James the Astronaut

James the Astronaut
Not sure if I can go through with this...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Miss My New Life!

It is way beyond time to update everyone on the progress of the sites. Here are a few highlights of what Girl Named James has been up to lately:

1. Started a new website, but was unimpressed with the quality of my hosting provider. So it will be at least some time next week before the new and much-improved girlnamedjames.com is back up and running. As soon as it is, I will send out invitations to our big online party. The most exciting element of this change is that all Girl Named James sites will be incorporated into this one domain.

2. Designed a new logo, which will also serve as my avatar. After giving it some serious consideration, I decided my mission will be more universal if I represent myself more as the ever-transitioning Everywoman that I am, rather than seeming to appeal to people of a certain "look." Please let me know what you think of the new logo.

3. Began compiling material for a new book. Ssh! This is a super-secret project that I will be hinting about occasionally. Taking a huge chunk of time, but I am really loving it.

4. Research, research, research! I have been researching everything from SEO to gluten-free recipes. I will be adding some very juicy links from my recent travels during the next few days.

5. Tear-down, rebuild, more tear-down, slightly more rebuild, lather, rinse, repeat... I'm learning as I go, and you have the opportunity to watch as all these germinating little seeds of thought burst into new light and become tangible expression.

Thanks for sharing with me!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dandelion Fluff In The Wind...

Today's article is going to be short, but oh, so sweet!

With the introduction of the new weekly blog In the Lab with a Girl Named James, it has become apparent that the Girl Named James is developing into an entire brand. So I am pleased to announce the construction of a full web suite incorporated into the domain girlnamedjames.com!

Stay tuned for further information! The winds are picking up quickly around here! In the meantime, click on the above link to see our first experiment!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Countdown Begins...

I am really going full-steam-ahead with my new weekly blog, In the Lab with a Girl Named James. I am going to be updating everyone daily as the construction continues. Please see the announcement below for the initial post, and click on the link to see the awesome layout and design. It is going to be a super-fun project, and I hope you will enjoy and support it as much as you do this blog. Please spread the word, and remember to subscribe to both feeds so you never miss a thing!

Welcome to my lab!

The official start date for this blog is Monday, February 14, 2011. However, you have been selected for a special preview of what’s coming! Bookmark this link:

The purpose of this blog is to conduct lifestyle experiments in order to make informed decisions about health and fitness. I will then be able to make recommendations based on the results of each study.
*Spoiler Alert!*

My initial experiment is coffee-related! Subscribe to the feed or email alerts and follow the blog now so that you can be the very first to see my findings!

You will thoroughly enjoy the supplemental section entitled, “Mr. Blurbie Says,” where my young laboratory assistant (my son) will provide his own unique observations. If you choose to follow the blog, please indicate in the body of your message whether you are following because of a Girl Named James or if you are actually following Mr. Blurbie!

Another exciting feature of this new blog will be the Reviews. I will be testing products, services, web sites, etc. and providing insightful reviews and links. If you have merchandise or services that you would like to have reviewed on this blog, please feel free to contact me using the email address above.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this blog, please feel free to use the Comments area. I will always respond to your comment. So tell all your friends and stop by often! Everyone is welcome in the lab with a Girl Named James!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Potty training is such a personal issue.

Not just because it involves private rooms and special papers and silent prayers. Sometimes there are personal feuds and hate campaigns waged against the weaker side. Sieges—some go on for days, even weeks. Sometimes there is justification, other times, there is frustration, or exhaustion, or both. I have a strict policy against revealing private family matters, but in this case I must break my silence and reveal the abuse that I suffer from my toddler. Maybe by reaching out and sharing my personal pain, someone else will be able to break the cycle.

I have to preface my story by letting you know that this child is absolutely stunningly beautiful. When she smiles, her eyes cast out rays of pure sunlight. Imagine the swelling waves of love and heartache I feel when she is unhappy with me. Now imagine my dark horror when she takes vengeance on me in the most bizarre (and, dare I say—calculated?) ways. Too young, is she? Overreacting, am I? You will soon agree with me.

