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Deborah Cruz

Thanksgiving recipes, thanksgiving dinner, cranberry orange relish, thanksgiving sides

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Growing up, cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner meant a gelatinous cranberry-ish colored substance in the form of a can. Really, it was like eating canned jelly. It was all I knew and I loved it. I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of sweet with my savory, as evidenced by my cranberry and brie bites addiction. I had no idea there was even such a thing as homemade cranberry orange sauce.

However, when I met the Big Guy, on our first Thanksgiving at his mom’s house, I tasted what could only be called cranberry orange heaven. It was absolutely nothing like the canned stuff that I had believed to be cranberry sauce for my entire previous 20-something years. It was like my mouth was tasting cranberries for the first time ever.

READ ALSO: How to Roast the Perfect Turkey

My mother-in-law bought a prepackaged deli style cranberry orange sauce by a company called Indian Trail. The little tub of sweet-tart-citrus deliciousness was magnificent and the flavors were incredibly vibrant. It was like eating color. The texture was jellied but not gelatinous. It was full-bodied compared to the canned stuff. To be honest, it was almost a dessert.

A couple of years later, the Big Guy and I were married and living hundreds of miles away from our families so we decided to host our first ever Thanksgiving dinner. It was all brand new. I was excited and terrified to take on the undertaking but it was time to make our own traditions, he and I. I finally felt like an adult. Just my husband and his wife and no parents around to do all the heavy lifting.

We made a list and made sure to include everything that we wanted in a Thanksgiving dinner. We were able to move away from the stove top stuffing and canned “cranberry sauce”. The one side dish that  I knew that I really wanted to keep from our mothers was the Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce. Only, when we got to the store, we couldn’t find it anywhere. After a frenzied scouring of the internet to save my Thanksgiving dinner ( because I was not above having my MIL overnight me the sauce from home) I found out that Indian Trail went out of business.

NOOOOOOOOO! I was so disappointed. Obviously, our first Thanksgiving was doomed. All I wanted was to host the perfect Thanksgiving for our family. We had gotten too big for our britches and Thanksgiving was ruined. There would be no Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce for us. Or would there?

READ ALSO: How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole

Come on, y’all know me. I’m a Mexican, not a Mexicant. I did a whole lot of research and some trial and error taste testing and guess what I did? I created my own Indian Trail copycat recipe. All the same flavor and texture made at my house in a matter of minutes. And you know what? The homemade, from scratch recipe, is even better than the Indian Trail sold in stores version because it is fresh. All the bursting with flavors I was referring to earlier is timesed by 100%.

Here is my recipe for copycat homemade Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce recipe.

Ingredients

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries

1 whole orange including peel/rind, seeds removed

1-cup sugar

Instructions

Chop all of the ingredients in a food processor or a food grinder and stir to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use. Be sure to let it drain a while to remove the excess liquid before mixing it with Jello. The entire time it takes to process this mixture is about 5 minutes.

Ingredients

2 (3 oz.) pkgs. raspberry Jello

2 1/2 c. boiling water

Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup of finely Chopped Walnuts or pecans

Instructions

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in Cranberry Orange Sauce, pineapple and chopped walnuts. Pour into mold. Refrigerate until firm ( 4 hours). I usually make this the night before Thanksgiving.

READ ALSO: How to make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Serve on Thanksgiving along with all of the traditional sides you love. Your family will thank you for it. This year will be year 15 that we’ve hosted and I just had a hysterectomy and we’re still cooking because I can’t go back to canned cranberry sauce and Stove Top. It’s not just for Thanksgiving. This cranberry orange sauce is great for Christmas or really any dinner ever. Happy dinner!

What’s your Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce side that you MUST have every holiday?

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Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving

Of all the Thanksgiving Recipes I use my Sweet Potato Casserole is the one I’m asked for the most often. As Thanksgiving recipes go, this one is a favorite in our house. It’s based on the sweet potato casserole recipe made famous by the Grandview Lodge in North Carolina. We don’t spend every Thanksgiving in the Smokies but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my family that delicious home-cooked taste they’ve come to love. Below is the easy recipe for how to make sweet potato casserole recipe that has become synonymous with autumn in our house.

As far as Thanksgiving recipes go, this is the one must have ( aside from my Thanksgiving turkey recipe) that our family always wants me to bake. It also happens to be one of the side dish casseroles that people will ask me to bring to their assorted holiday functions. It is truly that good. I’ve even had family tell me that they would forgo the mashed potato recipes and Thanksgiving gravy for this sweet potato casserole.  It’s truly a Thanksgiving recipe favorite that your family will be asking for for years to come.

READ ALSO: Thanksgiving Recipes for the Perfect Holiday 

This is a bit of a Thanksgiving recipe secret so shhhh! It’s simple and delicious and people will think you were working in a hot kitchen all day. If you’re like me, you can even put it all together the night before ( to reduce the amount of kitchen time on Thanksgiving Day) and then just pop it in the oven for the last 45 minutes of your turkey baking time.

Best Thanksgiving Recipes: Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients –   How to make Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk

Ingredients – Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch or two 9 x 9-inch baking pans.

In a food processor fitted with a steel knife, combine ingredients for topping until crumbly or use a pastry blender to cut butter into brown sugar and flour until crumbly.

Mix in the chopped pecans.

Sprinkle topping mixture over the sweet potatoes.

At this point, the dish can be refrigerated (covered).

Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving                                Photo: Pinch of  Yum

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

READ ALSO: How to Make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Let cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy with your other favorite Thanksgiving Recipes. This sweet potato casserole recipe will surely be a Thanksgiving recipe that you will come back to year after year.

