Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Know What They Say about Women Who Wear Big Shoes...

Petite I am not.  Delicate, winsome, lithe, dainty...these adjectives belong to someone else.  I've always seen myself as some sort of Amazon woman.  It doesn't help that most of my friends are so much smaller than I am.  One of the troubling things for me about my body has always been my feet.

There is no getting around it:  I have large feet.  My husband has even gone so far as to put on my shoes, lace them up, and comment that his shoes feel a little snug.  Yeah, I don't buy matching walking shoes any more.  Did you know that you can lose weight and drop a pant size or two, but still have to buy the same size shoe?

When I was in high school, it seemed all of the girls I knew wore smaller sizes of shoes:  5, 6, or maybe a 7.  Did we sit around and discuss sizes of things ad nauseum?  I don't think so, but IN MY MIND, the small conversation we may have had about size was blown out of proportion.  I wanted desperately to blend in with the other girls; I couldn't buy a big honkin' shoe size that could make me the brunt of a joke.  It was 1975, after all.  Sasquatch, the Legend of Big Foot had just been released.  I cringed at the connection.

I remember the Saturday my Dad took me to Best to buy some shoes for our upcoming tennis lessons.  I was probably 14 and I was standing before the Chris Evert display of tennis shoes.  I knew I had to have some white Chris Evert shoes, but what size could I buy?   If I wore the shoes to school, and I would, because an extra pair of shoes couldn't just sit in the closet waiting for Saturday to come; I would be wearing them, someone might notice my big feet.  What if one of the girls, or worse, one of the BOYS asked me what size I wore?  I have never been a liar.  And what fool would lie when a shoe size is imprinted on the shoe. I would have to choose carefully.
Never once did the concept of finding the perfect fit enter my mind.  I needed to find a size that seemed NORMAL.  So I selected a 6, and tried to squeeze my foot into the small opening.  There was no way.  The Prince wouldn't have given me a second chance with that glass slipper.  He'd know he had the wrong girl the moment he saw my feet!  How about a 7?  I struggled, and I managed to get my foot wedged into the shoe.  I laced them up and walked hobbled around the showroom.  There was no salesperson to talk some sense into my stubborn head, and my dad was busy trying to find shoes for my little brothers.  The shoes didn't feel GOOD, but an 8 would sound so big.  I think my mom wore a 9, but she was a grown-up.  I was still a kid.  I would buy the 7.  Maybe they would stretch.  They didn't, and my toes were squished inside those shoes every time I wore them for the next year.

Fast forward a few years.  I'm in college, 2300 miles away from home.  I am sitting on an examination table with my feet exposed to the doctor.  "What you have is a neuroma.  That is a tumor that has built up around your nerves to protect them from the surrounding bones.  Perhaps you've worn shoes that were too tight and your bones were rubbing on your nerves.  Your body produced a cushion to protect the nerves, building the neuroma in layers, much like a pearl grows around a grain of sand in an oyster."  Too-tight shoes, huh?  Maybe that's it...

Guess what size feet I have, really.  Well, you already know not to guess 5, 6, or 7.  Not an 8 or a 9, either.  Before I gave birth to three beautiful babies, I was actually a size 10.  And a WIDE size 10 at that!  After babies, I have always worn an 11.

Since having surgery, I have liberated my feet to only wear shoes that fit.  It has been an extreme pleasure to find places like Nordstrom Rack that have shelves and shelves and shelves of shoes that are made for women like me.  They even carry up to size 15!  Sometimes I made the mistake of buying shoes JUST because my feet went into them without any friction, only to discover at home that they were simply too loose and caused problems of their own.

As a teacher of 5th graders, I made a point of talking about my own experience in front of my whole class.  I realized I could be a role model for these kids.  By sharing my story, they were able to see that it's healthy to be who you are and accept yourself as you are.  We talked about how harmful teasing could be.  Children are smart.  They know numbers are simply numbers.  I don't want them to ever judge themselves by the numbers that identify their size or their weight.  I proudly tell them I'm a size 11.  I've even had a few girls who were my size at that tender age of 10.  I've shared my extra shoes with the girls. I know how hard it is to find shoes larger than a 10.

These days, I'm not camouflaging my foot to blend in to the crowd.  It's all about comfort.  If the shoe fits, buy matter what color.  The wilder, the better, especially when it comes to athletic shoes and hiking shoes.  I've had Nikes that looked like Spider Man shoes.  Blue tie-dyed shoes.  Fluorescent green shoes.  Orange shoes.

I love my feet these days.  I jokingly call myself Sasquatch before anyone else can.  If I beat them to the punchline, we can all laugh together. I still don't want to run the risk of people laughing AT me.   I take care of my feet by finding shoes that fit and feel good.  This summer, I'm sporting Merrell hiking shoes and Merrell sandals.  The hikers are men's shoes.  And I'm okay with that.  I love the way my wide foot can spread out on the cushiony footbed without my toes rubbing on the sides.

