Love Letter to Myself

Valentine’s Day has returned, and on a Saturday this year! I had planned to stay in bed all day (hiding), but someone suggested I try writing a love letter…to MYSELF. My first thought was that there was absolutely NO WAY I would EVER do that. Then, noticing my strong negative reaction, I figured maybe it was worth a try.

To begin, I imagined what I would say in a love letter to another, but after trying to translate that formula to myself, I was left with keywords for practicing a job interview. I got frustrated, but instead of giving up, I realized that one of the things I love about myself is that I don’t give up easily, and I dove in deeper. Here is the final draft:

My Darling Me,

Thank you for challenging me and persisting every time I feel like giving up. You know that you are the one I trust and rely on. You are the one I talk to (often out loud) when I need to sort out the mess of thoughts in my head. You are the one who lulls me back to sleep in the middle of the night when my “shoulds” torture me awake.

I admire your uniqueness, and that when others comment on how you march to the beat of your own drum, you take it as a compliment. You are not only clever and curious, but you also know the proper way to load a dishwasher.

You work hard to approach situations with compassion and to be the bright light in someone else’s day, and I’m amazed by how you can always find the silver lining when storm clouds roll in.

I love that you can be completely absorbed by the simply beauty of a butterfly, or a sky full of twinkling stars. I love your laughter when things go right, or even when things go wrong. It is comforting to know you will allow me to take a time out when I need a break, and even when you lie to me, I understand it is meant to stall the truth until I’m ready because sometimes reality hits too hard all at once.

Please remember that I will always be your biggest fan. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love, Me

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Winter Appreciation

For many, winter storm Juno has been a bust (sorry friends in NYC), but in coastal Massachusetts, we surpassed forecasted snowfall totals thanks to colder than expected temperatures. Fifteen inches so far, and it is still falling.

Normally, the short days, gray skies, and frigid, blustery winds create an unshakable chill in my bones and a strong dislike of winter. However, as part of my goal to “focus on the positive,” I’m sharing things I appreciate about winter.

For example, this morning, the wind crusted snow into the window screens. I can’t see outside, and I giggle like a kid hiding in a snow cave. I hear the storm outside, but I only see it when I open the sliding glass door.

I know tomorrow the rays of sun will peel the snow off the screens allowing me to witness the bright white world. The air will be clear, crisp, and quiet as our thick covering of sparkling ice crystals absorbs the sounds.

We’ve also had a fair share of winter reprieve days when temperatures climb above freezing and hold there until dusk. On these days, I lace up my shoes and run outside. The wind not even a whisper as I peel off my gloves & zip down my outer layer, smiling the entire time.

Even days of mixed frozen precipitation leave a little miracle behind. Last week, the rain froze on roads, fields, and trees, but after the clouds cleared, the sunlight sparkled liked diamonds on the frozen surfaces-a brilliant peace offering, or perhaps, an apology.

I love that with the leaves off the trees, I can hear the the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore down the street.

I love the delicate light at dawn, that maintains its softness until just before night.

I love the clear, crisp freshness of the air with an enhanced smell of salt from the sea.

I love to curl up on the couch after dinner, and read a book in front of the roaring fire.

In fact, that sounds like a great way to spend today!

Live, love, & appreciate, even in wintertime.

The Greatest Gift

Since his first grandson was born, my father and I pack the car with gifts and travel north to spend Christmas with my brother and his family. Work is extra busy each December and with limited time, I never bother to find a tree or decorate our house. Arriving at our destination on December 23, we find their tree is trimmed, stockings hung, and baking completed. Time is spent distracting the little ones with long walks or make believe games to keep their anticipation in check until Christmas morning when gleeful exuberance erupts sending scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon flying, but this year our holiday hosts set off to tour warmer climates, and Dad, at 84 (and not in great health), didn’t feel up for the trip. As the others planned their adventure, I felt frustrated, knowing I couldn’t leave Dad behind, but yearning to join their holiday adventure. What would the season bring without the children here to make it merry and bright?

