A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

Another day in Greensboro, NC although rain put a damper on what could have been a more pleasant day outdoors.  The temperature was noticeably cooler than it had been in previous days.  That didn’t stop us, however, from partaking in several college-sponsored events with our daughter and a few of her lively friends.  We had the opportunity to feast on some delicious freshly harvested produce directly from the college farm.  Being environmentally-friendly; even the utensils were biodegradable, made from plant starch as were the plates and napkins.  Sustainability is extremely high on the college’s list of priorities.  The homegrown bok choy, beans and salad greens were fresh, crisp and had just the right bite. Paired with tender grilled chicken breasts, the luncheon was thoroughly satisfying.

Next we ventured into the campus radio station where we got a glimpse of where our daughter is training for her 1-2 hour segment featuring primarily indie rock.  WQFS at 90.9 FM is a student-run radio station, recently rated the 11th best college radio station in the country by the Princeton Review.  It sounds like this will be a rewarding adventure and I’m looking forward to hearing our daughter live on the air in the near future. 

Strolling from the radio station to the residence hall, we passed one of my most favorite sculptures on campus unofficially labeled “Stickhenge” made by renowned local artist, Patrick Doughtery.  The structure is fashioned from saplings found in nearby neighborhoods.  The materials came from nature’s surplus and volunteers spent several weeks helping Patrick construct these stick silo-looking forms which are expected to break down over a period of one to three years.  This fascinating sculpture was so intriguing, I decided to check out Patrick’s website where I saw the extent of his environmentally-friendly and painstaking creativity.  He is extremely talented and his natural sculptures are simply amazing.  http://www.stickwork.net/ 

Since this was Homecoming/Parents Weekend, we couldn’t miss the pre-game tailgating cookout and the game.  We only stayed for the first half, but it was fun to watch a collegiate game, including the antics of the mascot.  All in all, with the exception of a 1-1/2 hour detour at AT&T to check out a problem with my cell phone, the day turned out to be better than expected.  We’re heading back home tomorrow with a couple of stops along the way.  I guess the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true because I truly miss having my daughter at home yet couldn’t be prouder of how she’s handling herself at college.  

Now that I know I have nothing to worry about, for the time being at least, I can return with a sense of relief and satisfaction.  I’m able to get back to my own work with peace of mind.  I have to say that visiting the campus encouraged me to consider attending graduate school.  But that’s a matter for another day! 

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” ~ John Wooden

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Frustration, Fun and Fulfillment

This morning, instead of being excited about the events planned for Homecoming Weekend with my daughter, I was reminded how badly I felt when I unintentionally let a friend down many years ago.  The situations were completely different; the emotions were almost identical.  I had been diligent about writing daily, expressing my thoughts on a myriad of subjects, eager to put pen to paper yet yesterday vanished without a single sentence.  I feel I let not only let myself down but disappointed those who are gracious enough to peruse my daily musings.  “Get over it, I’m not that important” I said to myself.  But you know what, if I don’t think I’m important, how can I expect anyone else to take notice? 

Luckily I was able to get a grip and get back to business.  I’ve read of the importance of writing daily and I can attest to that.  On any given day, no matter where I am, I have a jillion thoughts swirling around my head like a gyroscope.  It’s essential for me to put them down somewhere, paper, computer, anywhere, just be sure to note it for if not, I may regret not remembering the pertinent details of my thoughts.  And we all know where thoughts lead.  The imagination is a beautiful gift if nature, meant to be indulged.

The fact is that our long trip was emotionally tiring, I suppose from monotony.  Arriving at our hotel room at 3am, I was physically ready for bed but my mind was not.  After checking my emails, my eyes started to close and off to bed I went.  I woke in time to get dressed, grab a bite at the hotel breakfast bar and on to campus to finally see my daughter for the first time in a month.  We had a wonderful time, culminating with a nice dinner out with her and her roommate.  By the time I got back to the hotel last evening, I was emotionally tired but decided to check my emails before starting some serious writing.  Reading emails, checking FB, Twitter, and all the other media I’m subscribed to was like wading through quicksand.  I couldn’t even finish reading everything; I was so tired I just went to bed, waking frustrated. 

