Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Queen Gets a Lift

Chuck has treated me like a queen since I have arrived in Illinois, doting on me, bringing home flowers, helping out with chores around the house, and spending his free time with me. Even queens are susceptible to cabin fever in the winter, or should that be "castle fever?" Not having a car while my husband is earning money for our little kingdom, I have taken off on foot, getting to know our village a little better.
The king of the castle is not above helping with chores.
We knew I would need a car soon, but I had been content to wait because I had been busy nesting; decorating, rearranging, cleaning, and organizing. My hours of solitude had been filled with writing, and reading about writing. 

Chuck was worried I was feeling deprived without a car, but I knew we only had the weekends to go car shopping, and I just dreaded looking for a car; I'd rather spend our free time together doing fun things, and find other ways to entertain myself during the week that don't require a car.

Car shopping is one of my least favorite things to do. I'm just not "into" cars. As long as I can get from Point A to Point B, without a breakdown, mental or mechanical, I'm good. I don't want to pore over classified ads, Car Fax profiles, and back issues of Consumer Reports. I don't want a salesman to try to try to talk me into a car I already told him I don't want. I don't like to write out checks that fill up the whole amount line with number words.

But when you need a car, what do you do? You go car shopping. UGH.

LUCKILY, I have a husband who seems to love doing the research, comparing makes, models, and ratings. Thanks to him, we pretty much knew what we wanted the weekend we knew we were going to buy a car, and we bought the first car we took for a test drive, but NOT the first car the salesman showed us, and NOT the first car the salesman recommended. We had told him we wanted a Japanese or Korean car, and we had come to see the Nissan Elantra advertised for $3,000.

We followed him across the damp parking lot, stepping over piles of snow that had been left by the snowplows. My first glance at the gold sedan, and all I could think was, "Great. It looks like a grandma car." 

Trying to keep an open mind, I sat down to start it, not noticing what Chuck did; there were no door handles on the car, just the remnants of the mechanism still attached to the door. It took a couple moments for the engine to turn over after I turned the key.

While the car idled, Chuck asked me to pop the trunk. I never did find the trunk release, but when I attempted to pull the gas cover latch release, the lever was not attached to anything, and was lying on the floor, without any way to make it work.

"Um, Chuck, we're done here." He gave me a silent nod.

"I wouldn't sell you a car like this anyway," said Mr. Salesman. How interesting that he would mention that, since it really seemed like he would gladly let us take it off his hands, if we wanted to pay the full asking price.

Chuck and I had a quick conversation,  and decided we would have to pull a little more money from the royal coffers to get a dependable, decent car. We told the salesman he could show us something a little nicer, something with door handles and functioning latches would be nice.

Our little man scurried back across the showroom floor with a smile on his face, and told us he had a nice little Cobalt we might like.  We both just shook our heads at him. We were adamant about buying a Toyota, Hyundai, or Honda, having had positive experiences with those cars. His face fell, and then his eyes lit up. "Just a sec, I'll be right back. We had a car come in just yesterday you might like; a Toyota Camry."

Now he was talking. Yes, it had just come in, as in, no one had had a chance to detail the car and spritz it with "new car scent." There was trash on the floor, and where baby car seats had once been, the backseat was now full of cereal crumbs, dried milk splatters, and melted chocolate. Purely cosmetic problems. We could work with that.

The Camry started right up for me. Yes, we wanted to test drive it. Still unfamiliar with the roads, I asked Chuck to drive, so we played a quick game of musical chairs, and Chuck noticed the driver's sun visor was missing.

"How hard are these to find?" Chuck asked into the rearview mirror, as he tapped on the ceiling where the visor should be.

"Not hard at all," he said as he rummaged around in the backseat. "Here you go. It was in the pocket behind you." He flashed us a grin. Well, that was less than ideal, but we didn't let that stop us. We were getting tired and hungry as our lunchtime drew closer. After a quick little test drive, we told him we would take it.

DONE! Well, sort of. Finishing involved a good hour or two of hanging out in the showroom while they did the paper work, and we signed for the title. We were told they would detail the car while we went to lunch.

We celebrated at Portillo's, and then after a little more autographing of documents, we were both on our way home in our his and hers Toyotas. Chuck did some quick rearranging of the royal garage, and a little more shoveling of snow off of the driveway, and our mission was accomplished.

