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.

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Starting Over; Time for “All In”

Image result for cartoon edge of diving board

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.

Image result for cartoon edge of diving board

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!

Somewhere in Ohio

It’s 12:30 in the morning and I am on a bus full of junior high kids speeding home through the night from our nation’s capital. Trying not to watch the driving too closely but feeling the bus rock from side to side constantly, making deals with God about getting us all home alive. Not sure if it’s because the driving is so bad or because I can’t sleep. Probably some of both.


Saw a lot over the past five days: the Liberty Bell, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the NPR studios. Most of those were history-gasm moments for a junkie like me. But it hurt my heart to see the White House and Capitol Building because of what now resides and does business in those hallowed halls. It’s like they’ve been polluted by hate and need to be aired out.

Despite that, and despite all of 45’s antics and rants and “look-at-me” junior high style behaviors (hey, I call them like I see them), I did get a little choked up. I think of what it meant to stand in the room where the Declaration was read aloud for the first time to those daring men who would later sign it. To look upon the places where Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin once sat, and to walk where they once walked…. For me, there are no words but to say it was akin to a religious experience.

Seeing Washington with 50 junior high kids was also an interesting experience. Sure there were times they were a little rambunctious, but, overall, they were good kids. At the WWII Memorial there were some Honor Flight vets. The kids thanked them for their service and asked if they could take their pictures. I was so proud of those kids. I think many of them appreciated all they saw and learned on this trip. I know I enjoyed it more than I really thought I would, even Busch Gardens which really was a beautiful place.

About the only thing I wasn’t crazy about were the bus rides out and back, where on the way out I got about 1 1/2 hours of sleep. And, as we continue to sail westward through the night somewhere in the middle of Ohio, I suspect I will get about the same amount of sleep on the way home.

It’s now 1:30 and here I am, still not sleeping. Sigh.

Speechless

This morning, part of my crazy day began when I read a copy of a reference letter a friend wrote for me for a job I am applying for. She is a former school board president and I had her son in my class about a million years ago. We are, as we both agree, kindred spirits. To that end, we get together for lunch or coffee sometimes, but not nearly often enough for either of us, I daresay, being kindred and all.

And her letter today left me speechless. Part of me was thinking, when I wasn’t crying, who is this person she is writing about? This shining pillar of a person who loves kids and who is good at what she does and really should get that English position at the high school, thank you very much. Speechless, except when I replied to her e-mail, between spots where I told her I was weepy with gratitude and stunned by her view of me, I said the principal would probably read that letter and hire me without the trouble of an interview. Yes, her letter was that wonderful.

Which makes me think about how I view myself. I have never been one to brag. I don’t like to do that, particularly. I know I’m smart. I consider myself nice enough looking (there are days when I think I am pretty, but then there are plenty of those other days). And that’s about where it begins and ends, unless I’m having one of those down days, where I get angry at nothing and anything. Where I have no patience with myself. Where I yell at myself and tell me that I’m so stupid. I know these are all falsehoods. But that’s where my head goes sometimes. Actually more times than I really like. Which is to say “never ” – I never really like it to go there, but go it does.

And then I read this letter. (sniff, sniff)

I told her that I struggle with how I view myself, which is true. I spend a lot of my internal time second-guessing myself, doubting I am good enough, and I tend to put other people’s thoughts into my head (“Oh, good grief, what is she thinking? She’s so stupid.” “Why is she wearing that?”). I have to remember, as I read somewhere, “Other people’s thoughts are none of your business.” True, so true. And yet…

And then there is this lovely, wonderful letter.

So, I think what I need to do is print out this letter from my dear friend and read it every morning when I get up, just to look in a different kind of mirror that I never knew was there. Or maybe didn’t want to think was there. I like this mirror, mirror. I guess in Snow White the mirror does reveal the truth. But I never knew which mirror to look in to see the real me, or at least the me my friend sees, which I would like to hope is the real me.

I am the Mosquito!

Image result for cartoon mosquito

Buzzz! You know that annoying little mosquito I said I was gonna be a few posts back? Well, I’m still buzzing and circling. And, according to another friend who is more political than I am (I know, I know, hard to believe), apparently, some legislators are getting nervous. What do I say to that? Good! And, “Buzzzz!”