No pity pots for me. Today is another day.  It will be full of pleasant and exciting things.  We’ll visit our daughter, run some errands, maybe do a little shopping, watch a ball game and have a nice meal.  This evening, we’ll attend a Star Gazing activity planned at the Observatory.  I have my trusty pen and pad by my side as well as camera to capture all the noteworthy moments.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate.  Now that disillusionment with my own abilities has quieted, I can look forward to a wonderful day.  No more regrets or excuses.  I know what I have to do, what I want to do and what I need to do.  Andiamo!

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.”  ~ Jim Rohn

Homecoming Weekend in the South :D

We’re heading out to spend what I know will be a wonderful weekend visiting my daughter at college in North Carolina.  Funny how she sends me texts with subtle hints, trying not to show her enthusiasm for us coming down.  After all, she’s a young woman away at college for the first time, spreading her wings and is happy to be independent.  The  tone of her texts however, holds a tinge of trepidation.  “I’m great, love my classes and teachers, have tons of new friends, blah, blah, blah.”  Then comes the 11pm text:  “Can you glance at my paper and tell me if you like it?  It’s due tomorrow morning.”  I text back, “Sure, email it to me” knowing well that, although I really want to, I MUST NOT attempt to rewrite her paper!

My daughter is actually a very good writer and I’m a very poor critic.  She’s not in high school anymore and I have to learn, all over again, that she will do just fine WITHOUT my interference.  I brought her up properly and she’s proven to be the most trustworthy person I know.  I’m very blessed she turned out the way she did in spite of me 😀  So far, her grades are very good, she’s current on all assignments, gets to every class and is actually having fun without getting crazy.  Prayers work wonders!

Hopefully I’ll get to see her play Disc Golf, a game I’ve never heard of before.  Apparently it’s quite popular in North Carolina.  It’s sort of a technical frisbee game and the courses are specially designed.  There are Disc Golf tournaments and everything.  Who would have thought?

My daughter is also DJing at the college radio station.  I’ll get to hear how she entertains the audience and spins records. (Do they still use that term??? Oh God, I suddenly feel so old…)  She wants to get into the entertainment industry by way of singing, writing music and/or playing guitar but has some other interests for Plan B.  Thankfully, she’ll have something to fall back on which will more likely lead to employment after college.  I’ll stand behind her no matter what.  She’s her own person.

So off we go.  The next few days will be exciting.  I’ve been asked to bring down some homemade baked cookies, cupcakes or brownies.  That’s how I knew my daughter was a little homesick.  Rather than go through that trouble since I won’t be seeing her for an entire day, I’m bringing the ingredients and baking pans and will bake them fresh in the efficiency we’re staying in.  There’s a full kitchen and maybe we can bake them together.  Here’s to a very long road trip (10 hours at least), rest and on to Homecoming Weekend!  Now if only gas wasn’t so expensive…

The Gluten-Free Controversy Continues…

After all my research and choosing to follow a gluten-free diet for 3 weeks in an effort to alleviate digestive discomfort, I read the following article from HuffPost Healthy Living,dated July 31, 2012:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/gluten-free-diets-and-cel_n_1721467.html

I like to keep an eye on Mayo Clinic reports, although they are not the only resource I investigate.  The study claims that the majority of people adhering to a gluten-free diet either do not have Celiac disease or were never tested for it (like me) and chose a gluten-free diet believing it would help with the common symptoms associated with the disease such as, bloating, diarrhea, headaches and chronic fatigue.

Again, I’m still in the developmental phase of my nutrition/exercise plan, based solely on my individual lifestyle, medical issues, and the like.  I’m not surprised by the article especially where it indicates that those people who tested negative for Celiac disease do in fact experience “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”  At the end of October, I’ll be able to decide if removing gluten from my diet has helped my digestive difficulties, primarily bloating and an overall feeling of abdominal discomfort.

Check out one of the GF Main Meal recipes below…

In addition to the formulating a 7-day meal plan which I’ll stick with for the 3 weeks; I’m incorporating exercise into my design.  My goal is several 15-20 minute exercise routines throughout the day.  This will help break up a normally tedious hour-long workout and I expect will also help maintain my energy on a more consistent level.

