Category Archives: things I’m sad about

Sadness in Berenstain Bear land

I read today (with much sadness) that Jan Berenstain, co-creator of The Berenstain Bears, died late last week at the age of 88.

Oh, the memories I have of reading through the books she created alongside her husband Stan.

The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit. The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race. The Berenstain Bears Go to School. The Berenstain Bears and the Truth. Forget Their Manners. Learn about Strangers. Get the Gimmies. No Girls Allowed. And the Messy Room. And on and on and on. We had one bazillion copies of the books lying around our house. My brothers and I spent hours reading and re-reading them. What fun adventures those bears went on!

While my LO isn’t old enough to read, yet, she’s old enough to listen, and I look forward to sharing The Berenstain Bears collection with her.

Thanks for the memories, Jan!

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Would you die for your faith?

Such a big question.

The mainstream media has only recently shared the story of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor, who was arrested in October 2009, after he protested a government policy that required children to study the Qur’an in school.

Pastor Nadarkhani has two young sons.

Despite the Iranian constitution permitting freedom of religious practice, secret police called Nadarkhani before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy—he left Islam to follow Christ—and evangelism of Muslims. Nadarkhani was tried and sentenced to death for apostasy on November 13, 2010.

Nadarkhani’s case was reviewed in July 2011 to determine if he was previously a practicing Muslim. The court ruled that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before becoming a Christian but that he remains guilty because of his Muslim ancestry.

There are reports that execution orders for Pastor Nadarkhani may have been issued.

All because he refuses to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.

I’m reminded of the following scriptures:

“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God (Luke 12:8-9 NKJV).”

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:26 NKJV).”

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1 Peter 4:16 NKJV).”

We, on this side of the globe, live in free countries and have the ability to freely choose our beliefs. Which leads me to wonder how many would die for theirs?

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The case of the streaky, white-coated dishes

Dirty dishes go in. Dirty dishes come out. Wait. What?

For about a month now, Husband and I have been pondering why our dishes were coming out of the dishwasher with a white finish. They looked somewhat clean. But they were also white-coated. White-coated and streaked.

“Is the dishwasher on the fritz?” Husband asked. No. “Are we using new detergent?” No. “Are we using too much detergent?” No.

It was a real mystery. Until today. When the National Post gave us our answer.


Phosphates, or rather the lack thereof, have been turning everything white.

It turns out the Canadian government brought in new regulations last July, effectively banning phosphorous in most household dishwashing and laundry detergents, reports the National Post. The new rules prohibit the manufacture and import of these products containing phosphorus beyond 0.5 percent by weight.

That’s wonderful and all, but a heads up would’ve been grand. Why no mention of the regulation?

“It’s probably because a satisfactory replacement hasn’t yet been found,” said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada, in the National Post article. “This is often the case with industry when things happen that aren’t necessarily to their advantage.”

The government supposedly passed the regulation to rein in phosphorous dumps, which have become a major problem for Canada’s waterways. While phosphorous softens water, reduces spotting and rusting, holds dirt and increases performance, it also acts as a plant fertilizer, creating an algae boon in waterways. The algae die, sink to the bottom and get eaten by bacteria. The bacteria use up all the oxygen and kill the fish. Also, the chemical causes massive green blob-like growths which can raise pH levels in water to toxic levels and block water intake pipes.

Not the prettiest of pictures.

Detergent makers have been trying for decades to come up with a suitable alternative to phosphorus with varying degrees of success, said the National Post. Tests conducted by Consumer Reports magazine in 2009 found that most phosphate-free detergents, including Great Value, sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Kirkland Signature, sold by Costco Wholesale Corp., “left our test dishes somewhat dirty.”

“Detergents without phosphates—which help clean but also boost algae growth in freshwater, threatening fish and other plants—tended to perform worst overall,” the magazine said.

Lewis Molot, an environmental scientist at York University, told the National Post that dirty dishes are a small price to pay for preventing the spread of phosphorous.

“Either the public pays huge amounts of money to remove the phosphorus at the end of the pipe, or it can choose the cheaper alternative to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into our sewers in the first place,” he said. “If I have to pay a little more for a greener detergent, even if it means it doesn’t clean the way it used to, I’ll put up with it.”

