Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Object of the Game

I have memories of playing board games when I was younger, but I never really "got it." Win or lose; do or die? That mindset was lost on me. Never a fan of losing, but not willing to invest what it took to win, I just never really enjoyed playing a game.

In my mind, I guess I had always spelled them BORED games. Having the attention span of a gnat made it difficult to sit through any game that lasted more than five minutes. I never understood how anyone could have a family game night. A whole NIGHT devoted to BORED games?

I was not blessed with a competitive spirit, and was the kid who always said, "It's just a game." I never cared who won. If I could see it was a big deal to you, I would let you win. I didn't want to play the stupid game anyway, and I certainly didn't care about winning it. 

Dad loved games of strategy. He taught us early to play chess, and I would play with him on occasion to make him happy, but my "laissez-faire" attitude drove him nuts. 

"Necie, are you sure you want to do that?" he would ask me over the top of his glasses. 

"It's a move, Dad. Your turn."

"But in four more moves, I'll have you in checkmate." Perfect, I would think, this game will be over before I know it.

"Yep, that's my move then."

Strategy escaped me. How he could predict what was going to happen four moves down the road baffled me. I didn't even know what I was going to do until I did it. How could he know how the game was going to end based on any move I made? 

Candy Land was the most inane game on the planet. Honestly, that game could bore me to tears as a youngster.  

I can remember "accidentally" bumping the Monopoly board on more than one occasion to end the game abruptly when I couldn't take it any more. What a dreadful game. Real estate? Paying taxes? Jail? How is any of that stuff fun? Any time a friend suggested that game, I would only play if they would agree to play the short version. Even that one seemed interminable. 

The games I liked had moving parts, or allowed me to move. Mouse Trap was fun, but I just liked making the ball roll down the chute to trap the mouse. Hungry Hippos was a little more fun, for about three minutes. Twister was my favorite, and entertained me more than most games because I didn't have to sit still, or be careful not to tip the board. Yes, I realize there was no board involved in Twister. Note to self...

It's embarrassing to admit, but it wasn't until recently that I realized the point of games isn't to finish them or to win them, it's simply a way to bring people together to enjoy each other's company. I still like games that allow me to move more, like Jenga, or even Quelf. 

Later in life, I discovered Scrabble, and I will admit that I am always up for a game of that! Bridger and I rarely keep score, and we like to invent new versions of the game, when we ignore the rules. 

Bridger and I have played Quelf, a fairly new party game. I love, love, love that the instructions are as follows:

Why else would you play a game?"

We had a raucous game night when the big kids came to visit in January, and I have to admit, I've never laughed so hard in my life. (If you have ever played Cards Against Humanity, you know what I'm talking about. It's not for everyone; our love of irreverent humor knows no bounds.)

Now that I understand that the point of a game is to have fun, I am more agreeable about playing board games, and have even relinquished my passive-aggressive spelling, no longer spelling it BORED. Now I focus on the people around me. As long as you don't care that I don't care about the outcome, we'll probably all have a lot more fun.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Perks of Being the Teacher's Kid

Teaching my own children was both a blessing and a curse. I loved finally being able to spend the day with them, having given up on ever being the stay-home mom I wanted to be, but I discovered early there were drawbacks. 

Perhaps I erred on the side of being too careful when it came to favoritism. I tried so hard to be a fair teacher, and wanted so much for there to be no doubt that I did not favor my own children over their classmates, I think I leaned the OTHER way, much to the disappointment of my children. I tended to be a little harder on my own kids than the others, in my efforts to make things seem "even."

As soon as they were strong enough to help, at the beginning of every August, they helped me set up my classroom. That is no small feat, and their help made so much difference to me. They helped me with moving the furniture, covering the bulletin boards, and organizing supplies and papers. It was a bonding experience, and we usually celebrated after our hard work with a trip to Bullies, the local hamburger joint. 

During the school year, whether they were in my classroom or not, I often had them help me with sorting papers, checking tests, and keeping the classroom tidy. They were good workers, and their help was invaluable to me. I know there were times I seemed to put pressure on them for insider information about playground incidents, treating them like members of an espionage team rather than my students, but that wasn't very often.

When I had Dylan and Sierra in my first grade classroom, and then later, in my fifth grade class, I loved that I was able to get to know them and their classmates better. Those kids are in their mid- and late-twenties now, and I still have contact with many of them on Facebook. Those particular classes had many strong personalities and good students; I have such good memories of my two years with them. 

