Best Day Yet…

The best day of the year came today. OK, maybe I can’t equivocally deem today the best day of 2018 as we’ve really only just begun. I can say it will rank up there in the top 10 best days of the year though. THIS is the day, I long for most. Is it my birthday? No. Did I get a huge raise? Hardly. Did my children surprise me by spontaneously cleaning the entire house? Did you just spit out your coffee? Yes, I am laughing too. I am dreaming big there!  So what might you ask, makes today, April 12, 2018, one of my top 10 best days of the year? Can you stand the suspense? Today is the first day the temperature made it into the 70’s, the sun is actually shining, and the Ohio winds died down to just a light breeze. You can’t plan for a day like this nor can you count down to it. It just comes seemingly out of nowhere. Bam! Spring fever has arrived.

Yes, indeed it is those little things that make me smile. When I woke up this morning I had no idea, today would be that day. As I walked to the corner Shell Station to get my morning cup of coffee (and yes, I know it is cheaper to make it at home, but that requires 10 minutes less snooze time and yes I digress again. But, I do love parathenticals), it was actually spitting snow. Yet when left the building at exactly 5:01 PM, the sun warmed my face and the wind tossled my hair. I wore no coat or jacket and I was not cold. Not only that, but I actually had no one I had to taxi to an activity after work. Thus, I made a beeline to the local Ace and picked up a pair of fresh gardening gloves and a sharp snipper thingy (I do believe that is the technical term for that tool:)) I even threw in a few packets of wildflower seeds for good measure!

I spent the last few hours digging in the dirt. I got out the rake and started in one corner of the yard. I cleared away the dried leaves from falls that were caught under the bushes and hiding my daffodils and tulips. I pulled out the remants of last summer’s tall grasses. I marvelled at the tips of green poking up through the moist dirt of plants whose names I don’t know. They are ready to burst through and thrive. Maybe I’m being a bit optimistic with that last part (this is me I’m writing about after all).

My knees are dirty, my face is flushed and any passers by probably got to see more of my backside than they wanted (as even with a belt my damn jeans keep falling down. Now I know how plumbers feel.) I breathed in the fresh, warm air that smelled of spring. Oh yes! I am blissful. I feel invigorated. I have that spring energy, where when I look at my yard everything is fresh and has possibilities. That hot, sweltering dusty, dryness of late July is in the distance. I am not yet cynical and too tired to pull another weed or water my withered flower beds or fight another infestation of bugs. Right now, in this moment, I can see the beautiful blooms in my minds eye and it is gorgeous.

 

 

Death in the Fire Swamp

20180202_211428811_iOSA couple of times a year my mother, sister and I spend a girls’ weekend away from the hustle and mundaneness of everyday life. This past weekend we set off on one of these said adventures.  Our journey took us to Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, OH.  We participated in a murder-mystery themed weekend entitled: Death in the Fire Swamp. When my sis asked us whether we’d like this get-away weekend as a Christmas gift, I immediately texted back, “I’m in!” without really reading the fine print (oops!) The Princess Bride is my all-time favorite movie, so I figured, why not?

We surmised we might be in over our heads when a few weeks before we received an email from the nice Mr. Denham requesting baby photos for wanted posters, encouraging us to dress up and bring fake clues and reminding us it was a 24/7 adventure for which we might want to sleep with one eye open! All three of us where thinking the same thing: “WTF did we sign up for!?!” Alas in line with my “Be Brave” mantra of 2018, we emailed our pics and briefly discussed and then dismissed the idea of wearing costumes. Going in we knew this was not going to be our typical girls’ weekend of mani/pedis, followed by a bit of shopping and maybe taking in a chic flit and holing up in our hotel room to read a good book with a glass of Moscato in quiet, uninterrupted bliss.

For a trio of introverts, this elaborate weekend expertly put on by the Shadow Stalkers was a bit outside our (my – I really should only speak for myself) comfort zone. Luckily we were part of a team that included two hilarious sisters from Long Island that almost single-handedly found all the items on our scavenger hunt (such as an interaction with a fire department and feeding a live white deer!) and the Scooby Doo gang from Columbus.  Our mission was to determine who killed Miracle Max’s assistant, find a missing diamond, bring back various items in a scavenger hunt and participate in night searches to recover body parts (fake ones of course) to earn bonus points. Additionally there were other puzzles and brain teasers to solve mystery artifacts, pictures and bones to identify as well as well as an insurance policy number to secure.

20180203_151502221_iOSWithin hours of arriving at the castle, my mom had contracted “the grip” and had to speak with her fist on her head when she spoke and wear a look of extreme constipation. Luckily a healer was on site and eventually she was cured. At breakfast the next morning; however, my sis and I found out that we had an unfortunate brush with the killer the previous evening and were now “mostly dead.” By the end of the weekend all but one of our teammates was “mostly dead.”  While our team came in last place and didn’t find the diamond or sleuth out who the killers were, I think it is safe to say well all had a good time (thanks sis!).