I don’t know. I kinda prefer my clean dishes.

You can read the full National Post article here.

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The thing about hats

Poor Warren. I bet he had a hard time finding hats, too.

Here’s the thing. I cannot wear hats. Can. Not. I have been genetically annoyed blessed with one large melon, and this melon has no interest in sporting a hat. In fact, the act of trying to find a hat that would maybe even think about fitting could be classified as a sporting competition. One that I’ve won once.

One time, four years ago, I found an adorable, knitted, winter newsboy cap that fit beautifully. I was elated. But, I cannot count that find, because it is most decidedly not the norm.

Anyway, my lack of hat finding is not for a lack of trying. I’ve always liked the look of baseball caps and newsboy caps and straw hats and cowboy hats and other trendy head attire. Lots of women pull off the look every day—with ponytails pulled through or slung low, or curls creeping out. What female hasn’t cured a bad hair day by simply smoothing her hair under a hat?

Me. That’s who.

I’ve tried all sorts of hats, in all sorts of styles and sizes. I’ve sifted through scores of stores and racks and displays. Yet, I’ve never found a hat—aside from that adorable, knitted, winter, newsboy cap four years ago—that doesn’t look as though (a) I’ve stuffed my head into it or (b) it’s about to pop off my head. That is, if I manage to pull it on at all.

I’ve been resigned for a while now to the fact that hats will never be a staple in my wardrobe. However, I’ve not entirely given up on them, because, well, there was that adorable, knitted, winter newsboy cap four years ago.

Realistically, however, the statistics are not in my favour. The circumference of my head? 24.5 inches or 62.23 not-so-small centimetres. The average circumference of a woman’s one-size-fits-all-because-that’s-the-only-size-hats-come-in hat? 21 inches or 53.34 non-stretchy centimetres. Bummer, right?

On paper, it appears that I could wear a man’s baseball cap, as they are generally manufactured to fit heads with circumferences between 21 5/8 inches (54.9 cm) and 25 inches (63.5 cm). But, that sizing assumes the height of my head is average. False assumption. While my head’s diameter is wide, my head’s height is tall. Taaaall.

Which means baseball caps “large enough” to fit my head look like wee little beanie caps on me.


A few weeks back, I was helping my in-laws with some yard work, and my father-in-law offered me a ball cap so that I wouldn’t burn my scalp while cutting the grass. I declined, knowing full well that it wouldn’t fit so well. He was determined. I acquiesced and perched the cap on my head. It came to a halt a solid two inches (5.08 cm) and then some above the tops of my ears.

To which my mother-in-law said, “Well, at least you have a visor to help protect your forehead.”

Translation: At least no one from the general public will be able to see you.

Ah, well. Such is life. I’ve grown accustomed to my large noggin. And my inability to outfit it with hats other than that adorable, knitted, winter, newsboy cap from four years ago.

Today, my friend Brianna shared with me an article about a study recently published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It revealed that a larger head size may protect against symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

I can live with that. And without hats. But, I won’t stop looking. Because, I never know when I’ll cross paths with another adorable, knitted, winter, newsboy cap like that one from four years ago.

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What to say when friends lose loved ones

I hope Jesus is up for sharing a banana split.

When you’re young, your parents and your friends’ parents seem immortal. This is because they are your parents, and they give you piggy back rides and make you egg sandwiches and pack tasty juice boxes in your lunches and buy cool toys for your birthdays and chauffeur you to practices and never run out of band-aids for your skinned kneecaps. Surely, they will live forever.

When you’re a teenager, those same individuals seem a little less immortal because you’re quick to zero in on their shortcomings (because you don’t have any) and lack of knowledge (because you know it all), because you’re a teenager, and you know everything and you’re always right. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your friends’ parents though, because your friends’ parents are cool and hip and do everything right.

When you reach your 20s and begin doing “parent-like things,” such as getting married, raising families, working 40-plus hours/week and taking on home ownership/mortgages, etc., all those individuals begin to look much less immortal, because, well, they are not immortal. Raising you was really, really hard work. Also, you realize now that your friends gave their parents a few grey hairs, too.

