A Very Vegan Valentine’s Day!

Starting on Sunday (February 5th), I will be taking a break from the Greek Eating Project and will be going Vegan. This will continue until the Sunday after Valentine’s Day (February 19th). That will give me two weeks to try Veganism. I will post the recipes I use and the ingredients just like I do in the Greek Eating Project blog. I will be spending Valentine’s Day as a Vegan.

After being invited to someone’s house to a Vegan party entitled “A Very Vegan Holiday”, I was really inspired by Vegan food. We watched a movie called “Forks Over Knives” which explains the benefits of a Vegan and more specifically a raw food diet. I’m not going to eat all raw food.

I ate some Vegan lasagna that I purchased from Whole Foods this weekend and it was awesome. I couldn’t tell the difference between the a veggie lasagna with regular cheese and the Vegan lasagna. It was the same way at the Vegan party I attended. Most of the foods were tasty and healthy and I didn’t notice much difference in taste. Does it taste exactly like the real thing? No, it’s not meant to. For instance, there were mock Italian Beef Sandwiches served at the party. There was a meat substitute for the “beef” and while it didn’t taste exactly the same, it came pretty darn close and also tasted pretty darn good! If you are looking for the real thing, then I suggest you just fix an Italian Beef sandwich yourself (or go get one at a restaurant).

I’ve got one meal covered already: breakfast. I eat oatmeal with organic ground flax seed, all natural almond butter, an organic banana and organic vanilla soy milk! I will be spending some time researching my snacks and lunch entree for the next few weeks.

The Greek Eating Project will still continue with a special guest blogger. That’s right! Pete is taking over The Greek Eating Prjoect for 2 weeks and will be posting on Sundays in his own format. He’ll be really excited when he reads this blog to find this out!



The Greek Eating Project: Meatless Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

I’m very proud of this dish. ALL of the produce was organic. When I eat organic produce I definitely notice a difference. Organic fruits and vegetables have a fresh flavor that non-organic produce doesn’t possess. Whether it be the crunch of a pepper or the sweetness of a tomato you just can’t beet (bad joke) organic for freshness or flavor.

Last week I mentioned we were making a lacto-vegetarian dish this week. Lacto meaning containing some form of animal by-product milk/cheese.

This meal was so fresh and tasty. It was light yet filling. It was fresh yet hot and satisfying. If you are a Vegan, you could easily skip the cheese or use a cheese substitute in this dish.

Here’s a list of the organic ingredients and where we purchased them from:
1. Beefsteak tomatoes (Whole Foods)
2. Red Peppers (Whole Foods)
3. Purple Onion (Whole Foods)
4. Roma tomatoes (Whole Foods)
5. Fresh dill (Whole Foods)–this was the best and we got a huge bunch for $2.00.
6. Basmati Brown Rice (you can use white also) (Whole Foods)
7. Goat Cheese (Whole Foods)
8. Raisins (Whole Foods)

Here a list of non-organic ingredients and where we purchased them from:

1. Sugar, sea salt, pepper (Town & Country)
2. Parmesan Cheese (Costco)
3. Olive Oil (Costco)

This meal made 10 servings! I had either a stuffed pepper or tomato every day for lunch and Pete had the equivalent every day for dinner.

This dish requires some prep time because there are so many veggies to chop up. It’s worth it though. The most time consuming and yet the the most fun part was hollowing out the tomatoes. It’s kind of messy yet fun to see the inner workings of a tomato come out into a bowl. By the way, make sure to save the inner workings of the beefsteak tomatoes. That’s very important. Do not throw them away like I almost did!

Here’s a quote from the chef (my fiance Pete): “You may be tempted to, but don’t leave out the raisins, and in fact you may even want to add a few more. They and a sweet surprise that works well with the other flavors in this dish.”

Next week you can look forward to a possible vegan dish, possible lacto-vegetarian dish or veggie/omnivore dish with: Baked Zucchini with Potatoes and Carrots (we are adding a little cheese and some chicken).