I realize it would perhaps make more sense to be properly tested (blood test and bowel tissue biopsy) before engaging in a completely gluten-free diet however I am not fond of the type of testing required; I don’t care for needles and haven’t had my first colonoscopy yet.  Additionally, gluten-free diets are not designed to help people lose weight which is what I really prefer to do.  My rationalization is that I’d rather deal with the abdominal discomfort issue first and then select a meal plan based on the results of prohibiting gluten from my diet.  The second phase of my goal is choosing foods that will help me lose weight as well as address other medical concerns I have.

First things first; I’m going to enjoy this coming weekend in NC with my family.  Upon my return, the real work will begin.  I have to say I’m looking forward to my experiment.  It’s only for 3 weeks.  I’m ready and willing, albeit apprehensive, to take on this challenge and make my evaluation.  This is the worst time of the year for me to be making dietary changes, with the holidays approaching.  It will be a true test of my fortitude, I can tell you that.  We will just have to wait and see!

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” ~ Author Unknown

Beef and Green Beans (Slow Cooker)

 Ingredients
  • 3 pounds chuck roast
  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 16 ounces frozen slender green beans
Instructions
  1. Cut the roast in to strips about 3/4 inch wide. Trim most of the fat.
  2. Combine the strips of roast, flour, salt and pepper in a greased 6 quart or larger slow cooker. If using a smaller cooker, cut the recipe in half.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix them together.
  4. Cover and cook on low 6 – 8 hours or high 3 – 4 hours.
  5. Serve with rice or pasta.

For The Love of Puss

I like to think of myself as an animal lover, sometimes to a fault.  My daughter and her friends think of me as a “cat lady.”  That phrase conjures up a caricature of an old gray-haired woman sitting in a rocking chair on her front porch.  She’s surrounded by dozens of cats of all colors and sizes who are busily kneading on, rubbing against and climbing all over her.  Better yet, a female Pied Piper sort of woman prancing merrily down the road with a parade of cats melodiously mewing behind her.  Ha-ha, that’s sounds like me!  At least the kids didn’t include the adjective “crazy” in front of the label, yet.  If anyone heard how I speak to (or with) cats on occasion, that term would be debatable.  With the exception of the “throwing”, video about sums it up! LOL

In any event, I do enjoy having pets around.  Growing up, we owned dogs because my mother despised cats.  She thought they were too sneaky for her taste.  They are; that’s just their nature.  Dogs don’t normally hide under or behind furniture waiting for you to pass by so they can spring out in attack mode, wrap their paws around your ankles and fly off as if catapulted into the air in the blink of an eye just for the fun of it!  No, dogs are more sedate, unless of course, it’s a Chihuahua.  No offense to Chihuahua owners, but that breed is known to be a tad lively.

I loved all our dogs.  They were a kid’s best friend.  We learned how to take care of them which was a good lesson in responsibility.  It wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment with a girlfriend when I was 19 that I had my first cat, courtesy of my sister.  My friend begged me to get one but I knew she couldn’t properly care of herself, let alone a cat.  I was right.  We got the kitten and I got stuck taking care of it; feeding it, cleaning the litter box, taking it to the vet, etc.  All my friend did was play with it.  Within three months, I was back at my parents’ house with Pickles because my friend couldn’t handle the responsibility of an apartment and certainly not a cat.  The only way I got to keep the cat when I moved back home was if I had it declawed.  Since it was still a kitten, I agreed and my mother volunteered to take it to the vet and back since I was working full time, as long as I paid for it.

OMG, every time I think of this story, I crack up.  Here is my mother, 59 years old and a brand new driver to boot, taking the cat to the vet.  The cat escaped from the box and wound up exploring the inside of the car, landing under my mom’s feet while driving.  How she avoided an accident is beyond me.  Thankfully when she picked the cat up after the operation, it was still a little woozy so it didn’t get loose that time.  My mother, the anti-cat woman, saw this little furball with bandages on its paws and couldn’t help but fall in love with it.  She cared for Pickles like she was one of her own children after that.  Too bad the cat ran out of the house in the dead of winter a couple of months later and was never seen from again.  Well, at least not until my compassionate brother (thanks Peter!) brought me to the back of the yard and opened a blue plastic bag showing me the remains of Pickles, stiff as a board.  She probably froze to death.  I was heartbroken but eventually got over it.  After all, we still had a dog I could care for.