It turns out, despite the chill of winter, this Christmas has been one of the most enjoyable and memorable in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’d been given by staying behind. I selected and trimmed the tree. I hung lights around the windows. I planned meals full of our favorite foods while listening to old fashioned Christmas songs by Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole. At night, Dad and I sit by the fire, admire the tree, and remark on the pictures streaming through my tablet of the grandchildren splashing in the waves at a beach far away. We’ve reviewed our year, reminisced about Christmases past, and begun looking forward to what will come. This Christmas might very well be Dad’s last, and the peace we’ve enjoyed together has been a true delight. I realize that I’m not missing out on a tropical paradise, everyone else is missing out on the beauty, joy, and gratitude of home. My special Christmas with Dad has been the greatest gift I could imagine.

Weighed Down

I couldn’t admit how much weight I had gained, until I decided to lose it. My girth began expanding last spring after I couldn’t run long distances due to a foot issue. Exercise continued to be part of my day, but an hour of low or no impact movement doesn’t come close to matching the calorie burn of a six or eight mile run. My clothes looked and felt awkward, and I didn’t have the same stamina, but I blamed my over 40 body telling myself there was nothing I could do. BIG LIE. I refused to admit the truth: I was getting FAT!

My sister visited and we took a dip in the ocean one warm sunny day. Her photos showed the me I refused to see. I quickly pushed away the reality of my largess until a few weeks later when my brother’s wife sent photos of me in the garden with my niece during their visit. Wearing one of my favorite tank tops, I look like I was playing dress up in a fat suit. That couldn’t be me! My vacation was coming up, and it required a bathing suit. I stopped ignoring the problem and took action.

Using an app called Lose It! I tracked my eating. After one week of logging my food intake, I could see the problem was not cookies and ice cream. Mostly, I was eating healthy foods-just too much of them. My servings were too large, and my snacking was out of control. “It’s only yogurt,” I told myself until I noticed that 3 Chobani in a day adds up to 480 calories.

The second week, I began measuring servings and made adjustments including reducing my previous 3 servings of cereal each morning to a single 1 cup serving. I also reduced my orange juice intake from 8 ounces to 4 ounces. Then, I skipped my mid morning snack (usually a yogurt) and made sure to have a good lunch. By choosing healthy foods, I could eat a 350-400 calorie lunch (veggie roll up w/tofu or tuna sandwich) and feel full. I allowed myself an afternoon snack so that I didn’t feel ravenous by the time the work day ended-again choosing something sensible like an apple (without peanut butter this time!) and I drank a lot more water. For dinner, I tried to keep my calorie count under 500 calories which was easy if I skipped dessert. On the nights I felt like something sweet, I chose fruit, or if I had enough calories to spare, I’d treat myself to a Chobani (switching yogurt to a reward food rather than a standard go to.)

Did I mess up some days? Of course, especially in the early weeks. The Lose It! app summed up how I did, and during the first three weeks, I regularly passed my total weekly calories by 750 or more. Since I didn’t want to decrease my food intake, I found ways to increase my exercise. My goal was to burn 400 calories each day, and I got creative. Stretching counts. Finding reasons to go up and down the stairs over and over counts. Doing jumping jacks while waiting for someone is a good use of time, and raking leaves achieves multiple purposes. Most days I was able to burn my 400 calorie goal.

When faced with an irresistible cookies, I allowed myself two rather than chowing the entire bag. The exceptions to my good behavior were Thanksgiving dinner, and tonight when I had reached my calorie limit for the day, but I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying a serving of Sea Salt Caramel ice cream. I’m 240 calories over for the day, so I’ll stretch and maybe do some abdominal work before bed. I’ll be more mindful tomorrow.

The good news is that I’m seeing results. In seven weeks, I lost 7 pounds. I feel great. My clothes fit, and I don’t have to suck in my gut anymore. I’d like to lose 3 more pounds before vacation, but even if I don’t get there, I’m happy with how I look. Just knowing I can achieve this goal keeps me motivated.

Anyone out there hoping to lose weight, my advice is to recognize that you’ve taken on a significant goal. Acknowledge that getting fit and healthy takes hard work and discipline. Stay focused. You can do it! Remember that looking in the mirror at your accomplishment feels better than most food tastes.

Slow the Ride Down

Our normal family Thanksgiving isn’t happening this year. Everyone had somewhere else to be, and I’m oddly thankful. It will be a quiet day. I can use one.

The pieces and parts of my life are moving fast. It feels like I’m juggling fire while balancing on a log rushing through rapids. In the excitement, my blog has taken a hit. Terrible consequence since writing is the thing that keeps me sane.