Inevitably, our formerly envisioned immortals lose their youthfulness, and their spryness begins to fade. They ever so slowly transition into that word previously reserved only for grandparents, great-grandparents and next-door neighbours: elderly. An adjective no youngster, teenager or adult ever really imagines their parents to be.

It’s a heartbreaking thing, this thing we call life. Because we all know that life and being elderly only lasts so long.

I have been fortunate to experience only a few family members’ deaths and those who passed on lived long, long lives. Their leaving us was not entirely unexpected. What has been unexpected is the number of friends around me who have lost and are losing loved ones well before their time. Well before entering the elderly stage even.

“What’s the right time?” you ask. I surely don’t know. When is anyone’s right time? Death never comes at a good time, even if you’re prepared for it. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t be called death. It would be called “going for ice cream.” Because, you always look forward to ice cream.

And, when you try and think about all the things you can say to comfort someone who has lost a parent, words fall short. Very short. Because you can’t fully understand unless you’ve lost someone. And, even if you have lost someone, everyone responds differently to loss.

Which can leave you at a loss for words beyond “I’m sorry” and “He was a wonderful person.” Perhaps, though, those are the words needed most. And, just knowing that someone is thinking about you and your family and caring for you and praying for you. And, most importantly, remembering your loved one.

So, tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with the Buck family, following the loss of their father, David. He truly was a great man and a wonderful person.

I hope he’s having some ice cream.

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What’s in a middle initial?

Its no wonder parents struggle to choose unique names. No one wants to share a name with someone.

I was in high school when I realized that I shared my name with another woman.

I was picking up dry-cleaning and looking at pants that appeared to have shrunk. I wasn’t sure they would fall past my calves, if I managed to pull them on at all. Noticing my hesitation, the store owner went back to the rack and selected another bag. Same name, very different stature.

There was another Jill Duling in the village. Two same-named individuals living among 2,500 residents. Small world. Eternally grateful that my pants hadn’t been miniaturized, I didn’t give my shared identity a second thought.

Until the first week of gainful employment at my first professional job. I received a congratulatory phone call from someone who, in the course of conversation, asked me how my boys were enjoying Cub Scouts. Not having small children, I told the caller that perhaps she was speaking with the wrong Jill Duling. She was embarrassed. To which I said, “Don’t be! There are two of us; it could happen to anyone.” Secretly, I thought, “It’s really my name though. The other Jill married into hers.”

However, I thought it wise to begin using my middle initial. One of my professors in college loved to tell the story of Ron Smith being indicted for an alleged assault, while Ron Smith helplessly read newspapers and watched news shows and was assumed to be the suspect Ron Smith. His point was that you can never spend too much time fact-checking a story, and just because two individuals share a legal name does not mean that one wants to be confused with the other and his/her actions.

You can see where I’m going with this.

The third time I thought about my shared name was when I received a phone call from a former employer notifying me that she had received a peculiar call from someone who needed to contact me immediately. That was all the more information the caller would give. Unsure of where this was going to go, I decided to return the call.

The number belonged to a collections officer at a collections agency. One that was looking for Jill Duling.

“Collections?” I thought in a panic. “But, I pay off all of my bills well before their due dates!” When read “my” home address, I stopped the gentleman.

“That’s not my address,” I said.

“You don’t live at XXXXX Rd. Y?” he re-asked.

“No, I don’t,” I said. “But, I’m not the only Jill Duling in town. Perhaps you’re looking for her.” The collections officer apologized profusely for taking up my time. No big deal, I said. It could happen to anyone. “Thank goodness I’m using my middle initial,” I thought to myself upon hanging up.

Thank goodness, indeed. Because, surely we wouldn’t share a middle initial, too, right?

About a month after that call, I was reading through the public docket in the local newspaper. Guess whose name appeared under Foreclosed Properties” That’s right. “Mine.” Jill A. Duling. Printed for all to see.