By the time Bridger started school, I was moved to fifth grade, so I only had him and his classmates one time. Those kids are in high school now, and it is fun to see them socially at the high school events and on Facebook.

At the beginning of Dylan's first grade year, I can remember calling on him when he had raised his hand. "Should I call you Mrs. Waters or Denise?" he wanted to know. What a kid.

"Your choices are Mrs. Waters or MOM, Silly." He grinned widely, proud of himself for his little joke.
The last day of first grade for Dylan's class. Dyl is the tall blonde-haired boy in the white shirt to the left of me.

Dylan is quick to point out that he was not in my homeroom in fifth grade. That was a tough call to make, and it was one that ultimately fell to me. I will never be able to justify my decision to him, but my thoughts behind the decision were that I knew he would be in my advanced language arts class for half of the day, and I felt like it would be good to have a "break" from each other so that we would have things to talk about at the end of the day. 

My eldest is a perfectionist, and it is hard for me to see his frustration with himself if something doesn't come easily, or if he makes a mistake. Knowing how hard I am on my own children, I felt like it would be nicer for him to have a more objective teacher for part of the day. Here is my apology for that:

Dear Dylan,

I screwed up, and I will publicly admit that I probably made the wrong decision. In hindsight, I wish I had just kept you all to myself in fifth grade. Yes, I think it was a mistake because of the inadvertent message I sent you. I know you love to tease me that it was proof I loved you less than your siblings, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I wish I could have a Mulligan, a do-over. I would have placed you in my homeroom, and we would have gotten through it, although, I think you would not have liked how I would have tried too hard to prove how fair I was to the other students by holding you to a slightly higher standard. Please forgive me. Of all the mistakes I made, this one bothers me more than most.


1st Grade Field Trip w/ Sierra
When the children were in elementary school, they came to school early with me, and they stayed after with me many days. Other teacher's children would join them on the playground, or in one of the mom's classrooms. When Bridger entered kindergarten, I became friends with his teacher, and she and I began working out after the school day ended. He generally went to his babysitter's house to play with friends while we lifted weights at the high school, and went for our walks.

When Bridger was in fifth grade, just like when I had his brother and sister, we always got to school early. When the other children started to arrive, I always made him go outside to wait, just like everyone else, until the bell rang. 

"Just what ARE the perks of being the teacher's kid?" he asked me one day.

I thought for a moment, searching the database in my brain for a good answer. My mind drew a blank.

"I don't think there are any," I replied.

He turned away to head outdoors. "I don't think so, either," was all he said before he left.
Bridger's Fifth Grade Class. My boy is the one in the red shirt on the top row.
As we were coming home from our back-to-school shopping last summer, getting Bridger ready for his sophomore year of high school, he broke into a wide grin. 

"What are you so happy about?" I asked him.

"I just realized that this is the first year I won't have to help you set up your classroom." We both smiled then. I think he finally found a perk of being the teacher's kid, but he had to wait until I retired to enjoy it!

Now that I have had time to think about it, I think I thought of some perks, but I don't know that I could have convinced my children when they were six and ten that there were many advantages at all. I am so grateful to have been able to be together during the day. It was fun to interact, and to learn together at school, as mother and child, teacher and student. It was such a good experience to watch them grow and develop relationships with their friends. I've always considered my classroom to be a home away from home, a family away from family. It was extra-special for me to have my own children in my second family at school. Were there other perks? You'd have to ask my kids. I'd love to hear what they have to say. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

To Everything There Is a Season

As I surveyed the room before me, my heart sank. Would we ever have a living room like those featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens? "To everything there is a season," my mom would remind me when I complained about how messy our house was.
Daddy sent me this t-shirt from Saunders Brothers last fall. 
It was the last gift he picked out for me. My parents have been 
reminding me of this scripture from Ephesians most of my life.

Apparently, we were in our War Zone season. The orange and yellow velour couch was threadbare, the end tables were dotted with drips of milk from leaking sippy cups, and the entire square footage of carpet was covered with a variety of toys. Picking up was an endless task for me as a mother of two young children. It was time to bring out THE BAG.

"Okay, you two. You have FIVE minutes." My little ones looked up from their video on TV, Land Before Time, no doubt. It seemed to be on an eternal loop in those days. "I want this room picked up. NOW. When the timer goes off in five minutes, anything you haven't picked up goes into the bag, and I'm putting it up in my closet. GO!"