Fast forward to 1993.  This was a very difficult time for me.  I was separated and living alone in an upstairs apartment of a house.  I just started a very good job and was settling in but I was lonely.  What do a lot of people do in those situations?  Of course, get a pet.  My landlady didn’t object to a cat, so I went to a local animal shelter to pick one out.  While everyone was checking out the multitude of available kittens, I spotted two older cats that were placed in cages somewhat separate from the others.  When I questioned the attendant, she said both cats were more “needy” than the kittens.  One cat had cerebral palsy and the other had recently given birth but her kittens either died or were taken away from her.  Since I worked full time it wouldn’t be fair for me to adopt the cat with CP; she needed round the clock attention.  However the other cat, who looked at me with the saddest eyes, was a possibility.  What sealed the deal was her beautiful green eyes and fluffy golden fur.  After an interview and thorough screening, I was permitted to take Whiskers home with me.  We became a team.

For two weeks, I had to limit Whiskers’ food intake and give her medication until her milk dried up.  The poor animal did nothing but mope around all day, probably sad from losing her kittens but also from the changes her body was going through.  A few months later, I had her spayed and declawed.  She was going to be an inside-only cat.  The double operation once again left Whiskers miserable and listless.  One day I was on the phone with my sister when I let out a scream.  Whiskers pounced on the bed where I was sitting.  She snuggled against my legs and purred as if to say, I’m okay now, thank you for taking such good care of me!  My sister didn’t know what the heck just happened but I was so happy to finally see Whiskers jump up for the first time feeling like her playful self again, I couldn’t contain myself.

Life got so much better after adopting this beautiful cat.  My husband and I reunited, I got pregnant, we bought a house and I was advancing at my job.  I truly believe it was Whiskers who brought me good fortune.  She was always by my side at home, especially at night, and was a wonderful, loving pet to my daughter.  I was blessed with Whiskers for ten years before she got sick.  One day she was her normal active, healthy self.  Suddenly she stopped eating, drinking and was missing the litter box.  By the time I took her the vet, he said she was too far gone.  I didn’t understand how she could become so ill so quickly.  Apparently she had some sort of liver or kidney failure and medicine wouldn’t help.  Our only choice, after much deliberation, was to put her to sleep.  That’s a day I’ll never forget as long as I live. 

I made the mistake of going into the room with the doctor when he gave her the lethal injection.  I knelt down alongside the table and looked into her beautiful but sad eyes as I gently pat her head, telling her she’ll feel much better soon.  I thanked her for giving me unconditional love and told her how much I loved her.  The first injection missed and Whiskers let out a sharp cry.  She looked up as if to say, “Why are you doing this to me?”  That was it, I lost it.  The second shot worked and she gently put her head back down upon her paws and went to kitty heaven.  As I began to cry, the doctor placed Whiskers in the box we had prepared for her to take back home with us.  My daughter wanted us to bury her in our backyard and have an “official” funeral.  So when she came home from school, that’s what we did.  To this day, it’s difficult for me to think back on that day.  Whiskers was the first pet I ever became so attached to and I vowed never to love another animal like that again. 

While I can say they’ll never be another cat like Whiskers, I did wind up with other cats after her, and every one of them found me – not the other way around.  First came Harvette (stupid name I know, but it comes with a story), then Oreo and the following year, her half-brother and sister Ike and Mike, followed by Fuzzy and now Pretty.  Six more cats came after Whiskers, but she’ll always hold a special place in my heart for reasons only the two of us know.

So, while I may not look like a gray-haired old woman, I’m more agreeable to accept the label “cat lady” since I really do have a special fondness for the furry creatures.  I must be doing something right.  I’ve even been able to turn my husband into a cat lover, although he’s reluctant to admit it.  Of course, he’ll say he can take them or leave them, but he’s the one I see secretly giving them treats and playing with them when no one is looking.  Yeah, he’s a softie for those cats too… I know! 

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ~ Charles Dickens

To Be or Not To Be – Gluten Free

Humans are creatures of habit.  I believe that because I generally wake up each morning at the same time and go through my routine like clockwork.  There is a comfortable rhythm to it and I could probably go through all those motions in the first fifteen minutes with my eyes closed.  What happens when my routine is interrupted?  It seems to throw the whole morning off. 