If you’d like more information on that then you should check out the amazing cookbook written by my trainer and very good friend Anna O’Brien. Here’s her website for more information on how to purchase her cookbook entitled “Greek Cooking”: http://www.greekcooking.info/about.html.



I’ll bet that caught your attention! I know it would catch mine. Honestly, I’ll never win the actual lotto because I’ve never and will never play the lotto.

Think about your life right now and ask yourself this question: Are you happy? Meaning: are you contented with the way things are right now? Be honest about it. It’s a simple yes or no answer. Or is it that simple? Here are some common answers to that question: I’m happy but……. Another answer is: I’d be happy if….. The last one is: If I won the lottery then I’d be happy because I could….fill in the blank. If your answer includes the words “but, if or I could be” then you’re not truly happy with your life. More money isn’t going to change that.

I’ll bet you know someone who is annoyingly happy. It’s a person that typically is bubbly, full of life and joyful. The joy just radiates from their pores. You know why they are that way? Because they are grateful for their lives. They are grateful that their basic needs being met or provided for: food, clothing and shelter. If you have food to eat, clothes to wear and a roof over your head then you should be happy. Happiness starts at the core—the inside—and beams its way outwards. You know why you find them annoyingly happy? Because you either admire them and want a piece of their happiness or you’re unhappy with your life and want to know their secret. Here’s the secret: be grateful for what you have right now at this very moment. It’s a great place to start. You’ll feel like you’ve won the lottery and you won’t have a dime to show show for it or pay taxes on. You’ll just feel good.

When you play the actual lottery, you win money. You may feel a rush of excitement. Those endorphins start flowing and you feel like you’re on top of the world. That’s what the phrase “I feel like I’ve just won the lottery” really means. It means you feel that rush. It may mean you feel grateful and happy. However, if you didn’t feel good before that rush, then chances are it’s a temporary high that will fade. It’s similar to having an alcoholic beverage (or maybe two or three depending on your tolerance) and feeling the effects of the drink. If you become intoxicated the alcohol only enhances the mood you’re already in. If you’re happy then there’s a good chance you’ll be a happy drunk. If you’re sad, angry or something’s bothering you, then chances are the alcohol will enhance that and you may act in ways that will reflect your current state either by crying or making snappish remarks, etc. I’ve had this happen to me. If you want to know what kind of mood I’m really in then hand over a glass of wine and you’ll see right away!

When you win the actual lottery you don’t win contentment, happiness, joy, delight, euphoria or pleasure. You just win money.

Like the song says “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”, it also can’t buy you happiness. You have to already be happy with what you’ve got.

Money is a necessity in life to purchase the basics that we need to get by. That’s it. Yet, it sours a lot of relationships, mine included in the past.

Be happy with your life and be grateful for what you’ve got: the air in your lungs, the job you have, the place you live, the clothes in your closet and the food you eat every day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more out of life. Money is not the answer. Happiness and contentment are the answer.

Ask yourself the question again: Are you happy?

Sara, are you happy?

Yes, I am! I’m happy with the way things are right now. I look forward to more happiness as I grow my life with Pete. Money isn’t going to change the happiness that I feel inside right now. Neither will a nicer place to live, buying fancier clothes or a having a nicer car to drive. I’m happy on the inside and it really shows on the outside!

I hope you feel as happy as I do!


So Sara, How’s Triathlon Training Going?

Here’s where I’m at right now:

I’ve been working hard on my swimming. I do one or two swim workouts a week about an hour each. I’ve been working on bilateral breathing, which is breathing on each side during the freestyle stroke. I’ve read I’ll have a more balanced stroke with bilateral breathing. It’s taken me a while to get used to breathing on both sides. Some helpful drills for me have been using a pull buoy and just practicing pulling with my arms and breathing on both sides. Another one is doing the side swim stroke.

I’ve been working on my other swimming strokes as well: breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. My butterfly looks like someone trying not to drown. It’s a sad sight to see. I read that there’s no rule saying you have to swim freestyle the whole time. I also read that it’s a good idea to practice a variety of stokes to help strengthen your freestyle stroke since there’s some aspect of the freestyle stroke in the other three strokes being butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke.

