good time?
My husband and I were also lucky enough to take two trips to Hawaii when he was a band director in the twin cities.  He was taking the band there for a tour, so we had to go over the summer for a "site inspection."  In other words, the two of us got a free trip to Hawaii to go check out all the places he would be taking the band on their tour...for a week.  And then, we went again four months later with the band.  Ah yes, the sacrifices you have to make for your job. ;)
Yep...that's Don Ho. 

(Believe me, we have NONE of those perks anymore.)
For some reason, as I got older, my traveling experiences took a turn for the worse.
It all began with a trip to New Jersey.
This was the trip I had written about a while back...the one I took right after my cousin died.  To begin with, I had to change the flight so I could be at the funeral.  Then, I had to change it again, because it didn't jive with the schedule of the woman who I was going there to plan the show with.  The third time I changed it, her schedule, luckily, my sweet friend Jenny came to the airport and picked me up.
However, on our descent, I suddenly started to feel icky.  REALLY icky.  I made a bee-line to the bathroom. (This was after we were preparing to land.)
And, I spent the entire landing with my head in the toilet.  
I really don't recommend this.  Ever.
I had never been sick on a plane before...and had no idea why I suddenly couldn't handle flying.  Unfortunately, that experience set me up for several days of what seemed like a bout of ongoing "car sickness," and I felt icky the whole time I was there.
My next trip was to Italy.
You can imagine my anxiety.  If I got sick going to New Jersey, surely I would die en route to Italy.
Half way there, sure enough, I woke up feeling horribly nauseous. 
I made my way back to the bathroom...and the next thing I remember was the flight attendant's voice saying "are you okay?"  It then occurred to me that my face was literally on the bathroom floor.  I must have passed out, and hit the door on the way it popped open a little.  I remember nothing.
Once we landed, the entire trip was like a combination of "The Amazing Race", and "National Lampoon's Family Vacation." After 24 hours of traveling, we dropped off our stuff at a monastery, and hit the ground running....for the next 8 hours.  And when I say running, I am barely exaggerating.
My in-laws had decided to take the whole family (the four of us, and Mark's brother's family, plus mom and dad made 10 people total.) 
We literally attempted to cram every single Italian landmark into the ten days we were there.  Between the blisters on my feet, and my miserable stomach (since we maybe sat down to eat once a day...otherwise is was "grab a slice of pizza, and keep walking to the next sight!") I actually considered throwing myself off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We started each day around 5:30 am (have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?) and took off running.  There was the occasional 4am departure, when we needed to catch the boat, to catch the train, to catch the bus, to catch the other train, to walk the 4 miles to get to that one church up on that hill.
Because it was soooo much better than any of the 600 other churches we had been to previously. ;) 
Everything really was amazing and that was wonderful.
However, if I ever go will NOT be with TEN people.  As if American tourists don't stick out enough already.  We were this huge group of idiots with gigantic backpacks (grandma wouldn't let us check any luggage) who stopped in the most inconvenient spots (like the bottom of an escalator) and caused traffic jams and such.  Thank God I have dark hair. (The rest were blonde.)  I had a "conversation" on a bus with an Italian woman who was obviously venting about the stupid Americans standing beside me with their damn backpacks.  She ranted on and on, and I shook my head and said "si'" a lot. (My husband was conveniently holding my backpack at this time.)  Now that I think about it....I did my best to hang back from the group a good 8-10 feet at all times.  I just felt a little better there. ;)
(Notice the dark haired "Italian woman" in the center of this photo.) ;)
It really was an amazing experience for our kids...something we never would have been able to do for them. Mark's parents are pretty incredible for taking us on this trip.  Even though his mother is the Energizer Bunny.

The story goes downhill when we arrive back in the states.
Mark's mom had arranged for us to stay at a hotel the night before we left that would shuttle us to the airport, and also allow us to park our cars there while we were gone, free of charge.
After traveling for 24 hours, we finally arrived back in Minnesota at 9pm.  We just wanted to get in the car and make the 3 hour drive home.
I walked out to the parking lot to get the car....but it wasn't where Mark had left it.  I wandered around the lot, thinking someone had moved it...even though that made no sense.
It finally set in that our car had been stolen.  Our car that was not only the vehicle we had that was paid off (aka: future car for the kids) but it also had all of the stuff we didn't take on the trip with us in the trunk.  Cell phones, iPods, all of the clothes and shoes that we decided to leave behind to lighten the back packs.  Marks wallet and SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. (I know, I know...why the heck was that in his wallet??!)
An hour later, after talking to the cops, we got a call that our car had been found 3 days prior, in an alley in St. Paul.
This is what it looked like.