Thanksgiving Recipes are the best. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

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How to Stop Your House from Becoming a Money Pit, home maintenance

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As a homeowner, you find out pretty quickly that there are always unexpected issues and costs. Surprise, the central air isn’t working! Surprise, the house isn’t level! Surprise, an opossum is living in your attic and it smells like he died! Staying on top of your home’s many unexpected issues and covering the costs of them can not only be stressful but costly, as well. But there are ways to cut those costs with a little diligence and maintenance (which is less effective than fixing something that has already broken). It’ll take some awareness, planning, diligence and elbow grease but it’s cheaper than the alternative. Let’s talk about how to stop your house from becoming a money pit.

Sure Money Pit was a funny movie but no one actually wants to live that life. So if you feel like your home has become a huge financial drain on your family, now is the time to do something about it. Below are tips and ideas to help you to start making small positive changes that will save you money.

How to stop your house from becoming a money pit

Clean Everything Regularly

One of the first and most important things you can do with your home is make sure that it’s kept properly clean and in good shape at all times. By doing the basic things like this, you can make sure that no bigger issues arise later on because that’s not what anyone wants. When you clean the home inside and out on a regular basis, you can make things like mold issues less likely. It’ll help avoid problems later. I’m not saying anything crazy like dusting every week, making the bed daily or even putting away that folded laundry, I’m saying basic upkeep so you’ll notice when things aren’t right.

Create a Savings Fund for Home Maintenance

The fat is not lost on me that this is easier said than done. But if you want to make sure that you don’t get hit financially upside the head by the cost of looking after your home, creating a savings account that allows you to cover those costs without having to forgo eating and obliterating your finances in the meantime. Putting just a little money aside each month that can go towards maintaining your home and making sure all of those costs are covered is a good idea. And any savings that aren’t used can be put to use when a bigger repair needs to be made in the future or a family vacation.

Get an Energy Audit

Getting an energy audit carried out by a professional is a good idea if you want to reduce the running costs of your home. From day to day, we all use energy in the home. And it makes sense to use less of it, both from a green and eco-friendly point of view, and a money saving point of view. When you have an energy audit carried out, you’ll get to see how and where you’re currently wasting energy and what kinds of changes you can make in order to improve things.

Ensure the Ground Slopes Away from the Home

One of the problems that many homeowners face relates to water and how it impacts the foundations of the home. If you have lots of standing water around the home, that’s not going to be good for you. Make sure that the ground around your property slopes away from the house. By doing that, you can make sure that any rainwater flows away from your home and not towards it. It might sound like a small thing but it’s massively important especially if you got a “great deal” in a flood zone.

Inspect the Roof Every 6 Months

Inspecting the roof is something that you should try to do at least once every 6 months or so. You never know when a problem might arise, and when it does, you want to get it checked out as soon as possible. The truth is lots of roof problems go unnoticed for a long time, and when they are finally noticed, it costs a lot of money to get them fixed. So be sure to consider that and think about having your home’s roof inspected at least a couple of times a year.

Put a Home Warranty in Place

Putting as many measures in place as possible to ensure that home repairs don’t end up costing you a fortune is a good idea. And that’s one of the key reasons why you should think about putting a home warranty in place if you haven’t done so already. This will mean that if you do suffer any issues in your home, some of the costs will be covered for you by the warranty. It’s the kind of security measure that you definitely need to have in place if you want to avoid big financial impacts in the event of something going wrong.

Create a Maintenance Schedule

Having a regular maintenance schedule in place is something that can help a lot when it comes to taking care of all the things that need to be taken care of regarding your home. It’s so easy to overlook or forget about certain things when you don’t have a schedule in place that you can follow and fall back on. That schedule can be followed week after week, month after month, ensuring your home stays in the best condition possible.

Make Sure the Carry Water Away from Your Home

We’ve already talked a bit about the impact water can have on your home and its integrity. If you want to go further in making sure that standing water around the base of your home doesn’t become a big problem for you, you should think about the role your gutters might play in that. If the gutters are dumping water next to your home, you have a problem. Ensuring the drainage system is doing everything it should do and that water is being carried away from the home safely is going to be key.

Replace Heating and Cooling Filters Every Few Months

Your heating and cooling system is something you won’t want to overlook when it comes to avoiding financial disasters. When something goes wrong with it, it can be very expensive to fix. That’s why you should take extra care to maintain the system well and have someone look at it for you regularly if you’re not sure how to do it yourself. One of the most important things you can do is replace the filters every few months, or even monthly if you want to be extra cautious.

Fix Gaps and Damage to the Home’s Exterior Right Away

If you notice any gaps in the exterior of your home or holes that simply shouldn’t be there, it’s a good idea to have these filled and fixed right away. Any damage to the exterior should be dealt with sooner rather than later and that’s something that you can take care of yourself in most cases. The first task, however, is to check the exterior on a regular basis and make sure that you’re noticing these issues sooner rather than later.

Install Stronger Locks on Doors and Windows

Installing the strongest possible locks on the doors and windows of your property is another thing that you might want to consider. If you don’t do this, you’ll always run the risk of these entry points causing you security problems. Stronger locks and doors will avoid damage being done via a break-in and, most importantly, avoid the break-in from happening in the first place. So that’s definitely something to think about.

As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to stop your home feeling like such a financial burden for your family, so be sure to make the most of each of the tips and ideas discussed above. By making the right changes in the right areas, there’s no reason why you can’t save yourself a lot of money.