A perfect example happened just yesterday. To bring you up to speed, she has been daytime trained for approximately one month, and she does exceedingly well, even in public places. I have been nighttime training her for roughly a week, and even though that is coming along well, we have a way to go. At any rate, she is perfectly capable of using the bathroom when she is fully awake. With a bathroom right outside her bedroom door and another right next to her favorite room downstairs (you could even say that it is in the room, because of the open floor plan), this little girl should never have to travel more than ten of her tiny steps to go to the potty. And if she is sitting at the bottom of the stairs, it is more like three of her tiny steps. But every now and then…

Yesterday, she got upset with me about something. I think she wanted me to carry something upstairs for her and my hands were full or some end-of-the-world type catastrophe like that. When she refused to go upstairs, I told her I would be waiting for her when she changes her mind, and I proceeded to go upstairs to make a couple of beds. But when I took the first mattress pad out of the basket, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like grubby little fingers squeaking across my glass table top. When I went downstairs to make sure my beautiful daughter was behaving herself, she was sitting on one of my dining room chairs.

Stop right there! You need to know something about me.

I do not allow my children to sit at the dining room table unless we have company and we are eating a meal together. And this was not just one of the children—it was the toddler! Sitting on my custom-upholstered chair (not customized for me, but I’m sure the person I bought them from paid their designer a ton of money for the custom fabric—and they kept it in pristine condition—and so have I), rubbing her sticky fingers all over my beveled glass table top. The toddler! So I very calmly…

quite gently…

snatched her up…

to find that she had…

wait for it…

urinated on my chair.

Believe me when I tell you that I do not believe in punishing toddlers for having accidents when they are learning to use the potty. I am diametrically opposed to it. It is counter-productive, confusing, and undermines their trust and security. But yesterday, my daughter got a refresher course in the “no children at the dining table” rule. So now you know some of the personal torment attached to my potty training experience. If there is a lesson to learn from this, I would say it is simply this:

It is not wrong to let kids work through their own anger issues, alone.
But do not ever, under any circumstances, leave your child alone if she or he is angry with you.

Special Announcement! Changes Coming soon!
The past few weeks have been some of the most exciting of my life. Blogging has opened up a whole new realm of interests to me that I never knew existed until now (which is absolutely no indication of my age, I assure you). The most intriguing discovery I have made has been finding out how many people are interested in the same quirky topics as I am. (Living on a flat planet really sheds new light on Square Peg Syndrome. As it turns out, there are no round pegs after all.) This is quickly growing from a pet project into a full-sized pet, with daily needs that must be addressed on demand. Blogging once or twice a week is no longer going to be enough. I am already in the habit of waking up early enough to write. The layout and design are easy enough to modify. Now I just have to do the actual writing rather than trying to make the appearance and flow perfect (or just sitting there with my cup of coffee trying not to wake anyone else in the house).

I have a strong fear of commitment—but since I’m married and have children, I’m not exactly sure what things I am really afraid to commit to. Without hard evidence that I will not be able to keep up with my daily (Monday-Friday) blogging activities, I am going to forge ahead and make the commitment. I cannot give myself a deadline for when this will officially begin; that would be too much like having a job.  But it is my sincere intention to add my ideas to mankind’s combined knowledge every weekday that this blog exists. Now is the time to follow and subscribe to the feed, to ensure that you don’t miss out on a single episode! I appreciate any suggestions or content requests, so please feel free to leave a comment any time.

Setting a daily writing goal is major for me, but now I am going to stretch the limits of my new responsibilities. I have decided to introduce a new weekly blog. The title is In the Lab with a Girl Named James. Every week I will modify my life in one significant way, and I will publish my observations on the following Monday morning. Since Monday is historically uncomfortable for most people returning to work and routines after the refreshment of the weekend, it must be the perfect day to share the joys of living outside of my comfort zone. My school-age lab assistant will be providing his own marginal remarks when inspired to do so, in a section entitled Mr. Blurbie Says. If you have a web site or a product that promotes healthy living or improves the quality of life, and you would like for me to test it for review on In the Lab with a Girl Named James, please email me. Roll-out date for the new blog is Monday, February 14, 2011. Be sure to check back here Monday morning for the official announcement and link.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Descent…. :

How a family of 5 survived for 3 weeks with a mini fridge.

Part 3:

Cold as Ice, Willing to Sacrifice Our Love

Three weeks. 