Dylan, the older of the two, went into panic mode, scurrying around the room, gathering his backpack, his building blocks, his toy cars. "Sisi, hurry! She means it. Mom will take your toys away. Help me!"

Sierra, the three-year-old, hadn't moved from her spot on the sofa. She was completely relaxed, dividing her time between watching the TV, and watching her brother tear around the room like a mad man. 

"Two more minutes..." I said from the kitchen, keeping an eye on the digital timer on the stove. Dylan was doing an impressive job, loading all of his toys, and some of his sister's into the basket we kept in the family room for holding their treasures.

"SI-ERRA!" my obedient, first-born admonished. "HURRY! Mom means it. She's going to take away your toys."

"Mom can pick them up," she told him. "I don't need them. I have plenty of toys."

It was true. My children were like most children in the nineties. They had so many toys, it must have been hard to decide what to select from the toy room when it was time to play. I was so exasperated by her laissez-faire attitude, though. How do you motivate an over-indulged child with laid-back thinking?

My kids were like night and day. Dylan tended to keep his things tidy and organized. He was a perfectionist, and a rule follower. Sierra liked everything spread out, and easily accessible when it came to her clothes and toys. Sierra had a relaxed approach to life, and wasn't too concerned about rules or threats.

Is there hope for mothers with children like my little girl? Oh, yes, there is, but sometimes we have to wait awhile before all of teachings sink in enough to make a difference.

When Bridger and I went to visit her after she had moved to Denver, everything she owned was in her small apartment bedroom. As she gave us a tour of the place she shared with two others, I saw her face fall when she looked into the kitchen. I followed her gaze into the room, and saw nothing upsetting. 

"Why do people have to leave dishes on the counter? We have a dishwasher!" She removed her roommate's offending water glass from the Formica, and quickly hid it inside the dishwasher. I was impressed, and more than surprised. Her bed was made, and the floor was clear. My little girl has become a tidy housekeeper, so yes, there is hope.

"To everything there is a season," indeed. I miss having those two kids at home. I'd even settle for the clutter, if it meant we could all be together. For now, I open my heart and home to them when they visit, and I love being a guest in their homes, impressed by their hospitality, and their housekeeping skills. As a mom, I couldn't be more proud of how my kids are turning out. All three of them are such good-hearted people, and they know how to work, and organize themselves.

Hang in there, you little mamas. Your day is coming. For now, just enjoy your sweet chidlren, and savor this time with them. It will be over before you know it.

*For visitors from the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge, you can see the befores and afters of some of my projects on the links in this paragraph. My 16-year-old and I just pared down our possessions to move into our LITTLE HOUSE. LETTING GO of some of our prized possessions was challenging, but worth it. So far, we're doing pretty well to keep it tidy. It feels like home, and that's always a good thing. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Adventures with Ma'am

South Sevier High School Madrigals at the Utah High School Concert Choir Competition

We single mamas have crazy schedules sometimes. Yesterday morning I was on the road by 6:45, on my way to Orem, two hours away, to watch my son sing at the state high school choir competition. 140 miles I drove. After a flawless performance that lasted only long enough to sing three songs, the high schoolers were off for a day of fun involving trampolines, and hanging out at the mall, which is quite a treat for our rural kids. 

My own plans for lunch fell through, and there I was, two hours from home wondering what do. Not to fear. I called my friend, Ma'am, to see if it was too late to take her up on her offer to spend the afternoon at the Kayenta Street Painting Festival, 265 miles in the OTHER direction. Ma'am is always good for spontaneous adventure, which has been such a good example for me, a homebody who is a creature of habit. I'm learning, and I am finding out that spontaneity is the spice of life. I downed a Five Hour Energy drink, and headed south to join her.

We stopped for an early dinner at Café Rio in Saint George. The darling young man who served our food called us both Ma-DAM. How did he know? My friend has had the nickname "Ma'am" for quite awhile, I guess I can be "Ma-DAM."

When Ma'am whipped out tooth-brushes and minty toothpaste in the parking lot before we left for the festival, I knew we were soul sisters. "Have toothbrush, will travel." It's a great way to live! 

Kayenta is on the outskirts of Saint George near the small town of Ivins. The skies were overcast, and they had experienced rain earlier in the day. The precipitation didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the artists at the festival. 