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miscarriage, national pregnancy and infant remembrance day

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Today is national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day. I knew that I wanted to write about it but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. This morning, I heard the song that played as we drove to the hospital for my D & E ( A Thousand Years by Christina Perri). This week my professor assigned this video for my storytelling marketing class and suddenly, it all came flooding back like it was yesterday.

My miscarriage happened on May 1, 2012 but to me it feels like yesterday. I’m sure it’s like that for all moms. It’s a day that we never forget and a child that we think of daily, even when no one else remembers. Just because our children are not in our arms does not mean that they do not live on in our hearts forever. They do.

I would love to say that the pain of missing a lost baby or child gets easier but it doesn’t. It dissipates to a tolerable level of grief but it never goes away. There is always a void because something is missing; a huge part of ourselves, our child. I loved my baby from the first day I knew I was pregnant with him. I loved him as much and as deeply as I love Bella and Gabs, every bit as much.

It didn’t matter if I got to hold him or meet him, he was part of me. He grew inside of me for an entire trimester. He was endless possibilities and promises and then he was gone. Gone.

There was no medical explanation. He wasn’t sick. Everything was normal. He was perfect but his heart stopped beating and on that same day, in many ways, so did my own. I am not the same woman I was on April 30, 2012, and I will never be that woman again. When he died, so did a part of me. If you’re a mom who has experienced a pregnancy or child loss, you know exactly what I mean.

The news was so unexpected that we were completely blind-sighted. There was nothing I could do but cry. I have never felt so helpless, angry and sad in my entire life. There is no other pain like it and I can’t imagine a worse pain for a mother than losing a pregnancy or child. It felt like a betrayal, like the universe and my body cheated me and didn’t keep their end of the bargain. It felt like I was watching the whole thing from outside of my own body.

First, I was so overwhelmed with sadness and despair that I sobbed the most primal howling animalistic cry that I’d ever cried. The sound that emitted from my broken body and heart was pure grief. It was a loss greater than my own death because it was the loss of my baby. It completely broke me. I sobbed in bed for weeks trying to understand how to go on without my child.

Then, I went numb. Numb and quiet like the green sky before a tornado destroys everything in its sight. I had cried so much that I felt weak to my very soul. I became too tired and weary to fight my pain.

I looked into the face of my grief and gave myself over to my fate. I sank so far down into my despair that I thought I would never come out of it nor did I want to. Somehow, moving past it felt like disloyalty to the baby I lost but staying in it felt like a disservice to my daughters. 

So despite the hole in my heart, I lived each day looking for the light in my daughters’ faces. I forced myself to be there for them, even when I had to push myself back together and function in pain. Finally, one day, the pain became tolerable enough to live with.

There is nothing I can do to change what happened. I am not alone and there are so many women who observe national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day because it is a day to honor the babies we loved and lost. I am writing about my pregnancy loss because it helps me process and it reminds others that my baby was here, he mattered and he is missed. It’s not a dirty secret and I didn’t do anything wrong. We need to remove the taboo of remembering the babies we lost and let moms speak freely about their experiences instead of holding all of that pain and grief inside alone.

Over the years, I’ve written many posts on my experience with my miscarriage. I will list them below:

The Truth about Life after Miscarriage

Surviving the Aftermath of Miscarriage

When a Tattoo Heals Your Heart

Some Things Change You Forever

Lost Baby

Chrissy Tiegen is Every Mother Who Suffered a Miscarriage

Why it’s so Important to Reflect on Loss and Grieve

A Thousand Years

The End of the World as We Know it

Lingering in Loss

An Unexpected Pregnancy at 40

Mommy, I want another Baby

The Worst Day of My Life

How to Survive the Loss of a Pregnancy

The Kindness of Strangers

A Sky Full of Paper Lanterns

I shouldn’t have Looked

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn

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What happened to those people, marriage in distress

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

This morning, I sent the Big Guy a somewhat racy meme of a pumpkin who looked like she got shot in the eye in one of those sexy accidents that, to be honest, we haven’t had a lot of lately. His response was, instructing me to go look at a photo of us in a shadow box from when we first met and asking, “What happened to those two people ?”

I did as he instructed and a few things happened,

  1. I realized that, damn, we have gained a lot of weight in the past 24 years together.
  2. OH MY DAMN, we’ve been together 24 years. That’s half our lives. In fact, we’ve been together more of his life than we’ve been apart.
  3. Wow. He thinks about these things too? I thought it was just me fixating and overthinking by myself.
  4. Too many things like this pandemic, kids, dog, work, school, bills and responsibilities have made us lose sight of what we wanted from the start, to be together with one another; to be one another’s priority.

I think we’ve both been so tired and worn out from getting through day-to-day life that we haven’t had the energy left to dedicate the time to growing closer.  It’s like we were and still are each other’s best friends, partner but we don’t get to enjoy one another as we used to and I think that is both of our faults. We’ve just been trying to put out the daily fires and that doesn’t leave much time for intimacy, relaxation or talking for just the sake of talking. Now, everything has a purpose, a finish line other than just enjoyment and it’s taking a toll.

What happened to those people, marriage in distress

The pandemic has put us all on edge. All of us have experienced anxiety and panic over the course of this pandemic. The girls are always home; first, they were virtual and now, they are often quarantined from exposure or actually sick with some kind of cold, virus or flu after living their life in masks for the past 19 months and suddenly being thrust into a world without masks or social distancing. I’m back in grad school which is stressful for a 40-something mom who hasn’t been in grad school in 16 years. The Big Guy toils away, in person, at work; braving the coronavirus, since about month 3 of the pandemic, so our bills could be paid and everything all of us do has been under duress. That makes laughing and lighthearted play, as a family and even more so as a couple, nearly impossible. Who can relax when people are literally getting sick and dying all around you?