 It’s the same with any change though.  For the past year or two I’ve noticed changes in my body that, while minor, are nonetheless disturbing.  Did I mention it to my doctor at my annual check-up?  No, because I didn’t feel it was important enough.  I got a clean bill of health after my blood test results came back so why ask questions?  The fact that I feel bloated all the time must be because I drink coffee in the morning.  The reason I make so many trips to the bathroom during the day is because I drink a lot of water.  I feel full after a small meal because I had too much fiber.  I offered many excuses for the reason I wasn’t feeling my best and was slowly gaining weight every couple of years; I was “getting older.”

 Being a creature of habit, I did not want to change my routine.  However, after making mental notes and eventually keeping a journal, I noticed my digestive problems were directly related to either certain foods I ate, when I ate them or how much I consumed.  Before reporting these findings to my doctor, I chose to play detective.  If I changed what I ate, when and how much I ate, I should be able to determine which of the foods I consumed on a regular basis is the culprit.

 My first attempt at discovery was trying Activia brand yogurt.  The claim on their website http://www.activia.us.com/ is that Activia “is made with the exclusive probiotic culture, Bifidus Regularis® (Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010) and can help naturally regulate your digestive system.”  After two weeks, I actually felt worse, so that didn’t work.  Then I tried to eliminate cheese, ice cream and other milk products from my diet to see if I was still Lactose-intolerant as I had been throughout my teens and twenties.  Two weeks later, no change.  My third trial will begin the first week of October when I’m back from a short vacation and more able to carefully assess what I eat and how it affects me.

 This third experiment concerns gluten.  The reason I may be having digestive problems could be that I have Celiac Disease.  “Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/

With the help of a registered dietitian, I intend to follow a gluten-free diet for three weeks.  We are developing a meal plan which takes into account information from medical journals, research studies and scholarly reports. 

 I first heard of this disease from a baker on a segment of a Martha Stewart show.  She described how she was diagnosed with Celiac disease several years prior and created a cookbook with dessert recipes which were gluten-free.  Shortly thereafter, I heard one of “The View” talk show hosts speak of her ordeal with the disease.  I thought to myself, this may be the ailment I have.  The only way of knowing for sure without having to undergo formal testing is take the route similar to allergy testing.  I am going to avoid foods containing gluten for three weeks and see if I notice a change.  Then I will contact my physician and advise him of my findings.

 Here comes the difficult part.  As previously mentioned, it is tough to change a habit or routine.  I’ll need to stay positive and focus on how good I’ll feel once I eliminate gluten from my diet if in fact gluten is the cause of my problems.  Personally, the most challenging part will be avoiding bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, salad dressing, sauces and soups plus a few other food products.  That pretty much covers everything I’m used to eating.

 In order for me to feel better, I’ll need to be committed to change.  Replacing foods in my diet with those my digestive tract can handle will ultimately help me achieve optimum health.  I am still not certain I do have Celiac disease.  On the other hand, what could be so bad about revising my diet for three weeks?  If it doesn’t work, I can always revert to my prior dietary habits.

 In the meantime, I’m having fun putting together a variety of meals that I’ll enjoy making and eating.  I am equipped with an arsenal of cookbooks and products specially designed for those who must follow a restricted gluten-free diet.  One drawback to this plan is that it is more expensive.  Foods that are marketed to the “health conscious” generally cost more.  Time will tell if my little investigative plan succeeds and so will my waistline.  I’m hoping for the best.

 “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”  ~ Victor Hugo

Faithful Friends Forever

It’s not too often nowadays you hear of people who were friends as little children, went through school, marriage, family and many years later, are still friends; I mean best friends.  But that’s how it’s been between my BFF and I.  We lived three houses down and one around the corner from each other in a nice little suburban town.  Only two years separated us; we were close as sisters, maybe even closer.  The experiences we have shared throughout our lives will forever leave an imprint on my heart and soul.

Our friendship began when I was five years old.  We played with dolls, rode bicycles and jumped rope together.  We even took sewing lessons together.  There were other neighborhood kids we were friendly with but throughout our early years, the two of us were inseparable.  We were the “girly girls” of our block; always into fashion and flirting.  One of the best times we had was signaling each other with flashlights from our bedroom windows through the trees at night because we could see each other’s rooms.  That was our special sign to say good night to each other.   

Then high school came and we didn’t see as much of each other then because we attended different schools.  Dee graduated two years before me and went on to college, however we still remained friends.  As a matter of fact, even though I was not quite of legal age, we used to spend many Friday and/or Saturday nights out at the clubs in NYC.  We were the “dancing queens” of the Copacabana, Regines and the Playboy Club!  We shared secrets about our loves and dreams and high hopes for the future.