Although I probably won’t sign up for another murder mystery weekend (especially ones with zombies), I would go back to Ravenwood Castle. When I awoke Sunday morning to a beautiful dusting of snow,  I found myself rethinking how much I usually hate snow, the cold and anything winter. (Being a February baby you’d think I’d be a winter person, but no.) As the snowflakes gently wafted down and settled in my hair, I wandered about and made the first footprints in the untouched snow and snapped some photos with my iPhone along the way.  My heart thawed just a little, teeny bit at the beauty winter can bring. I could have spent hours exploring and taking photos from various angles.  I can imagine myself spending a long weekend taking photos, writing and of course reading in this beautiful setting. While these seem like solitary endeavors to some for me it is exactly what I need. I feel comfort when my loved ones are sitting in the same room with me as we each enter our own imaginary worlds and as we escape into our books. I enjoy walking and chatting and of course laughing as we take funny pics along the way. Even more than the time away, I appreciate coming back home to my girls. This weekend embraced all of that and more.

Here are some of my favorite pics from the weekend. Enjoy!

What do you like to do on your get away weekends?

 

 

 

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?

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?

Yeah Right, Keep Dreaming Baby…

The girls officially started summer vacation almost two weeks ago already. They love the warmer weather, playing outside, no homework and later bed times. I love burying my nose in their sun-kissed hair and watching their arms and legs brown up, despite the sunscreen I insist they lather on. The other night as we were walking along, I talked about what we were going to do the upcoming weekend. My oldest looked at me and smiled. She said, “you know what I love about summer, Mom? I forget what day it is! I bet you don’t though, because you still have to go to work!”Sigh. Alas, she is quite right, though. For the most part, I know what day we’re on and how many days left until the weekend! I’m quite envious of my daughters. It’s days like that, I wish I’d gone into teaching (unfortunately, my authoritative aura is lacking and I’d be like the substitute that goes home crying because the class ran over her – not good for me or the kids.)

As the days continue to grow longer, though at least I get to enjoy spending more time outdoors with the girls after work and on weekends. As I’ve recently started a fitness obsession, we’re walking, riding bikes and shooting hoops in the driveway. What we haven’t been doing (at least not yet), is swimming. While the girls love splashing about, the pool is not one of my favorite summer activities. If I could float undisturbed on a raft (without getting wet) in my own private pool with a tall, tall fence I might enjoy it more. However, the idea of putting on a scrap of material (or in my case a really big scrap) and parading around in a public place with much of my body exposed mortifies me (hence, the above-mentioned fitness obsession!). On the bright side, at least I don’t live in a country where bathing suits are optional!

Me, Age 26
Me, Age 26

The other day I came across an old photo of myself (see right) in (gasp) a bathing suit (with a t-shirt over it). I remember cringing at this photo back in the day when it was first taken. I didn’t think I looked good – at all. I didn’t think I was pretty enough or curvy enough. Looking at the girl in the photo almost 20 years later, I would give anything to look that good in a bathing suit again! So I’m thinking, either I didn’t look as bad as I thought back then or my standards are lower these days! Unfortunately, I don’t think even if I ran 10 miles a day or limited myself to 900 calories a day, I could ever look like that again.  It’s a shame I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

So I’m thinking as I stand in front of a mirror once again mentally criticising my body and they way I look, I wonder if when I look back at my 43-year-old self 20 years from now, I’ll wish I looked as good now as I did then. What would my 63-year-old-self tell me now? Would I tell myself I don’t look half as bad as I thought! Hmmm. Probably. So, why not think it now?  Why not be happy with myself they way I am right now? Well, because I know I could look better and feel better. Out of all the uncertainties in this world, I can control my body. I control what I eat, how much I sleep and whether I jog two miles or sit on the couch and watch TV.  And so, I’m running/walking in my second 5k on Saturday. Yes, the obsession continues….For now…

What about you? How do you see yourself in old photos? Do you think you look better or worse than you thought you did back when it was taken?

 

Wanted: The Ultimate, Ultra Umbrella

2013-01-29 09.06.17April in Northwest Ohio has certainly lived up to its motto, “April showers…” this year. Actually its been more like “April down pours.” We should have the best “May spring flowers” ever. Today’s been no exception to the rain. Rain would be fine, if it weren’t for the wind. The wind is merciless and unrelenting.

It’s pointless to carry an umbrella around here. No less than two minutes after I raise it up, the wind flips it inside out, I curse it, struggle to right it, end up wetter than I would have if I’d just made a run for it, and toss the mangled umbrella in the trash. I’m not really a prissy or anything. I don’t mind getting a little wet. Really, I don’t. I just want to get from point “A” to point “B” without getting drenched. I’ve tried all sorts of umbrellas from mini-compact to golf, they all end up – inside out. This is why I seek the ultimate, ultra umbrella. I believe it must exist somewhere out there. It doesn’t have to be a Mary Poppins-type umbrella. I’m not looking for magical or supernatural qualities. I just want one that’s sturdy enough to withstand a windy, rainy day in Ohio.

Anyone?