Thursday, August 29, 2013

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken

So, I'm in love with this recipe I first saw on Emily Bites (and while looking up this recipe and keying in that link to the blog, I found a recipe for Spinach and Artichoke dip WITHOUT MAYO that looks like it might ROCK my world!). I've made it a few times with mixed results and (as always) I've been tweaking the recipe so I'm going to post it here with my tweaks.

Here's the link for where I found the recipe: It apparently comes from another blog that I'm being denied access to (private....makes me sad).

And here it is as I found it on Emily Bites:

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken
Source: My Kitchen Apron

3 lbs raw boneless skinless chicken breasts (the original recipe used frozen breasts, but I used them unfrozen, so it appears you can do either)
12 oz bottle of Buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's Wing Sauce)
1 oz packet of dry Ranch mix (I used Hidden Valley)
2 T light butter

1. Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker. Pour the bottle of wing sauce over the top of the chicken. Sprinkle the packet of ranch mix over the top of the wing sauce. Place the lid on your slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-9 hours until meat shreds easily.
2. Remove meat and shred it using two forks. Return shredded meat to the sauce and add the butter. Stir to combine. Continue to cook on low for another hour so the meat can soak up the sauce. Serve however you like!

Yields 12 (1/2 cup) servings. WW P+: 3 per serving (P+ calculated using the recipe builder on
Nutrition Information per serving from 175 calories, 1 g carbs, 5 g fat, 28 g protein, 0 g fiber

Here's where I've been having time the flavor isn't quite right (and unlike Emily, I added ranch to this sandwich because of it), or it ends up soupy and I have to fish out the chicken with a slotted spoon. I've had lots of problems....even though it only has 4 ingredients. So here are my tips for making this recipe work from someone who has messed it up enough times to know:

  • Use Frank's Buffalo WING Sauce. I mistakenly used the hot sauce the first time I made this. We're going to leave it at that. 
  • Spray your crock pot. I usually don't, but this helps with those little bits of chicken that are a nightmare to scrape off. 
  • According this this, you can use frozen breasts. I've made this 4 times now and using frozen breasts always seems to end up with buffalo chicken soup...and I'm fishing out the meat with a slotted spoon. NOT GOOD! When I last made this, I used breasts that were half dethawed and I still ended up cooking with the lid off for an hour (which might be because I did it in like 4 hours). 
  • I like my pulled meats and sloppy joes to have a seriously thick sauce, which means that I'll take the lid off and let it cook for an hour (stirring frequently) to get it thicker if you have to. 
  • Because I like a more dense sandwich and my boyfriend eats like a horse, I also increase the meat. Last night I used 4.3 lbs chicken. 
  • I added about a half cup of sliced onions. I don't know why, but I just felt it needed something else for the flavor. The onions cooks down and you don't even see them (if you're worried about kids or whatever)

I made this last night in 4 hours. I was sitting there and all of a sudden it was 6 o'clock (luckily, we run on a late schedule) I started the crock pot on HIGH while I was defrosting the 4.3-4.5 pounds of chicken in the microwave and I poured a little sauce in the bottom. I put the chicken in, added some sauce, then the ranch, tossed on the onions and the rest of the sauce. I put the lid on and promptly forgot about it for 2 hours. When I checked on it, I thought it looked a little soupy so I shredded the chicken and then cooked it for about 45 minutes-1 hour with the lid off mixing often. Then I added the butter and stirred. The boyfriend needed time to decompress after work, so this didn't get on the table until about 10:30-11 so about 4 hours.

This stuff is so great....mix it with some ranch or some sour cream for dip with chips (one of my favorites).  Mix cold chicken with mayo for a chicken sandwich.  People at my house eat it on salad.  I've put it on a wrap with lettuce and cheese and a little schmear of ranch.  It is super versatile.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Product Junkie Review: SensatioNail By Nailene

I wish I could say I was giving this product a fair trial before telling you about it, and part of that is true.  Part of it is that I've been SO busy.  But the first week of August, I purchased a SensatioNail Starter Kit from Walgreens so I could attempt gel polish at home. 