My husband and I joke about my love affair with comfy shoes and short hair.  I keep going shorter and shorter every time I see my stylist.  "Ellen DeGeneres is going to be checking me out, Honey.  I don't want you to be jealous."

"She's not stupid.  Of course, she would check you out.  You're so hot, Dee."  He knows just what to say to make me laugh.  And smile.

"You know what they say about women who wear big shoes, don't you?" This is my favorite joke.  "We have big feet."  :D

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Mantra of a Massage: Keeping My Brain in the NOW

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado
How hard is it to empty a head and just be? For me, it takes super-human strength and is as elusive as a Walmart associate when you need one. There are rare times I try to find this meditative state; when I pray and when I am the recipient of a massage. A certain degree of attention deficit has always been with me, so I find both of these activities very challenging to do without incessant brain chatter from the voices inside my head.  

Today was my lucky day; my favorite masseuse Melissa at Massage Envy was available at a time I could actually be there.

I like Melissa.  She asks enough questions for me to feel like she knows what I need and cares about me, but not so many I want to wring her neck and remind her that I am PAYING to de-stress here!  She is a single mom who shares just enough information to make her approachable, but not so much as to make me feel like I need to friend her on Facebook.

As I sank into the soft sheepskin pad on the padded table that was covered with a luxurious sheet, I reminded myself to just BE here today.  Don't try to solve all of the world's problems; don't review all the to-do lists in my head.  Just clear the mind and relax into the experience.

There are certain "touchstones," if you will, that help me remain present.  The things that seem to work best are focusing on my own breathing, the touch of the masseuse, and the music. My breath, taken in and then released, deeply and slowly, is my favorite way to bring me back to this moment.   If I am truly to benefit from the massage, I believe that to pay attention to where her hands are on my body is a good way to stay in the now.  New Age music is typically piped into the rooms of any spa for the relaxation and enjoyment of its clients.  Instrumental music without lyrics helps me dwell in the moment. her oiled hands slipped down my aching spine, I envisioned the skin on my shoulders and upper back to be taut and smooth, and the flesh she was smashing toward my glutes probably resembled a puddle of Shar-pei wrinkles gathering in voluminous piles.  Shar-pei dogs are so adorable. We saw that cute one in San Diego, waiting for his owners to finish their dinner at a sidewalk cafe. Oops. Deep breath in...and slowly out.

Melissa's fingers expertly find the knots in my shoulder.  As she palpates the tender areas to release the tension, my muscles start to relax and enjoy her touch. And on to the next one. Ouch! Sometimes she presses deeply, concentrating with one or two fingers on the tightness that is there. If only I weren't such a klutz. That shoulder injury has been there for almost three years.

It was a snowy winter Saturday and I had just let our Boston Terrier outside to take care of his business.  I followed him onto the deck, but only walked onto the first icy stair when my feet flew out from under me. As I careened down the steps on my butt, my right arm flew high into the air behind me, and...sigh.  This relaxation is hard work.

Clearing my mind, I try to look at the back of my eyelids.  It's very dark. There's nothing there. That's the point. NOTHINGNESS is what I want to focus on for the time that I am here. In my mind's eye, I see calm and relaxation flutter over me like a gauzy blanket.  I take in another breath, slow and deep, and notice the warmth of Melissa's hands gliding over my back.

"I was going to ask if you're getting ready to go back to school..." she says in a soft voice. I feel my body tighten. "But then I remembered, you've just barely retired.  Are you happy about that?" 

I relax. "Yes," I whisper, smiling as I say it.  Usually a one word response is all the cue she needs to know I'm not up for too much visiting at the moment. Pretty soon, I'm lost in the darkness behind my eyelids and the tumbling thoughts in my brain.

The soft New Age music has an oriental quality to it.  There are wooden flutes, and some very strange stringed instrument that is starting to annoy me.  It sounds like the thickest string on a guitar, very loose, and vibrating with a reverberating TWANG at varying intervals!  New Age music.  I have a few tracks on my iPod.  I should set up a new playlist...I could label it "New Age..." DUH.  Or just "Easy Listening..." so that I can...A-HEM...another deep breath in and out.  A new song is playing. Thank heavens. I certainly didn't want to focus on that LAST one.  It was so annoying.

I've requested that Melissa focus on my back and glutes today. My shoulders and lower back are always aching with stress and knots.  She is doing such a good job.  Again, I let the moment wash over me, taking in the sensory experience for what it is...human touch, skin on skin, taking in the positives and releasing the negatives, listening to the soft music that is filling the room.

Before I knew it, Melissa had pulled the soft blanket up to cover my shoulders, and asked how everything went.  "It was wonderful.  I feel great," I smiled up at her.  It really was a nice experience.  Meditation is a work in progress for me.  I did better today than some days, believe it or not. There is always room for improvement with me, it seems.

