Happy Birthday, Butch

Today would have been my dad’s 77th birthday. I wanted to do something for him today, but I wasn’t quite sure what. My initial thought was to have friends over to toast him with the bottle of Maker’s Mark that my good friend Kelly gave me at his passing. But now the day is here and I am not sure what I am feeling.

Empty, I guess. Sad. A little lost and aimless.

So I decided to do something with some purpose and to take some action.

This morning I signed up for Auction College. In June, I will travel to beautiful Mason City, Iowa, and attend the World Wide College of Auctioneering, just like my dad did 35 years ago.

Image result for auctioneer

I’m a little nervous about all this. I’m afraid I won’t be able to talk fast enough or that I’ll think too much, thus preventing me from talking fast enough. But, as I am learning in my study of myself (and my reading of You Are a Badass), I have to just do it.

Most of the time, I am hesitant. I overthink and worry and stand at the edge of the diving board, having made it all the way up the ladder, and I look down and get dizzy. “What ifs” ping around in my head like popcorn in a skillet. At some point, I have to make the decision to take that step and have faith that the water will be there when I jump. Maybe I’ll make a great splash, maybe I’ll bellyflop, but until I step off that board, I’ll just fret and get myself worked into a knot and I’ll never know.

This will be a big step, but I have to embrace this and run with it. I know that when I leave teaching, whenever that is, I want to, will have to, do something else. And last year, when Ed and I went to a huge five-day auction in Morning Sun, Iowa, (it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there), I was excited and invigorated. They ran three rings all day every day. I had never been to a sale that big, ever. I talked to the women at the sign in table. I talked about my dad who had been an auctioneer for over 30 years and how I had been his clerk for much of that time.

“Maybe I ought to become an auctioneer myself,” I said. To which one of the gals responded, “Women auctioneers are big right now.” Hmmmm. Interesting.

I think know I’ve got the Moxie and the chutzpah to do this. Now I just need to harness that energy and make it happen. So step up and get your bidding numbers. When I start calling (or “crying” as the lingo goes), you want to be ready.

Happy Birthday, Pa. I hope I make you proud.

Cheers.

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Who Am I?

For Christmas, I got something special for Ed and myself. For quite a while, I’d been considering getting a DNA test to see where I really came from. Ed, too, of course. But since my dad passed away in July, it is something that became more important to me.

So, I ordered two test kits from 23 and Me.

They arrived the first part of December. That very evening they got registered online and we both spit into tubes. A lot. They never tell you how much spit it’s going to take. Quite a bit, it turns out. Anyhow, they got shipped off the next morning. And this past Wednesday, as I was waiting in line to give blood, I checked e-mail on my phone and….the results were in!

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Despite that our family generally thought we were mostly German, I always joked that I was switched at birth by gypsies and I’m actually mostly British. Turns out I was right all along — I am mostly British and Irish –28.8% in fact! Holy cow! Next thing you’ll be telling me I’m not 100% Muggle.

Actually this correlates with some family history my cousin found. Part of my mom’s family came from Northern Ireland and from England, which tells me that they were likely part of the groups that “colonized” Northern Ireland to keep it from being Irish, which makes me sad. But I am one of those people who believe Ireland should belong to the Irish, so I am counting myself a rebel.

As far as the German part, that’s not quite as strong as I thought, either. I’m about as much French & German (21.5%) as I am Scandinavian (20.3%). Apparently I’m also about 29% “Broadly European,” whatever that means.

From what I understand, though, I cannot know the whole history of my background because I am not a man. There are some genes that would be passed down from my dad’s side of the family only to a son. I cried when I learned that, because I’d love to know more about Dad’s side.

To make things even more dismal, I don’t think there are any males on his side that I could even check with, because I think both my Grandpa Arp’s brothers died with no heirs, or at least no sons. Not to speak of, anyway. I guess one could always hope that someone fooled around somewhere and begot a son that they didn’t know about, or leastways that I don’t know about. Who knows? Maybe if I enter my DNA results into the 23 and Me pool, I can find out if there are others out there.

As for Ed, the results are still pending. I told him it’s probably because he’s more complicated. He’s worried he’s not a German purebred, to which I responded that he’s probably a mutt like the rest of us.

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But, for now, I guess I’ll be content to know that the desire to wear plaid and do a Highland Fling and listen to Celtic music has some grounding in my genetics. And I suppose that explains why I can do pretty passable accents for England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Image result for highland flingNote: this is not actually me. Just so you know.