What a relief to have that dreaded task done. Now I have wheels at my disposal. I look forward to exploring the kingdom of Saint Charles far and wide now. Just call me the Queen of the Road.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Let Go and Breathe

My ski instructor looked at me with a puzzled expression. "Why do you have such a look of consternation on your face?"

"I am overwhelmed with trying to process everything you've told me today, and everything other skiers have told me in the past, and there are just so many words, and they get jumbled in my brain, and all I want to do is ski. It would help me so much if I could just WATCH you ski instead of listening to you talk about it."

"Why didn't you say that in the first place?" He adjusted his goggles, and took off down the hill. I tightened my grip on my poles, and followed him. As we traversed back and forth down the hill, my face broke out into a huge smile. I was skiing! My skiing improved dramatically from that point. So did my mood. 

I've always been a kinesthetic learner. Tell me; I may not understand.  Show me; there's a good chance I'll get it. One of my shortcomings is over-thinking things. The more I think, the more my mental state gets tied in knots. 

Today, while skiing, it's like my brain could NOT multitask while my body was skiing. I needed to let go all of the verbage and just do it; let go, and breathe. In a sense, this whole downhill skiing experience was a metaphor for my life. 

As I went shush-shush-shushing down the hill (the sound my mind thinks when I'm trying to think without words), as long as I was feeling the sensation of my shins pressed against my boots, and my eyes kept ahead of me on the slope, I got lost in the moment, and felt complete bliss. But if I started reminding myself of each of the physical tasks I was trying to incorporate simultaneously, I would go cartwheeling down the hill. The less I analyze things, the closer I get to Zen moments; in skiing, and in life.

Sometimes the hardest thing I have to remember is to let go and breathe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Silencing the Sound of Sirens

The nerdiest part of me loved my title yesterday, The Sound of Sirens because it reminded me of someone who can't say their /l/ sound, saying the title of one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, "The Sound of Silence." Get it? "The Sound of Sirens." Sometimes I crack myself up. 

My goal yesterday was to try to silence the sound of the sirens that beg me to dash myself to bits on the shores of the kitchen sink while I eat a steady stream of chocolate chip cookies. So, in keeping with the siren song theme, I wrote a poem, sort of.

If you would indulge me further, I'm going to share my Ode to Cookies here, while tipping my hat to Simon and Garfunkel:

Hello, cookies, my old friend.
I hear your siren song again.
To the kitchen I was creeping,
I left my husband while he was sleeping,
and the sound that was planted in my brain
Still remains.

I must silence the song of sirens.
Life is good, my friends. It really is, even with this latest development of overindulgence in the eating department. Since moving to Illinois, I have married my best friend. Learned my way around our neighborhood, and downtown Saint Charles. Bought a car. Redecorated the living room and bedroom. And for me, the most amazing thing of all is, I have been getting seven to eight hours of sleep nearly every night. 

Anyone who knows my sleeping habits knows this is nothing short of a miracle. I thank Chuck for inviting me into this calm environment that allows me to go to bed each night feeling safe and loved, and allows my brain to shut down completely so that I can get a full night's rest.

Apparently, another thing I have managed to do, which falls so short of miraculous, is gain weight. Now, I have not subjected myself to the confirmation of the bathroom scale, as I avoid humiliation at all costs, but let's just say there have been hints that perhaps my appetite has been a little too hearty.

Just a couple weeks ago, I shared my blog post about "Ignoring the Scales." One of my readers responded that she never weighs herself, she just judges herself by how her pants fit, and knows she needs to make better choices if they start feeling tight. What a good idea, I thought.

Except. Well, since retiring several weeks ago, I've pretty much limited my wardrobe to pajamas and yoga pants, and occasionally, my favorite jeans, which happen to have a generous amount of Lycra in them, APPARENTLY. It's pretty easy for my pants to fit very well, no matter how I eat, if you know what I mean. I could probably gain a good fifty pounds, and still be able to slide those babies over my hips. So, perhaps the "see how my pants fit" idea isn't the best gauge for me. Not THOSE pants, anyway.