In the late 70’s, we took our first trip to the West Coast together.  Although we previously spent winters skiing in upstate NY or Vermont and summers in the Catskills, this trip was our first major one as independent young women.  We flew to San Francisco, drove down to LA and then flew to Las Vegas for the last leg of our journey.   San Francisco was a blast: driving up and down Lombard Street like two fools – but what fun we had!  The trip to LA was brutal: a large portion of Route 1 along the coast was closed due to mud slides and we got detoured.  It took almost 13 hours for us to finally arrive in LA and our greeting was abysmal.  After we rested a bit, showered and dressed for dinner, we were approached by some jerks wondering if we were “working.”  We had no idea what they meant! Talk about naive.  We had been to clubs in NYC many times before and were never approached like that.  We soon discovered Downtown Hollywood was a dangerous place to take a casual stroll.  But our trip to Disneyland the following day was amazing!

Last stop – the Sahara in Las Vegas where we thought we were so cool because we sunbathed in the nude on our balcony!  OMG, we didn’t even look at each other, we were so modest!  I think back on that and LMAO.  We’ve certainly come a long way since then!  But that’s what’s so wonderful, charming and unique about our friendship.  All through the years, we’ve laughed, cried, argued and loved.  Both of us have been through many trials and tribulations over the past five decades (and I’m only 40! JK) and through it all, we remained loyal friends.

Friendships like our don’t happen too often; people separate after school, marry, have children, divorce, move away, get into ridiculous arguments and never reconcile, etc.  There is something to be said about a friendship that endures.  Friendships last longer than most marriages ~you manage to stay together through thick and thin, highs and lows, happiness and sorrow and everything in between.

Another blessing is that my friend’s mom is still with us.  My mom died suddenly when I was 19 and I more or less “adopted” Mrs. M (or she adopted me…).  We even took a trip to LA and Las Vegas together a couple of years ago, all three of us!  What a blast.  At 92, she still has a passion for the piano.  As a lifelong song-writer, she is proud to have had her music published.  Mrs. M was able to present it in LA when we were at ASCAP; everyone loved speaking with her.  She may be tiny but she’s still quite a pisol! 

 For the past several years, we’ve all gotten together to celebrate another milestone for this remarkable woman.  She has been an inspiration to me, not to mention she cracks some of the funniest jokes.  Now I know where her daughter gets her sense of humor from!

Both are so generous with their time and attention.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.  As a  matter of fact, we’re planning a 35th anniversary to the West Coast celebrating our first vacation, most likely in March or April of 2013.  We’re going to attempt to revisit places we enjoyed in San Francisco and LA then maybe continue to visit family in San Diego.  God willing, we’ll be able to fulfill our dream and enjoy our trip with as much fervor as we did when we were younger.  I’m eager to begin making preparations for this vacation, which is giving me more incentive to keep an eye on the scale.  I wouldn’t want to roll into California where we first sashayed, if you know what I mean!  If our most recent trip to the beach is any indication, I think we’ll be just fine in CA.  (She knows what I mean!)

Life is good; I’m very fortunate.  I hope my BFF and I continue our friendship for many more years.  This is a tough link to break.  I’d compare us to the characters of Lucy and Ethel, however not when they were singing that “Friendship” number; you know the one where they were tearing at each other’s gowns?  Yeah, that’s us – a little crazy, a little tame but always a lady.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
~ William Shakespeare

It Takes a Family to Warm a Heart and Heal the World

The word “family” reminds me of a beautiful, warm plush fleece blanket I received for Christmas several years ago.   It has come in handy on so many occasions as have they.  Recently, while re-reading The Glenstal Book of Prayer which my eldest brother gave me in 2002, I was once again reminded of the splendor my family possesses and how blessed I am to have them in my life.  I make my comparison of them to the blanket because when I’m not feeling quite right, I can wrap myself up in them (family) and suddenly, everything is good in the world.  If I’m frightened, I can pull them up to my chin and hide beneath their unceasing protection.  Should I feel tired or weak, they help comfort me on the coldest, darkest of days.  When something is amiss or if I feel wronged, they can either be put aside for another day or get refluffed to begin anew.

