Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Saturday, August 8, 2015

What to Cook? What to Cook?

This summer found me being a bit lazy, especially because I was on vacation for three weeks and my youngest was away for three weeks. So imagine six weeks of not cooking when the little one asks, "What's for dinner?"

James's favorite dinner is spaghetti. I usually keep ground beef, pasta and sauce on hand as a go-to because I know it is something he will he eat.

The other day Cait and I went to Sam's Club and bought a big box of spaghetti and a four pound package of ground beef, but I didn't bring home any sauce. My go to is Hunt's Traditional spaghetti sauce. It's inexpensive. It can be used for pasta, lasagna, meatball subs and many other things. However, when James said, "Spaghetti," my mind did a mental inventory and realized I had none. So what's a mom to do? Improvise.

I have never made spaghetti sauce from scratch but could imagine what would go in it. Here's what I came up with.

I found two small cans of tomato sauce (a staple in a Puerto Rican household), an onion, garlic, a random jar of roasted red peppers and regular seasonings. I asked Cait if she had remembered to divide the ground beef into one pound packages, but she didn't so we had to deal with a four pound frozen lump of beef. Somehow she managed to break the block into four even sections that she placed in freezer bags and placed back in the freezer. The pound that we needed was still frozen solid and it was suppertime, so we put it in the five quart pot with a quarter cup of water, turned the pot on medium and covered it. It wasn't long before the meat was cooked and Cait broke it up into large crumbles.

Normally, I would sauté the onions and garlic first and then add thawed ground beef and seasonings. So if you have thawed meat, try it that way. It will give the meat more flavor.

After the beef was browned, I put in the rest of the ingredients but found it was a bit acidic so I added a tablespoon of sugar. Caitlin tasted it and liked it so I decided it was good to go.

Cait cooked the spaghetti noodles to al dente, drained the noodles and put it back in the pasta pot. I scooped some sauce on the noodles and mixed it together. James ate it that way, and I served Cait and me with some more sauce on top.

For having never made my own sauce, I am pretty darned impressed as was James. I may be done using store bought sauce. Try it out and let me know what you think.

2 TBS Olive Oil
1/2 Sweet onion diced
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 TBS of dried oregano (crushed)*
1 tsp pepper
1 roasted red pepper chopped finely**
8 oz tomato sauce
1 TBS sugar

*The oregano I used was Mexican oregano because that's what I had.
** I had a jar of roasted red peppers in the pantry so I used one whole pepper from the jar.

Heat a 5 quart pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté diced onion until almost clear. Add garlic and continue to sauté. Brown ground beef in the same pot until juices run clear. Add salt, pepper and crushed oregano while browning.

Once the meat is cooked throughly, stir in the chopped roasted red pepper, tomato sauce and sugar.

Simmer while you cook the pasta of your choice.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and serve.

Serves 6

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Meaningful Lunch

My mom doesn't live too far away but we only see each other three to four times a month. Sometimes I drive to her, sometimes we meet at the movies and many times she drives to where I live to eat at the local diner. Today was one of those days.

Lunch at the diner is nothing special. We usually see the same wait staff and eat the same food. Today, however, I got a big surprise.

My mom and I were looking over the pictures from my vacation when one of the servers complimented me on my sneakers. I looked at her and saw a flash in the eyes that made me ask her what her name was. When she told me, I couldn't believe it. She was a student from fourteen years ago. I told her, "I was your teacher!!!" She shouted, "Mrs. Victory!!!" and hugged my tightly.
Aren't they cute?

We then started talking about her and how she'd been. She was proud to tell me that she was married and had a child. She remembered being a difficult student. (She was.) She was one of those hard case kids whom everyone shook their heads about when they saw her coming down the hall. She was loud and disrespectful, and I felt I wasn't reaching her. But the kicker came when she told me, "But I learned from you. I learned that actions have consequences." It really touched my heart because it is the one thing I talk to my students about ALL THE TIME. 

I asked her about her plans. She told me about attending college and studying criminal justice. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! 

As we left the diner, she called out to me again. She hugged me again and then let me know something sad. Two of her classmates had passed - one due to drugs and the other because of gun violence. My heart was crushed.