Deepak Chopra has this to say about meditation:  "Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It's a way of entering into the quiet that's already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.

I certainly have my share of the 50,000 thoughts, now I just need to find the quiet. If Deepak says it's there, it must be!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

*Pumpkin Pie Squares: Starting to Slide into Autumn a Little Early, Another Little Tradition of Mine

Perhaps it starts with the premature Back to School ads and displays.  Maybe it's knowing all of the football fans are settling back on their couches watching their games on TV. It could be the late-night browsing I do on the internet when I can't sleep, but I am already starting to make the transition from yummy summer to scrumptious autumn.

It always happens this time of year.  Instead of buying candles with tropical names like Piña Colada or Coconut Lime, I start searching for the ones with woodsy, spicy fragrances.  Pumpkin and cinnamon scents start wafting through our home, courtesy of the fall-scented candles and my experiments in the kitchen. When I browse for recipes, I'm looking less for summer salads and more for hearty soups and foods featuring apples and pumpkin.

I finally found a guilt-free treat:  Pumpkin Pie Squares from the folks who brought us Forks over Knives. The ingredient list is short:  pumpkin, oat flour, Medjool dates (available at Sam's Club, by the way), nuts, and spices.  The "frosting" is macadamia nuts blended with dates.  I only have almonds this morning, so let the substitutions begin!

This is a VERY healthy recipe.  There's no sugar; no sugar substitutes; just whole food.  If you didn't have access to anything sweet, this would do.  It by no means could compete with true-blue pumpkin desserts.  It has a heaviness to it.  The bars are slightly sweet with the topping giving it a barely sweet, nutty taste.  They're OKAY.  Not bad for a first attempt.  There is definitely room for improvement.  I love to play in the kitchen.  This one will be getting some tweaking, and it's a good place to start.
The link to the Forks Over Knives website is here, if you'd like to give the recipe a whirl in YOUR kitchen!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Teachers Everywhere Are Getting Ready before They're Ready to Get Ready

Friends ask, "How's retirement going?"  Come on, you guys.  I'm a teacher.  A summer off is a summer off.  Whether you're a teacher or a retiree, summer is vacation time.  So far, this summer is no different than the last fifty odd years' summers have been.  Ask me mid-August, when all of my friends are heading back to school for inservice meetings, faculty meetings, and district meetings.  THEN, I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised that life IS different for a retiree.

The realization is starting to sink into my skull slowly, ever so slowly.  A couple of weeks ago as Bridger and I were driving into town, his eyes lit up as he turned to me and said, "I just realized, I won't have to help you get your room ready this year!"  We both smiled.

I have always counted on my kids to help me turn that chaos of stacked furniture and empty bulletin boards into a homey classroom that would welcome my new students.  It's HARD to cover twelve foot long bulletin boards with only one pair of arms!  It's STRENUOUS to move three dozen desks and chairs into a creative classroom arrangement!  It's TIME-CONSUMING to pass out all of those textbooks and classroom supplies.  Add any of my three kids into the mix, though, and suddenly, it's a circus.  It's fun.  We laughed.  We drank sodas from the faculty room Pepsi machine.  We walked across the street to Bullies Drive-In for lunch.  We listened to music and cranked up the swamp cooler (Utah's answer to central air!) and whipped my fifth grade classroom into shape.  Will I miss that?  Yeah, I think I will.

Being retired doesn't mean my sub-conscious knows I don't have to report for duty this year.  Sleep always eluded me as August approached.  My head would spin with to-do lists, homeroom class lists, seating arrangements, bulletin board ideas, lesson plans, and wondering how I would ever get everything done before the first day of school.  My brain doesn't know we get to relax this year, apparently, because when I go to sleep, the dreams of my past come to haunt me.

Our fifth grade team was a rare combination of people who actually LIKED working together and we all took care of recess duty together so we could catch up on each other's lives and laugh together. Already this summer, I've had the dreams where I'm oblivious to team meetings that are taking place where my presence is required, and I'm outside at recess duty, all alone, feeling grumpy that my team is not joining me outside. Then it hits me that we're supposed to be at a meeting, and I need to find them!  I'M the one in trouble, not them!  I have this recurring nightmare because it happened so frequently.  I became the absent-minded professor toward the end of my career, spacing off faculty meetings and forgetting scheduled appointments with my team.  We all laughed about it, but I seriously began to question my sanity and "with-it-ness" those last weeks of school.

Last night, in my dreams, I was starting a new year in a new school in a new state!  Yes, I was in sunny California, and Johnny Whittaker (remember him from Family Affair as Buffy's twin brother Jody?) was a visitor at my school. Of course, I introduced myself, reminding him that we had lived in the same neighborhood when I was in college.  And, of course, he did not even have a vague recollection of me, even in my dreams.  Anyway, in my state of slumber, my second day of school was a flurry of activity, passing out papers, assigning work, and getting to know my students.  "Why do we have to do THIS?" asked a pretty little thing, as I assigned the week's spelling words.  I wonder the same thing myself, as one who doesn't need to study spelling to pass a test.  In my dream, I didn't even bother to come up with a suitable answer to alleviate her irritation with the assignment, but the question ruffled my feathers, even though I smiled as I handed her the packet of work.