Cheers.

The Early Bird; or Slowing Down

Winter. Ugh. It makes me sleepy all the time, or so it seems. Last night, after school and body pump class (and dishes and a shower and organizing for my Wednesday), I couldn’t even stay awake to finish the NYT Crossword. I left Ed to finish it on his own and collapsed into bed. Neither did I toss or turn for too long once I snuggled down under the fluffy layers of quilt and comforter. And if the cat tried to wake me up during the night, I missed that, too.

So, early to bed. Next? Early to rise.

After 9 hours or so, I was up at 4:15-ish. I made myself stay in my cocoon until 4:30, though. But now here I am, 5:41 and typing away with nothing left on the docket but my meditation time on my lovely porch. Ahhh.

I found a new meditation timer for my phone, so I will sit silently for five minutes until the little gong gongs me out of it. I’m not back to yoga yet, but am trying to make sure I fit in my daily meditation practice because I know, and according to my newest read, You Are a Badass (see cover below), it will help me to calm down and slow down. I first picked the book up in Target because I thought the title was funny. I randomly picked a spot and started to read. Hmmm. Interesting. Then I picked another spot. Quirky. Interesting. After I picked a third and a fourth spot, I figured I might as well buy the book. You know. Why not?

Image result for You Are A Badass

So, in combination with my new therapist and a couple other books I have been reading to try to get my head (and eventually my body) into better shape, this book has been phenomenal. Do you ever read (or hear or see) something that just clicks with where your life is at the moment? Coincidence or fate or kismet or whatever you want to call it. That’s how this is feeling right now. I once read that there really is no such thing as coincidence but when you are focusing in on something, your perception changes and you start to see it everywhere. I read this, but then my therapist said it and I think that’s what’s going on here. I don’t care. Whatever it is, it’s helping.

Image result for the things you can see only when you slow down

Something else that’s helping is a lovely little book called The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down. Written by a Korean Buddhist monk (and, seriously, who else could have written such a concise, simple, thought-provoking, and lovely book?), I read this in small doses so I can ponder and savor. If you want a little snippet, check out this YouTube link to Haemin Sunim, who teaches at a small college in Massachusetts. Or if you would like a bigger slice of Zen, check this NPR story done last year. Apparently the book came out last year and I am a little late to the party, but I really love it. When I went to Barnes and Noble in November, they had two copies. I bought them both. One I gave to a friend for Christmas, though I suspect I may buy and give away more copies. It’s that kind of book.

So, my juxtaposition/trifecta include my therapist, an in-your-face and face-the-music kind of author, and a Buddhist monk. Huh. Sounds like the start of a bar joke, doesn’t it? But, you have to admit, that it is totally me. And I am confident it will result in a better me. Happy New Me, everyone! And don’t forget: the early bird gets the best books! (not a fan of worms, here)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

thermom

It was actually -20 when I got up at 4:30! By 9:30, a balmy +8

And a little bit inside, too! Scarfed and hatted and sitting in front of the (fake) fireplace (heater) drinking hot cocoa. I will be so relieved when this snap is over. Sounds like maybe tomorrow we might get up to the 20s, which makes me want to break out the beachwear (almost). Am really hoping that I can soon start sitting back on my beloved sunporch surrounded by my plants, which are also hoping for the temps to travel upward.

Though it’s been a bone-chilling way to start 2018, I refuse to become discouraged. I sit with my sun lamp (which really does help; thanks to my massage therapist, Stacy, for recommending it), and I write and plot and plan. It’s the season of indoor sports, like quilting and knitting and tap-dancing (tap-dancing? what’s really in that hot cocoa? I hear you asking). Yes, tap-dancing!

Okay, so last June (ah, June – warmth, sunshine, rhubarb) Ed and I finally made it to the Aledo Rhubarb Fest, which was delightful. I had the most wonderful rhubarb pie ala mode! So after wandering the craft stalls and antique shops, we are heading back to the car, and I need coffee (when don’t I, really?).

So after a quick stop in the coffeeshop, I see a consignment store next door (are there vaccines for this? I swear consignment stores are my kryptonite). Naturally, I have to look around. And I see a pair of black shoes with a low heel and a strap and I think, “Hey! I could use a nice pair like that (and I am not making this part up) if we ever go dancing.”