It made me realize, you can't reach every kid. You can make yourself crazy trying to. But you try your best. Hold your students to high expectations. They may not all hear you, but the ones who do just might surprise you. 

SIDE NOTE: I referred to this young lady as "she" a lot. My mother always told me not to use "she" because of something the nuns used to say, but I didn't feel right using her name and using a made up name didn't seem to fit either.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Year Later

I would like to thank everyone who helped me through this past year. A year ago today I lost my other half. It was one of the most heart crushing losses I have ever experienced. Bobby brought me so much joy, happiness and support during our time together. He was loving, patient and kind even when I was difficult. I am thankful for the time we had together. It taught me that there are people out there like my dad who are willing to do anything for you without asking anything in return.
 Christmas 2012

 Alpine, TX 2013

White Sands Missile Range 2014

So today I thank some of those people. Renee thank you for dropping everything and picking me up off the floor that first day - oh, and for folding laundry with me. Erica and Junior thank you for letting this blubbering mess stay with you, teaching me how to shoot at things and going with me to the cemetery. Janet and Brian thank you for opening your home to me when the stress got too much. It was just what I needed. Thomas you were a rock to your sister, mother and me, and I hope you have remembered that you need taking care of as well. I have enjoyed sharing Audiobooks with you. Judy thank you for accepting me as your daughter and sharing all of your family photos. Lauren, I consider you like another daughter. You are smart, talented and funny and strong. You can do anything you set your mind to do. Don't forget that. Mom, there are no words to describe all you have done. Just know I don't take it for granted. My children Caitlin and James, I love you. Bobby loved spending time with you. You give me the strength to get up everyday. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Pamela K. You provided me with the resources I needed to manage my grief. I found a new friend in you.

Others who let me open up include Michelle, who showed me the value of aromatherapy; Jamie and Rebecca, although sometimes the loss you experienced somehow seems far more significant than mine at times, you opened your hearts to me. My running crew who pushed me and gave another reason to get out of bed every Saturday morning. The stamina you helped me build provided me with the physical strength I needed to pull myself through this year. Finally, my coworkers who had no clue what they were signing up for when I joined their team. Thank you for a successful year.

When I talk to my friend Miruspeg, the conversation often turns to a book by Ruby Payne called the Framework for Understanding Poverty. According to this book, there are several resources for success beyond financial security. They include:

  •  Emotional­ - the person can choose and control emotional responses, especially to negative situations, without engaging in self destructive behavior
  •  Mental­ - having the mental ability and acquired skills (reading, writing, and computing) to deal with daily life. 
  •  Spiritual­ - believing in divine purpose and guidance. 
  •  Physical­ - having physical health and mobility
  •  Support Systems­ - Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in times of need 
  •  Relationships/ Role Models­ Having frequent access to adults who are appropriate, nurturing, and who do not engage in self destructive behavior. 
  •  Knowledge of Hidden Rules­ knowing unspoken cues and habits of a group

When I evaluate my life according to these standards, I find I am truly rich. Thanks again to everyone who has acted as my support system this past year. You truly made a difference.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Road Trip Anyone?

As a teacher, I am very much looking forward to summer break. The kids and I have lots of plans. What are your plans for this summer? Are you planning a road trip? Will your kiddos be going along? Do you dread hearing, "I'm bored"?

I have an idea for you.

My good friend Mimi has put together the most amazing Travel Activity Binder you could ever imagine. AND it's only $2.99. Can you believe it?

I don't want to give too much away, but it is jammed packed with over 30 pages of fun. I know my kids will enjoy them (even the teenager), and I am excited to see how much unplugged time we can get this summer.

Want to check it out? Hey, it's only $2.99 and well worth it. Just click on the image below.

Mimi calls herself a self-proclaimed "creator-holic." Her wholesome recipes make me want to get back to basics. I also wish we lived just a bit closer so I could drop in for dinner. So while you are at her site, go through her recipe and craft ideas, too. You will be glad you did. 

Disclosure: I did receive this product for free to review.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Not Last

That's right. I ran/walked  a 5K race today, and I was not last. In fact, I was seventh.