And so another school year starts in the minds of teachers everywhere.  It is not even August, but I see your Facebook posts about your summer training meetings and your wonderful kids helping you get bulletin boards ready.  You are blowing up the Pinterest home page with fun activities and classroom themes that will welcome your newest charges.  You are already stockpiling school supplies at home that you've been buying at all of the back-to-school sales.  I know you are.  I was once you.

This morning my husband and I were eating breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  I was telling him it seemed so odd not to be scurrying off to Staples or Office Max to gather dozens of composition notebooks, markers, and pens.  I laughed about my dream as I told him that I thought those nightmares would all be behind me.  Some things have improved since school ended in May.  I haven't needed sleeping pills since the last day of school, and it has been delightful to sleep WAY past 4:30, sometimes even staying in bed until 8:00.  I never would have imagined that for myself.  Now someone just needs to tell my brain that I've retired.  If I could trade in these nightmares about school for some sweet dreams of retirement, I would feel like I'm truly ready to enjoy this new phase of my life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Edith Bunker Is My Soul Sister

No sooner had the little Honda motor bike been loaded in my Highlander, when I was overtaken by fumes coming from the bike's engine. The smell was so strong, it would be like transporting an oil refinery in my vehicle. I could barely breathe. Although it was hot as blazes, I rolled down all of the windows, and turned on the air-conditioning full blast. I was beginning to question my own sanity at this point. Hauling this load of toxic fumes in my car could not be good for me or my lungs. My head began to hurt. Why had I agreed to this???

This would be another of my shining moments, another jewel in my crown that would provide ammo for a husband who likes to tease me about being like Edith Bunker. I admit that I can be gullible, and I seriously ask questions that make him ask me, "REALLY?" But I think one of my bigger faults is not asking ENOUGH of the RIGHT questions. I could save myself a lot of heart ache and misery by asking more questions.                                                                                                           The things a mother will do for a son. My oldest child is a bargain shopper. He is constantly scanning Craigslist and the classifieds for killer deals. Occasionally, I am lured into helping him obtain these items because our home is in the northern end of the state and his is in the southern end. A good deal is a good deal, if logistics can be managed.

Dylan had purchased this motor bike. A miniature Honda thing, a Honda 50, I believe. My son is over six feet tall. After teasing him about looking like a clown in the circus if he were to ride that thing, and questioning his sanity, I finally agreed that I would drive out into the middle of nowhere (Tooele, Utah) to pick up his latest toy. After I drove back out onto the freeway, I knew I needed some advice.

Thank heavens for cell phones. I asked my husband what he would recommend to reduce the strong smell in my car.  

"You need to seal off the engine. Stop at a grocery store and buy some Cling-Free." How strange, I thought.  Cling-Free?  Who would've thought? Wrapping the engine in fabric softener sheets just might make the car smell better, too!

Not one to question, just one of my many shortcomings, I made a bee-line for the nearest store. They didn't sell Cling-Free. I went to another store. They didn't sell Cling-Free. Maybe Cling-Free was a thing of the past. Being a resourceful woman, I determined that any fabric softener sheet would probably work, and being a thrifty woman, I bought the generic brand of sheets. I wondered how in the world I would be able to make them "stick" to the engine.  So I also bought some garbage bags (how clever, maybe it would hold the nasty stink in, too) AND some tape to wrap everything around the reeking engine, and some aspirin for my pounding head.

Ha! It kind of helped. It was definitely better; that's for sure. I drove for the next three hours with that foul-smelling motor bike in the back of my SUV, wishing I hadn't ever agreed to take it back to the big boy. There was a battle of odors going on in the back of my vehicle, but thankfully, I was catching nice wafts of fabric softener in between the assaults of gasoline and oil odors.

My husband called later that evening to see how things had gone. "I was so grateful for your suggestion.  At first, I wasn't sure about the fabric softener sheets, but by wrapping them in garbage bags, it lessened the smell considerably."

"Fabric softener sheets?" he questioned. "Why did you buy THOSE?"

"Didn't you say to get Cling-Free?"  He was dumbfounded.  

"Yeah. Cling-Free. You know the plastic wrap you put on leftovers?  THAT Cling-Free!  That's what I meant."

"OHHHHHH.  CLING WRAP!!!"  I laughed. "Why didn't you say so? That would've worked really well, I bet!"  