The first artists we talked to were from California. The woman and her assistant had been invited to the festival to demonstrate their skills, and she is also a judge for the event. The theme this year is "Celebrating Earth." 

One section is reserved for children to try street painting. For $5, children may buy a box of pastels, and design their own square on the paved street.

Photo Credit: Ma'am took this one of me as proof I was there!

Valentina Sforzini, Italian street painter

Valentina Sforzini, pictured above and below, flew to the festival from Italy. She has been painting in street festivals since she was seven years old, and has participated in festivals similar to this one in Holland, France, Germany, Mexico, and the U.S. Her work is featured, along with five other international artists in a new documentary: Gesso: the Art of Street Painting.

Adry del Rocio
Adry del Rocio, shown in the preceding and following pictures, is the other artist with whom we spoke. Ms. del Rocio had come from Mexico. She won her first prize for her art when she was only four. Her talents have been shown in Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. She is also featured in the Gesso documentary.

Thankfully, the rain stopped earlier in the day so the artists could resume their paintings. Many works of art were covered with plastic when the rain began. The artists were hoping that Sunday's promise of sunny weather would hold so they could finish their paintings in pleasant conditions. 

Our adventure continued in Saint George where we met friends for dinner, but that is an adventure of its own to be told another day. 

We drove home through every sort of weather spring has to offer here in Utah: dry, rain, sleet, and snow. My mileage total would hit 550 by the end of the night. I could barely keep my eyes open to keep Ma'am company as she drove through the night. Okay, I'll be honest; I fell asleep. My 9:00 bedtime habit had been pushed to its limits, and I nodded off several times before we finally got home at midnight.

I better stock up on Five Hour Energy drinks so I can be ready at a moment's notice for another adventure with Ma'am. Spontaneity is the name of the game, and I want to be a major player. (Not a play-ah, just a player in the game of spontaneous fun!)

If you are needing an adventure of your own, and live in Utah, you still have time to visit the last day of the street painting festival, Sunday, April 27, 2014. More information is HERE

Saturday, April 26, 2014

No One Needs to Know about This

This girl right here? She loves her ice cream. A half gallon of any flavor is not safe in her freezer. It is her kryptonite. Not that she's Superman, or anything; just implying the magnitude of her weakness.

In college, one of her sweetest memories involved a carton of ice cream, two spoons, and her roommate, on the floor of their bedroom. Yeah, she loves her ice cream.

Let me tell you about one time, long ago, when she was a young bride. No, I better let her tell it. She was there. She remembers it well. How could she ever forget?

The year was 1988; my son Dylan was just a baby. We were living in an old meat packing plant on the Glenwood Road in Richfield, Utah. Several rooms had been converted into living quarters, sort of. The master bedroom had stenciled letters on the hollow core wooden door that read, "Manager's Office." The bathroom door had a stenciled reminder, "Please wash hands before returning to work." There were drains in the floor of the tiled "living room," and the only electrical outlet in the kitchen was attached to the baseboard heater on the floor. It was barely a house, but it is where I lived with my then-husband, my baby, and a very good friend who was newly divorced. Our friend was staying in the spare bedroom, and Dylan's crib was by the bed in the "manager's office."

Our friend loved ice cream, too, but probably wasn't aware of how much I loved ice cream because he foolishly bought Snelgrove's Vanilla Bean ice cream, and put it in our freezer to enjoy later. We shared the food in the kitchen at the packing house, and he had reminded me to help myself to the anything he bought, but it was with great guilt one day that I took his ice cream from the freezer. My baby was napping, and I had the house to myself. The men were off trapping on the desert, and wouldn't be home until after dark.

Snelgrove's was an expensive brand of ice cream made in Salt Lake City until the Dreyer company bought them out in 1990. I always bought the generic Albertson's brand when I wanted to indulge. I don't think I'd ever even had vanilla bean flavor. (Didn't vanilla come out of a small bottle? There were beans involved?)

When I removed the lid of the half gallon cylinder, I could see that he had enjoyed a dish of ice cream already. There was probably a cup's worth missing. I reminded myself that he had always said to help myself to any of his food. I grabbed a spoon, and scooped out as much as would fit in it, and popped it in my mouth, freeing up my hands to replace the lid, and I returned the carton to the freezer.

