The Equinox

20101010_5245As I moused over the Google animation this morning to see what the “special occasion” of the day was, an ominous pop-up indicated that it’s the “first day of autumn.”

“Huh,” I mumbled to myself and glanced at my old-school wall calendar, thumb-tacked to my cubicle wall. My eyes scanned to find “September 23,” and there it confirmed the day as the “Fall Equinox.” The official changing of the season. A day where the amount of light and dark are perfectly equal. Balanced. The way I like my life. The way I want my life. The way my life so is not.

I focus on one area, only to neglect another. I finish a half marathon, but my writing halts. I try to be the best mom, while my house falls in a shambles. I hone in on my career as my children clamor to get my attention. Ugh. It seems the more I try to make my pizza crust perfectly round, the more lopsided and out of whack it gets. I wonder if I quit pinching and stretching and just let it “be” that it would just naturally take its proper shape. What? Probably not, but being a pizza it would still taste good. (Another one of my balancing problems!) Don’t worry, I don’t know what I’m talking about either.

Circling back to the fact that today is the first day of autumn, I reflect. How is it possible that it can be autumn already? The summer blew by me. My last post was dated April 29. An entire season went by in virtual silence. Not that anyone probably really cared or even noticed, but still my voice went quiet over the past four months. Why is that? I’d like to say it was because I spent those carefree, summer days running, picnicking, vacationing, relaxing and just plain old having fun. I’m thankful to say it wasn’t because of a failing health problem or some dire family problem or because I didn’t have anything to say (because we all know I always do) . Mostly, it goes back to that whole balance thing. It goes back to my difficulty setting priorities and finding the time to fit them all into my day.

Thus, today, one of two perfectly balanced days of the year, I’m reminded to re-adjust, to reassess and get a bit more balanced. So, that on my evening run when those words form and flow through my mind, afterwards I sit in front of my computer and tap away, capturing them instead of letting them float away. I continue on through the interruptions – my youngest daughter’s shower-singing and my eldest’s request to examine her bug bite – until my thoughts are complete and I click “Publish.”

Here’s to a fall full of “Just Words” from me. (I know you are excited!)

What keeps you on track?

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I’ve Got The Winter Blahs

Winter seemingly weighs me down like the heavy snow blanketing my front yard. Stepping out my door to fetch the mail, I slip on the thick ice, skid, but don’t fall. I take a tentative step forward as my nose hairs frost over and snow fills my boots. I’d hoped to lightly skim across the top of the deep snow drift that was once a cleared path only days before, butImage sink to my knees. Sigh. I finally make it to retrieve the mail, hoping to find a birthday card or my tax refund, but return with our propane bill that is double what it normally is (and unfortunately for me my salary is not). Winter, you’ve sapped my energy. I’m tapped and tired, although that may be more the fault of the influenza I’ve caught despite the flu shot I got. Lying in bed, I try to rest and force fluids, but instead obsess about the bills that are late, the work I’m missing, being a better mom to my children, the book I don’t feel like writing and the half-marathon training I’m now falling behind in.  Much like the snow, the ice, the snow, the bitter cold, the snow, the snow, the snow (did I mention the snow?), my negative thinking blasts me.

Enough already! It has to stop. While I can’t control ‘old man winter,’ I can control my thoughts. I can choose to see the ‘silver linings’ and remember trying times only make me stronger. I can focus on the positives and smile.  I can live mindfully, but purposefully; moving forward, not dwelling on past mistakes nor worrying about the unknown, following my instincts without fear or second-guessing. I can look back to where I was and be proud of where I am now. I can look ahead and know better days are coming. They always do. As Elsa, in the movie, Frozen (hmmm…any coincidence that we too are frozen?), sings, “Let It Go, Let It Go…”  Yes, I need to take that advice. That will be hard, but not impossible. Starting now. Ready, set, go!

Here are five positive things about winter:

1. The beautiful ice crystals outlining the trees in my backyard contrasted again a clear blue sky

2. Snuggling on the couch under a warm comforter with my daughters on a snow day

3. Noticing the daylight lasts slightly longer each day

4. Seeing the smiles on my daughters’ faces as they point to the snow fort they just built

5. A ten-day forecast that shows a high of 51 degrees for next Thursday

And, now I think I will snuggle under that comforter (after drinking some more water of course) and take a nap. I’m feeling better already…Who knows maybe when I wake up it will all have been a dream and the flu along with snow will all be gone:)

Anyone else feeling the winter blues? What do you do to shake it off?