I pick them up and they are, indeed, dance shoes. But they are tap shoes! And they are in my size! And (drumroll, please), they are on sale and cost me $6! I seriously should have bought a lottery ticket immediately after, except I was in Illinois, so even if I had won the lottery, I probably would never have seen the money.

So the reason this is such a crazy big deal to me is that when I was in college, for a P.E. credit, I could, and did, take a tap-dancing class. I had a blast! I had to buy shoes for the class and kept them. Or thought I did. Somewhere in all the moving around that was my life after college, they got lost. I was bummed about this, but figured, “Oh, well. This totally sucks, but there’s not much I can do. And I’m certainly not going to run out and spend a fortune on another pair of tap shoes.”

And that, ladies and gents, is why finding a pair of tap shoes in my size, which I never would have bought otherwise, was such a big deal. Hooray!

For little bits of time this summer, in between bouts of worrying about my dad who was sick with a mystery illness (now we know it was ALS, which is now my favorite disease to hate), I found some YouTube videos on how to tap dance and spent some time tapping on the back deck. This is one of the many times when it’s nice not to have neighbors too close to the back of the house, because I’m pretty sure if someone saw me tap-dancing on the back deck, they might have wanted to have me committed, although I was already committed – to having a great time tap-dancing on the back deck! (I got a million of ’em, folks).

tap shoesThe infamous $6 tap shoes

So, that’s how we get from a sub-zero  Saturday morning in January to tap-dancing. I always find it interesting what turns my writing is going to take. I certainly hadn’t expected tap-dancing. But no one suspects tap-dancing. Or is the Spanish Inquisition?

Cheers!

Happy New Year (ish – that’s the best I can give when it’s -20 outside; we won’t discuss wind chill)

Okay, boys and girls, the word of the day for January 1, 2018 is: flexibility!

Image result for gumby                                 (Anybody remember this guy? I was so flexible today, I was him!)

Yes, flexibility. Not in the yoga sense, though that is a valid guess. No, in the “it’s too cold for me to start my year outdoors with a hike so instead I will clean house like a maniac” sense

The old me would have felt guilty for skipping the hike I signed up for with the Quad Cities Women’s Outdoors Club (QCWOC). I really wanted to start the year off right with a bracing hike in the park. But looking at the thermometer on the front porch and listening to the windchill report from the National Weather Service, I knew it made more sense for me to stay indoors.

Besides, I went back to my first body pump class in about three months yesterday morning, and yesterday afternoon I tried hot yoga. That means as the day went on, I made a lot of funny noises whenever I had to bend, stoop, or squat down to dust under the bed. “Oow! Ouch! Argh!” and that sort of thing. But in a good way.

So rather than mope around about how I missed the hike, I decided it was time to check some January cleaning chores off the list. Part of my organization for the year involved creating a system to make sure I clean everything more regularly. To that end, I’ve got a recipe box my mom gave me and have labelled the dividers with each month with that month’s tasks written on recipe cards. When each month rolls around and I complete the tasks on that month’s card, I am writing the date on the back. So today my ceiling fans are dusted and the dust bunnies under the beds cowered in fear until I wiped them out. A little too OCD? Not so much. I feel better having a system. I am a list-maker, and this is the ultimate list for cleaning.

And then there was the bread making. When it’s cold outside, nothing makes the kitchen feel warmer, or smell better, than baking bread. Plus I got to do that kneading, which I actually enjoy. And it helps me think (and did not involve having to bend or stretch muscles that were sore). Even though the loaves did not turn out all that well, they were still fine because, as we have already learned, I am Gumby. Flexibility, ladies and gents. That is part of what this new year is about.

Cheers!

Image result for baked bread Wish my bread had turned out like this. Instead, it looked a little wonky and not photo-worthy. Maybe next time.

Starting Over; Time for “All In”

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After how many months of not writing (at least not here; occasionally elsewhere), with the new year approaching (thankfully – 2017 has been a lousy year; lots of loss, lots of heartbreak), I want to start with a clean slate and a renewed spirit to make sure that I post on a regular basis. Not just to make sure I write something, although that is certainly one aspect, but to help myself stick to a plan and commitment to follow through.

I started a week or two ago with a new therapist. I’ve been struggling for a long time with lots of issues (not sure now is the time or here is the place to open up those cans of worms, so just trust me on this one), and finding the right therapist is a lot like dating: it takes a few times together to determine if there is the right chemistry and fit. So, in the interest of better mental health, leading, hopefully, to a better me, I have taken the plunge again.