I’ve been practicing floating on my back as well. I read that’s the only way you can rest during an open water swim if necessary.

Lastly I’ve been practicing the water polo stroke–swimming with my head above water and also spotting every 3rd or 5th stroke for trying to spot the buoys. I haven’t spotted any buoys in the pool yet, but damn it I’ll be ready when I hit the open water!

I’ve been taking a yoga class once a week to stretch out and strengthen my core muscles. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my core strength in the poses we do in class.

My muscles, for whatever reason, has completely gone to mush. It’s probably because I do mostly cardio-type workouts. My mushiness is driving me crazy so I’m back to weights three times a week. I’m doing a full body strength training workout three times a week. I do the strength training in the middle of my run-bike bricks. I’ll do one run-bike brick to start, then I do my strength training in the middle and then finish with another run-bike brick.

The purpose of the run-bike bricks are to practice the transition between the bike and the run phase. It’s to help practice the quick switch from one activity directly into the other. This has been pretty helpful. All of the biking I’ve been doing has been on a bike at the gym and all of the running I’ve been doing has been on a treadmill.

I’ve been focused more on the swimming the last two months since I felt that my weakest aspect. Now that I’ve improved on than I’m going to focus more on biking and running.

Goals going forward:

1. Pick out a bike. I just got my taxes done and am planning on buying a nice road bike to start doing my triathlons.

2. Planning my triathlon race season. I found a duathlon in LaPorte which I’m going to try out in May to ease into triathlon. A duathlon is biking followed by running. I’m also searching for an indoor triathlon to try out and see how I like it. I’m also going to start searching online for different triathlons of sprint and maybe olympic distance.

3. I’m going to join NWI Triathletes so that I can be around people who are also engaged in the sport. All of my knowledge I have on triathlon so far has come from books and magazines.

4. I’m going to get a swim cap so that my wet hair doesn’t fall into my mouth as I try to take a breath and then I choke on the water that streams into my mouth.

5. Add in one long run per week outdoors.

6. Add in one long bike ride per week by doing a spin class once a week. I think an indoor cycling class will help build up my cycling skills.

Creepy story:

My hair-dresser’s boyfriend does triathlons. She mentioned a triathlon at Wolfe Lake in Whiting. Apparently there are dead bodies which have been spotted at the bottom of Wolfe Lake. Creepy. That kind of got me on the open water swimming part.

Open Water Swimming Plan:

Stay at the very back to avoid any chance of panic attack during the race. I have no desire to win the triathlon so I’ll be just fine in the back. I’m not wimpy. I just really don’t want to get kicked in the face.

So that’s where I’m at in triathlon training so far! There’s a whole lot of self-education going on right now!


Mrs. Doubt Fire

Doubt and Fire. Two words which have entirely different meanings which are put together to be the fictitious last name of a movie character. It’s a movie called “Mrs. Doubtfire” starring Robin Williams and Sally Field, A movie that contains the following life lessons: stand by what you believe without any doubt and do whatever it takes to get there.

This movie is the story of a man and woman who go through a divorce. The man loses custody of his children when the dissolution is granted and fights to get his custody rights back by dressing up as a woman and taking on a job at his former residence as an after-school nanny for his children in order to be with them. As funny as this movie is, there is a really valuable message at the core of it. The idea of someone believing in something so much that they’re willing to go to such extremes for what they want is really a remarkable thing. Imagine what would’ve happened if there was no Mrs. Doubtfire. The results of the dissolution probably would’ve been the same and the man could’ve lived a life filled with regrets. At the end of the movie, even though Robin Williams’ character loses the battle of womanhood, his character gains the rights to be with his children again. Hard work, standing up for what he believed in, and doing something about it got him there.

I find the name Doubtfire to be an interesting choice and very oxymoronic. Doubt was something this character had when he made the decision to disguise himself as a woman and take on the job of nannying his own children just to so he could see them everyday. If anything, there’s an inner fire that burns. When someone tells you no, there’s always a yes hiding somewhere. Even in this extreme example, Robin Williams’ character finds the yes in a situation where the answer of no was staring him straight in the face.