A Sharp Stick In The Eye

Image by SidewaysSarah on Flickr
Image by SidewaysSarah on Flickr
My Dad likens shopping with “a sharp stick in the eye,” yet he’d (willingly?maybe?  through coercion of some sort by my mother? perhaps.) accompany my mother, sister and I on various escapades to the mall as we hopefully searched for the perfect Easter or Christmas dress or school clothes. He’d patiently give a thumbs up on the third one out of the dressing room. No matter, we’d still inevitably hit every store looking for something better only to end up purchasing that third dress from the first store. I laughed the day I found him with a piece of mulch hanging out of his eye from the fake planter behind the bench he’d sat waiting for us on.

At the time, I thought he was joking about his aversion to shopping, but I think not. In fact, I can honestly say, I relate to that “sharp-stick-in-the-eye” syndrome. And, furthermore, although some may consider it un-womanly or possibly un-American to admit, but (deep breath) I hate shopping. I really do. It’s not even the spending of money that I detest. I am far from frugal. I can never remember to take coupons with me and comparison shopping is beyond my expertise. I don’t mind spending money. In fact, as many of those charity telemarketers, know I find it hard to say “no” and am free with giving. So free in fact that I really have no idea where a lot of my money goes, which might explain why I often find myself short of said dinero (but that is another post in and of itself).

I digress. So what is it about shopping I hate so much? I think it is the shopping experience that I detest so much. All those people, for one. I can’t stand crowds. Black Friday is a nightmare, I avoid (I’m more of a Cyber Monday kind of gal). Waiting in lines makes me shutter. Even worse is shopping with my kids. Their whining and begging turn me into a mega-b. By the time we’re back in the car headed home, I don’t even like myself. Add to that most stores have the heat turned way too high. If I have to take off my coat (as my sister lovingly knows), I usually take my patience  off with it and we might as well just go home.

My shopping attitude could be the culprit. Maybe if I had a more positive attitude about the whole experience, I’d like it more. I usually start with a good attitude. In my mind’s eye I can see that sweater or the boots or the running shoes I want. I can picture what I want, I can just never find it or if I do it’s the wrong size or too expensive or the wrong color. I either leave empty-handed or with something almost like what I was looking for and in both cases disappointed.

Thus, I’ve turned most of my shopping needs over to the virtual world. Online shopping is my holiday salvation. I am a proud Amazon Prime member (free two-day shipping!!!) My co-workers know when the smiley-face boxes begin to fill my cubicle the Christmas season has begun. Opening those brown boxes never fails to make me smile!

In most cases, I can get most of what I need online. The pictures and reviews are helpful – and I don’t miss the dressing room. Although, I still can’t always find what I want, the disappointment is less when I don’t actually have to leave my bed to shop. Occasionally, I’m disappointed, but at least my head and feet aren’t throbbing at the end of the day.

Anyone else hate shopping, shopping?  Or is it just me?

Funky Friday

Maybe, if I chase a blinking cursor across a blank page and spill my words, I’ll feel better. Some days peace settles over me and everything feels right. Today isn’t one of those days. Some days I feel like a war is waging within me. That would be today. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Panic.

I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my body – the hot flashes alternate with the chills. The tightness settles in my chest. I look over my shoulder and no one is lurking or threatening. No one, but me.

I thought the running, the getting in shape would stave off that dragon of mine. I hoped never to see its face staring down on me. Yet when I least expect it, he taps me on the shoulder, catching me off guard and says “I’m back…” Go ahead and smile or throw-up. 

My lips curl upward as my fingers continue to fly across the keyboard. I will NOT be defeated. The panic does not OWN me.  It does not win.  Breath in, breath out.  Be still. And let it pass. I’m OK.

What Do Fuzzy Caterpillars Have To Do With It?

The past few days on my evening run (I wouldn’t have believed it either if you’d asked me six months ago!), I noticed several fuzzy caterpillars cross my path and thought of my grandma. I live on the same road that she did and on the “back” of my “out and back” route I can see her old house as I return to mine. Strangers live there now. She’s been gone from this world for 16 years now. It hardly seems that its been that long since she put her arms around me and hugged me.

I still remember that giddy feeling I’d get in the bottom of my stomach, that rising excitement and face-splitting smile that’d cross my face when my Dad turned our old Malibu station wagon  on to her country road and her white farmhouse would pop into view. My sister and I would bounce on our seats – “we’re almost there!” Almost too Grandma’s house and staying up late to watch Dallas, eating frozen oatmeal cookies and laughing uncontrollably over a hand of cards. I miss my grandmother. I miss getting her letters and hearing her voice on the telephone. I miss lemonade under the big tree and sleeping under the light-up Jesus picture on her living room floor.