Let me start by telling you how much I love Walgreens!  When I stopped in, the Starter Kits (which are normally $59.99 were on sale for $39.99.  While I was shopping (aka scouring the clearance aisle) I also managed to find a polish in a beautiful dark red.  When I checked out, the girl at the counter rang me up with a coupon, so when all was said and done, between clearance and the coupon I got everything for about half the price of what it would have cost me paying full price (Yay, Walgreens!).  

So...the Starter Kit contains everything you  need for 10 applications (according to the website   The kit includes: Gel Cleanser, to both prep nails and wipe them for a glossy finish; Gel Primer, to help the gel stick; Gel Polish, (starter  kit comes in 2 colors); Gel Base and Top Coat, to protect the nail and to seal the color for a beautiful finish.  Tools included in the kit are an orange stick, nail board, lint-free wipes and their exclusive LED Lamp.

The application process was pretty easy.  Wipe with cleanser, apply primer and let dry, apply top coat and cure 30 seconds, apply color cure 60 seconds, apply second layer of color cure 60 seconds, apply top coat and cure 30 seconds, wipe with cleanser.  Super simple, right?  

Tips and Tricks:
-Apply with a super light hand.  If you treat this like regular polish, you're going to be in trouble.  I was really heavy around the edges and ended up picking off the polish after about 3 days. 

-The directions tell you to "cap" your nail (apply to the edge of your nail).  Totally up to you, but I found that when I did it this was the part that chipped off first and the rest was soon to follow. 

-The directions say to do 4 fingers on one hand, then 4 fingers on the other hand and save the thumbs for last.  Do this.  Don't think you can do one full hand and then the other.  I tried doing one hand at a doesn't go so well because it seemed like the thumbs (which aren't pointed directly at the light) don't seem to cure as well and it is nearly impossible to fix. 

-Speaking of impossible to fix, apply with care.  If you make a boo boo, you can't just go back and touch up a section.  I tried and had a terrible time. 

-Use the lint free wipes.  Mine were briefly misplaced and a paper towel was not a good substitute.

-SensatioNail sells a remover with a tool to help you.  I'm the kind of girl who does it herself (even salon acrylics!).  I tried that trick with cotton balls and tin foil and wrapping it....wasn't so awesome or easy.  I ended up just using pure Acetone, holding it on for a minute or two, and scraping off the polish (which, I'm assuming, is what Nailene wants you to do as they sell a remover and a funny little metal scraper-looking tool).  

-I picked off my first manicure, it was too thick.  But the second one I did (when I tried doing a french manicure) lasted over a week before I removed it...and I spend my day pounding on a keyboard.

-I've been wearing the same polish on my toes for 3 1/2 weeks.  It is only beginning to wear on the tips of the big toes, and not enough that I can't just file them down a little and be fine for a few more weeks.

-I now have the original color from my starter kit, plus 2 more.  All of them have good, solid color after 2 coats. 

-Super glossy!  Looks just as good as what you would get at the salon!

-Everything comes in one kit.  You can buy it separately, but the kit was really nice for a first timer like me.  And...if I want to continue using it, I can buy refills of the Essentials (Cleanser, Primer, Base/Top Coat and lint free wipes). 

-Not including whatever else you might do for your manicure (filing, pushing your cuticles back, ect) polishing (and curing) takes less than 20 minutes for both hands and NO drying time. 

-Did I mention NO drying time?  I mean, you really shouldn't go banging your nails against stuff right away, but once that light beeps and you wipe them with the cleanser you're pretty good to go.

-This stuff is rock solid, no rubbing or transfer like you sometimes see with regular polishes.

-They also offer kits for French Manicures, limited edition colors, and magnetic colors.

-When it is good, it is really good...but if you mess these up, it's a nightmare.

-If you're into lots of different colors of nail polish or changing polish frequently, this might not be your thing.  It seems like the collection is definitely growing and there are lots of options available, but for someone like just isn't large enough.

-If you mess up, you can't go back and fix it.  If you smear a little or get a little on the cuticle before curing you can just wipe it off, but once your cure it you have to pretend not to see it or scrape it off and risk chipping or peeling the rest of the polish.

-I'm not entirely sure the cleanser isn't just rubbing alcohol and as an incredible cheap-o, this bothers me. 