Use your inner fire to overcome any doubt you may have. Stand by and fight for what you believe in. You believe in it for a reason. Whatever it is you believe in, it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Fight hard.


13 Things You May or May Not Know About Me

1. I have a TON of energy.

2. I’m left handed.

3. I’m really strong…physically and emotionally.

4. I’m very childlike. I’d still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy if I could but apparently they don’t exist.

5. I drive fast.

6. I’m a natural dancer.

7. I’m a horrible runner.

8. I’ve struggled with eating disorders three times in my life so far.

9. I’m a former professional ballroom dancer who can’t stand the “Glamour Addiction” behind the sport (it’s a book..read it if you want).

10. I stand up for what I believe in.

11. I’ve had both my mother and 2 bosses (each at a dance studio) tell me I’m overweight.

12. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut.

13. I’m superstitious and think 13 is an unlucky number.

14. I’m giving you a bonus one so we don’t have to end on 13: I LOVE Costco!!!!!!


The Greek Eating Project: Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

This was a really wonderful meal. There was a lot of hard work that was put into this meal but it was well worth the time!

I made another pilgrimage to Whole Foods. Seriously, we need one in Northwest Indiana. The organic sections at the grocery stores around this area are pretty bad. That aside, you don’t need to drive all the way to Chicago to make a fresh, healthy meal. It’s a decision that I’ve made for myself. It’s also part of the goal of the Greek eating project: to eat as many healthy, organic, unprocessed foods as possible.

This meal should be made when you have some time and patience to spend cooking. It makes a TON of food! Pete had his usual meal right after it was cooked and I had a bite of his meal. We didn’t read all the directions before we started making this dish. Make this dish early in the day if you don’t want to eat your dinner at 9pm at night…which is the only reason I only had one bite. If I eat a meal before bed then I’ll be up all night.

This made a lot of leftovers. We had enough food for 11 meals of leftovers. I had 6 lunches out of this and Pete had 5 dinners out of this. We got 12 servings out of this. It’s great for a family of two or three to take for leftovers during the week or would also make a great dish for a larger-sized family meal.

This meal has two main components: the meat filling and the bechamel sauce.

Here are the ingredients we used for the meat filling broken up into organic and non-organic categories and the name of the store from where they were purchased from:

Organic ingredients:
1. Ground beef–Costco
2. Purple onion–Whole Foods
3. Tomatoes–Whole Foods
4. Goat cheese–Whole Foods (this was super smooth by the way)
5. Eggs (Costco)

Non-organic ingredients:
1. Olive oil–Costco
2. Pastitsio noodles (we used manicotti noodles)–Whole Foods
3. Allspice–Molly Beas in Chesterton, Indiana

Here are the ingredients we used for the bechamel sauce broken up into organic and non-organic categories and the name of the store where they were purchased from:

Organic ingredients:
1. 2% milk–Whole Foods
2. Eggs–Costco

Non-Organic ingredients:
1. Corn flour–Whole Foods
2. Parmesean Cheese–Costco

The corn flour was very hard to find. One advantage to shopping at Whole Foods is that they have a lot of ingredients that can be harder to find around here. Whole Foods did not have an organic version of the corn flour. I wound up using manicotti noodles and layering the dish with those. I wasn’t able to find pastitsio noodles anywhere. The manicotti noodles were perfect. After boiling them we were able to break them open into a smaller sized lasagna noodle. They were perfect for layering.

The recipe says to put a layer of meat filling down first in the baking pan. We thought that might be messy for serving purposes so we put added an extra layer of noodles and used the first layer at the bottom of the pan instead of using the meat filling first.

A note from the chef (my fiance Pete): “Don’t forget the allspice! Seriously, don’t! The ingredients for the meat filling are listed both with the dish and with the meat filling itself under sauces. Unfortunately, the list of ingredients listed with the main dish accidentally left the allspice off, so it would be easy to overlook it when preparing the meat sauce. As that flavor is one of the distinctive flavors of the dish, you don’t want it to be missing!”