Some good things are happening-like scoring huge points at work for successes, but having my accomplishments on display means I’m not only earning praise, but also a lot more responsibility. My hours are getting longer, and the time I spend thinking about work (when I’m not at work) has quadrupled.

Some bad things are happening-like rushing my Dad to the ER with a high fever and lack of responsiveness. He has returned home with new prescriptions, but I have to keep a close eye on him.

Some annoying things are happening-like trying to sell my former home 2,500 miles away. I’m negotiating with the third potential buyer, and it feels like every day a new issue arises threatening to derail the closing.

On Friday afternoon, I looked forward to relaxing and putting all the moving parts out of my head for a day or two. Then, the dog got skunked. I tried to salvage a few hours Saturday morning with a run, but the pain in my foot that kept me sidelined all summer suddenly returned. By Saturday night, I realized there was nothing in the house for dinner. I fed my Dad a frozen lasagna and crawled into bed early.

My dreams are more bizarre than ever as worries collide with hope and anticipation of the day when this ride slows down. I’m close. I feel thankful in knowing somehow, I will make it. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Not Fade Away

On Saturday, his face, his smile, his laugh all filled my mind. I didn’t wonder about it, the approaching anniversary of his departure was a logical trigger, but today he appeared in the street, as if he’d been here all along, instead of moving six states away two years ago.

I paused. Was it a mirage? No. If I imagined it, I would visualize myself with combed hair and better clothes. Unable to fix my appearance, I walked over to say hello.

He looked great, as always, but also happier and more relaxed than when we said goodbye. His prior disposition undoubtedly being partially my fault. He came back this weekend for a wedding, and will be gone tomorrow. I rambled, of course. It can’t be helped in this kind of situation, but I’m pretty sure I avoided saying anything stupid or embarrassing.

Hours later, I’m still reeling. I had important things to do this afternoon, but instead, I went for a swim. Now it’s getting late. I should have dinner, but my mind is distracted, searching for the key that unlocks a different ending for us. I’ve missed him since the day he left, and our three minutes of idle chit chat today only served to remind me.

Two years ago, he gave me a silver pendant on a chain. One side a compass, the other an anchor. Back then, I thought he was the anchor, providing stability in an uncertain situation.      I was the compass. Later, I realized the truth. I remained anchored here while his compass pointed him somewhere else. After six months, I undid the clasp and put it away.

Today, I put the necklace on again, just for a day…or two.

In the Garden

Over the weekend, I worked in my garden. Weeding is something that continually gets pushed to the bottom of my to do list. I don’t know why. Okay, I do know why. Bugs, dirt, hot sun beating down? Not much to love. This time I selected the right day because the bugs were few, the day was cool (and cloudy, so no sunburn), and though I did get dirt under my fingernails, I’ve managed to dig most of it out. My garden is tidy, and I feel much better.

Being in the garden on Sunday turned out to be the perfect way to spend the afternoon. I started with a simple plan to fertilize the tomatoes which have finally started ripening. They look, smell, and taste amazing, but when I brought the first can of plant food treated water, I noticed some vines were so weighted down with fruit, they were laying on the ground. I completed three trips of fertilized water before hunting for the stakes I’d stashed from last season. They are bamboo, barely covered in faded green paint after several seasons. I don’t use circular metal cages, though I probably should because my tomatoes always grow into an unruly, tangled mess, but I really enjoying staking and tying the vines, so I continue with the process every year.

Kneeling in the dirt to tie the vines, I fought with tall weeds. After yanking them, I righted the tomato vines, only to discover crabgrass and other smaller weeds underneath. I yanked those, too, and continued until the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs had been trimmed, tidied and staked, and piles of weeds were discarded outside the fence. The garden looked healthy. Satisfied, I picked the strawberry plant clean of ripe fruit and shoveled the berries in my mouth without washing the dirt off. It felt like just the right reward.

I like to create things, but drawing, designing, planning, and even writing, leaves me feeling unsatisfied. My final product never seems to measure up. The best thing about my garden is the “not good enough” feeling never surfaces. My strawberries may be odd shapes and my tomatoes may not win blue ribbons at the fair, but they always taste good, and I’m proud to share them with others, gleefully acknowledging, “yes, this came from my garden!” I don’t know if the things I grow are flavored by pride or TLC. I don’t think it really matters, do you?