While this analogy may not be the most creative, it serves a purpose.  It brought me back to my childhood years, which weren’t always as pleasant as I envisioned they were.  After all, why dwell upon situations in your past you can’t change?  I prefer to embrace all the wondrous memories of my youth of which family was an integral part.  The holidays will soon be upon us, in particular Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s which always evoke a warm, loving feeling deep within.  Once again, I look forward to gathering with family; family which has significantly multiplied over the years. 

As the youngest of six children, three each, I was somewhat spoiled.  There is a 16 year age gap between my eldest brother and me.  Closing my eyes, I recall him studying in the room across from mine when he was home from college.  He seemed to always be reading and writing but at the time, I never gave it much thought.  My brother, who hitchhiked his way across Europe during his college years, became an English professor with degrees in engineering and linguistics, to name a few.  Intelligent yet unassuming, he’s extremely down to earth; my father’s son for sure.  I credit him with my love of learning and language.  Many nights, he would take time to read poems and stories to me from the likes of Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe and T. S. Elliott.  Some of my favorites were “The Jabberwocky”, “The Raven” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”  At the time, I was unaware of the meaning each held, yet I hung on the sound of every word from my brother’s lips, my eyes bright as moons, as he spoke with such emotion and passion:

“`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.” 

Lewis Carroll ~ “The Jabberwocky”

I still shutter every time I read that poem, maybe because it sounds so awesome when I recite it out loud!

Fast forward forty some-odd years; the memories of those glorious evenings consume me.  I can relay countless tales similar to this, where one of my other siblings shared selfless occasions with me.  Family is so precious, a gift to be cherished; a warm, fuzzy blanket that wraps us in eternal love.  Though it may occasionally fray here and there, the threads that bind it will endure forever.  

If wishes came true, my wish would be that the love a family has for one another multiply and extend to all corners of the earth so that some day, maybe one day, we can all live in peace and harmony.

 “I sustain myself with the love of family.” ~ Maya Angelou

Whose Body is That and Why is it Wearing My Head?

It was almost two years ago that I took a straightforward review of my naked body in the mirror.  Weird, I know.  It looked okay then; maybe just a little bit larger than it was the last time I checked; and when was that?   Probably the last time I went away on vacation: 

to a lake house, with my family, where I wore a bathing suit…in 200? 

The fact is, I don’t spend loads of time checking out my body in the mirror.  Usually I find just enough time each morning to shower, fix my hair and make-up, put on some clean clothes and begin my day.  So imagine my surprise when I decided to do an accurate assessment of my body recently.  Something(s) changed over the past few years (biggest hint… my clothes weren’t fitting properly) and I wasn’t pleased.

Fortunately, I’ve always been interested in the benefits of proper nutrition and exercise.  Those are the core ingredients of longevity.   However, as we mature (which sounds nicer than “age”), our bodies go through a series of changes.  These are inevitable.  Not even Joan Rivers can deny that fact.  My focus is on what changes need to be made and how I plan to accomplish these changes.  I’ll start by affirming that everyone is different and no diet or exercise plan is right for each person.  In addition, physical ability, medical condition, environment, emotional health and even financial position are issues that must be carefully examined prior to selecting an appropriate plan if one is to achieve long lasting success. 

It took me a decade to be where I am today; and I dutifully earned every spot and wrinkle that may appear to the naked eye.  The changes that took place within me did so gradually so I can’t expect a miracle overnight.  I needed to assess a few things before embarking on this journey into developing a method of making a committed change; similar to the “Biggest Loser” but without all the drama and fleeting fame and fortune attached.   Personally, I want to lose about 15 lbs. and tighten/strengthen my muscles.  But these pounds have been difficult to lose so far and I’m currently unable and unwilling to spend money on a gym membership.

I researched countless diets, meal plans, online programs and the like for a long time and have found all these plans to be lacking in certain areas.  Very few of them are individualized.  It may be well to divide people into categories for age and health conditions which the majority of programs do but that leaves out some crucial factors that, without given proper consideration, puts followers at a disadvantage.

