Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How Short Time Is

 Naara Turner died yesterday. I suppose it has been Naara Toole for quite a while. A few days ago I told my husband an old classmate was going to die (based on photos of her with friends on Facebook, with her seated and wrapped in a blanket). It was such a weird feeling. To lose a classmate is such a reminder of the how fleeting and fragile life is. Our bodies will give out. Whether to illness or old age, one day we each will draw our last breath, and our time of influence-our time to leave an imprint-will be done.

To me, Naara is just a few memories. When she first came to Springfield (from Georgia, I believe), explaining how to pronounce her name. She smiled politely at teachers when they remarked on her lack of a Southern accent. Naara had a big smile and teachers seemed to warm to her quickly. To me, Naara is a cabbage patch kid, a beautiful song. When Nichole Tummons had a Halloween (sleepover?) party, Naara was the other girl (besides me) who wet her pants when Nichole's older sibling knocked on the garage window, scaring us 10-year-olds. I feel somewhat of a solidarity with her as a fellow weak-bladdered gal. I remember trying out for the solo/duet for our Christmas program at North Town Mall. I went up with Debbie Barnes, despite neither of us having a spectacular voice), and we giggled through the audition. Then Naara came forward and sang, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," with such beautiful sincerity (she even closed her eyes at times), I wondered why the rest of us even bothered. I don't know if we performed or not. It might have been snowed out. Naara is the girl who would sneak in her tight jeans to change in the bathroom before school in 5th grade because her mom didn't approve. She is the 6th grader who supported my short romance writing efforts. I would bring in thick Writer's Market books to determine where to send my gems, and Naara would smile and offer to edit them for me before I sent them off. I was first runner-up in the school spelling bee in 6th grade, second to Naara. My disappointment was evident, I am sure, when I congratulated her, and Naara reassured me she wasn't feeling great and maybe couldn't go. Everyone was mad at her that week (we were a petty, petty group of kids), so they congratulated me instead. She did go, of course.

After we changed to junior high, I didn't see Naara much. We didn't seem to fall into the same classes anymore. Naara was in theatre and though I longed to be, I was shy. Naara could sing, and I wasn't interested. And that's okay. Naara was more mature than me, falling into different crowds with her brilliant smile, while I still had many years of work to bring myself up on my own. 

Naara brings to mind lessons I wish I had understood decades ago. She is a symbol of power to me: who has it and who doesn't. When I was with Naara's group, I was a hanger-on. My words, no matter how carefully crafted, were never quite right. I could never understand why, when I used the same tone, said the same words, they weren't received in the same light. It wasn't until my late 20s, when I realized, I have an underlying pettiness, a chip on my shoulder, an immaturity, which makes my most sincere responses questioned. It wasn't until my 40s when I realized power within a group also played a strong role. I grew up in a world without role models. I watched the girls I admired closely and strived to be more like them. I watched how they dressed and how they talked. I listened to how they handled themselves with others. I remember sitting in French IV, realizing with shock, that this girl I admired so much (Lynnette Pember), might not get slapped for being bratty. All my life I just assumed every family was somewhat the same, and then --I realized--some people don't get slapped. Some girls may never have had their hair pulled by someone else's frustration. It really blew my mind. I couldn't help but think of this amusing scene in As Good as it Gets. There is a kernel of truth  in it. 

Click the link  --->Good times, noodle salad. <----Click the link

The world's loss of Naara is likely great. Some lights shine brighter than others, and Naara appeared to be such a light. Not perfect, no one is, but a shining light reminding us we can do better. We can be more. We can smile at anyone. Not only are the days we have to create something amazing and long-lasting numbered, but the days we have to brighten someone else's world are finite. The time we are given to change a life is so short. I hope to never take each moment for granted. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Let's Talk About Health, Baby!


Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Winter is officially here, right? Happy Birthday, fictional character, Feyre Alcheron! Welcome, winter solstice. I wish I were into rituals and had something symbolic and meaningful planned, but alas! I am not big on the preparation that ritualistic symbolism requires. I do admire the romanticism, however.

Do you ever just feel Amy Marchy? Like clearly you were intended to have a staff? Can you guys imagine what life would be like with a housekeeper and maybe a part-time nanny? What could be accomplished? Or a personal assistant who just does all those details?  I can. And it looks pretty nice from right here.

My Simple Weight Loss Plan

So health. I am gaining weight! I can see it in my face, and feel it around my waist and suffer with it with my ongoing heartburn/acid reflux, and esophagus narrowing problems. The thing is, I don't know what I am doing differently. I don't feel like I am eating that much. But number don't lie, and I must be. My old standby-the only weight loss trick that works consistently for me-is counting calories. And there is no trick there, just hard work and discipline. And friends, I think that is the threshold I stand upon now. So back to MyFitnessPal, back to counting candy calories, back to just saying no to that bowl of chips and salsa after dinner. 

Have you tried MyFitnessPal? You must! I use the free version and it is perfect.