We are taking a different approach this time, which I am optimistic about. Plus I have been reading a couple of books that seem to mesh well with how we are talking about things, so, again, feeling some hope.

I think Ed is on board with me a bit more this time, which is very helpful. So now I am using the remainder of my break as planning time and thinking time and reading time. Not sure just what I’ll be tackling here, but steady as she goes.

Writing has traditionally been a way for me to help address the things with which I struggle. But in the past year or two I feel I’ve let it slide. Not sure if it’s because I don’t want to tackle things or if things have tackled me to the point that I just didn’t care. But now I know I have to care and I have to write. Writing will be one of the things to save me. I know it is just one of many things, but it is going to be a big piece for me, because, even though I haven’t been doing much of it or enough of it the past two years, I consider myself a writer. Writing is who I am and who I want to be. So don’t you think it’s about time I really went all in? Me, too. So let’s go! Pick up your pens or sit at the keyboard or the typewriter (you weapon, your choice).

I am also excited because there is a new coffeeshop much closer to my neck of the woods (it’s in the Harrison Hilltop area – The Brewed Book). I am planning to check it out in the next couple of days. A bookstore and coffeeshop. Now if they have a little chocolate that would be helpful. And cats. But I won’t get greedy. According to the article I read, it’s not a fancy-ass coffeeshop, which is fine by me. Just a plain cup of joe is fine. As long as there is somewhere to sit and read or talk and books to look at, I’m good.

So, now it’s time for me to go all in. Part of my problem is that I go part way and then pull back. Therefore, the theme for 2018 is All In! Wish me luck, because I am at the top of the ladder and am now approaching the edge of the diving board.

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Oh, and did I mention that going to auction school is on the agenda?

 

A Walk in the Woods

Yesterday I took a hike in my favorite park, Wildcat Den near Muscatine. I cut my hiking boots on that park. I grew up with it and love it, from Fat Man’s Squeeze to the Grist Mill. Despite being a particularly beautiful day, I didn’t run into many hikers But that’s okay. I was on a thinking mission, and think I did.

Every September, there is a 5K through the park. The year of my divorce, I won first place in my age group, much to my shock and surprise. Since then, I have dreamt of doing that again. But the year of the big D I lost 20 pounds or so (starting from a lower number than where I am now, sad to say), so I think all the working out I was doing at that point had a lot to do with my win.

So, now that I have been thinking a lot about re-making myself, I am setting a goal for that race again. Not necessarily to win my age group, though that would be awesome. Rather, to at least place (which means in the top three). So, to that end, my new goals are to hike the park twice a week, following the race route. After I lose ten pounds, which I know is possible, then I will start running the route twice a week. I must set my goal and work to achieve it.

And there is the problem for me lately. I really wish, wish being the operative word, I could lose the weight I need to lose with no work. That’s the difference between a wish and reality. In reality, it’s actually hard work to lose weight. At least it is for me, and probably for anybody else who has more than five pounds to lose. So I have to stop being lazy and start making short term goals to hit the long term.

The long term? I’m not sure I want to actually write it down in public like this, but I suppose I ought to in order to make myself more accountable. My overall goal would be to lose between 40 and 50 pounds. I don’t usually tell that to people out loud, because then I hear all kinds of prattle like, “Oh, you don’t need to lose that much,” or “You don’t have that to lose,” Indeed, kind reader, I do. I know where I used to be and haven’t seen that number for a long, long time. And now, if I want to get close to that number again, I have to be strong. I have to be steady. I have to work hard every single day, with as few slips as possible. There will be slips. I know this. I would be naive to think otherwise.

But I know that I have to not just work on my body, but my brain, too. I find it hard to look in the mirror sometimes. But I especially find it hard to look at myself in photos. That is why I never take “selfies” aside from the fact that I find selfies annoying and childish. But I imagine if I got closer to “the number” I might consider it. But I have to work on being kinder to myself and liking myself, or all of this will be for naught. I can’t keep hating on myself and be able to reach my goal.

So, I will physically work hard. I will plan and organize my food. I will continue to practice meditation and yoga to help keep me mindful. And I will continue to work with my therapist so I can redirect my anger and frustrations into more productive channels.

I will re-make myself into the person I really want to become!

Huh! All of that revelation from a 50 minute walk in the woods. Thanks, Mother Nature!