Well put chef! Very well put. He is right! As I was typing the ingredient list for you to read, I realized that I forgot to include allspice until I made my quote. So, seriously DO NOT forget the allspice…like I just did!

Keep an eye out for next week’s meal! We’re going lacto-vegetarian with Meatless Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers and ALL of the produce we got for this meal is organic! Lacto means there is some cheese in this dish.

If you like what you are reading and want to try out the recipes, check the inspirational person and cookbook creator for The Greek Eating Project at: http://www.greekcooking.info/about.html. Eating my way and cooking Pete’s way through Anna O’Brien’s cookbook has been an adventure!


Playing House

I never played house as a child. If the friends I had wanted to play house, I’d go back home. I’ve always done what I wanted to do…part of being an only child. Playing house was in no way fun to me. I disliked the stereotypes that go into playing house. I’m not the girl you’ll catch trying to please her husband after coming home with a fresh hot meal on the table by 5pm. I’m the girl that would rather be at the gym at 5pm after a long day’s work. I’m the girl that dislikes cooking and has a fiance that does enjoy cooking so he does most of the cooking. Playing house was never my thing as a kid.

After graduating college in 2003, I moved back in with my parents. I went to school about three hours away from my parent’s house at Indiana University, Bloomington. I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation and had no money saved up, so I wound up moving back with mom and dad. I lived with them for a year and 6 months. I met and started dating Pete during this time which greatly upset my parents. When I stayed over at his house one night, they decided that I needed to make a choice…either move in with Pete or stay living with them. I’d had enough of living with mom and dad and I was young and rebellious so I chose to move in with someone I barely knew. Pete and I had been dating for three months at that point.

When I told my grandmother about my decision she told me she didn’t really approve of my choice but she supported me no matter what. She’s never judged me for it. My grandma was 72 years old at the time and grew up in an era where you were married before you moved in with your husband. It was taboo in the time she grew up in to live with your man before marriage. While she voiced her opinion, she did so in a non-judgmental way. She would’ve been the first person I thought that would’ve judged us for living together before marriage and she turned out to be the last.

I went to the symphony in LaPorte one night with my friend and her fiance shortly after I’d moved in with Pete. My friend and her fiance were about to be married in a few months. She asked me how things were going with my family and Pete. She knew the particulars of my situation. I told her I had chosen to move in with him. I remember asking her if she and her fiance were living together, and here was her response, “Oh no, we’re Catholic and we don’t believe in playing house.”

I was very taken aback by her comment. All I could really say was, “Oh, okay.” Not the most appropriate response but it was the best I could muster at the time. It was one of those situations that you can’t come up with the words to say at the moment, and later on you go back in your mind and think, “Darn it, this is what I should’ve said to her.” My friend and I are only 6 months apart in age, give or take a few days and at the time we were between the ages of 22 to 23 years of age.

Like I said, my friend is Catholic, and she practices Catholicism full-time. She’s not a part-time Catholic. I really give her credit for that. The rules and laws that Catholicism dictates you live by are tough to do in today’s society. They require a lot of discipline and self-control. There are lot of people out there who claim to be Catholic and don’t follow the laws of Catholicism: not using birth control, no sex before marriage, etc. Those are tough things to do, and I think it’s very commendable that she has been able to live her life that way. That’s the belief she subscribes to. I was raised as a Catholic, but I don’t call myself a Catholic. I don’t believe in all of the practices of the church and will never return to the religion. I do believe Catholicism teaches a lot of good things and also believe that a lot can be learned from some of the teachings of the Commandments, etc.

The way she said those words to me felt like a judgment at the time. It could’ve just been she was young, like me, and said it in a tone or way that she didn’t mean. She may also not have meant it to sound judgmental at all and I just took it that way. I don’t hold it against her because it’s something she really believed in and I respect her for that. Do I think she should’ve voiced her opinion that way? No, I don’t. It’s in the past and I can’t change it. But she does bring up an interesting topic of discussion: Is living with your significant other and “playing house” before marriage a good idea?