I can lose weight on 1500 calories, and lose it faster on 1200. Somewhere in between those will be my target. I can do this.

My Simple Exercise Plan

If you know me, you know I am big proponent of K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Sweetheart). When planning a vacation, I have a rough itinerary of the must-sees, but believe in leaving a lot of room open for surprise side trips. I will be the first one up and out the door at the hotel, but I am not going be checking the time, herding everyone along (unless something might close). I also believe in ACTIVE vacations. As appealing as lying on a beach with an alcoholic drink appears, the fear of missing out on the WORLD hasn't allowed me to take such a vacation just yet. That and I always have kids around. But why lie on a beach when you can go to an art museum? Or hike to a waterfall? Or drink coffee in a rainy metropolis? Hell, let's just do all of this, beach included. That's the life for me. The truth is, I think I was meant to be an active person. I was an active kid. I loved running and climbing and playing. But whereas other girls funneled their energy into organized sports as puberty hit, I didn't know how. I had no teacher, no experience, and let's be honest, possibly no talent. As I watched other girls seem to flourish, I disappeared into myself behind a wall of shame and self-hatred. The self-hatred kept my weight down throughout high school, but once the babies came, the struggle became quite real. The last time I was really happy with my weight was after my first child was born, and before the others came. I was working out to a video 3x a week, walking the stroller on alternate days, and sticking to three small meals a day. All that work got me to just  under 130 pounds. Perhaps if I hadn't gotten pregnant with Caleb (very much planned), I would have continued to shave off a few more pounds.

This year, I have been doing some floor exercises pretty regularly. Stretches, (REAL!) pushups, crunches, and some leg/butt exercises. Then a couple weeks ago, I just stopped. Sometimes the carpet needed vacuumed and grossed me out, and sometimes I just didn't sleep well, and wanted to conserve my energy for the day. It is amazing how rapidly a tightening abdomen can disintegrate into softness. Also I had been walking a couple nights a week with my son. We decided to add jogging, he protested on the second time we went out, and we haven't done anything active since. 

So my new plan:

  1. Renew the exercises. I may have to get strict with myself (no getting dressed for work until they are done). 
  2. Continue/amp up the squats I do while waiting for my coffee to brew. I thought my 20-30 squats were great, then my coworker (who is 10 years older!) told me she did 400 squats one day. Umm, Okay. I can do better. 
  3. Go back to walking/jogging. I happen to know my son is getting a new scooter for Christmas, so I can still jog and with a new scooter, he can keep up (and get some exercise time).

I don't think I have caught the Coronavirus, though I have had one bad cold and one minor cold since it all started. Who is to say the colds weren't the virus? I don't know, I never had a fever, cough, or loss of taste or smell. But I do know if I do get a heavy viral load, I am overweight, over 45, and A positive blood type. So I need to get my act together, man. And I teach! I am surrounded by germs. 

I am not a big vitamin person. I think vitamins should mostly come from healthy foods. However, my husband did purchase some vitamin gummies, which taste yummy, so I have been eating a few of them each day.

With these steps in place, I have no reason to think, I won't lose at least one of these chins by spring!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Winter Break is coming!


The year is ending! While I enjoyed my share of 2020 memes, let's face it-it ain't the year that's the problem. I can't complain about this year, but I don't want to be too nonchalant about it. Some people have suffered greatly and are suffering still. 

What I am tired of is the politics. So tired of the politics. Listen, if this is all some scheme to take away our freedoms, your bitching over masks isn't going to make a difference. Now, if two years from now, Covid isn't a thing, and we are still wearing the damned masks, then yeah, let's throw a hissy. But now is not the time. 

I have been a bear lately. I hate it when I get down, because my mind spirals to worst case scenarios quickly. Some may have a kernel of truth, and some are just a runaway imagination playing with possibilities. But the thing is, even when the truth is evident, not everyone wants to hear your truth. I can only blame myself, for not being successful enough to quit the day job...but then I think woah! Maybe I am caught up in that capitalist rat race idea that I am just not trying hard enough. On the other hand, maybe I am not. I am not sure. It's kind of hard to step outside of your own paradigm and see things as they truly exist. 

So grumpiness aside, it is nearly time for the end-of-the-year festivities. I have plans!

Plans to reread Anne's House of Dreams (my favorite-around-New-Year's read), maybe the ACOTAR series, and to finish watching this season of Call the Midwife. Those are my grand and glorious plans for my week and a half off. I am super-excited. As you know, since I work both sessions of summer school, the winter break is often my longest break of the year. Although I applied for summer school jobs a couple weeks ago, I haven't heard anything and my insecurities are raging. What if I didn't do a good job last year? What if the person who usually hires me, and also sent me an invitation for Gabe to go reading tutoring, now thinks I am a poor teacher because my kid needs tutoring, and won't hire me? Those are the things running through my head. I was invited to the virtual learning orientation, but haven't got a job. Now I am wondering what I did wrong. Did I ask the wrong questions-did they uncover something about me they didn't like? I was so excited and felt cherished when I received the invitation, and now I I have bills to pay, and I am willing to work, people!