When we moved into our house twelve years ago I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about seeing her house everyday and knowing she wasn’t there. I thought it might make me sad. For the longest time I’d used my magical thinking powers to “pretend” that she wasn’t gone, gone. She was just in Florida or on vacation and would be back soon. My twenty-something self couldn’t bring myself to think of her as dead. It seemed so, so final. When I see her house now though, I smile even though I know she isn’t there or in Florida or on vacation. While she may not be on this earth, she is in my heart. I see her in the smiles of my children.

photo 1So when I see a fuzzy caterpillar cross my path on a run and pretty yellow butterfly, I think of her. I wonder if she sent them to me as a sign that she’s still around, that she’s smiling and proud of me. What do fuzzy caterpillars have to do with it, you might ask.

photo 3Well, here’s the story. When my sister and I would stay with my grandma, we’d always take a long evening walk (she’d always take her manicuring scissors with her as protection from bad guys of course). As we walked along the side of the road she pointed out the caterpillars to us. She used to say you could tell how bad the winter would be by the color of the caterpillar. I, however, can never remember if it’s the darker the color the worse the winter or the darker the color the better the winter. The caterpillars around my house are pretty light-colored this fall so I’m hoping the light color means a light winter. I Googled it and found out the caterpillars are actually called woolly bears or woolly worms. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a definitive answer on what the caterpillar’s color actually predicts. So, I’m thinking that legend is much like the ground hog’s shadow and winter will be what it will be.

Does anyone out there know what the caterpillar color winter predictor legend is? I’d love to know!

Maybe Jack Frost Isn’t So Bad After All

photo credit: Ennor via photopin cc
photo credit: Ennor via photopin cc

The icy wind chills and blowing snow from four months ago don’t seem quite so terrible after a week of heat advisories. Yes, I know that is blasphemy coming from this summer-loving gal. However, after sweating through seven days in a row of 90-degree weather combined with 95% humidity and no central air, I’m ready for some cooler temperatures. And yes, I’ll deny writing those words come January when my feet are frozen and summer is a distant memory.

The home I grew up in did not have air conditioning.  When I was in high school my parents broke down and installed a window air conditioner in their bedroom. My mom was a school librarian and home with us during the summers. I think she got tired of sweating all day in addition to mediating the bickering between my sister and me.  On the really hot days we’d all pile into her bedroom and watch soaps, read or play cards.  The nights cooled down and with the windows open and the fan on, it really wasn’t that bad (although I’m sure I complained about it a lot). Interestingly my parents installed central air after my sister and I both moved out.

Thus, for twenty-two summers or so, I lived without that modern technology called air conditioning .So when my husband turned on our central air on that first hot day of the year back in May and nothing happened, I decided we could live without it this summer. How bad could it really be? I worked all day in air conditioning, so I’d really only have to live AC-free in the evenings and weekends. We could be a “green” family this summer, I reasoned. Plus, we’d save money on electricity and an AC-repair bill. I figured if it did get really hot, at the least I’d sweat off an extra pound or two. It was a winning situation all the way around! Our broken AC was actually a blessing. We sailed through May and June with a few hot days, but the nights cooled off to the high 60’s and low 70s.  With a cool breeze blowing the curtains, I feel asleep with ease. When July started out cool and rainy, I figured we could tough it out sans-AC for the entire summer.

Rewind to a week and a half ago, when the “heat wave” hit. After a weekend of not sleeping, of sweating within minutes of after taking a cold shower, I cracked. On Monday morning, my husband got home from the night shift. Casually, I mentioned maybe we should call the repairman to look at the central air after all.  He reminded me that I wanted to save money this summer. I told him I’d find some other way to save money. He then pointed out that by the time the AC guy could come out to our house the heat wave would be over. And he did have a point. Dejected, I left for work, hoping the weather would break soon and wondering if I could sleep in our mini-van with the AC on if I parked in the driveway! Thankfully, a few hours later my inbox dinged bringing an email from my husband. He’d called the repairman and they’d be by later that day or Wednesday morning at the latest. Elated, I hoped to come home to the glorious coolness only AC could bring. That was not to be, however, and the girls and I sprawled in front of the fan on the pull-out couch for two more nights.  Wednesday morning brought the genius man who fixed our central air though.

And yes, the heat wave did break and the forecast for the next week calls for highs only in  the low to mid 80’s. Will I turn the AC off? I think not. As I type this post, I’m lying in my bed in relative coolness as our AC works to keep us comfortable and I am more than thankful. Lesson learned.