-I've read online that you can use other polishes with this, but that doesn't seem to be true.  I would describe what happens like under-baked brownies: crusty on the top, squishy on the inside.  Apparently, regular polish can take up to 24 hours to dry completely.  Applying the top coat and curing doesn't work because you basically have wet polish underneath. I've heard you can apply polish one day and Gel Top Coat the next, but my polish wouldn't last the day without top coat. 

-I tried doing my own French manicure without the kit they sell, it was only ok. 

-I know it sounds crazy, but my nails were a little uncomfortable when I was curing the polish.  It reminded me of the last time I got felt like something was pulling. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Product Junkie: Julep Introductory Box

So I just signed up to be a Julep Maven.  I'd heard the name before in regards to polishes, but I've never really checked them out before.  So when I saw an advertisement on one of my favorite websites for a free introductory box, I knew I had to check it out.  I went to the website and started looking into it.  I started by taking the Julep Maven Style Quiz, which is a series of easy questions about your style preferences.  I'm "Classic with a Twist".  Then, you can check out your first box.  The first box ships within 3 days and you're on your way! 

The introductory box, which you can get for FREE (see details below) includes products chosen based on the results from you Maven Style Quiz (and who doesn't LOVE quizzes?).  My box included 2 polishes and pedi-creme.  You're then offered add-on products at a reduced price.  I just signed up, and I'm getting my introductory box (remember, that's 2 polishes, plus pedi-creme) plus 4 more polishes for $20.   Seriously....$20.  Pretty awesome. 

Also, if you don't like your box for the month you can choose to try a different style, mail your box to a friend, or opt out of receiving your box for the month which seems like a really awesome option to me. 

The only thing that concerns me is that when I want to cancel, I will have to call the company.  Not cool.  I don't like calling anyone for anything and I'm not sure if it is a sign that I am anti-social or if cancelling AOL has left me scarred for life.  I hate AOL.  There is nothing like being on a line for 90 minutes only to talk to Peggy or someone like...him.  

Here's the link if you're interested:
Use code FREEBOX to get your first box FREE.

And yes, I get a "Reward" if you use that link.  Julep offers a program where you can earn "Jules" by sharing the link.  You also earn them by buying a box every month, on your anniversary with Julep, and by upgrading your box.

My box showed up within a few days.  It arrived in a simple black box with the Julep logo on it.  I opened it to find this:

Just some observations about the box...I was worried about how the polish would arrive.  The polish is that clear bubble wrapped package you see in the middle.  The polishes are wrapped 2 per package, wrapped in bubble wrap and then fastened with a clear rubber band (looks like a hair band, I'm going to try it because I love those little clear bands and I have a tendency to use them.  Yay for upcycling!).  The pink thing included a welcome from Jane Park, CEO and Founder and on the back listed the benefits of being a Julep Maven (benefits include: 20% discount off all products plus free shipping, information on the Rewards program, box options, and when to expect my box).  I also received a card about my style profile, and another card with information on where to find Julep via social media.  The white box in the back is my FULL SIZE Julep Mint Condition Pedi Creme.   My only complaint...the black crinkle paper stuffing the box.  Yuck.  I'm sure it helps with shipping but it made a little bit of a mess. 

So on to the really good stuff...






Billie Jean

I also received a little 2ml size sample of the Julep Glycolic Hand Scrub, which I didn't find until tonight.  I'll have to try it. 

Thoughts on the far I have tried all of the creme colors except Claudette and Kai; I also haven't tried Portia which I thought would be glittery/opalescent but is really just a glitter polish.  The first thing I noticed with the creme polishes was the smell.  This doesn't smell like regular nail polish.  Obviously, you can't totally eradicate the chemical smell of polish, but these almost smelled like green apple or sour apple.  It was pleasant to say the least.  One thing I noticed was the brush is a little thick and seems to hold a lot of polish...there is a reason for this.  The polish, if swiped on too thin, gets clumpy and hard to apply smoothly.  Too much and...well, we all know what happens there.  It does require a bit of a readjustment from using other kinds of polish.  Drying time seems about average if not a little less.  I covered it with a top coat, which requires a heavy hand as it seems to not spread on top of the Julep very well.  I used Seche Vite.  I've experienced different results with different colors, but my shortest time before seeing wear was 4 days and it is always wear on the tips, the longest was 7 days before I got antsy and changed it...I haven't noticed chipping or peeling.  In fact, as a nail polish peeler I have to say it left me unsatisfied, but thrilled as a consumer. 