At my age, three weeks really should drift by just like a feather in the breeze. Most of the time, it would. But I have invested vast amounts of conscious thought and energy and effort to the art of eating. Having been obese for a year and overweight for more than five years, I well know how to occupy my mind with edible inspiration. Take away my ability to store enough meals and snacks for a week, and I become a beast. Take away my family’s ability to whimsically pop something in our mouths without a second thought, and you may as well walk into a house on fire. We had cabin fever and claustrophobia, even though the size of our living space did not change at all—the only thing that had changed was the size of our cold food storage space. Guess that’s why they say, “Home is where your heart is.” Our hearts must have been in the refrigerator, and the refrigerator was shrinking. For more than a week longer than we had expected.

Finally, the morning arrived for our new delivery. Everyone in the house was up early. The kitchen was cleaned. The bar stools, sofa, and breakfast table were moved to clear a path from the front door to the kitchen. When the call came, it was like I was still sleeping. I watched the truck from the front of my subdivision until it rounded the first curve, and then I held my breath until I saw it coming down my street. The sound of voices was like my head was under water, like the sound just before waking from a dream, when you realize you will be angry if you have to let it go. OK, wait six hours for something...don't apply cleansers directly to the surface...blah blah blah...sign here...be sure to give us a good rating.... Hey, guess what? I'm awake, and I have a new, working, normal-sized refrigerator! Still under the manufacturer's warranty.

Well, we made it. None of us developed any eating disorders, none of us lost any weight, and none of us tried to eat each other. In fact, once we learned to accept the time line, our bodies adapted as well. We began to purchase more fresh fruit (only enough for 2 days) and to eat it while it was still fresh. We began to think in terms of our immediate needs, and not to greedily consume more than we need just because it is there (so easy to learn when it wasn’t there anymore). When we were first thrust into this situation, I thought it would be one of the worst trials we ever had to endure. Looking back, we all appreciate the revolution in our eating (and shopping) habits that was brought on by this unexpected loss.

On the subject of shopping…

The day the new refrigerator was delivered, my children and I spent five hours shopping for food! Four hours at Wal-Mart, and an hour at Publix. We had to replace all of the basic staples that belong in the refrigerator—condiments, dairy products, fruit juices. We also had to shop for our weekly meals and snack foods. It was the first time I had enjoyed grocery shopping in over twenty years! My favorite part of the day was consulting my sketches at home to organize the shelves for optimal convenience. Now my refrigerator is as orderly as one you would see on television. I even organized some of the items in the pantry! I am so proud of my efficient kitchen, which never would have been born if my less-than-two-years-old Whirlpool [lemon] refrigerator had not died. Let’s eat!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Descent into …. Habits:

How a family of 5 survived for 3 weeks with a mini fridge.

Part 2

Space Jam

So we shopped for a refrigerator. It only took one day to find the one we wanted. There is an amazingly limited selection of appliances in Lowe’s and Sears' inventories at any given time. The one thing we brought into the search that accelerated the process for us was that we would not be purchasing another Whirlpool—anything—ever again. Some day I will relate how our one-year-old Whirlpool oven conked out on us, but for now I will simply state that this is beginning to look a lot like a trend with their appliances. So, a new problem arose:

We chose the most popular one.

What does that mean, exactly? Basically, it means our delivery date was scheduled for 1 ½ weeks after the day of purchase. (OK, gulp… exhale… negotiate in vain… accept.) This brings us back to the mini fridge…

Two 12” x 12” shelves, about eight inches above and below each—had to remove one to fit gallon milk jugs inside. One 12” x 6” x 8” drawer. Freezer approximately 12” x 12” x 6”, with this ridiculous inch-high pullout tray thing underneath. Two little joke shelves in the door. There are five people in my family—three adults and two children. My family drinks a gallon of milk every two days, but I could only keep one gallon in the house at a time because of this thing. For the first time in our lives, we all had to be brutally honest about whether we seriously planned to eat our leftovers. Each night at dinner, the previous night’s leftovers were tossed out. I had to prepare each meal so mindfully—exactly five servings of each item, and if anyone wanted seconds, they could have whatever the baby only ate half of. All the “refrigerate after opening” condiments had to be thrown out. All the frozen food—except for a box of tempura shrimp and some tiny individually-packaged ice cream cups—had to go. I had to buy ice trays and make ice every few hours (can you say, "third world style?"). I was shopping almost every day. Logging my food journal was privately humiliating, because I didn’t have enough fresh food to eat properly for a day—any day. There were jugs of spring water all over the counter. And my two-year-old was constantly playing with what she naturally assumed was a toy refrigerator placed next to her chair for her personal amusement.