We don’t look or feel like we did in 1997. What happened to those two people? I hardly ever get ready anymore. I’m usually at home in joggers, a sweatshirt and a top knot. No make-up. No products anywhere to be found. I just shower and moisturize. Hair cuts and color, manicures and pedicures are all luxuries that I can’t afford to do during a pandemic. He only goes to work so he’s not dressing for me either. I used to be the girl who took two hours every day to get ready; full hair and make-up. Exercising used to be a priority. Going out used to be fun. But now, all of those things feel like just one more thing to do on an already infinite to-do list. I’m tired and so is he. Tired of all the things we have to do.

What happened to those two people?

His question this morning made me realize that I want to find my way back to those two people who we unknowingly abandoned along the way. I know people change and relationships evolve but this is not what we both expected our marriage to be. We could just keep moving on this same path, at the same rate on this journey together and die of boredom and old age sometime in the future or we can put in the work to reclaim our passion for one another and ask the hard questions, change what needs to change and be bold. It will be scary as fuck because, 24 years is a long time, but doing nothing and expecting change is ridiculous. We want more together.

It’s going to have to start with talking to each other and discussing what we want, need, like and dislike in our relationship. We know that we love each other but we need to remember what we like about one another. What was it about us that made us inseparable from about day 4 of knowing one another? What was it that made us fall in love and believe we had found our soul mate within that first month? What magic was it that made him ask me to marry him and me say yes after just 4 months? I know that’s rare but it’s what happened. And no matter what we’re going through, even when he’s on my nerves ( or I’m on his), even when we don’t particularly like one another, we always love each other and he’s always my person. I hope I’m still his.

What happened to those people, marriage in distress

We’ve been so busy talking about the craziness of each day that we’ve forgotten to ask about each other’s hopes and dreams for a long time. Those things are important. A marriage can’t survive on autopilot. Yes, comfortable silences are nice and being able to be next to one another and know what the other one is thinking and feeling without saying a word, happy to just be, is wonderful but it’s not enough. We have to be willing to get uncomfortable to unlock that next level of intimacy. Because even though he is my best friend, my ride or die, we both deserve more than just someone to do stuff with. We need someone to look forward to doing things with fueled by a passion for one another and the life we are building together.

We’ve become complacent and comfortable and in doing so, maybe a little annoyed with one another, even though we’ve never said it out loud. We need a marriage reboot. I don’t want a sequel. He is it for me. So, we’re going on a quest to find those people in the shadow box. Has your marriage ever felt like it has become predictable? What did you do, as a couple, to jumpstart your marriage?

What happened to those two people?

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World Mental health day, Mental Health is the Cure to Generational Trauma

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Today is World Mental Health Day and I’m here for it. I’m here to tell you that I crawled on glass to get mentally healthy so that my girls could casually and nonchalantly get the help they need without stigma or hesitation.  You see, when I was growing up, everything was “rub some dirt on it” and “just calm down” and “ADHD? My kid doesn’t need meds for ADHD, she’ll outgrow it.” No one thought that mental health is the cure to generational trauma. Seeking mental health help was about as taboo as sodomization. Yep, I said that too.

Growing up the daughter of a depressed, introverted mother with a people-pleasing complex and an alcoholic father prone to fits of rage, tumultuous was an understatement. Most of my childhood felt like I was stuck on a tiny, deserted island prone to excessive erosion and every day was hurricane season and when it wasn’t hurricane season, it was surely typhoon season. Any wrong step in any direction could surely make this house of cards childhood crumble.

I was prone to stomach issues from anxiety, from a very early age. I remember frequenting the pediatrician’s office and even the emergency of our local hospital often because no one could get to the bottom of my constant pain and diarrhea. The kept up until high school and then I fell into a deep, dark hole of depression. Still, with six kids, a raging alcoholic and a depressed mom…no one really noticed and if they did, they chalked it up to teenage angst and hormones. My eating disorders went unnoticed for years, as did my body dysmorphia, depression and subsequent bipolar.

They say that people can be born genetically predisposed to mental illness disorders but without trauma to activate that illness, they may never develop one. I wasn’t that lucky because if there was one thing I had a plenty of, besides brothers and sisters, it was triggering trauma. Most people who know me today, think I am an eternal optimist. In fact, in my house, the Big Guy and my girls think I’m practically delusional with my “where there’s a will, there’s a way” attitude but when you’re raised with so little, you have to believe that you can to survive the despair.

But back to my depression, it was the kind where you feel like you’re so far deep in a hole that even when you’re looking up all you can see is more black. I was suicidal. I don’t say that lightly but with reverence and honesty. It wasn’t a cry for attention or help. I felt so helpless and hopeless and stuck that I really wanted to just go into a deep, dark corner and disappear. I had thought it out thoroughly. I had several ideas of how to do it quietly, without a chance to be caught before I was done and how to make sure that it was final. I wanted to be dead because living was torturous. It was so painful to live that I just couldn’t see enduring it any longer. That was my existence between the ages of 15-17. The only thing that kept me from doing it was my mom. She never intervened, in fact, she had no idea I was even thinking about it but I knew that if I were to kill myself; it was the same as murdering her so I could never go through with it. Her love, literally, saved me from myself.

Fast forward a few years later and at the age of 27-years-old, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. I was relieved. I know some people would be embarrassed or ashamed but I was just relieved to give a name to the brokenness I had suffered since I was in my teens because giving it a name, gave me the courage to face it, process it and move through it. My diagnosis was, in a way, the power to heal and the chance to realize that I was not broken, just bent.