“We share a middle initial, too!” I exclaimed in disbelief. What is this world coming to? And, why had I not considered this possibility before? Two Jill Dulings? Fine. Two Jill A. Dulings? Come on! While I felt badly for her situation, I took some solace in seeing her husband’s name printed alongside hers. But, I knew people who knew of me but didn’t know me well could assume I was her or she was me.

And that’s when I began to think this whole shared-identity thing could potentially be very annoying. It’s bad enough that identity theft is rampant in today’s world, but to be concerned simply because you share a name with someone? And, to know that a future employer (or anyone for that matter) can conduct an Internet search and see both names with the same hometown and come to an incorrect conclusion?


Earlier this week, my mom e-mailed to tell me that she’d again read “my” name in the public records of the local newspaper. This time for a judgment owed. She was pretty certain I wasn’t the person being described, but she wanted to let me know that my name was in print. Or, not my name, but, well, it is my name.


I contacted the county’s Clerk of Courts office to see if public records could be changed to indicate a full middle name versus a middle initial. Surely, her middle name cannot be Ann, too, right?

“Oh, there are several lawsuits filed against that name by different attorneys’ offices, and you would need to contact each one, I think,” said the assistant. “But, I don’t really know. What an inconvenience for you!” Yeah, thanks. The newspaper reporter who filed the information wasn’t much more helpful.

“The court dockets only list middle initials in their records,” he said. “I know this is an unfortunate burden for people with the same name, but to make this change we would have to get the court system to change the way they list things.”

Get the court system to change the way they do things? How about I just poke my eyeballs out now and call it a day?

So much for hoping my middle initial distinguishes me from the next Jill Duling. Mom thinks I should simply start going by Jill Ann. My friends think I should take my husband’s name. At this point, I’m uncertain which would be more painful: being accidentally mistaken for someone I’d rather not be mistaken for OR resubmit every last scrap of paper with my name on it to several different American and Canadian government organizations and wait for re-issuance.

It’s going to be a tough decision.

In the meantime, if someone asks, I’m NOT the Jill A. Duling in the daily docket or public records of your local newspaper.

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The case of the missing trampoline

This is the kind of fun you can have when your trampoline does NOT disappear.

Some of you have already heard me share about the trampoline my brothers and I had as children. And, I really don’t know what made me think of it other than, perhaps, a glance out the window and notice of a breeze.

Because, one day, long ago, a similar breeze blew away our trampoline. “True” story.

So, I thought I’d share the story again here, but with a twist, because, well, I’m practicing my fiction-writing skills. That means I changed people’s names. Because, let’s be real. You can’t really make up a story like this.

The Case of the Missing Trampoline
By Jill A. Duling

Every child wants a trampoline. Not a sissy 3-foot-in-diameter-I-can-jump-up-and-down-on-you-during-aerobics-class trampoline, but a 12-14-or-16-foot-in-diameter-I-will-catapult-you-into-the-atmosphere trampoline. The Smythe children were no exception.

From the first time they saw the giant trampolines in other people’s backyards, the Smythe children wanted one. Ronnie wanted to jump high like a kangaroo. Rob wanted to throw back flips like a gymnast. Remy wanted to soar like an eagle. Rusty wanted to not get bounced off.

The Smythe children did their best to talk Papa Smythe into purchasing a trampoline for their backyard, making special note to point out trampolines whenever they saw them. Along the road. In the store. In advertisements. In crayon drawings. With accompanying reasons as to why owning a trampoline would benefit the family, of course.

“We have a huge backyard, Papa,” said Ronnie.
“We’ll use it all the time, Papa,” said Rob.
“Think of all the extra interaction your children will have with one another, Papa,” said Remy.
“I like to bounce, Papa,” said Rusty.

Leave it to Rusty to come up with the best reason.

Papa Smythe eventually bought the Smythe children a 12-foot trampoline from Sam’s Club, after consuming a Four-Berry Parfait, which always put him in an excellent purchasing mood.

The Smythe children were ecstatic. They waited very patiently for the trampoline to be pieced together by Papa Smythe, Momma Smythe and Ronnie. After much stretching and pulling and yanking, the trampoline was assembled.