At that time, I wouldn't think vanilla bean would be that great of a flavor; I preferred chocolate anything back then, but it was so creamy and smooth, I found it to be delicious. I pulled the spoon out of my mouth slowly, only taking a couple of layers off of the top of the ice cream with my teeth, and I savored the creamy deliciousness. In no time at all, the spoon was empty, and I eyed the refrigerator. 

"What's mine is yours," he had said. He wouldn't mind if I had a dish of ice cream. I grabbed a bowl from the cupboard, and helped myself to a generous portion of ice cream. 

Throughout that Saturday, I enjoyed working my way down to the bottom of the carton. It was gone. I had consumed at least ten servings of ice cream by myself. Yes, if I were a Hobbit, I would have eaten ice cream for all six of my meals that day.

Now the reality of what I had done set in. I was embarrassed to think that when the guys got home from trapping, there would be no ice cream in the freezer, and I would have to admit what I'd done. No, I couldn't have that happen. 

I scooped up my baby, grabbed my purse, and we headed back to Albertson's grocery store. I made a beeline for the freezer section, selected a carton of expensive Snelgrove's ice cream, vanilla bean, of course, and hurried home with my purchase. No one would be the wiser. Except.

When I had opened the carton that morning, there was only a serving or two missing. If there were a fresh, unopened carton of Snelgrove's ice cream in the freezer, it would be obvious that the original carton had gone somewhere. I did what any self-respecting binge-eater would do. I fixed myself another bowl of ice cream, careful to take enough out of the carton to duplicate the way the first carton looked when I first began my ice cream debacle. And I ate one more generous serving of ice cream before anyone was any the wiser.

Shhh...don't tell. Now you know just how much I love my ice cream, and the lengths to which I will go to keep my secret safe. No one else needs to know about this. It will be our little secret.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chug-A-Lug! Chug-A-Lug! A Tip to Up Your Water Intake

"I'm thirsty," was a common complaint of my childhood.

"Have some water," my mom would suggest.

"But I'm not thirsty for water," I would whine a little more.

"Then you're not very thirsty."

These conversations drove me crazy when I was younger. I wanted sweet tea. Or root beer. Or milk. Not water.

As an adult, I developed a horrible habit of drinking soda. My addictions changed over the years from Diet Coke with lime, to McDonald's Coke, to Diet Pepsi, to Diet Dr. Pepper, to DIRTY Diet Dr. Pepper. For you unenlightened  folks, a dirty soda drink has a flavored syrup added to it. A dirty Diet Dr. Pepper has coconut syrup added to the Diet Dr. Pepper for a tropical sensation that is a pure delight!

Over the years I have suffered with three-day headaches every time I've tried to give up my soda habit, only to return to my drink of choice weeks later, consuming way too much of the sweet-tasting liquid. This last winter, I decided to ease off of my Diet Dr. Pepper habit, and for now, anyway, diet soda has no appeal for me.

In the last few years, something changed in me. I crave water all of the time now. My mouth always feels parched, and I cannot get enough to drink. Last summer, my rheumatologist diagnosed my condition; I have SJOGREN'S SYNDROME. My body is so dry that even my joints don't have enough lubrication, all of my mucous membranes are extremely dry, and my mouth craves moisture. I have no problem meeting my daily water requirements now.

My last year of teaching, I lugged four liters of water to school every day. (No, my environmentalist friends, I didn't add to the landfill every day. I reused the bottles for months at a time.) These four liters were in addition to what I drank before and after school, and before bed. How in the world did I choke down that much water, you may wonder. I have a secret!

Chris Powell of Extreme Makeover fame, shared a tip with his followers on the Reshape the Nation website.  His recommendation was to make sure people drink half of their weight in ounces of water. (So if you weigh 150 pounds, you would drink 75 ounces of water per day.) Since I started doing his suggestion for water intake a couple of years ago, I have found it very easy to drink plenty of water. Powell suggests chugging a full eight ounces every time we drink.

When I drink water, I take eight large gulps. I don't sip it; I chug the whole thing in eight swallows. I measured it today, and that is an ounce per gulp. As soon as I wake up, I drink a cup of water. After breakfast, I have another cup of water. I keep water bottles in the fridge, and I have an insulated container (a Hydroflask) that my son gave me. I drink water all day long; before lunch, with lunch, and after lunch. I drink water in the afternoon, with dinner, and in the evening. I drink water before I go to bed.