He continued to tease me about my dorky tendencies. I'm his Edith Bunker, he says. Well, I think he's my Archie. As I recall, Archie had some confusion with certain vocabulary, too. Being too specific in word usage with a word geek can backfire. We assume you know your stuff, the more specific you are. I know exactly what Cling-Free is. I also know what Cling Wrap is. It is just unfortunate I did not clarify our terminology before taking that fateful three hour ride which may or may not have killed off some of my much-needed brain cells. This Edith may need them in the future to decipher more advice from my dear Archie. ;-)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Reading 2013

Summer reading for me began with The Shack by William Young. Excellent book to get in touch with your spirit. Currently reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Do you ever browse Barnes and Noble and just take a book from the bargain shelf and hope for the best? This is that book for me. I would like to thank Ms. Barbery for making me THINK. I was never able to get through Anna Karenina, but thanks to her literary references, I feel like I can appreciate some of it at least.

Next on the list: catching up on my Jen Lancaster. She's written a couple of books since I read Bitter Is the New Black and Bright Lights/Big A$$. Love her for making me laugh. Will check out more by Paolo Coelho. Kimberly Keisel gave me The Alchemist and I have been enamored ever since. LOVED 11 Minutes (a tale of a prostitute, and yet surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly at all, considering Coelho's works, it's not a story of prostitution, but of seeking for love and acceptance, and who doesn't want that? I also loved Veronika Chooses to Die. Again, not a book about suicide, although it sounds like it, but a book about choosing to live life to its fullest. I enjoyed The Manuscript Found in Accra, as well, but not as much as his earlier ones. It seemed a little too much like a Chicken Soup for the Soul book to me. I'm not explaining myself very well. It just had a different feeling for me than his others that are my favorites.

Currently, I am reading Aleph by Paolo Coelho.  It is proving to be a good escape for me during a hectic week of scheduled family events.

Loving this time to read. This summer I had planned to experiment with tablet reading. I'm not drawn to e-readers like a hefty little paperback, but I feel that I at least need to give them a try. 

I love a good lead to a good read.  If you have favorites you don't mind taking the time to list, please do!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Timer Game (OR... How to Cajole Someone (like me) into Getting Things Done)

As a wife, I feel like I bring a lot to the table. Positive attitude, baking skills, cooking ability, open-minded, active, and I LOVE doing the laundry...well, I could go on, but I will spare you. 

One area where I have serious deficiencies is deep-cleaning. I can keep things tidy...but, well, this will tell a lot. 

Mark and I had been together about 3 years, and I had to ask him where the broom was when I broke a glass. Yeah, so I don't do floors or windows (and too many other things to mention.) Mark, on the other hand, balances me out. He is GREAT at organizing rooms and closets, AND cleaning floors and windows.

I suffer from attention deficit whenever anything unpleasant is involved.  Scrubbing toilets, purging closets, mopping floors, faculty meetings; these things make it difficult for me to focus on the task at hand.  I become a procrastinator extraordinaire when it comes to housework.  It seems that a minimal amount of cleaning and organizing is required if I'm going to enjoy being home. Sometimes it seems as if I'm trying to see just how MINIMAL that effort can be, and still get away with it!  

When I was little, my mom often challenged me to make things fun by turning them into a game.  When I became a mom, the only one there to say those crazy kinds of things to me was myself, so I had to get creative when I felt whiny about doing chores.  I had to find a way to reward myself for doing things that simply had to be done. I had long since outgrown the sticker chore chart. And since paying myself is a ridiculous idea; where would I get the money, I needed a different motivator?  And if there were money available to pay someone to clean, wouldn't I have a maid already?  What's a mom to do?

Enter: The Timer Game.
(You may even want to try this with your children or grandchildren...or maybe even spouses who have a childish attitude toward cleaning.) 

First, make a list of all of the annoying, aggravating chores you have been procrastinating forever.  (For me, it's balancing the checkbook, wiping the kitchen grime off of appliances, disinfecting the toilets...)  THEN, make a list of delightful things that would bring you joy, no matter how small.  (Sometimes it's reading my Oprah magazine, soaking in the hot tub, painting my toenails...other times it's sitting in my recliner and not doing one single solitary thing for just a bit.)  And THEN...Set the timer, say for 15 minutes, and go like gang-busters on whatever needs to be done. When the timer goes off, enjoy yourself for awhile and then set the timer again. Repeat as often as necessary. Or until you've had enough. 

I am currently experiencing saturation with the "game." I reward myself with computer time on Facebook and Pinterest or smart phone time, texting my kids and Mark. It works for me.

You know that black flappy thing in the sink that is over the garbage disposal and those overflow holes in the bathroom sinks? I even managed to clean those today. Whew...the one thing I have procrastinated is balancing my checkbook. I will get it done, but I just hate doing that.

As a teacher with a classroom full of 35 students, I've set the timer for two minutes at school.  That doesn't sound like any time at all, but look at the MAN HOURS!!!  A class full of kids can do in two minutes what it would take me over an hour to do!  By turning it in to a game, I can usually convince most of them to pitch in to help, especially if they get to go to recess a minute earlier by helping!