The colors are not exactly true to the online swatch.  If you order, check out the color on the bottle pictured.  The Billie Jean is actually very bright and I love it.

I was hesitant about the pedi creme.  As someone with rough feet, I've used every lotion and potion I can find and I can be hesitant when it comes to new things because it seems like something I've seen before.  What struck me as different about the Mint Condition Pedi Creme?  AHAs and coconut oil.  Alpha Hydroxy Acids.  I LOVE AHAs!  My favorite moisturizer has them and it makes my skin look beautiful.  I'm also obsessed with coconut oil right now, I just haven't used it on my feet yet.  The creme itself it really pretty thin, which was surprising and slightly worrying.   The smell is about what one can expect from any foot creme, lightly minty but not overpowering.  The texture is nice, not greasy or super heavy.  I put it on after my shower and before bed and my feet feel wonderful without that squishy feeling you get from heavy petroleum based products. 

Overall, really happy with Julep products.  I received an email about my first "real" box yesterday.  I was able to go to the site and look at the box that was headed my way-the Cityscape Collection.  The September box for me included a Cleansing Oil and 2 polishes.  While I was interested in the polishes, the product that really caught my eye was the Mattifying Face Primer.  So I switched boxes and got the Modern Beauty Box which is usually 2 products, no polishes.  It was pretty simple and I really liked that part...I could switch, get what I want to try, no hassle...pretty cool.  

2014 Colors: Garnet (January Birthstone), Amethyst (February Birthstone) and Raegan (left to right)

UPDATE: It's been 7 months since I signed up for Julep and I have gotten my box EVERY month.  I've gotten some colors that I didn't really love but for the most part I've been very happy.  

What I really love is the great deals Julep offers.  The polishes pictured above were purchases on a Buy One, Get One free promotion, and I got the pink one (Raegan) free for accepting my Maven box for three consecutive months.  In 7 months, I've gotten three free polishes (not including BOGO deals) for different things.

Obviously, I haven't chosen not to accept a box so I can't tell you how that went for me. 

My only warning...if you receive a product and have a problem, take a picture of it and send it in with your email to customer service.  Last month I received a liquid eyeshadow that had leaked.  The product was on the inside of the box, dried in the threads of the screw on cap, and I'm really not sure if it affected the quality of the product.  When I emailed Julep the next day, I was asked for a photo which I didn't think to take so if this happens to you, send them a photo with your complaint email. 

Birchbox: August

August Birchbox. It came much sooner than I had expected...time flies when you don't have to shovel snow I guess. I'm not looking forward to Winter this year. I think it's going to be a cold one. Things have been busy on the home front so I haven't been able to get to this as much as I would like, but I'm trying to catch up. I have lots and lots of things to blog about today, including Birchbox for August, and my first package from Julep, plus all of those other random little musings of mine.

So, this month's Birchbox theme was Finishing School. Yes, that place where, once upon a time, young ladies learned manners and social graces and were prepared for entry into fashionable society. I cheated again and watched the sneak peek with Hayley and Katia. I just love them!

This month's contents:
OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel (1.6 oz, $41) I'm wearing this right now as I like to try products before telling you all about them. What I received in my Birchbox was two little packets of this. I specifically washed my face this morning just so that I could give them a fair trial on a fresh face. I applied my moisturizer, waited a few minutes and then applied this Mattifying Gel. I could see a difference almost immediately. It did as the Birchbox website says, dried quickly and my skin doesn't feel sticky AT ALL. Sometimes I find with certain products (usually acne gels, so I was admittedly a little nervous) that if I rub my finger on my face I get some grimy pilling, or it makes my makeup look funny. I don't have that with this at all. My face was matte almost immediately. I applied my makeup and things still looked great. It is now 4 hours after application. According to the website, "This fast-drying gel creates a soft, invisible layer that absorbs oil and nixes redness for eight full hours, thanks to microscopic Acrysorb® particles." My face looks pretty greasy right now. I'm not sure why...possibly because I used it with foundation and I don't think mine is oil-free. I'm totally willing to give it a second chance, but quite frankly it is more oily than if I had following my usual routine and I'm not feeling too hopeful. I'm going to give it another try tomorrow with my powder foundation and see if that makes a difference. Overall, seems like it could have potential and I'm having a user-failure kind of issue. The only thing that left me unhappy was the PACKETS. I hate when samples come in packets that I can't reseal. 