When I signed up for the race, I knew it would be cold, but I didn't expect the icy day that ended up happening. Neither did the race coordinators. As the race date approached, I was watching the weather. It was going to be the coldest day of the month. In preparation, I bought cold weather running gear and kept watching the weather. 

People asked on the race's Facebook page about possible cancellations/postponements, but organizers insisted that the only reason they would cancel would be because of lightning. So I prepared myself for the worst and was definitely going to be bundled. (Two dri-fit shirts, an undershirt, dri-fit sports bra, two pair of leggings, two pair of socks, neoprene gloves, ear get the picture.)

Late Friday night, after I had pulled all the tags off of the gear, I found out the race that WOULD NOT be EVER postponed, was postponed. The organizers were worried about people driving on bad road conditions. Instead, they moved the race to Sunday afternoon.
When I left for the race, I realized that it was actually perfect running weather. Not a lick of heat and no wind either. I wore both shirts knowing that I would have to take off the top layer.

At the rest, I was greeted by several church and work friends. It was a comfort knowing I wasn't running alone. Half way through the race, sure enough, the top shirt had to come off, but I din't want to stop so I did it as I ran. I had to take off an arm band that held my phone, pull the shirt off which had my bib number and tie it around my waist with the number showing on my backside. I had to reattach my armband. So I think if I hadn't had to strip, I would have been a skosh faster. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I will continue running throughout January. The next race is the end of February. I am looking FORWARD to it.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Now that 2015 is here, I find myself reflecting on 2014 and trying to choose a word to direct my life. A lot as happened this year and I want to move on. Since July my main goal was to accept the hand I was dealt. This year I would like to move FORWARD. I know that's what my love would have wanted for me.

So as this year ends I will share with you how I worked through the pain and heartache of Bobby's loss. I kept a daily art journal where I wrote to him and shared with him the things I would have told him on the ride to work and in our evening talks. Here are a few of the last pages I made to help me through.

In the future I hope to use this blog to help me continue in a FORWARD direction. I would like to do that through storytelling, especially stories about my children and the crazy and wonderful things they do everyday. I remember how much joy that brought me during previous trials and I believe that writing will help me again. I also look FORWARD to creating more. I am not sure what form these creations will take, but there will be art journaling and crafts and furniture and many more things. Finally, I will press FORWARD in improving my physical health while running and cooking more for my children. I have Pinterest boards full of things I have been wanting to try. 2015 will be the year I cook more.

So in true Annemarie fashion, this blog will go back to the cornucopia of goodies that span all interests. I may even bring back the music.

Happy New Year. What will you be focusing on this year?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Let's Try This Again

I am not sure how many posts I have started that try to give an example of the craziness known as the thoughts that run through my mind. Let's try again, today.

This morning, I got up early like I usually do to meet my friends for my Saturday morning run. It was still dark out and no one in their right mind is up at this time on Saturdays. I have a new neighbor, and I noticed that the lights are on in their kitchen. However, I don't think anyone has moved in officially. I have seen the owner and her parents working on the yard and such, but no boxes have moved in yet. So I started thinking about all the things that probably needed to be done on her house, and that got me thinking about the things that need to be done on my house.

This led me to think about the honey-do list Bobby had before he passed away. Suddenly I was picturing the hole in the fence and felt sad that he will not be here to fix it. As I was winding my way to meet my friends, I found myself crying. What is wrong with me? How did seeing my neighbor's kitchen lights lead me all the way to mourning the loss of my future life with Bobby?

This happens all the time. I see the homeless man lying under the bridge (whom I have never given too much thought to except to be impressed with the wagon he pulls with his bicycle) and suddenly I am thinking: "Is he okay?" "What if he died?" "Who would know?" "Does he have family?" "OMG - How long was Bobby sitting in that park after he died?" "What if I hadn't called his brother to look for him?" "Would he still have died if I had made him come home that weekend instead of insisting that he stay at home with his kids?" I'm now driving down the highway crying about a homeless man I don't know.

Am I crazy? Do other people's brains work like mine? How do I stop this out of control spiral?

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