Just thought I'd share my idea. Most of you are probably horrified at my mother is not surprised. I have a long history of hating chores; but I did them. Eventually.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Surrender to the Moment

In the moments that I stood outside in the chill of the winter's morning air, I forced myself to breathe deeply, and surrender to the moment: the cold, the dark, the silence, the contrast of the stars against the black blanket of sky. The wisp of a moon cast a soft glow behind the silhouette of limbs. There was not a rustle of leaves; there was no city's glow. Just the stars and I were witnesses to the waning night. The faint beginning of a new day was erasing the blackness overhead, loosening its grip on the night.

How I love the early morning, and the subtlety of the changes, barely perceptible to my senses so accustomed to the blatant barrage of sights and sounds throughout the day.

Be still in the silence. Listen to the quiet, and notice the nothingness of the night. Allow yourself to experience this apparent emptiness until it starts to expand your spirit, and you become aware of the fullness and richness it brings into your spirit. Sweet, precious night evolving into the dawning of another blessed morning. Namaste, indeed.

(January 12, 2013)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Dog Days of Denver!

While we've been visiting "the kids," as I affectionately call my daughter and her boyfriend, we have enjoyed getting to know the Denver area better.  The kids actually live in Lakewood, within walking distance of Whole Foods, the mall,  high-end stores like Neiman-Marcus, boutiques, art galleries, and the farmers' market.

One thing I've noticed is THE DOGS.  Dogs are a big presence here. People take them everywhere.  I've seen them tied up to trees or bike racks outside of shops.  They are at outside cafés, riding in cars, and walking on leashes.  Many of the shops have large bowls of water outside on the sidewalk.

When we parked our cars back at the house, Sierra squealed, "There's a GREAT DANE there!"  A mere half block away from the apartment, there was a pet adoption taking place at the farmers' market.  Jason and Sierra have been looking for a young Great Dane to adopt, and we had just missed the pretty female that had found a new home. Life Is Better Rescue had several dogs and a large book mobile-looking vehicle filled with kittens in cages.

I fell in love with this handsome Mastiff/Boxer mix.  Harrison is 8 years old and very calm.  He was so sweet, accepting the petting and compliments from everyone who noticed him.  I texted Mark his picture and asked, "Honey, if he follows me home, can we keep him?"  Mark's phone was dying, and I didn't get a response until later that night.  I continued, "He could sit on Bridger's lap on the way home."

Mark's delayed response? "No, not really."

"Too late!"  I shot back.  "You will love him!"

Wouldn't that be so much fun? To do some spontaneous, random thing like that?  Sometimes my sensible nature bores me to tears.  I do believe I have some attention deficit problems, but never to the point that I act without considering the consequences of my actions.  My Jiminy Cricket works overtime, always warning me to think twice.  I had already seen into my future with Harrison, loving his big, old dog self, but having to contend with kenneling issues with TWO dogs, the dog food expense of TWO dogs, and the veterinary bills of TWO dogs. I had forced myself to walk away from him, but I kept glancing back until we made the turn down the block back to the house.

The kids had some obligations to dog-sit for the weekend, which came with the added bonus of staying in the dog owner's lovely home in Denver.  The guest room accommodations were five-star, and I slept beautifully.  Jason took care of the lawn and fixed a few things for the homeowner while we were visiting. We enjoyed our time together in such a relaxing setting.

Sharing the home with a German Shepherd and three Yorkshire Terriers was just an added bonus for all of us dog lovers.  Hudson was a gentle giant who loved sleeping at our feet.  Jason told us that when he is with his owner and outside of the home, Hudson is extremely protective and can be very fierce.  That was hard to believe when I watched him tenderly nudge one of the Yorkies with his nose and give him a soft lick.

Bridger slept in piles of puppies on the couch and had Hudson on the floor beside him.  The dogs seemed to gravitate to wherever Bridger was.  He's a dog's man; that's for sure.  Dogs can sense how much he enjoys their company and respond so well to him.

The Yorkies were fun to watch.  I could never keep them straight by name, but the kids had them all figured out from the start.  They were too similar in size and color...and I was only going to see them for two days; it just wasn't worth it for me to try to get them right.  "Puppy!" worked great for me.

Denver has become Sierra's home.  I miss her fiercely now that she has moved away, but I get it.  I moved 2,300 miles away from Virginia when I had the chance to go to college and strike out on my own.  I've never regretted moving to Utah, but a part of me will always call Virginia home.  My dreams of my daughter moving back are fading.  Now she has dreams of her own.  She will be a Daughter of Denver for a few more years, then we'll see how long it takes for her to respond to the siren song of San Diego.  Who can blame her for not falling under the spell of that beautiful seaside city?