Hope springs anew, of course, and the day is glorious and bright, and while I acknowledge the fear and insecurity, I know there is a plan. The Universe is racing through its cosmic destiny, and I am where I need to be. Being fearfully and wonderfully made, I can rest assured in the knowledge that God's plan cannot be thwarted. And all is well.

And I can't wait.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Little Housecleaning...Literally

The older I get, the more I desire a clean environment.  When you are young, you have so little that you spend a lot of energy buying and collecting things. At some point, though, you reach the apex, and you start to question all the crap you have around you. You go to those amazing craft fairs and tourist traps, and you begin to question whether you really want to spend the next 20 years dusting that personalized wooden...whatever. You start to groan when your MIL, despite having her heart in the right place, gives you another Hummel figurine, because you KNOW she is going to want it displayed (although this particular problem was temporarily solved when the toddler brought the curio cabinet crashing down and so many things busted). At some point, I became the person who will stop and do dishes in the middle of a get-together, because I simply cannot relax and tolerate the mess.

However, as much as I desire a neat environment, I work full-time outside the home and have three small boys constantly pushing the tide against me. My house will not be company ready for a few more years. 

That said, a gal can only take so much chaos, am I right? Occasionally I get the kids' dad to take them somewhere for a good chunk of the day, and I am able to get a good housecleaning in. However this only happens every couple of months, and that is just not enough. So I am going to introduce you to my survival trick for Saturdays like today.

First of all, after a crazy busy weekend last week, this weekend is blessedly open. Nothing on the table, just me and my home and my time. The best. But I awoke to a disaster. By 8 a.m. there was cinnamon toast crumbs everywhere, remnants of last night's feasting (I went to bed early instead of cleaning up) all over the table, piles of laundry waiting to be folded, dirty bathrooms, dirty carpets, some sticky, sweet something all over the floor, and a host of other horrors. I would get a picture, but the kids always steal my phone.

But I am at energy level: Recovery. This means I am relaxing as much as I can, so my stores build back up.

And that is where the 10-minute clean-up comes in. The 10-minute clean-up is exactly what it sounds like. For 10 minutes out of every hour, I straighten one room. It is important to focus on one area at a time during the 10 minutes to see progress, but you don't have to finish one room to move to another. For example, I usually start in the front room and/or dining room. They clean up the quickest, so I can see progress right away.  However, 10 minutes is usually not enough time for vacuuming, so the room is never completely done. During the next 10 minutes, I might move to the kitchen. Obviously, a trashed kitchen will not be cleaned within 10 minutes, especially since my dishwasher is broken. I might do a couple 10 minute sessions here. Sometimes I see so much progress, I keep cleaning. Sometimes I don't. Later in the afternoon, the big boys will go outside, and this is when I start to fold the laundry. Usually by the end of the day, at least the downstairs is straight and pleasant, and I don't feel wiped out or like I was cleaning all day. Plus, once he sees the positive progress I have made, Karl will usually get inspired and pitch in. And there is nothing like manly muscle for getting some jobs done (like that sticky stuff in the fridge-takes him 5  minutes to clean what I would scrub for 30).

So basically that is the lazy girl's guide to cleaning when you really just want to be a slug.

I actually use this method at work, too. When I have to start some less than stimulating paperwork, I tell myself I only have to do 10 minutes worth. Generally after 10 minutes, the flow is going and I continue working. But if I don't, I pat my back and call myself successful for meeting my goal. 

Works for me!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

Two steps forward, one step back is how I would describe the journey of personal growth. You learn, and ponder, and stretch, and reach, and you are rewarded with real signs of growth and then...suddenly you look up and realize your focus has been lost.

This blog is about positivity and motivation for leading a better life, but I lose sight of that sometimes. I can be a very melancholic person-I love diving into the sadness, because that is where I feel my creativity is held. I get a lot out of it personally. However, sharing that on this blog, instead of my personal blog, is off-focus. And I find my slip-ups-the sharing of the darker side, on this blog, embarrassing. 

It is okay, though. Mistakes and less-than-ideal choices are part of life. One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn is how to stop regret and let shame roll slowly off. Shame is a strong emotion- it can hit unexpectedly, and usually shows up uninvited. But regret is intentional. Regret can be dismissed easier. In my 20s, I spend so much time regretting choices, imagining what I should have done differently. But my 30s were about letting go of regret. Occasionally, regret will visit, and I will have to stop and think about what I can do better in the future, but never invite regret to stay. It will tear your life apart. 

Shame loves to just let itself in by the back door. I have found the best way to deal with it, is to acknowledge it, and give yourself an inner hug, and remind yourself, we are ALL just babies here. We are all learning. We are ALL okay. I can't say shame doesn't visit me ever-or that an occasional dose doesn't shake us out of destructive patterns, but I do know this: Shame should be an uninvited acquaintance, not a close friend. Take a deep breath, wrap your arms around your waist and give yourself a big hug...and send shame on its merry way.

Good morning!