What about you? Can you live without  AC in the summer?

5 Lessons Learned On My Road To Being “Almost” Fit

2013-06-16 16.21.13As a young girl I think I must have had an unnaturally high metabolism or something. I could eat whatever I wanted, thwarted exercise and never gained a pound well into my twenties. I wasn’t known as the prettiest or the smartest girl and never the most athletic one; but, I’d always been the thinnest and waifiest.

Fast-forward two babies, fifteen plus years on antidepressants for anxiety/panic, years of emotional eating and hitting that brick wall of middle age, I’m far from the thinnest these days. And, I’m OK with that. Really. What I’m not OK with is the humbling fact that I weigh more now than at any other time in my life aside from the last months of pregnancy. I decided (and no, despite what some may think, I’m not having a midlife crisis even though I did get a tattoo and like listening to Taylor Swift and P!nk) I needed to do something about my dissatisfaction with myself. Thus, if you’ve been following along this blog of mine, you know I’ve been on a quest to “get fit” lately.

I realize I didn’t put on these extra pounds overnight and they aren’t magically going to fall off after a few months of walking/running and counting calories (although I admit I still devour those articles where women seemingly lose 30 pounds in 30 days by following one simple rule…)  Even though I’m not a skinny-mini anymore and never will be again, I am feeling better, stronger and more energetic. Which, is the whole point, right? (yes, I am still trying to convince myself of that!) And so, I thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve learned thus far.

Lesson #1: Do NOT take any children under the age of ten on your walking/running workouts unless they can still fit in a stroller. As I started my couch to 5K journey, my girls begged to come along. Great, I thought, I can get in some fitness activity and spend quality time with the girls. I failed to consider that the six-year-old stops every five steps or so to pick flowers or tie her shoe. I also failed to consider that her feet would hurt after 10 minutes or the fact that as we were jogging along she would stop dead in front of me causing me to trip and fall, knocking her over, landing in a heap in the middle of the road. With blood dripping from both our knees I limped back home with her on my back. While I still take her on short walks some days, I now know I won’t be getting an actual workout and plan to do so after.

Lesson #2: Check the radar before you leave unless you don’t mind getting wet. So far I’ve gotten completely drenched three times this summer. No drought this year, that’s for sure. Another tip is that if there are dark clouds in the sky when you step out the door, you’ll probably get wet. I thought our weather came from the west and I’d be safe if the clouds were north, south or east of me – not so. The weather is hot, though, so the rain actually felt pretty good. However, when the thunder started rumbling and I was still a mile away from shelter, I must admit I got a bit worried. Fortunately for me, I made it home without getting struck by lightening.

Lesson #3: Use your gadgets, but don’t rely on then. I am the queen of gadgets and cool iPhone apps. I have several that I really like right now…Lose It, Up, and Run Keeper. I like to track my progress and look back over my logs. It makes me feel good to see how far I’ve come since I started in March. However, as soon as you become obsessed with the tracking – the app will crash or your cell phone will die and you’ll lose your data. When this happened to me (multiple times!) it was really discouraging, but luckily I didn’t let it derail me. Try, try again.

Lesson #4: Sign up for a 5K (or two or three) as a runner. I used to think in order to sign up as a runner in a 5K, that I actually had to, well, run it (go figure!). As I talked to some of my running friends, I was enlightened. If you sign up as a walker, you aren’t allowed to run, but the reverse is not true. You don’t have to be able to run the whole thing to sign up as a runner. Weird that this had never occurred to me before. So far, I’ve ran/walked in three 5Ks. I’ve yet to run the entire distance, but each time I’m a little closer. I’m signed up for three more throughout the summer. This is probably the best thing I’ve done to keep me going as it gives something to work toward as I progress toward fitness.

Lesson #5: The process is the goal! A week or so ago, I sat in my doctor’s office lamenting the fact that my weight wasn’t melting off as I’d hoped. He told me I need to change my mindset. He said he wanted the process to be my goal, not a number on the scale. He said the goal is to stay within 1500-1800 calories and walk/run 3 miles a day. If I met those goals, he continued, the weight would come off, the energy would come and I’d be healthier. This isn’t what I wanted to hear, but it made sense. After thinking it through I know he’s right. My goal can’t be a certain pant size or weight. I need to do these things every day for the rest of my life. I’m on my way to making these changes into habits. As Dory from Find Nemo always says, “Just keep swimming…” and that’s what I intend to do (except I’m running instead:))

Does anyone have any “get fit” lessons they want to share?