My mother always told me that you should really get to know someone before you marry them. You should have a long engagement with the person because you’re going to be with them for the rest of your life (assuming you follow the marriage vows: to death do you part). In the beliefs I subscribe to, my mother was right.

I lived with Pete for 6 years. Finances soured our relationship and made it to where we mutually wanted to part ways for a while. We didn’t have to go through a divorce. Our lives were intertwined in a way that allowed us to get to know each other while living together but not so committed that we still had options if things went badly. Once you’re married, that’s it. You’re married. The only way out is a divorce. If you’re Catholic then you don’t believe in divorce. The Catholic church frowns on divorce. I do as well. I believe when you take those marriage vows you are committing our life fully to another person until death do you part.

I feel a lot of Catholics rush to the altar to get married so that the can engage in the more fun aspects of a fully romantic relationship. For instance, I don’t see how you can know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone when you’ve known/dated them for a year, been engaged for 6 months, and you only see them for a few hours a day and maybe you take some Pre-Cana classes together. Then suddenly you move in together and that’s it. The rest of your life will be spent with someone you don’t really know.

Living with Pete helped me to get to know the person that I know and love today. While we were broken up, I moved out for a few months. It was a really sad time. However, the time apart was good for our relationship. Being apart helped us get some clarity. Not being married gave us the opportunity to be apart and get that clarity that we needed. It’s hard to get clarity when the person you’re having problems with is there every night when you get home.

Pete and I wouldn’t be planning our marriage today if we hadn’t been afforded the opportunity of “playing house”, breaking up and getting a different perspective on things. “Playing house” turned out to be a good thing for us. You really do get to know someone and decide how really feel about things by living together before committing yourself to them fully for the rest of your.

So “play house” or don’t “play house”…it’s your decision that you have to make for yourself. People may support you or they may judge you. And you may be surprised by who that person is. It may not be your 70 year old grandma. It just may be your 23 year old friend. People always surprise me. It’s part of life. Live your life the way you want to. Don’t follow the stereotypes that society dictates. The most important thing is to be happy despite what anyone else thinks.


Cars and Parents: Both Have Their Quirks

My first car was a brand new, candy apple red Toyota Tercel with a cute spoiler on it and a hawk sticker on the side. I got it in 1997. I loved that car. It was called the Toyota Tercel Red Hawk edition. There were only about 5,000 of them made and my dad bought me one. I was 15 years old. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19 years old. What happened to the car? Well, it sat in the driveway for a very long time. My parents would drive it around here and there but for the most part it still sat in the driveway. I drove the car until I was 23 and when I moved out, my dad took the car away. To this day, my parents still have that car. Guess what? It just sits there–in the garage.

My dad is a car salesman. He used to sell Toyotas. Now he sells Cadillacs. Well…I should say he hopes to sell a Cadillac! Anyway, he drives a demo car most of the time so the Tercel sits…a lot.

When a car sits a lot and rarely gets driven, it will often develop quirks. The Tercel only had one quirk that I remember, but that’s because I didn’t drive it for very long. It had what Pete and I termed “aqua brakes”. I’ll never forget taking a friend up to Chicago to watch a ballroom dance competition and then going salsa dancing afterwards. She’d never ridden in my car before. When I hit the brakes to stop quickly, she looked at me in shock and said, “What is that sound?” It literally sounded like I was stopping my car underwater. There was a lot moisture that had built up over time in the brakes. Even when I got new brakes, the sound was still there!

When my parents demanded the car back, I had to find a replacement car. I went to Carmax and purchased the successor to the Toyota Tercel, which was the Toyota Echo. Neither of these cars are made anymore. Just as the Echo was the replacement for the Tercel, the Echo was eventually replaced by the Toyota Yaris. My dad was working at Toyota at the time. I remember both of my parents being upset with me because I didn’t buy a new car from my dad. My mom told me, “Your dad could’ve gotten you a great deal. I can’t believe you didn’t buy a car from your dad.” Would you want to buy a car from someone who took your car away? Yeah…I didn’t think so.

Apparently parents have quirks just like cars do!