Dylan, my oldest, has a large Hydroflask, and he gave me a smaller one, knowing that arthritis makes my wrists hurt. The lighter weight is easier for me to carry. When I leave home, I make sure I have my flask in my cup holder in my car.

When we go hiking, I fill my hydration pack with water before we go. The Camelpak is insulated, and if I add ice, I can enjoy chilled water all day long when we're hiking.

If you struggle to drink enough water, try the chugging method. It has made it so simple for me to make sure my water intake is sufficient. You may even find that you drink less of your other beverages. Water has become my drink of choice.

How I Lost 100 Pounds

Here we go again, giving a healthier lifestyle another go. I know that a sense of community can be motivational, so I have joined the 40 Bags in 40 Days Weight Loss group, and I rejoined my online friends on My Fitness Pal. I have two groups to whom I will be accountable, and offer my support. 

I had to chuckle when I logged back in to My Fitness Pal after a six week hiatus. "ONE DAY STREAK" said the banner across the top of my screen. Now I am on a "FOUR DAY STREAK." I am looking forward to seeing the number change to any respectable number that actually warrants the word "streak" behind it. (You know, like 30 Day Streak, 60 Day Streak...a number that represents dedication and stamina!) "One Day Streak" smacked of sarcasm and patronization. 

In a conversation with my husband last fall, we were talking about weight loss. In my head, I considered the many starts and stops of the last year, and told him that I figured I had probably lost about 100 pounds in the last year. He looked at me incredulously, noticing, I'm sure, that my body wasn't looking that much smaller. "Unfortunately, I've lost the same five pounds about twenty times," I confessed.

It's true. You've heard of the Weekend Warrior? Well, I tend to be one of those, hiking extra far, or going biking on the local trails on a Saturday or Sunday, but a more accurate term for my routine is Weekend Binge-er. (I wrote "binger" first, but that looks like the name of a cherry with a comparative suffix, implying it is more of a Bing cherry than another, so I adapted my word choice with a hyphen.)

It is not unusual for my weight to fluctuate eight pounds on any given weekend. Want to take me out to breakfast? Oh, boy! Should we go get some frozen yogurt? Yes, let's! I'll make something special for dinner...maybe even a big, old batch of my famous homemade rolls. Want to go out for lunch? Well, only if we grab cookies from Sweet Tooth Fairy afterwards. Yes, I have a problem. Weekends are when I let my hair down after being "good" all week long.

So, if I gain 8 pounds over a weekend, and lose 5 of them during the next week...well, I probably don't have to tell you that this is causing problems for my wardrobe. Jeans are a little snug. My comfy tops are no longer billowy. At this rate of gain and loss, I could gain 150 pounds by the end of this year.

Slow and steady wins the race. Consistency is key. Rome wasn't built in a day. Move more; eat less. Yada yada yada... The clichés are true. I've done this before. I know the drill. It's time to get serious again.

Trust me; the back
view was voluptuous.
When my youngest child was about three, he climbed up on my bed after I had just struggled into my matronly swimsuit. He patted my back, and announced, "Mama, your back has boobs, too!" Yes, I had just poured myself into a plus-size, one-piece swimming suit, and the Lycra fabric had squished my back fat into two lovely mounds of flesh between my shoulder blades, with a crease down the middle. Back boobs. He's always been an observant child.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. His comment was just one of the catalysts that motivated me to get healthier back in 2000. An even bigger reason to lose weight was I was tired of the pain in my back and joints. Often, I woke myself up in the night in tears because turning over hurt so much. I had no energy, and my whole body ached.

Getting into My Jeans is the story of how I lost 80 pounds. It wasn't fast, and it wasn't easy. It took me over two years to do it, averaging less than half a pound a week. That feat is something of which I am very proud, but now I'm beginning to look at it like my "glory days." My weight has been creeping up these last ten years, and now I find myself wanting to lose 20 pounds, not to get down to my lowest weight, but to return to a healthy weight that will allow me to live without back pain, and enjoy a higher level of physical activity again.

This time, I am not setting a five pound weight loss goal. I've done that too many times to count. I'm going to up the ante. Ten pounds will make a difference, and move me toward my twenty pound goal. Losing ten pounds will make it seem attainable, and sustainable. 