I subscribe to numerous newsletters regarding this subject however I did not expect to discover the massive amount of propaganda marketed to the public.  On one site alone (I won’t mention the publisher), they had 210 books, journals and DVD’s, in their media repertoire.  Here are only a few of the titles I found:

  •  Big Book of 15 minute workouts
  • The Belly Melt Diet
  • Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight
  • Slim Calm Sexy Diet
  • Turn Up Your Fat Burn
  • Grill This Not That
  • The 17 Day Diet Expanded Edition
  • The Vitamin D Diet
  • The Carb Sensitivity Program
  • Eat This, Not That! 2013
  • Cook Yourself Sexy
  • 7 Day Slim Down
  • The Hunger Fix
  • Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight Journal
  • The Paleo Diet for Athletes
  • The New! Abs Diet for Men
  • 400 Calorie Fix
  • Walk Off Weight
  • Turn Up Your Fat Burn
  • Flat Belly Diet
  • And so on – 210 total!
  • LL Cool J Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle

The Diet Detective’s All-American Diet offers a “Build-A-Meal” approach to selecting food from supermarkets and restaurants and they say, “It’s that simple: Readers can simply go to the supermarket and start shedding pounds.”  https://www.rodalestore.com/weight-loss/the-diet-detective-s-all-american-diet.html  Wow, what a statement!  Can you imagine the overload sifting through the remaining titles?

Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating boycotting these diet plans, I’m only cautioning you to take a good, hard look at YOU; your age, health condition, exercise motivation, occupation, family background, financial position and the like.  There is so much more to achieving health and fitness success than following directions in a book.  Plus, what the heck fun is that?  I know from personal experience that the key factor for success in any plan is motivation.  That’s not achieved solely by following orders.  How to achieve it is another topic which I’ll be posting soon.

My health and fitness directive is in its infancy and will be featured in upcoming posts.  I’ve been researching with experts in the dietary/nutrition/medical fields and I’m brainstorming for now.  Most of my ducks are in the water and I’m on my way to achieving my goals.  I hope those of you who would appreciate a different approach will follow along with me!

“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”  ~ Mark Twain

Seek and You Shall Find – But Should We?

 Have you ever wondered what happened to a certain high school friend you’ve lost touch with or the person you had a relationship with for more than 5 months or that neighborhood kid you used to hang around with?  I have.  On occasion, usually when I’m cleaning up paperwork or going through old photos and memorabilia, I’ll come across something that reminds me of a particular person who I shared something special with years ago.  More often than not, it’s a pleasant recollection; other times, memories are a little painful for me to want to recall.

  I can be a glutton for punishment though.  Maybe it’s just my curiosity that gets the better of me.  My mind starts to wander and that’s it; I’m off to the races, checking every website I can think of trying to find out what’s happened to this person since I last saw them.  Lo and behold, I’ve been able to locate someone recently who played a very prominent role in the story of my life.  I had to answer the million dollar question for myself; do I really want to dig up the past and if so, why?

  I was involved with this person for eleven years.  Nine or ten of those years were difficult.  Although we each played a role in what inevitably transpired, the facts be known, I was the victim.  After we parted, I moved on and so did they.  That was over twenty years ago.  Why would I want to revive unpleasant memories?  Because, I was quietly hoping they were miserable after we parted.  I am being totally blunt.  I’ve read enough psychology books to realize we’re often most vulnerable even a little bitter when something in our lives is not quite right.

 Don’t get me wrong; I love my life.  Even though things can get a little crazy at times, I maintain a positive attitude on a daily basis, by sheer determination.  If I feel a bit of melancholy heading my way, I recognize it for what it is and carry on.  Now for the good part; I didn’t take my curiosity to the extreme.  Although part of me wanted to drive back and forth past this individual’s house until someone came out (then what would I do?), I settled for catching a glimpse of it on the internet and discovered it’s pretty nice; much nicer than I hoped it would be.  Oh well.  Now that I satisfied my inquiring mind, I can continue moving in the direction I was meant to go, onward and upward!  That particular relationship just wasn’t meant to be but I did learn some valuable lessons from it.

  It feels pretty good to let that go; like unpacking a piece of baggage from my past.  The only problem is now that I’ve discovered how relatively simple it is to find someone, I realize almost anyone can find me too!  I’m not overly concerned.  I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some wonderful people throughout my life and with very few exceptions, I would welcome a greeting from almost any of them.  While I may not want to live in my past, I wouldn’t mind visiting it every now and again.  Thankfully, curiosity didn’t kill this kitten!

“I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.”  ~Franklin P. Adams