It may seem from reading this that I was sick and then I was better. Obviously, that was not the case. The years in between were the things that drug-fueled nightmares are made of. I was out of control of myself and I couldn’t stop any of it. I was just along for the ride, as my brain chemistry held me hostage and nearly killed me in a myriad of ways while destroying many relationships, obliterating opportunities along the way and all I could do was hang on for dear life.

Meanwhile, I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew I was impulsive, reckless and irrationally irritable and angry. I waxed and waned between manic elation and extreme irritability almost daily. I blew things up in my mind. I cried a lot. I got angry. I hurt the people I loved with my words, actions and deeds. I was selfish but I thought I was magnanimous. I was narcissistic. I was mean when I wasn’t the sweetest person in the room and you never knew who you were going to get. To be honest, neither did I. To the people who knew and loved me through those dark and twisty times, I apologize and for those who remain, words will never be enough to express my love and gratitude for your love and care.

It took multiple diagnoses, years of behavioral therapy, psychiatric care, a cocktail of medications, a lot of education, a handful of clinical psychology classes in grad school, a shit ton of self-acceptance, a healthy devouring of the DSM and learning to let go to become the woman I am today. I have been practically non-episodic for almost 20 years save for a couple of hypomanic episodes, the most recent during this pandemic. The Big Guy and I are constantly monitoring my moods and sleep habits because hormones and big life changes can trigger an episode. I’ll spend the rest of my life being the guard of my own mental health. To be honest, after recently speaking with a therapist, maybe mom should have treated that ADHD because you don’t just grow out of it. But that’s a story still in progress.

My point is that I had to do a lot of work on myself, really look inward, and learn about my illnesses, embrace them in order to become part of the solution. Knowing my own mental health challenges, I have always been very open and honest about mental health with my girls and, I am always looking for the signs because mine was missed for so long. Mental health is just as important as physical health in our family. In fact, in April of 2020 I put both of my girls in therapy because the pandemic was very negatively affecting their mental health and, to be honest, I’ve always thought that every single human being could do with some therapy.

My girls had no qualms about talking to a therapist. Though we are very open, I know that there are things that maybe they would feel more comfortable with, as teens, speaking with a non-biased professional and I’m fine with that because their mental health is more important than my pride. The goal is to be mentally healthy, comfortable in their own skin and happy. I never want them to feel shame and stigma about a very normal issue that so many people are affected by and avoid getting the help they need.

The thought of my girls lying in their bed at night alone in the dark, feeling such despair that it hurts to go on living like I used to, breaks my heart. So I talk to them about their days and their feelings, sometimes more than they want to and reassure them that I am here for them always and if it’s beyond my capabilities to help, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy in every single way.

I believe that mental health is the cure to generational trauma but it takes lots of work. How can we make it easier for our kids, and each other, to get the mental health help we need, when we need it?

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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, teens betrayed by priest amongst sexual misconduct with a minor allegations

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

This is the Throat Punch Thursday that I prayed I would never have to write but here we are. A couple of weeks ago, the unexpected hit me over the head with a shovel and knocked me right on my ass. There are things that sometimes happen that cause you to question everything around you; everything you’ve ever known or believed. Things that can create a crisis of faith within ourselves and make it impossible to trust others, especially when you’re a teenager.

It’s been a rough summer (a rough couple of years if I’m being honest) so bizarre and beyond reality. In fact, I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected and not much shocks me anymore, including death. Nothing like diving headfirst into the shallow end of an empty pool of midlife crises to shake you to your core.

I at least expected my birthday post to be rainbows and unicorns, just 24 drama-free hours. A day of reflection and gratefully counting my blessings. But nope, instead, I’m posting this a week after my actual birthday because it was more like a shit sandwich served with a side of communion wine. Apparently, my birthday coincided with a Satan yes day.

As parents, a couple of things we really dread getting from school are the lice letter and the “your child has been directly exposed to CoVid and must quarantine for 10-14 days”. I know, I’ve gotten the latter almost every week this year. My girls have been in the school building a grand total of 7 of the 33 days of school so far due to quarantining but now, I am glad of that. Because we got the letter that no Catholic school parent ever wants to get…the “our school’s priest will no longer be our priest effective immediately. He resigned after the diocese was notified of allegations about him engaging in sexual and other misconduct, including that with a minor.”

What. The. Actual. Fuck????? I know for you non-Catholic people that’s a running joke but for us, it is the actual worst-case scenario.

Let that set in for a minute. If your children go to Catholic school, you know that all the kids love the young, fun priest who is always at all the games, says hi to all the parents, cheers for your children and is fondly embraced by students, teachers and parents alike. We are actually grateful when our kids can connect, on a human level, with a spiritual leader for guidance and comfort but not one of us ever wants our child to connect with them on a “physical” level. For a couple of obvious reasons, that should never happen 1) he took a vow of celibacy 2) he is literally married to God 3) he has been entrusted with the souls and lives of our children who we send to that school. We have all been betrayed. I’m the most skeptical, suspicious person there is when it comes to my children, I trust no one. And still, I am speechless.

I’m not going to lie. I’m writing this to process my feelings because, honestly, I was shocked. Not shocked that a priest crossed the line ( because I live in the real world) but that OUR priest crossed the line. I, myself, just chit-chatted with him at the soccer game and the football game last week. He was known to everyone as a kind, caring, friendly, funny man of faith. He attended the same high school he is pastor at. He grew up here and has known many of the kids growing up.