They had stripped it, and filled it up with garbage.
In the end, our "free trip" to Italy ended up costing us $15,000 for a new car.
We spent the rest of the summer making sure that the @#^$&#'@ who did this didn't also try to steal Mark's identity.  (They DID make charges on the debit card that was in his wallet.  Luckily we caught that right away.)
Needless to say, it was not a relaxing return home.
This past summer, Mark's parents asked if we wanted to go on another trip. (Cue the psycho violins)
This trip, however, would be a mission trip for two weeks in San Lucia.
All ten of us, once again. was in the Caribbean, so....YES!

This trip was SO much better than the previous one.
We stayed in ONE place the whole time.  We immersed ourselves in the culture, and got to know the people.  
We worked in a preschool each day with adorable kids.
This little beauty's name is Tiege.  She is three, and is hilarious.  She is also takes on the role of "mama" to the other kids when they are sad or crabby.  I LOVE THIS CHILD.
And we were right by the ocean.  It was beautiful.
I did have one miserable night of a weird stomach thing, but other than that, it was good.
Most days at the school were quiet and calm.  Just like any normal day in a room filled with 3 and 4 year olds, as you can see below.
Here I am being attacked by a whole gaggle of little monkeys.  Can you tell they LOVED taking selfies?
 Mark was the preschool "handyman."
He spent two weeks working on broken toilets and sinks.  If there had been a Home Depot anywhere on the island, this would have been an easy task.  Instead, he had to pretend he was MacGyver, and figure out how to make things work with bits and pieces of whatever they could find.
They hooked him up with Lincoln, the village plumber.
He was quite the character.  You never knew when he was going to show up...or what condition he would show up in.  It was pretty obvious he worked with a variety of "pipes," so it was best if you could track him down in the morning, before he been doing too much "plumbing." ;)
Watching these two work together was very entertaining.  Especially since everyone on the island has such a heavy Caribbean accent.  One day, they were taking the toilet apart, and water started spraying everywhere.  Lincoln was yelling to Mark, "Give the basin!  Give me the basin!"  Of course, Mark had no idea what he was we never use the word "basin" for bucket, and, with his accent, it didn't sound like basin anyway.  There was a lot of scrambling, and chaos, until Mark finally figured out what a "bah-seen" was.
These were the only little mishaps that were occurring, and they were funny, so we thought we would get through this trip without incident.
Yes...that is what we thought, until one morning Lexie kept complaining about how sore her wrists were.
We assumed it was from picking up kids all day.
I seriously wanted to bring about 5 kids home with me.  They were soooo adorable.

Then she came down with a 102 fever...that wouldn't go away.
Then, what we had thought were mosquito bites turned into a crazy rash that covered her entire body. (She literally looked like she had mosquito bites completely covering her).
Yes, in true Lakmann form, Lexie had contracted Chikunguna....the mosquito born virus that was making it's way around the Caribbean. 
Chikunguna, when translated, means: "doubled over in agony."
Sounds fun, huh?
Luckily, she is young...and bounced back in a couple of weeks.  Had one of the older volunteers been the one to have been bitten, it could have been much worse.  Sometimes the aching joints can last up to a year or more.
Lexie was fully back to normal in about a month.
If nothing else, she can always say that she was one of the very few Americans who had it.
Hopefully that won't be her only claim to fame. ;)
So....for now, we are just going to stay home, and enjoy the safety and comfort of our abode.

I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
I don't need a fancy car, or annual vacations, or elegant dinners at a froufrou restaurant.  I would much rather spend my money on making my home cozy and beautiful.  I spend most of my time here, so I want it to be a place that I love.  Every once in awhile it's fun to get away for a weekend, or a few days, but there is nothing better than coming home, and sleeping in my own bed again.  This really is my happy place.
And if I can help it....I will keep both the car thieves and the mosquitos OUT!
Now....about that bucket list...