We have enjoyed every minute in Lakewood and Denver.  Visiting her here more often is a happy
thought for me.  Our next trip out will be in October to celebrate her birthday and let Mark go to a Broncos' game.  I cannot wait.  Maybe we can fly Marley out with us, too.  He would love being here.  It's such a dog-friendly place, we'll have to check into that.  It's time for me to get packed and ready to go.  That's always the tough part; saying goodbye.  Knowing we already have plans in place for the fall will make it a little easier.  Goodbye, Sierra and Jason.  Goodbye, Dogs of Denver.  Hello, Marley of Utah.  We'll be home soon, little Boston!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chia Seeds: They're Not Just for Chia Pets Any More!

When we arrived in Denver Friday afternoon, one of the first things we did was go to Whole Foods.  I. LOVE. WHOLE. FOODS.  I love the concept.  I love the variety.  I love the people.  I love not having to wait to eat my groceries.  Yes, I'm a foodie.  As long as the term does not imply that I am a gourmet.  In high school French class it became obvious that the proper term for what I am is a GOURMAND (appreciates all things food, so to speak.  A person who enjoys eating and often eats too much) vs.  a GOURMET (a connoisseur, with a DISCERNING palate).  Oops!  Just looked it up.


Web definitions

epicure: a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink).

I'm all about the devotion to sensuous enjoyment, but am not sure I am REFINED, in any sense of the word.  

ANYWAY, on our first trip to Whole Foods, we picked up some dinner and consumed it right there in the store, at the little tables set up just for that purpose.  I also bought some CHIA SEEDS.  I'd been wanting to try them in a pudding recipe I'd seen.  Remember Chia Pets?  Same seeds, different concept. I remembered the recipe slightly differently than it was posted and so this is what I did, even though the recipes I looked at later call for coconut milk.

Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 c. chia seeds
2 c. almond milk (add more the next day if it's too thick)
SOAK OVERNIGHT. Or two days, as the case may be.
Add 1/2 t. vanilla, a couple of dashes of cinnamon, and a packet of stevia to sweeten it.  VOILÁ!  Was that simple or what?

Chia pudding. We're trying to find ways to describe is the color of puce/concrete/gruel. It is pudding-like in consistency with chia seeds adding "textural interest." Jason and I like it; Sierra is put off by the look and feel; Bridger refuses to try it.

Why chia seeds? They're considered a super food, offering protein, fiber, and omega-3s. I do like the pudding! Perhaps I should have read all of the nutritional info BEFORE I tried it.  I wasn't aware there are about 10 grams of fiber in a little serving of pudding. That's a lot of fiber!  Hmmm. Poor kids. This may be an uncomfortable evening for more than just those of us who tried it.

As we left Whole Foods today, after our third or fourth meal there in two days, I was admiring our cashier.  He was tall and handsome and epitomized all things Denver to me.  He had pulled his dreadlocks into a swirl behind his head and he had on a vintage-styled t-shirt featuring a multi-armed image of the Hindu faith.  He went on break while we were eating outside on the patio and I smiled to see his carrying a a bottled green juice and an apple. He munched his apple while checking out his smart phone.  I SO wanted to take his picture, but I haven't gotten quite that daring yet.  Yes, my sense of daring at this stage of life is limited to consuming large amounts of fiber which may be inadvisable for an out-of-town guest visiting a daughter and boyfriend in a small one bedroom apartment.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Amazing Power of Forgiveness

Mend a hurt; heal a heart. You may never understand the far-reaching effects of your apology, your forgiveness or your love for someone in your life. Rebuild the bridge, tear down the walls, and let go of your pain. Allow love to replace your negative feelings. It takes a big person to walk back through a door that has been closed for a long time. How do I know so much? Someone I love did this for me today. I feel whole again. And I love you more than you know. You know who you are. Thank you for loving me enough to let me know you still care. Love is such a powerful source of good...we don't know how much until we try. Take the leap of faith. You will be rewarded in the end.

Friday, July 12, 2013

*SURPRISE!!! This Day Couldn't Get Here Soon Enough

Who doesn't love a good surprise? Especially if it's something you've been wanting for awhile. Orchestrating a surprise is great fun for me. Keeping it a secret is absolute torture!!! Today a surprise is going to take place. That I have been able to keep it a secret for over a week is nothing short of a miracle.

I have three children, Dylan, 26, Sierra, almost 24, and Bridger, almost 16.  As you can see, Bridger is the definite caboose of this little tribe.  The poor thing is being raised as an only child since the other two left home in search of their fame and fortune.  (Well, for their first apartments and jobs, at least!)  Bridger idolizes his brother and sister.  He cannot get enough of them.  The big kids adore him, too.  It's like a Mutual Adoration Society Meeting whenever they get together. 

When Dylan and Sierra ended up in Saint George, Utah, they were only about two and a half hours away. Then a couple of Christmases ago, Sierra announced she was moving to Colorado.  
"I guess now's as good a time as any to tell you something."  Yeah.  Or not...