“But wait,” said Papa Smythe, as the Smythe children clamored to climb aboard. “We must anchor the trampoline.” And away Papa Smythe went to the tool shed, returning with a John Deere tractor weight, as heavy as himself, and twine. Tying the weight onto a leg of the trampoline, Papa Smythe declared the trampoline open for use.

“OK, you can use it now,” said Papa Smythe.

And, the Smythe children jumped on. Ronnie jumped high like a kangaroo. Rob threw back flips like a gymnast. Remy soared like an eagle. Rusty tried to not get bounced off.

Weeks and months went by and hours of endless entertainment (and exercise) were had by the Smythe children, as they jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped on the trampoline. Nary a day went by that they did not bounce up and down or add a new bruise to their repertoire. Ronnie practiced jumping high like a kangaroo. Rob practiced throwing back flips like a gymnast. Remy practiced soaring like an eagle. Rusty practiced not getting bounced off. The trampoline saw so much action that its legs had to be welded together. Twice.

One windy Sunday, the Smythe family went to church and returned home to a trampoline-less backyard.

“Where’s the trampoline?” asked Ronnie. The Smythe family looked to its left and to its right and up and down, but no trampoline was to be found.

“Who would steal our trampoline on a Sunday?” asked Momma Smythe.
“Who would steal a trampoline at all?” asked Ronnie.
“How do you steal a trampoline whose legs have been welded together and can’t be taken apart?” asked Papa Smythe.
“Maybe the wind it blew into the pond,” said Remy.
“Or across the road,” added Rusty.
“Maybe Fajita buried it,” said Rob, glancing at the family’s 8-pound terrier as she trotted by.

Likely story, Rob. Likely story.

It was a real mystery. The Smythe family’s 12-foot trampoline was no more. And, there was no trace as to where it might be. Somewhere, someone or some people were jumping up and down on a “new” trampoline. But, there would be no more bouncing for the Smythe children. And, so, they began to mourn.

“Hey, look!” said Papa Smythe, interrupting the mourning and pointing to the grass where the trampoline used to sit. A lone tractor weight lay forlornly with cut twine laced through it. “This is great! At least we still have our tractor weight.”

And, the Smythe family rejoiced. Actually, just Papa Smythe rejoiced. Because the children really missed the trampoline. But, a trampoline, while fun to bounce upon, can’t hold a weight to, uh, a John Deere tractor weight.

And, that is the still-unsolved case of the missing trampoline.

The end.

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A less-than-super Super Bowl

Looks like this year I get to be the guy in the middle. Because I won't know what everyone else is talking about.

While channel surfing last evening and pausing on an hour-long Top 10 Greatest Super Bowl Ads of All Time show and wondering what producers were showing during the other 45 minutes of the 60-minute show, Husband took the opportunity to spring this one on me:

“You won’t be able to see any of the American commercials during Sunday’s Super Bowl.”


In hindsight, I should’ve known. It’s an American sporting event. With American-focused commercials. Geared toward Americans. Why would I think for a second that the Canadian broadcasters would air the American-focused commercials?


Oh, that Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and their lame-o rules about the percentage of commercials that must be Canadian-focused.

Basically, says the CRTC’s Web site, Canadian stations buy the rights to air the Super Bowl in Canada, but they sell the commercial advertising slots to Canadian advertisers. Even the U.S. TV stations we get do not purchase the rights to broadcast the game—or the ads—to Canadians. So, the American signal carrying the game is usually substituted with a Canadian signal that contains Canadian ads.


Now, I’m “stuck” watching a football game with replaced ads. No cute E*Trade ads. No Budweiser ads. No silly Doritos ads. Only Tim Hortons ads.


To my family members who are Colts fans, I hope you enjoy the game AND the commercials. And enjoy the fact that you GET TO enjoy them. I’ll work to attempt to enjoy the former while lamenting the loss of the latter.


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For whom the Taco Bell tolls

You'll be missed, Mr. Taco Bell Founder.

Today is a sad, sad day for my family. And for my mom in particular. Glen Bell Jr., founder of Taco Bell, has died at age 86. You can read more about his death here.