KMS California FREESHAPE Hot Flex Spray (200mL, $19). I'm using this right now also. I sprayed it on yesterday after hopping out of the shower (fresh hair). The one thing I noticed it that it didn't seem to do much for me when I was trying to style with the hair dryer, but when I busted out the straightener this product really seemed to shine. I didn't do anything too technical, but it was straight and didn't respond to humidity and my hair felt really soft. Today, I'm working with 2nd day hair and I didn't even bother to reapply this product as I wanted to see how it holds up for those of us who don't wash every day. I curled my hair, sprayed with my usual hair spray, and hit the road. The humidity is very high today, and my curls are still nice. I can tell that they've relaxed a bit, but nothing compared to the fails of some products I've tried. I have that loving feeling. The best part is that the texture is really nice; today I can feel the hairspray that I have in, but other than that my hair looks great AND feels great instead of one or the other. And I think it is really interesting that one of the noted ingredients, rhodiola rosea root extract, is also used for treating depression and fatigue homeopathically.

Whish Exfoliating Body Wash (6 oz, $22) I'm a bad girl. I haven't tried this yet. I'll update when I do.   UPDATE:  I came right home and tried this tonight with my Ecotools loofah.  It smells delicious, like oats and coconut.  The body wash itself was a clear, opalescent gel with a very nice medium consistency (not thick, or runny).  I didn't get much of a lather but that might be due to the loofah/scrubby that I was using.  It rinsed really well too.  My skin feels really incredible and there isn't a strong scent left behind like some scented products.  The best part is that I feel really clean and not dry but not stripped of normal body oils or weighted down with heavy moisturizers.  I'm wondering how the people I know with eczema would do with this.  I'm definitely going to be buying this one.  

Whish Deoderant Wipes with Hair Inhibitor (30 wipes, $22) I'm really bad, I haven't tried this one yet either but for a couple of different reasons. I'm really thrilled about the hair inhibitor part, and I should really and truly probably be using more hair inhibitors. But I received one wipe. ONE. I'm not sure how I feel about deodorant wipes, I'm willing to give it a try tonight after work or maybe I'll wait until my next hot yoga class and give it a try before I go (I like to give this a hard test). But I have to say, with something like a hair inhibitor, ONE wipe isn't really a great sample size. I'll know how it works as far as a wipe when I get around to trying it, but because I won't know how it is as an inhibitor (which, for me, is the big selling point here) then I'm not really interested in the product and therefor not really interested in using the sample. I like to try everything once and I will use it, but I'm more prone to using samples that thrill me. 

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick (.1 oz/$22)  I received the above color, Tesoro.  Super bright.  It really wasn't my color but I gave it a try anyway.  Stila is not playing with this stuff, let me tell you.  It goes on really smooth and like a lip gloss, but then seems to "dry" and give you rock solid color.  And I mean ROCK solid.  It felt nice, and even after "setting" it still felt ok, but looked matte...I prefer a wet look.  But the staying power was incredible.  Just to give you a little insight to what I put this lipstick through: applied at 10 p.m.; ate juicy steak fajitas at 10:30-10:45, noticed lipstick was rubbing off on tortilla a little bit; ate ice cream for dessert sometime between fajitas and midnight; completely forgot I was wearing lipstick and went to bed (yes, I don't wash my face at night and I was so tired I didn't bother to brush my teeth.  Ick.  I know.  But I was THAT tired).  I woke up the next morning (7:15 a.m.), lipstick completely forgotten, and experienced a moment of alarm when I caught my super red lips out of the corner of my eye only to remember I was wearing this lipstick.  It was still vibrant and in-place with the exception of the "traffic areas" aka the very inside of my lips.  And the best part?  NO lipstick on the bed sheets!  If this was available in a color I could wear, I would have bought some.  Definitely worth it if you can use the colors available. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Today, I tried Sushi