He was trusted by everyone because he was one of us. We trusted him with our children, with their souls. He said the prayers before the games and gave the game day mass. He was beloved and now, all of these fragile teens who tend to have a hard time trusting adults anyways were told last Monday that he betrayed not only his collar but each and every one of those students who loved him and every parent who trusted him. Because that’s how Catholic school kids and parents work, they run on faith that they are safe with their priest.

I am angry, disappointed and sad. We still don’t know the whole story. I’m sure we never will. He was reported to the authorities by the diocese and it will surely be a big deal when the priest of an elite Catholic school is arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor, in a town built on Catholic schools and churches. We don’t know if the kid was a boy or a girl, not that it makes any difference. We don’t know if it was a 13-year-old freshman or a 17-year-old Senior. We don’t know what evidence they have. In honesty, we don’t know if it’s truth or rumor. But, I have to believe, if there is enough evidence for the diocese to force him to resign and send a letter out to all of the parents, there has to be at least some truth to the allegations.

I do know that all of our children have had their trust broken and their faith tested. Can they recover from that? I don’t think they can. You can’t trust someone without them earning that trust back and you can’t just force faith down kids’ throats when they’ve been betrayed by everything they believed to be true. Faith is given without facts or proof but when the curtain’s been pulled back and the truth is revealed to be ugly and unlike any version of the truth you’ve ever believed existed, maybe you can’t get that back. Not only has a child been assaulted, but they’ve all been betrayed and lied to as they shared their lives with a predator; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I grew up a devout Catholic but I learned at a young age that a priest is just a man. Mistakes can be made and rules are broken. But what about the parents of the kids who were sexually assaulted, what are they supposed to say to their children? How are any of us supposed to trust again? How can we make our children feel safe?

Update (10/08/21):

The victims were 2 girls, ages 17 and 19 at the time of the first incident. It happened once in June and again in September. June 30, the two girls were invited to the priest’s house to celebrate his birthday and eat cake. They were the only two people at his home that night, according to the girls. He offered them alcohol, they both accepted but said they were not drunk. However, the girls said he was “seriously intoxicated” and had slurred speech, was stumbling, and was pale, sweaty, and vomiting.

One of the victims said he touched her inappropriately repeatedly, despite her efforts to slap his hands away. He also asked her to perform sexual acts on him.

The girls said he then passed out and they put him to bed when he pulled one of them into the bed with him and groped her, according to court documents. The teen says she told him to stop and he did.

Between June 20th and September 17th, the girls said they had several “normal” interactions with the priest and he apologized.

“Both indicated that while they were very concerned the night of the incident, both considered Father a friend and spiritual advisor. They wanted to believe his conduct would not happen again and [Victim 2] indicated that she was capable of forgiving but “would not forget,'” the court document reads.

Then on Sept. 17, he invited the two girls over to his home again. The girls said given his apologies and the fact that they consider him a central figure in their faith, they went.

When they arrived, again he offered them alcohol.

Again he became intoxicated and assaulted the girls.

At this time, he is charged with child seduction, sexual battery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and two counts of battery.

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Texas 6-week Abortion Ban is Misogyny Disguised a Pro-Life, pro choice

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

When some people think of Texas 6-week abortion ban, the first thing they think of is the “baby”. They are pro-life for the unborn fetus. They pat themselves on the back for advocating for an unborn child. But who cares about the mother who is carrying that child? Texas, a Republican state that has always tried to keep a stronghold on women’s uteruses, wants to make its own rules; they want to vilify women who choose not to carry their pregnancy to term and the doctors who provide those services safely. They want to criminalize a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy. Texas wants to punish women who dare to think, feel and live for themselves without a man’s permission. As someone born with a uterus, I’d like to say fuck you Texas, with no KY and right up your bum.

Texas’ 6-week abortion ban is misogyny disguised as pro-life. Full stop.

I got my first period when I was 12 years old, the summer before 8th grade. I knew next to nothing about what was happening to me. There I was, trapped in a bathroom stall at McDonald’s, like Carrie White, after a long day playing at the park without any frenemies to throw me, a much-needed, pad. That was the beginning of my journey into womanhood. It was a little traumatic to say the least and has been every day since. But this was just the teaser trailer of what it’s like to have a uterus.

In the beginning, my period was always erratic. I never knew when she was coming or going. Optimistically and quite frankly ridiculously , I kept right on wearing white pants, shorts and skirts. I was a daredevil. I had no older sister to guide me and my mom told me as little as possible about menstruation, reproductive health and sex. I’m not that kind of mom.

While in the meantime, my dad made it very clear that virginity was the only option, whether it rocked or not. Good Catholic girls don’t get pregnant and have babies out of wedlock (that’s what blow jobs, hand jobs and butt sex are for, haven’t you heard? Don’t clutch your pearls at me, you know it’s true. j/k not really, ask your kids if you don’t believe me)

Those that do not agree that virginity rocks, mysteriously fall down steps. As I didn’t particularly want to take my chances with the steps, there was nothing any guy could say to get me to have sex in my teens.

By the time I was in high school, fending off boys trying to dry hump me felt like a full-time job. But still, I maintained my blessed virgin status because, again, those fucking stairs. Of course, as all “good Catholic girls” know, sexuality is full of loopholes and there is no one better at finding those son of a bitches than a good girl trying to maintain a serious relationship while not compromising her morals and the stair abortion she is sure to find herself receiving should she fall off the virginity wagon.