Are you trying to lose weight? Would you benefit from a group of encouraging friends? Whether you choose to join us at 40 Bags in 40 Days Weight Loss Group on Facebook, or want to try My Fitness Pal with a friend, I'd suggest you build yourself a support group. Find like-minded people who will cheer you on, and carry you through the hard days. It won't be easy, but having others help you makes it easier.

Yes, I probably really lost the same five pounds too many times to count over the last year. And yes, I really have lost a legitimate 80 pounds once before. This time, I'm going to lose ten pounds. And then I'm going to lose ten more. Watch me. Help me be accountable. Even better, JOIN ME. I can use all of the support I can get!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Heat of the Fire

Ashes to ashes;
Dust to dust.
Weep, if you will,
Rage, if you must.

The prayers of your heart
Rise like smoke to the sky.
Sending your love
With the ashes on high.

The fire before you
Dances in flame.
Everything’s different;
Nothing’s the same.

The cleansing heat of the fire
Burns hot, you are learning.
Everything has its
Own way of burning.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Does Everybody Die?

One hot summer day, I wandered into the kitchen while Viola was fixing our lunch. Viola was our nanny/housekeeper for awhile when I was still in the primary grades of Amherst Academy. The whistling coming from our black and white TV was my cue that the Andy Griffith show would start momentarily, but I had some serious thoughts troubling my mind. Nervously shifting my weight from foot to foot, I stood at the table watching her at the kitchen counter, her broad back toward me. She was wearing her simple cotton dress, and her nylons hung in folds around her great, thick ankles which hung over the tops of her sensible flat lace-up shoes.

I already knew what she was making, and she already knew I'd complain about it. Every single day that woman made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I hated them, and she refused to cut the crust off of my bread like Mama would do if she were home. She would slap some peanut butter on a slice of store-bought white bread, and then spread the thinnest layer of grape jelly on another piece, and smash the two slices together. If she were going the extra mile, she would also serve us a bowl of lumpy mushroom soup, which I thought was an appalling side dish for children. Mama would be mad because she bought Campbell's soup to use in her casserole recipes, and old Viola was force-feeding the swill to us while she was at work. Later, I would tell Viola I was going to "tell on" her when Mama got home, but for now, I had a question.

"Vi-o-la?"  I began timidly. My young mind was worried, and she was the only person who could have alleviated my fears of the moment.

"What?" she asked, curtly. I had disturbed the great chef at work. It took me a long time to develop a relationship with Viola, although she assured Mama she loved us, and thought we were wonderful children. I never felt like she liked me when I was little. She seemed to tolerate us better, and I have happier memories of sleepovers at her house on her farm later, but during those summer weekdays, we were usually at odds with each other in the three bedroom ranch house on Kenmore Road.

"Viola, does everybody die?" Now a sensitive caregiver would hear the real question behind that question, and would carefully choose words that would reassure a young child. Viola was a practical woman who offered the only answer she knew.

"Well, of course, they do. Everybody dies."

"Even children like me? Do little children like me die?" My eyes began to sting, and my heart started to beat wildly in my chest. My breath came in short, shallow bursts.

"Anything that's alive has to die. That's just how it is."

I began to wail. She'd done it this time. She dried her hands on her apron, and waddled over to where I stood.

"Hush, now. You just hush. You don't need to cry about it. Cryin' ain't gonna change nothin'." I leaned into her ample waist, and she patted me on the back. I didn't want to die. I never wanted to die. I didn't want anyone I knew to die, either. Not even Viola, as mean as I thought she was for making me eat yucky food at lunch, and never giving me all of the snacks I wanted, and making me play outside even when it was hot as blazes. I just thought dying was the worst possible way for my young life to end.
We always walked quickly past the Amherst Cemetery when we were kids; I couldn't think of a scarier place,
unless it was the funeral home down the road.

It has taken me most of my life to realize that there are much worse things than dying. Living with loneliness, degenerative illness, and debilitating pain are terrible ways to spend the rest of a lifetime.

You'll be glad to know when I grew up, I realized while Viola could have been more empathetic, she was right. It was foolish to waste time worrying about that back then, but I was just a little girl, and didn't always ask the right questions that would have alleviated so many of my childish fears. I just needed assurance that death wasn't IMMINENT. At the age of five, my real question was, "Am I going to die soon?" 