Taco Bell has long been a gathering place for many a family outing. Lunches with Mom. Lunches with Mom and Justin. Lunches with Mom and Dad and Justin. Lunches with Mom and Dad and Justin and Joshua and Heather and Conner, who, ironically, hates Taco Bell, and Ethan who loves food in general. Dinners with Justin. Dinners with Mom and Dad. Dinners with Mom and Dad and Justin.

I suspect breakfasts would be had if such a meal was offered.

We’ve been going to Taco Bells for as long as I can remember. On snow days in grade school, our trusty Chevy Suburban always found its way to a TB. During shopping stints on Saturdays. After church services on Sundays. I’d like to include a disclaimer at this point that states those days weren’t all in the same week, but that would be untruthful. As would saying my parents were not on a first-name basis with many of the local franchises’ employees for that matter.

My family has eaten a TON of Taco Bell food in our lifetime. Soft tacos, crunchy tacos, burritos, nachos with cheese, Nacho Bellgrandes, Crunchwrap Supremes, Mexican Pizzas, so on and so forth. You name the menu item, someone has sampled it. And re-sampled it. Over and over and over again. You name the road trip or vacation we’ve taken, and you can bet there was a TB involved.

The fast-food restaurant was such an influence (and maybe such a novelty when it opened locally) that one of our family pooches was bestowed the name “Fajita.” Oh that Fajita. “Here, Fajita, Fajita, Fajita!!!” someone would yell, and from out of nowhere a wee rat terrier would streak across the barnyard. More like a flying enchilada, if you ask me.

R.I.P. Glen Bell Jr. And, thank you for helping my family to make memories. Even if we did consume a LOT of unhealthy calories in the process. Rest assured my mom and dad will have a taco in your honor. Or maybe a Nachos Supreme. Or a Crunchwrap.

In closing, two factoids:

Factoid #1: To date, Bell’s creation is the largest Mexican fast-food chain in the nation, serving more than 36.8 million consumers each week in more than 5,600 U.S. locations.

Factoid #2: Two of those said customers are my parents, one of whom typically makes more than one visit per week, skewing the statistics.

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An apology to my blog

Dear Blog,

I have neglected thee. I tossed thee aside and posted neither willy or nilly. I wrote naught. Accidentally, of course. About 100 million things came up. Things I could’ve informed you of but decided against because, well, which of my nine readers would really want to read about 100 million things?

Not one. Except my mother. To whom I gave the Cliff Notes version.

There were the trips to see family and Black Friday shopping. There was that scandalous incident with a pre-paid cell phone and those hassoles at Verizon Wireless. There was that 17-minute, dessert-in Thanksgiving dinner. And that time my brother’s mother asked her children to point out teachable moments to her. And awkward silence. There was the bathroom remodel. There was the bedroom remodel. There was that time when we didn’t think the flooring for the bedroom would EVER show itself. There was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Boxing Day and a screening of Avatar and a pile of illegal gifts. THEN, there was flooring. Followed by a bedroom re-remodel. And, possibly, a relapse into Facebook.

Oh, Blog! Who am I kidding? I never gave up Facebook.

But, there was that parking ticket, awarded in my own parking lot, which will soon be outstanding. And that vacation with my husband that turned into a staycation. Which was spent watching movies, laying floors, baking, writhing in back pain and mingling with friends and Toronto Raptors superstar Chris Bosh. Oh, Blog! I could’ve filled you up with my thoughts on socializing. I could’ve, but I didn’t. And then there was that entire month when I didn’t go to the gym, opting instead to do P90X workouts. Oh, Tony Horton. You’re a wild man!

All these things and not one did I blog about. Not about my new cookbooks, Crock Pot or food processor. Not about that time Scott visited and ate 13 Buckeye Candies in one sitting. Not about my new fitness mat. Not about anything other than my all-time, least-favorite Christmas song.

I’m happy to report I did NOT receive a hippopotamus for Christmas.

In sum, I am sorry. For leaving you high and dry when there was good stuff to be said. For making you think I gave up on you. For only five posts in all of December.

Please forgive me. I will do better.

Yours truly,