Now I've tried Sushi before, I guess.  Does trying Sushi at the All-You-Can-Eat Super Buffet really count though?  I know it it silly, but I have this hang up about ethnic food (is that the PC term?  I'm afraid I fail when it comes to being up to date on the PC terms).  I would like to believe that the best, most authentic ethnic foods are prepared by the people of that ethnicity, and it is probably better in the country it originated from.  That isn't totally off the mark, is it?  But living in Smalltown, Wisconsin can pose some challenges in that department so we have to make due with what we have available until we win the lottery or find another way to travel more.  Luckily, we have a local food chain that has embraced Sushi and provided today's grub, albeit very Western style. 

One of my favorite co-workers is considerably more traveled than I am, one of the few perks of joining the Army I suppose.  His wife is Korean, and while in Korea he's had the pleasure of eating such delights as Fugu and Fresh Squid (like, still squirming when it is served to you and be sure to chew really well so you don't choke on the suckers and die kind of Fresh Squid).  He is definitely a Foodie, though I don't think he would call himself one.  He seems amused by my goal to try everything once and through him I've gotten to try things like Rice Punch, and smoked duck. He is also an incredible smoker and from time to time brings in all kinds of meaty goodies for the office to try.  Today, I told him I wanted to try Sushi.  The only thing I asked was that he please remember that I hate condiments (You never know...there could be mayo in there somewhere), and please find something with avocado because I was craving it.  This is what he brought back for us:

These were called Summer Rolls.  Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber and carrots wrapped in lettuce and Tapioca wraps.  There was some kind of sauce inside as well.

This was a Chef Sampler platter.  Some with Tuna, tuna and shrimp, artificial crab and they all had avocado.

This one was labeled as a Dragon Roll.  Tempura shrimp with some kind of stick sauce, wrapped in rice and seaweed, rolled in rice and covered in this delicious sauce. 

Overall, it was incredibly delicious.  I loved it.  I wasn't crazy about the Summer Rolls...there was a sauce inside that I wasn't crazy about and I now know that I do not like Wasabi.  I couldn't say which one was my favorite, but they were all very delicious.  I'm thrilled.  So thrilled I want to buy more on the way home.  Hopefully the restaurant we wanted to order from will have re-opened before the next time we want to order and I'll get to try something with Roe or Squid.  

Kill them with Kindness, and by Kindness I mean REAL Butter.

We've all been in the position at one point or another where we're forced to deal with difficult people whether it be unfriendly coworkers, intolerable in-laws, rude customers, or an overbearing supervisor. Sometimes, things can just feel rough because you're a stranger without many opportunities to connect because in my experience, the greatest myth about working in Cubicleville is that there is a water cooler people socialize around.   Gosh, don't you just want to sing The Doors right now?  People are strange, when you're a stranger/Faces look ugly, when you're alone....

I know I've dealt with my share of difficult people.  It's hard to believe, but I haven't always worked in a place where I felt liked, respected, and valued by my coworkers.  I've actually been in the position of having to pep-talk myself the entire way in to work because while things were so terrible and I should have left, I desperately needed the job and the benefits.  It wasn't that I disliked the job; the actual job was great and the customers were always wonderful too it was the atmosphere that was created by a few negative individuals that really made things hard for everyone there.  And it could really feel like hell sometimes. 

I've learned that try as I might to be nice, open-minded and friendly, sometimes in life there are people who are just going to be rotten to you.  And if there is anything I've learned, it is that when dealing with difficult people, kill them with kindness.  And by Kindness, I mean REAL butter.   I know cooking for mean people seems like the last thing you want to do.  But there is something about beating eggs by hand that really just kind of calms me down and makes the world a happier place.  And, if they don't warm up to me after eating my baked goods, they eventually be fatter than I am. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The older I get, the more I need my Dad

I can’t explain to you what it is like to lose a parent unexpectedly at 14.  I don’t imagine it is any easier when you’re older, but looking back I can’t help but be envious of people who just had a little bit more time that I wasn't allowed.  I can only imagine people who were given even less time than that feels the same way about me and the time I was given.  