Ahhhhhhh…the Toyota Echo. I took so much crap for that car. This is the most bare bones, basic car that is meant to get you from point A to point B. It did it’s job. It got great gas mileage to boot. And it was reliable as hell. I do love Toyota for their reliability. I will never drive an American car because of the lack of reliability.

The Echo was a small car that looks like it was driven between 2 tall city buildings and got smashed on both sides. If you buy it in silver, people might tell you that it looks like you own a UFO. That’s what happened to me. Another name that car earned was “the clown car.” It was so tiny that it looked like you could stuff a million (or close to that) clowns in the car and drive around town!

When I first got the car, it had a tape player that was installed in it. It was a 2001 model and Toyota installed tape players and radios in their lower end cars. So at Carmax I purchased a spiffy MP3 player/CD player combo. One day I was driving along listening to music and my cell phone rang. I had to answer it so I started to turn the volume down while I was driving over some bumpy railroad tracks, and the volume button on my CD player got permanently smashed in. For four years after that, I drove that car with an infernal, incessant beeping. Whatever damage I did caused the CD player to beep at you when I would drive over a bump, curb, pothole, railroad track, whatever. It would start with long, slow beeps—”BEEP…BEEP”—and then it would proceed in to several quick beeps—”beep beep beep beep beep”. At first this was annoying as hell, but eventually I got used to it.

Here’s the funniest quirk about the Echo. I don’t know if the car did this before I got it, but there was a problem with the fan belt and something do with the A/C and heating system in the car. When I would accelerate from a stopped position, if I was running the A/C or heat, the car would squeal like a nearly dead cat screeching and clawing its way down a chalkboard in it’s last moments of life. Do you know how much fun that is to have everyone start looking around thinking, “Holy crap, what is that horrid sound!” And it was LOUD! REALLY LOUD! I got to the point where I had a system worked out. When I saw that I was going to have to stop the car and I had the fan running, I would take my right hand off of the wheel, reach over and quickly turn off the fan, meanwhile sitting there praying that the car didn’t squeal. When I was ready to accelerate, I would do so, count to 5 and then turn on the squeal. This did make warming up my car on a cold winter morning not-so-fun for my poor neighbors. Yep…the car squealed!

In the springtime Brooks, my favorite running shoe company, visited Fleet Feet, the running store I was doing my half and eventually full marathon training at. Brooks’s tag line is “Run Happy” and they were giving out stickers. I took one and put it on the back of my 10 year old silver, 130,000 mile Echo. Shortly thereafter, one of the wheel covers fell off of the car and it made it look a little ghetto. About a week after the wheel cover fell off, I was driving down I80/94 and a semi-truck tire tread flew off of a truck, bounced off of my car and smashed the paint. I took those as bad omens and decided to get rid of the car.

I now drive a Toyota Corolla. It’s the perfect car for me. It’s a nice sized car. I like the color. I like the factory installed sound system and I love that it doesn’t beep or squeal at me. It’s the first car I ever bought for myself brand new. I know it’ll develop it’s quirks down the road, but for right now I’m still basking in the newness of it.

About a week after I traded in the Echo for the Corolla, I went into Toyota to pick up my title work and was looking for my Echo for one last visit. It wasn’t there. I asked a salesman what happened to it. He said they had sold it to a father who was buying his kid their first car. It makes me happy to know that somewhere out there my little silver Echo is still “running happy” for someone!


A Life With No Love….Can You Even Imagine? I Can.

A life with no love in it is a sad life to live.

Over the summer, Pete and I took a puppy class with our new puppy Bonnie. The lady that ran the class has lots of experience showing dogs, training dogs, vaccinating dogs, rescuing dogs and also can euthanize a dog if necessary. She told us a story of a dog that she tried to rescue that had to be put down. The reason she had to euthanize the dog was because it had never been touched. Our trainer said that this dog had never been shown any love or attention. Because the dog was never shown any love or attention, it was too aggressive and mean to be able to adopt out to a family. This story really touched my heart. The story touched my heart because it literally hit close to home. My home. My parents.