So, yesterday, I attended the latest Legislative Forum (my new name for it is the “House of Lies”). At this one, as at the last legislative event I attended (not a forum, per se, but a meeting with one legislator), one Republican did his darnedest to be patient with us and to explain how greedy we public employees are for wanting to get a one-to-two percent raise every year. How he talked with a waitress who said she wished she could get that kind of raise every year (at which point some beautiful loudmouth hollered out, “Raise minimum wage!” – that’s my kind of heckler). This same legislator also said a farmer constituent said his income was cut in half because of low commodity prices. Now, we don’t know how much Mr. Farmer was making in the first place. If cutting in half went from $150,000 to $75,000, I don’t feel too sorry for him. But, we weren’t told how much.

I get more than a little frustrated with patronizing, condescending Republicans (sorry, folks; I gotta call it as it happens; I am not inherently anti-Republican, honest; it’s just that’s who is doing the fibbing in this instance) who act like teachers and public employees who want to make a decent living are villains who are trying to drain the treasury. What about legislators who get their health insurance paid for for only working for four months of the year? What about the governor who gives multi-million dollar tax breaks to multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations and then tries to balance the budget on the backs of public employees and students?

Okay. I’d better hold up. My new therapist (love her!) and I have been discussing this whole deal of me getting a little too emotional over the political climate (our term is “emotionally reactive” – kind of like a nuke with feelings?). So, I am trying to channel Elizabeth Warren, who is so good and patient and gets the zingers in there when she needs to. So, I mostly kept my mouth shut. But I let my signs speak for me. What did they say?

Whenever the Republicans spoke, I stood up and turned my back and let them read my sign which read, “Turning my back on you like you turned your back on Iowa’s public employees.” The flip side, which was on a broom, by the way, read “Sweep out the State House.” In the other hand, I held the sign (with two sides – one for each face) that had “Retirement Party: November 6, 2018” and the names of the legislators. The flip side of that one said, “Remember: Don’t listen to your constituents. Hold the party line.”

Whenever one of them walked in, I’d make sure I stood with my back to them so they could get a nice chance to read my messages. Then, whenever they responded to a question, I’d stand up and do the same thing. Lots of people got to see my signs before it all started as I walked hither and yon to speak with folks I knew in the back or on the other side of the room (I was standing/sitting near the front). I got my picture taken a few times and lots of thumbs up from audience members. My signs appeared on the local news (not me, though, which is fine – it’s about the message, not me). But I did have the NS Press ask me a few questions. We’ll see. But as long as the pictures are in, that’s what matters.

The next legislative forum is March 11. I’m already working on some new signs. They’re gonna be doozies! Stay tuned.

Buzzz. Buzzz.

Illness and Perspective

So, I think all the stresses of the past several weeks have finally taken their toll. Yesterday I came down with something. Not sure what it is. I don’t get bronchitis or sinus infections really now, thanks to my CPap machine. No this was something different. A twisting in my gut that would not let up.

Today Ed has been dosing me with Pepto, which seems to help. I thought I was curing myself this week with a Facebook and a national news (mostly) blackout. But here I am, sick all the same. Ten hours of sleep on Friday night and on Saturday night. Feels like all I want to do is sleep. But I suppose that is okay. If my body wants sleep, I will sleep.

I have been trying to shift my perspective, though. Focus on things I can change. With the help of my Daily Stoic book, which gives me something to consider each morning, my new sun lamp (15 minutes every morning to give me a little shot of what the sky has not been giving us over the past 3 months or so — how is it possible for the world to stay so completely and unendingly grey for so long?), and my new therapist, I am slowly trying to make some changes.

Depression is such a lousy pit. Combine that with SAD and fear that the world is going to end, and that makes a bitter cocktail. So, I decided to try to make some lemonade from all those lousy lemons. Right now I’m doing some squeezing. Soon I hope to add some sugar. But being sick makes it hard to pull myself up. So, I guess I just have to let it all go for a few days.

The ubiquitous “they” say that February is the worst month (I think it far crueler than April, Eliot be damned). I don’t want to believe this, because if I haven’t yet seen the worst, how much worse can it get? So, today I’ll just turn on the heating pad, make another cup of tea, read my book, journal a bit, and pray that I start to feel better, at least physically. Because, from my perspective, that’s at least one place to start.