Death no longer scares me like it did. Don't get me wrong; I have no plans of checking out any time in the immediate future. There is much I hope to accomplish in the days that are left to me.  I just think when it's my time to go, I hope it's quick, and painless, but I don't fret about that like I did when I was younger. I'm more concerned with living these days, and figuring out how to do that well. That should keep me pretty busy until my time's up.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Where Have All the Worries Gone?

The house will be too small.

How will I be able to stand drinking water without my water distiller?

No more luxuries for me. (Goodbye hot tub, monthly massages, eating out, vacation destinations...)

Loneliness will haunt me.

I can't live without my dog.

Life without Dad will be too hard.

That dumpy little house will never feel like home.

I don't do "single" well.

Sunrises won't look as good living that close to the freeway.

I'm giving up these panoramic views.

Daily hiking up "my" canyon will not be an option.

Oh, my worry list was endless. When long days stretched before me, my brain worked overtime considering all of the things that were going to challenge me. 

Do you know what has been confirmed for me time and time again? Worries rarely turn into reality. I traveled from Point A to Point B when that didn't even look possible. How did I do it?

I survived the loss of my dad, the end of my marriage, and the absence of my darling Boston Terrier. I packed up my stuff from two houses, purged most of it, and moved what was left into a teeny, tiny house. I moved away from some of my dearest friends. Every time I felt like I couldn't take one more loss, I would remind myself to live ONE DAY AT A TIME to get me through the sadness or anxiety, and focus on what was good and right at that particular moment.

When one day at a time seemed overwhelming, I would remind myself that I just need to get past THIS moment. I would focus on my breath. "JUST BREATHE", I would remind myself. Sometimes I just allowed myself to feel whatever it was I was feeling. I learned that running away (hiking for hours at a time) wasn't really solving anything. I still had to face my "new normal" when I returned home. 

It helped me to have something to do, to keep busy. When I wasn't throwing myself into my hiking up the canyon, I was busy with the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge. I had about six weeks to pack, clean, and move. 

Tomorrow it will have been four months since Daddy has been gone. Since Christmas, there have been many changes in my life. I have gone from being married to single, living in two spacious houses to one small one, and moving from a small town to an even smaller town. 

I still miss my dad. My house is filled with reminders of his love and support. His smiling face is in my favorite photographs. I kept his letters to me. My memory books are displayed on the wall, and are readily available. It has not been easy, but like so many before me, I survive without his physical presence. I cry when I must, but mostly, I enjoy my memories.

Our divorce is final. I couldn't know how everything was going to turn out until we went through with it, but I am grateful for the friendship we have been able to maintain. We have supported each other through our trials, and have tried to be positive in our approach to our lives apart. April 5 was our six-year anniversary of meeting at the Village Inn, and we had a nice breakfast together to celebrate the occasion. We continue to check in with each other, cheering each other on as we work on our individual goals and challenges. There have been hidden blessings revealed this spring in surviving the hardest winter of my life. For that, I'm truly grateful.

Life without a canine has been broken up with occasional visits from my sweet MARLEY. I'm grateful for our time together, and have begun looking into adopting a dog of my own from the Utah Humane Society. I look forward to taking care of him next month for a couple of weeks. He will always have a place in my heart and home.

All of those other worries? They never materialized. I don't miss the luxuries...too much. We are spending money carefully, and making do with used/donated items when we can so we can afford an occasional indulgence. We have plans for a couple of fun road trips this summer, thanks to the generosity of friends and family opening their homes to us. 
As long as we're looking up, the sunrise is beautiful anywhere. We just have to seek out the beauty where we are.

My walk to the Joe Town Hill and back is lovely. Monroe Canyon is a quick few miles away. My friends in Marysvale have seen to it I know I am welcome any time. The sunrises and sunsets are lovely here, too. The moon peeks through the branches of the trees that line my property. This dumpy little house is taking shape, and next month, I can't wait to show you all of the changes that will be taking place on the outside. 

"Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere." That was a quote I wrote in my book of quotations when I was in high school. I would do well to remember it. 

Once again, I am reminded that living in the now is really the only option. If I'm sad, it is because my thoughts are focusing on the past, pining away on the "if only" thoughts. If I'm anxious, I know I'm worrying about the future. Worry goes away when I focus my thoughts on the present, and express gratitude for all of the blessings of the moment. And there are many. 

For today, I'm going to kiss my worries goodbye, and stand firm in this perfect place in time. Family and friends have lifted me up through my trials. God has not let me down. Life is good.