I’ve looked at photos of my mom and I when I was younger and we did stuff together and went on vacations together. I was in a lot of the photos because I’m kind of a camera hog; however, there are a few pictures of us together. A picture that someone else took that wasn’t my father because he never went on vacations with us. He always stayed home to work. In fact, my mother and father have taken one trip together alone years before I was born—it was their honeymoon to Minnesota. In all of the pictures of my mother and I together, the pose is always the same: I’m standing behind her and off to her right side with my arms wrapped around her giving her a huge bear hug (actually it looks more like a choke hold) and my mother is smiling at the camera with her arms straight down at her sides. No emotion.

When you hug my mother or my father they do not hug you back. My father will pat you on the back once which always makes me feel like a stranger instead of his daughter. I’ve never been particularly close to my father. We don’t have a lot in common and have never had a close relationship at all, but at the end of the day, I’m still his daughter and he’s still my father. Here is what happens when I hug my mother: she leaves her hands at her sides, never embracing me, and when I unwrap my arms from around her she will turn her head to the side so that I can give her a kiss on the cheek. She never gives me a kiss back.

In my blog post, “What It’s Like to be an Only Child”, I wrote about my mother having one friend in her life when I was younger. Both women worked at the same place doing the same job. There as job promotion, something happened and they stopped speaking. In that same blog post I also mentioned the closeness that my mom and I shared and how that closeness was destroyed when I left home. My mother didn’t speak to me for close to three years, but she would still continue to give me gifts which were often dropped off at my grandmother’s house so that my grandmother could give me the gift. The gift was usually one ticket to a play or musical or ballet because she knows I love going to stuff like that because it is an activity we enjoyed going to together. Yes, I said one ticket. Who goes to a play or musical alone? My mother does. She does everything alone. My father and mother do not share the same interests. In my youth and teenage years I filled the void of having a friend because she didn’t have any. One year for Christmas, she got me a ticket to see the Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. I went all by myself. It was really lonely.

My parents care about each other. They’ve been married for over 35 years. They do practical things for each other to show love and affection for each other. My dad always gets my mom’s oil changed in her car. My mother always makes sure that my dad has good food to eat, clean laundry and a clean house to live in. I never remember seeing any physical affection when I was a kid. I’m not talking about sex. That’s something you hope you never catch your parents doing! Seriously though, my mom and dad never hugged, a kiss was always a peck on the cheek and they never held hands and like I mentioned before, and never did any fun activities together. They couldn’t even sleep in the same bed together. My dad snores like a bear and is a restless sleeper so he always slept on the couch upstairs in the loft and my mother sleeps in the master bedroom downstairs. It’s like two people living in the same house for 30 plus years living two separate, isolated, lonely lives.

It’s sad. It makes me sad for them and makes me wonder why and how they got that way. Neither of them is emotionally invested in anybody except each other on a practical level. I’m not by any means saying that they don’t love each other. It just doesn’t seem like the type of love that a husband and wife would share.

As the years go by my parents seem to get more and more isolated and as a result more emotionally detached. I have stories about them and things that they’ve done that would make you cry. They make me cry.

Can you imagine a life with no friends, no one to hug or hold hands with? I can because I’ve lived it, and I think it’s very sad. I know it’s very sad. I mimicked their actions for a long time. It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I made some friends. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college and moved back to Northwest Indiana that I went on my first date.

I’ll never forget the first time Pete kissed me. He held my hand afterwards. I was 23. I’d never really had anyone hold my hand, except to cross the street. Pete was my first and only boyfriend. When he held my hand, I remember looking at it thinking, “This is so weird. Why is he holding my hand?” When he asked me what was wrong I told him, “You don’t understand. It’s weird holding hands with someone.” It felt good. I liked it…a lot. And to this day, I’m a very affectionate person. I love giving and receiving hugs and kisses from family and friends. I like having friends. Going forward, this won’t change.

Whether it’s dog or a human being, we all need love in our lives.

Be grateful for the friendships around you. If you want love, all you have to do is seek it. It’s waiting for you. Someone loves you. Someone out there wants to be friends with you. You don’t have to be alone. I recommend you don’t be alone. You’re worth it.