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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.

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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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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?

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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)

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.

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!

Stand Up!

Get up, stand up; stand up for your right!

Get up, stand up; don’t give up the fight!  — Bob Marley

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Have you ever had such a feeling of loneliness that even in a room of people you feel a welling up of such deep and utter sadness that it is an almost physical wrenching?

That’s how I’ve been feeling for the past couple of weeks. Sadness and despair so intense I fell into times of mental paralysis, forgetting things so simple and elemental that I truly feared for my sanity. I do suffer from depression, but this was different. It was may familiar bout of depression amplified so as to be unrecognizable. I felt so frightened at times, though I could not have told you what it was that frightened me had you asked.

I am happy to say that all of this shifted last Saturday. Because I found out I’m not alone. Last Saturday, millions of women, men and children around the world marched with me. Well, maybe we didn’t all actually march, because some places there were simply too many to actually march. In fact, my particular “march” gathered in a Union hall. But it was not the movement, in a physical sense, that mattered. It was the gathering. It was the communing, the fellowship, the standing together with some friends, but mainly strangers, and all looking for others who felt like me, finding strength and solace in numbers. Realizing that as low as we all felt things had become, that, together, we would work to turn this ship around and start back-paddling before it completely went over the falls and hit the rocks. At least, I hope so.

rally

Standing shoulder to shoulder in a tightly packed room generated all kinds of heat, and eventually we had to step outside for air. Even then, we found another hundred or so people outside, chanting, cheering, and holding up signs. And even though there were more speakers to come, we did leave feeling inoculated enough to stem the tide of helplessness.

“This is not the protest,” one speaker told us. “This is the preamble.” Now is the time, he said, to find ways to take action, to find our agenda, and figure out steps we could each take to make things happen, to start the forward motion, to seek justice.

So, even though I have a busy life, I will find a way to take small actions that can be of great consequence, and put them into each month or week or day. I will learn where I need to look to be aware of what happens in Des Moines and Washington and I will remain vigilant.*

And I will make regular phone calls or write letters. I will remain the mosquito that buzzes in the ear, that constantly pesters and annoys and makes life uncomfortable. They may want to take things away, but they will not be allowed to do so without a fight or, at the very least, an earful from me.

Yes, I will stand up! And I will fight!

*vigilant: “late 15c., from Middle French vigilant or directly from Latin vigilantem (nominative vigilans) ‘watchful, anxious, careful,’ present participle of vigilare ‘to watch, keep awake, not to sleep, be watchful,’ from vigil ‘watchful, awake’.” from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=vigilant

 

London Calling

Yesterday, as I caught up on the latest episode of Sherlock, I found myself distracted by the backgrounds of the show, remembering London, even though the scenes on tv were not most of the places we had been, though I was delighted to see Sherlock and a companion walking through Piccadilly Circus and by the Tube station we used. Sigh. Still, all in all, it was London. And London is wonderful.

buckingham-guardvictoria-statue-with-gold-2big-ben-under-churchills-arm

Despite starting off the first two hours at Passport Control with 800 of our closest friends at Heathrow, this was a most wonderful and needed trip. Due to the horrific outcome of the election and other extremely stressful things going on for Ed and me, the timing of this trip was perfect. And London was perfect.

Some high points and strong images:

*Walking 27 miles in three days (no buses or Tube on Christmas Day, if you are planning a trip).

*Women smoking hookahs in sidewalk cafes on Edgware Road.

*Having an Italian lunch on Christmas Day with our new friend Bobby. During that lunch discussing how Bobby loves country/bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss. I told him she was from Peoria, which was only an hour or two from where we live. Then the man at the table next to us leans over and says, “Did you say ‘Peoria?’ I’m from Peoria!”

*Feeling like a sardine in a can at Harrods. Honestly. How can that many people fit into one store?

harrods

*Getting lost on our first day of walking and seeing a house with the plaque “Home of Benedict Arnold, American Patriot.” The hell, you say. That’s not what we call him.

*”Mind the gap” and “This is a Bakerloo line train to Regent’s Park.”

*Watching Kitten Rescuers as well as The Glenn Miller Story on British tv. Also seeing a celebrity panel show that included Carrie Fisher just two days before she died.

*Lights, lights, and more lights on Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets. Simply stunning.

oxford-peacock-lights-fulloxford-wired-lightsside-street-lights-2house-of-fraser-lights

*The store windows of Fortnum & Mason all decked out for Christmas.

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*Thinking I might have seen British author Neil Gaiman in the Christmas Eve crush at Fortnum & Masons (I asked. It wasn’t. Though I do not regret asking.)

*Seeing Stomp in a teeny theatre. Amazing!

stomp-stage

*The tiniest hotel room on record, though centrally located and affordable. I will stay there again.

*Rekorderlig Swedish pear cider. Ahhh.

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*The most amazing food (Bangladeshi, Indian, Italian; and Ed had Portuguese and Brazilian).

*Accents from most everywhere in the world except Britain (or very little British). A lovely man I spoke with at the Victoria pub said most actual Londoners leave the city over the holiday. To make room for us interlopers, I suppose.

*Waterstone’s Books. A little five-story piece of heaven on earth.

*The world’s best chippie (that’s fish and chips in Brit-ese) at the Golden Union on Poland Street, just off Oxford Street. Thanks, Bobby, for that!

*Hearing the pealing bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. Heavenly.

*Beautiful and ginourmous Hyde Park.

*Having Oyster cards for the Tube before we left home so we could quickly (relatively – see paragraph two above) leave Heathrow for London. So happy I did my homework on this one.

*Walking, walking, and more walking and, happily, just getting tired, not sore, feet.

big-ben-with-trafalgar-lion

*And, to cap it off, getting surprisingly upgraded to business class for the flight home, including complementary drinks, the best food, warm towels to wash up, a nice blanket and space, glorious space to relax in. We kept poking each other with goofy grins, repeating, “I can’t believe this!”

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That, my friends, was London. Wonderful, beautiful, courteously well-mannered, polite, cosmopolitan, ancient, direction-confounding, marvelous London. A spot of tea or chippie, anyone?

 

 

 

No pictures, just words

Okay, so on my way to school this morning, I realized that I forgot to post something by last night, my self-imposed Sunday deadline. So, the thing is, I actually had written something up last week, November 30 to be exact. And then promptly forgot about it. Of course, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, and then….

So now I have a boring post with no pictures. No beautiful images of my backyard with 10 inches (rather than the predicted one inch) of snow. No pictures of the hats I’ve knitted. No cat pictures. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

But, on a happy note, I had a pleasant couple of hours in Iowa City yesterday and found out what all the fuss was about regarding Molly’s Cupcakes (I decided on Chocolate Decadence, surprise). It was indeed as advertised. Tasty, moist chocolate with a not too sweet frosting. Good coffee, too, which was a plus. So I spent a pleasant half hour researching walking tours in London. Actually, the day trip to Oxford and Cotswolds. Which, logically, for me at least, led to looking for Tolkien’s grave and then the Inklings, etc., etc.

Then I start thinking today about whether or not I should get a camera for the trip. I have been reading one of my favorite blogs, Posie Gets Cozy (http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/) and love the pictures she includes and then I think about looking at the camera she uses and trying to take more pictures myself (for the blog, for other things, for looking back at the beauty in the world when I need a shot of beauty in my world). But then I wonder about the expense and whether or not it’s really worth it and so on. We’ll see.

So, right now, rather than ramble on, I guess I’ll just leave it at this for the moment. I promise to include more thoughtful ramblings and photos for the next post, which will be Sunday, at the latest, if not before. More than just words and no pictures. I solemnly swear.