Still, saying no and keeping your hymen intact is hard work and not always well received by the opposite sex. You know since men think they are entitled to sexual gratification by all women at all times. It’s no wonder when you consider how the government has one hand in our uterus and the other in our pockets at all times.

It wasn’t until college that I actually had consensual sex with someone I loved for the first time. Well, unless you count being on the receiving end of oral as sex. I’m still not sure where I stand on that. I told my girls if anything is penetrating the other body whether it be tongue, toy, penis or fingers…I think you probably had sex but that definition could be different for everybody. Your body, your choice. It can’t really be all about the hymen. I broke that when I was only 8 years old in the bathtub sliding accident of ‘81. Maybe sex should only count when we say it does. Give us back our power.

Texas 6-week Abortion Ban is Misogyny Disguised a Pro-Life, pro-choice

Why should some asshole who raped, molested, browbeat or begged us into sex get to choose? But that’s the way it’s always been, right? Some men feel entitled and empowered enough to relentlessly approach women for sex via grabbing, pushing, pulling, begging, drugging and forcing without consent. When we say no, we are called teases and sluts. When we say yes too often or too early, we are called easy or whores.

Why is it that in this world, men are free to take as much as they want but we are not allowed to give as freely or as often as we might like. Most importantly, we are not allowed to say no because we should feel flattered by their catcalls and groping but we can’t say yes too fast either, because who wants it if it isn’t a challenge? Where is our choice? Once again, the Texas government is trying to say we should not only lose control over our own reproductive rights but we should be punished for thinking we have equal sexual rights to men. This is America.

If you think that it’s ok to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, maybe you should go get surgery and get your own vagina and then handle it as you’d like. As for me, my body is only my business. What I do or don’t do with it, who I do or don’t do it with, how fast, or slow or many times I do with it…not your fucking business. We girls and women are not put on this planet to just make babies and service men. We are actually, whole human beings who don’t need anyone else’s approval to exist, nor do we need guidance and certainly not rules, regulations and restrictions for how to handle our own bodies. We wrote the owner’s manual. The audacity that you must have to mansplain women things to women is flabbergasting.

6-week abortion ban makes pro choice impossible

Of all the targets of Texas’ hatred, and they sure do hate and discriminate against a wide array of people ( Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous people, Haitians, members of the LGBTQ, people who believe in science, the Holocaust, a man on the moon, Big Bang theory, evolution, dinosaurs, climate change, CoVid and those who get vaccinated and wear masks) people with uteruses have always been at the top of their hit list.

So if you believe that human beings are capable of free thought and intelligence, how could you support a government that seeks to ban and control women’s basic human right to live freely and of her own choice? Even if you don’t approve of abortion for your own personal choice, what right do any of us have to decide what is best for another human being? What makes our morality superior to anyone else’s? Why can’t we live and let other’s live; in the end, their body, their choice.

Update: A federal court has temporarily blocked Texas’ 6-week abortion ban from continuing to wreak havoc on the lives of people who need abortion care.

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Why Being a Middle-Aged Woman is so Empowering

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

You’ve heard the rumors about women not giving any F’s when they hit a certain age. You’ve also heard of the invisibility of women once they hit those middle years. It’s all true. But ladies, don’t forget…invisibility is a mother fucking superpower. Not having any Fs left to give is the ultimate in enlightenment. This is evolution. You bad bitches. We cannot come out the gate this strong because the world would not be able to cope, so we gradually evolve into the super moms, wives and powerhouse women we were born to be. I’m here to educate you on why being a middle-aged woman is so empowering.

Not going to lie, some of us get there sooner than others and some of us never get there at all. Pssst, if you don’t get there, that spot of no longer giving any F’s and actually giving a damn about your own self, then you had the opportunity but you chose another path but it’s never too late. After all, life is nothing else if not a choose your own adventure. Every single decision you make, big or small, good or bad changes your course and that is the beauty of life. The secret is to embracing that fact and committing to growing from every minute of the journey. Smile because it happened don’t cry because it’s over is the vibe.

This is why being a middle-aged woman is so empowering.

That brings us to today, my name is Debi and I am smack dab in the throes of my life. Fuck midlife, none of us know when it’s going to be over. None of us know when it’s going to change or in what ways. That’s why we need to live every single day like it is the only one. This whole idea of saving things for special occasions or as a reward for doing hard things…life is hard enough, do what you want to do and live life on your own terms every day.

Yes, you’ve made choices prior like choosing happiness in the form of a partner and children, career, where you live and what you do and every decision has consequences and those consequences have ripples. They have to be considered, you can’t run around being completely selfish…your actions affect others after all. The key is to be more thoughtful with your decisions in the first place and make your own hopes and dreams part of the decision-making process from the start.

The fact of the matter is that you don’t live in a bubble, you live in the world, but you need to remember that you matter just as much as the other people in your world, not more or less but you do need to be an advocate for your own happiness. You are responsible for your own happiness. Life doesn’t happen to anyone. We aren’t victims of life. It is, without a doubt, a situation where you get out what you put in so if you don’t have what you want, you didn’t want it hard enough.

Our partners and children aren’t purposely taking advantage of us, in most cases, though sometimes it may absolutely feel like it. They are simply treating us the way we allow them to treat us, they are following our example. We truly are the masters of our own destiny. Don’t want to be a martyr? Don’t be. Don’t want to be at the mercy of everyone else’s needs? Don’t be. Choose happiness. Stop overthinking it. You can do whatever you want, and it’s not too late unless you are actually dead.