"Way to go ruining our Christmas, Sierra," Dylan told her.  "You'll have Mom crying all night. Opening presents should be really fun now."  He did say it in a good-natured, teasing sort of way, but it was more than slightly true. I found myself wiping my eyes for days.

ANYWAY...Sierra lives far from home now; ten hours by car, an hour and fifteen minutes by plane.  The opportunities to have all of my children together are the most precious thing to me ever, because they are so rare and special.  Today, I will get to be with two of them at once.  And one of them doesn't even know yet!!! Bridger is sleeping soundly in his bed, completely unaware of how special this day is going to be.

Sierra and I have been planning this since last week.  "Keep it a secret," she begged.  "Tell him you're taking him up north," she suggested.  I wouldn't LIE, but I didn't want to give it away.  

So all week long I have been talking about "when we go up north."  

"When we go up north, be sure to pack your swimsuit and nice clothes in case we use the hot tub or go to museums while we're in 'THE CITY.'" Notice I did NOT specify WHICH city.  Notice I never SAID we were going up north to any specific location.  Such a good non-liar, I am.  We WILL be going north, but then we'll take a sharp right and head EAST.  I'm just leaving that part out for now. I think I'm pretty good at this secret agent stuff.  Maybe I could moonlight with the CIA now that I'm retired. I'm sure someone there would appreciate my SKILLS at utilizing misleading information to throw someone off the scent, so to speak.

Wish me luck.  My plan is to load the car just like we would if we were heading to our house up north for the weekend.  Bridger is exhausted; he had a big day at Seven Peaks Water Park yesterday with his good friend Kyler, so I know he's going to want to sleep. He'll have PLENTY of time for THAT.  When he finally wakes up, it will take him a moment, but he will realize we're not on I-15 toward Salt Lake City.  He will smile the rest of the day.  What a great plan.  I am so happy.

I could only be happier if Dylan and his wife Jamie were joining Sierra and Bridger, too.  When my kids get together, it is a love-fest for me. They laugh; they tease; they tell jokes and stories; they give me a hard time, teasing me in a fun way.  It makes me so proud to be a mom when I watch them interact with so much respect and love and fun. They are such good people who are such good friends.

Let this day begin. The anticipation and suspense is about to make me BURST!!!  This is better than Christmas. It's especially better than a Christmas with some crummy announcement about Sierra's moving away. ;-) It's MUCH better than THAT. It's going to be a great day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Marysvale: Up Close and Natural

Rustic, Rural, and Real...
That's Marysvale!

Welcome to Marysvale.  See that green roof just beyond the yellow flowers in the distance?  It is our privilege to call that house our home.  Marysvale is a sleepy little town nestled at the mouth of Bullion Canyon.  I love the dark night sky here that doesn't compete with neon or city lights.  I love the pastoral scenes, and the good people.  I love the sagebrush, flowers, trees, and even the weeds.  I love the deer, the turkeys, the rabbits, the fox, and the owl that visit our home.

This old building is my ONE MILE turnaround spot.
Today, I just want to share some of the pictures I have captured trying to "live in the moment" here.  You may laugh at my weeds and "my" shack, but it's all good.  This place feels like home to me, even the wild, unkempt parts.  Every season captivates me.  I love the sunshine, the rain, the snow, the fog, the sunsets, and the sunrises.  Everything feels so fresh and clean here.  It is a good life.  A good life indeed.

(The pictures are in no particular order, and
some of the captions were written when the
pictures were taken.)
Several metal crafters live nearby.
Margaret, this one's for you!

Even the weeds capture my curiosity.
How can you not fall in love with this place?
"Grandma" lives on my friend Pam's porch.  She seemed quite perturbed
when I interrupted her nap to take her picture.

Wish I could identify all of the flora and fauna.  Queen
Anne's Lace?
Hiking to Bullion Falls is a favorite activity.

My goal is to capture the beauty of the Rocky
Mountain Bluebird.  This picture fails at that miserably.

When the fog settles over our mountain like a soft, white, winter shawl, I'm glad to be indoors, enjoying the view where it's warm.

It's not the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but it has a beauty of its own.

The remnants of yesterday's raindrops are dripping off the eaves The sun slips in and out of the clouds as the thick fog that had settled over the valley floor and wrapped around the base of the mountains slowly rises toward the light blue sky. The trees have the open pasture surrounded in a halo of golden leaves. If only autumn could linger in the canyon a little longer.

Quaking aspens...the gold mines may lie empty and dormant, but Bullion Canyon is still full of gold in the fall.

Happy Fall, y'all! Everything I love is here...the golden aspens, the reddening Rocky Mountain maples, the cool mornings, the perfect days. I look forward to wearing sweaters with my jeans, sitting on the deck in the predawn hour, listening to the aspens flutter in the breeze, and taking pictures of all that makes me happy. Of all the seasons, I fall in love the hardest for fall.
When our owl came back, it felt like a blessing from nature that all was right with the world.