So, we learned how to eat. It took a few days, but we actually learned how to eat. And we learned how to shop, only for the necessities, and how to not waste them. It was a little like squeezing ourselves through this tiny, uncomfortable mini fridge chrysalis and emerging as conservative, mindful shopper/eaters with menu plans and purposeful appetites. We were even learning to be content with our daily bread (well, the bread didn’t really count, because we had plenty of that in the pantry, but we definitely learned to be satisfied without a backup loaf in the freezer).

As the days drew closer for the new refrigerator to be delivered, I began to think outside of the box. I downloaded a sketch of the inside, and began planning how to keep our groceries organized. Assigning shelves to certain meals, mapping out where each family member would keep his/her snacks, consciously deciding to only use one small space in the freezer for one week worth of meat. I was so excited, and my passion for our newly-awakening lifestyle was spreading to the children.

Three days before our new refrigerator was scheduled to be delivered, we got a telephone call from the customer service department. Remember how we chose the most popular model? The manufacturer could not keep up with the demand, and the earliest we could get delivery would be the following Saturday. Exactly 3 weeks from the day the old refrigerator broke. Ummm, could you tell that to my husband, please (while I run dramatically sobbing from the room)? Tribulation is such a lukewarm expression of what that telephone call put us through. If you’ve ever read Lord of the Flies, you can begin to imagine the breakdown of civilization in my home as we waited an extra eternity for relief.

Be sure to check back for Part 3: 
Cold as Ice, Willing to Sacrifice Our Love

Monday, January 24, 2011

Descent into Madness, Hunger, Disappointment, Premature Elation, Creative Meal Planning, More Disappointment, and Overly-Conservative Eating Habits:

How a family of 5 survived for 3 weeks with a mini fridge. Part 1

Reality Bites

This story is so shocking, so poignant, so full of twists and turns and unforeseen aggravation--it just has to be told. I never thought it was possible. I never thought about it at all, because I always hoped that this type of horrible experience would never touch my own life. But it did.

It started on a Saturday afternoon, about 3 weeks ago. My family was just returning home after being out all morning. When I took some meat out of the freezer to defrost for dinner, something seemed wrong. The carton had little white droplets hanging from the bottom, and there were tiny puddles on the next shelf down. I pressed my finger into the side of the ice cream carton, and it was soft. I dismissed it as the freezer trying to defrost itself (does that even make sense?) and started to prepare lunch. A few minutes later, I mentioned it to my husband. He said, “We must have left the door open when we left this morning.” OK, I guess.

About an hour later, my oldest daughter asked me, “Are you defrosting the freezer?” I told her about my observations and the general conclusion that the door had just been left open that morning (although I wasn’t really convinced yet—I just couldn’t scrape up a memory of it being cracked when I came home). The uneasiness started to close in on me, but tried to ignore it. That evening when I took out the ice cream, it was totally melted.  I checked the refrigerator side, and it was room temperature. The milk was room temperature. The yogurt was room temperature. The cottage cheese was room temperature. My fears were confirmed—the refrigerator was dead.

Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on my life at this moment—today. Before you go thinking I am going to over-simplify my refrigerator-to-mini fridge debacle, I must point out that I didn’t have a chance to blog on Saturday…or Sunday. So this is going to be long. “A long story,” as they say (technically, a 3-part series with 2 cliffhangers). But I will discipline myself to stick closely to the necessary details. And if you do belong to my growing online following, please forgive me for not blogging daily. I really do try. The adventures of James just unfold far too quickly than I can type.

Upstairs, we keep a little black mini fridge, apartment sized. It has come in handy in the past when we had company. Perhaps they wanted to keep ice and bottles of water or cold beer in their room (or whatever snacks they don’t want my children to gobble). All we had to do was sit it in the guest room and plug it in—instant refreshment convenience. I admit that this mini fridge is a purely utilitarian appliance with absolutely no design presence whatsoever. But if you’ve been driving for 13 hours and you don’t want to put on a robe and go downstairs in the middle of the night for a drink, it is a welcome presence in the room. This is the mini fridge that went from dearly cherished domestic device to bitterly despised object of hatred in a matter of days. This is the mini fridge that my daughter and I carried from her bedroom upstairs down into the kitchen. At the time, we had no idea that we were about to plug in our family crucible.

Be sure to check back for Part 2: Space Jam