I am currently back in school getting another master’s degree because I am planning on starting a new career path, or at the very least, exploring new pathways on my journey. You heard me right, I am planning to change careers around 50, as my girls go away to college and start their lives, I’m going to reboot mine. Why the hell not? I am an example for them. They are the inspiration for me. Motherhood was another detour on my journey and it has been the most challenging and enriching thing I’ve done with my life. I made and raised human beings. I’m fucking awesome. They are a living breathing testament to what I do and who I am and it’s better than any work award I’ve ever gotten.

All this to say, you’ve got this. I’ve got this. You deserve good things. You deserve to be a priority in your own life. Motherhood is not just about service to others. Womanhood is not just about fulfilling some predestined feminine bullshit idea of who you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be. You can be anything and everything and it is never too late. Choose the life you want to live don’t live the life others expect because you only have one life and it’s really not that long.


Middle age sounds scary when you’re young because it sounds a lot like being old and, for many of us, the reality is that we see being old as just one step away from being dead. The truth is that no one tells you that you feel 25 forever. My gray hair and gravity-affected body may say otherwise but my heart and soul, 25-years-old every damn year. All of us, especially us women, need to change how we look at middle age. It’s not the end of anything. It’s the beginning of the second act and that’s where all the real freedom is. It’s where we finally figure out how to be happy in our own skin. Midlife is where we finally get to live for ourselves. If you frame it that way, being a middle-aged woman is the most empowered a woman can be and that’s the truth.

Ask any woman over 40 when has she ever felt freer, sexier or more herself? They’ll tell youwhy being a middle-aged woman is so empowering. When we are young, or bodies may be beautiful and our spirits may be adventurous, but we are all insecure in some way or the other because we are naive. With age really does come wisdom and we learn how to prioritize what really matters over the bullshit that the world tells us matters. For the first time in our lives, we are the most important person in the room to ourselves and we love and respect who we’ve become because we fought hard to get here. So don’t feel bad for me because I’m not in my 20’s anymore because for the first time in my life, I know exactly what I want and I’m not afraid to fight for it.

Do you agree? And if so, why do you think being a middle-aged woman is so empowering?

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Ever wonder why some people can accomplish so much in just a day and you can’t seem to? Or maybe you’ve got a super-efficient friend that takes out a to-do list like a boss. No matter what the case, you too can be more productive with just a few new habits. It’s easy to change with a few new habits of highly productive people

Still wondering how they do it? Are they superhuman? No. Are they organized? Yes. 

Everyone I know is looking to be more productive. In their work, their home life, with their hobbies and in general. I thought for sure when the pandemic quarantine happened I would get so much done but I didn’t. In reality, I got exhausted just from the anxiety and worries about everything that could have happened. My daily productivity slowed to a halt.

Making lists and promises to yourself isn’t actually going to make us any more productive, if it did everything on our to-do lists would be done. Instead, you need to take action. 

Build systems that enable you to work smarter, not harder.

Here are some easy to follow habits of highly productive people.

The Don’t- do list

Adding too much to your to-do list is asking for trouble. To be productive, you should do what is required of you without overloading yourself. Shorter to-do lists are not only beneficial in terms of getting everything done, but they have a bigger mental benefit. 

When you check something off your to-do list, you get a boost of achievement and happiness. 

The more you tick off the list, the most you want to do. 

Focus on you

Tired people who aren’t feeling great will need to make some changes. Taking care of themselves first thing in the morning is essential. 

If you wake up, check your email, and get a sense of dread, you are starting off on the wrong foot. 

Instead, when you wake up, focus on just waking up in the best way possible. 

A good breakfast – either healthy or something you enjoy – preferably both. Take time to read the news or a newspaper. Perhaps you can listen to it on the radio. It’s about what makes you feel good. 

Giving yourself time to wake up without worrying about everything you have to do, gives you a bit of peace. 

Take breaks

Tired people cannot produce the same amount of high-quality work as people who are refreshed and energized. 

Taking regular breaks in your working day is essential to give yourself time to think and concentrate on something else for a while. 

Going for a walk, stretching, having some lunch, and of course, drinking some water will make all the difference. 

For every 20-30 minutes you work, step away for between 3-5 minutes, and every 1-2 hours, have a more extended break of about 20 minutes. 

This is the Pomodoro method, and you can have a timer that can help you stay on track. The Pomodoro method is perfect for keeping you focused for short periods. 

Since we respond to deadlines, it enables us to work faster and more efficiently. 

Sometimes what we really need is a hard reset. Read more: 5 Tips for a self-reset break to make your life easier. 

Eat the frog

Whatever the task is that you don’t want to do – do that first. The tasks that we put off can often hold us back. We keep thinking about them until we manage to get them done. 

The most challenging work can feel much more overwhelming than it is; once it is done, you might wonder why you hadn’t done it before. 

When you complete this task, you are free to move on to more enjoyable work. 

It is typically the type of job that leads us to avoid doing anything by procrastinating. If that sounds like you then, you need to read more into learning how to stop procrastinating

Say No

The key to getting everything you need to get done, done? Not accepting things that get in the way of you completing it. If you have friends and family or co-workers that ask more from you than you have the time or energy for, then say no. 

While helping others makes us feel great, we need to learn that sometimes we should come first.  Saying no to things that require too much of us is entirely okay. So say no more often. 

Multi-tasking

Trying to do five things at once means you are trying to stretch your mental and other capacities to their limit. 

Focusing on one task at a time is the only way to complete tasks to the best of your ability. 

When we switch between tasks, we can lose up to 23 minutes of focused work time. That can have a significant impact on how much we can get done. 

A significant impact on productivity. 

Getting your best work done is about organizing what you need to get done in the most benefits you. 

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