When I was a teenager and I would talk about it with people, I could express my sorrow about all of the things I wouldn't have my father around for.  After he died, I quit singing in the choir at school because when I was up there and looking at the crowd his proud, beaming face wasn't out there and it crushed me every time I had to go up there and sing for the remainder of the semester.  I knew at 14 that life would be forever missing a piece; that he wouldn't be there for all of those things silly little girls deem to be the most important events of their lives like graduation, or their wedding day.  Of course I have a mental list of all of life’s big events that he would be missing, not just in my life but in the life of my sister and brother.  I know my nephew would never know the joys of having a Grandpa like the kind my father would have been.

What I didn't anticipate were the little things I’d need my Dad for.  Those moments in everyday life that don’t count as “Events” where you need the guidance, direction, or intervention of your parent.  I realize now that that I wanted my father for that first heartbreak and every single one after, those moments when I've been at a crossroads needing direction, times when I needed someone who loves me no matter what because life is a hot mess and in all of it I feel like I've forgotten who I am, or when I've been less than the person I know I am or ought to be.  Not to say that my mother doesn't do her share of those things, but I know that there are times and situations she wishes my Dad were here for too.

Truth be told, I don’t really think anyone really knows their parents as a person until later in life.  That might be the worst part for me.  I can’t sit down and think “What would my Dad do?” and have any kind of an idea.  When you’re growing up, you love your parents unconditionally.  They are your providers, your teachers, and your protectors.  As a teenager, you think you know everything and your parents are the enemy that doesn't understand.  As an adult, you realize (if you were blessed with good people as parents) they are your greatest resource.  In any given situation, I have no idea what he would have said or done.  I still have memories of him, but truth be told I don't feel I ever really knew him as a person, and I think I'm losing what things I did know about him as my parent as time passes.

I’m not so delusional that I think my Dad would have had the right answer and fixed it all for me.  No one can magically fix anything.  But I know there are situations I've been in since his death that I know he would have stepped in and it would have been done and over with a lot faster, and there are things that might not have ever happened.  I don’t think he would have always had the best or the right advice, but he would have stepped in where he needed to and he might have even said something along the way that would have helped. 

Sometimes I look for a sign or an answer to the questions I have.  I've gone out to the cemetery, gotten down on my knees and poured out my troubles and asked for help.  Whether or not I receive that help is debatable.  Things tend to resolve themselves, whether it is the nature of things to come around or some kind of other intervention I don't know.  

Every year on my Father's birthday, and the anniversary of his death, I try to post something thoughtful about him.  I try to share a story about his ridiculous dancing or the fact that he didn't seem to realize that all cartoons aren't made for children.  I tell people that my dad wasn't entirely opposed to rap and I can remember his laughter at hearing Eminem's "My name Is" for the first time.  The one thing I try to tell people every year is the one thing I know and have when I think about my dad: my dad loved his children more than anything and was proud of us for every single thing we ever did. My dad saved every single certificate of participation in from our sports teams and events, the cheap ribbons we won running track, the team photos, and the "Graduation" certifications...and he framed them.  I still have all of mine, still in the frames, in the storage room in my apartment.  When I see them, I cry because he was so proud when we got them and they seemed, and still seem, so trivial to me even now. I have no idea what he would tell me to do in any situation, what lessons he would give me about life or what direction he would guide me in when I need it.  I've found myself needing to make decisions lately and I miss him because I would know that he would have something to give me, some small piece of wisdom, and I am heartsick every time I wish he were here to help me.  But the small consolation I have is that I know he would have been proud of me.  

And I will leave you with this advice I learned from my experience and from my Father and the man he was: Hug your children.  Treat all of their events, achievements and small things like big things, because when you are small the small things seem a lot bigger.  Try to find a way to leave your children with a piece of you whether it be some wisdom, some kind of thought, some small special trinket...I wish I could find something with my Father's handwriting on it.  Take lots of pictures.  Take video if you can.  Sing to them before bedtime.  Tell them silly stories from your childhood.  Share the music that you love with them because when you are gone, it will comfort them. If you can't leave your children with some wisdom about life, some guidance or some kind of cure-all magic spell, at least leave them with the knowledge that you are proud of everything they've done and will do and that you loved them. 

This was my Father's favorite Fleetwood Mac song, and it is the version I grew up with and love.