Just recently, Chuck and I were going for a winter morning's walk, and I wanted to wear my ski pants, knowing we would be traipsing through knee-deep snow behind our house. As I pulled my white ski pants up past my knees, they seemed to be catching on the fabric of my black tights. That must have been it; the silky smooth inner lining must have been creating friction with the sleek fabric of the tights. (I know what you're thinking; she just doesn't get it. Give me a moment. I'll catch up to you in just a sec.) I took either side of the zipper and pulled it together so I could zip my pants. The zipper seemed dull that day. It didn't zip right up like it had at the beginning of the season. And then, when I tried to fasten the waist, it hit me. UH-OH. MY PANTS ARE TOO TIGHT! 

I had to first attach the inner metal hook together before I could even get the snaps close enough to line up for closure. I could breathe once I got everything zipped and snapped, but just barely. After I donned my white ski jacket, and white slouchy hat, I was pretty sure I resembled the Michelin tire man.

I waddled to the kitchen where Chuck was putting on the last of his winter wear, and we headed out the door for some fresh air, and some much needed exercise. (My back has been killing me ever since I crammed as much as I could in my backpack when I flew from Salt Lake City to O'Hare. That heavy weight slung over my shoulder was all that was needed to irritate my old back injuries, and I've been icing and trying to stretch my back ever since.)

The two of us walked around our neighborhood, and then when my back started giving me fits, we headed home across the rotary park just behind our house, in search of cardinals. Unbeknownst to me, Chuck was taking pictures of me while I was taking pictures of the birds. 
Photo Credit, with some deep-seated humility: Chuck Bennorth
See the resemblance to the big, puffy white guy?

When I saw this picture later, I had a another "uh-oh" thought. "That backside is looking a tad wide, Missy." But I chalked it up to my bad habit of negative body image chatter, and reminded myself that Chuck told me he would love me no matter how much I weighed.

My body tends to do this, this fluctuation of weight, and I now cannot argue with the evidence that it is indeed time to get back on the wagon, and hop off of the never-ending chuck wagon. (No pun intended, Chuck. I mean the feeding frenzy has to end! I love my Chuck Wagon.)

No scale is needed for me to know that while I'm settling in to this new life, it's time to be fully present, address emotional issues, make better nutritional choices, and even though my back hurts, get back to a regular exercise routine. 

This week I've been taking time for reading, prayer, and reflection as part of my morning rituals. I've been opening up to Chuck about some of my concerns. We eat so differently, and I've been taking a "when in Rome" attitude, but honestly, how many Chicago-style pizzas and hotdogs can a girl eat, and still live to fit in her pants? 

I'm happy to report that yesterday went well. I know it's only one day, but I have to start SOMETIME. We celebrated Zack's twenty-second birthday last night, and while the guys enjoyed pizza and Portillo's famous chocolate cake, I ate my own home-cooked dinner, without dessert. Chuck was feeling bad that I wasn't eating something special, and offered to go anywhere I wanted to get something for me, if I weren't going to have what they were going to eat.

"Honey, I promise; I don't want pizza and cake. I will enjoy my meal tonight because today I have been in control of my eating, and that will feel better than any yummy food I can think of."

One day down, many more to go. I'm off for some meditation and reflection to reinforce my new approach.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Sound of Sirens

Remember the EXERCISE IN SELF-CONTROL regarding the chocolate chip cookies last week? On that particular day, I did particularly well in resisting the temptation to eat even ONE cookie. I was strong. I triumphed over the cookies. I ignored the siren song. Mind over matter. I am woman; hear me roar.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was baking cookies yet again, "for my husband" (A-hem. Yeah, I know. I think someone is kidding herself about the cookies, and perhaps, for whom she's actually baking, but I digress. Of course, I do. I digress all the time. It is what I do...)

As I was saying, it occurred to me yesterday that I was able to make chocolate chip cookie dough without referring to the recipe even once. Let that sink in for a moment. I have been in Saint Charles since December 24; seven weeks tomorrow. And in that time, I have made chocolate chip cookies so often that I no longer need to read the recipe. I have MEMORIZED it. Hmm...

We already established that my husband exercises extreme restraint when it comes to indulging in sweets, eating only one half at a time, so why have I found it necessary to buy the ingredients for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe every single week, and bake them, every single week? Well, "News Flash!' APPARENTLY, Chuck is not the only one eating these cookies.

I'm no math whiz, but let's say the recipe makes about 50 cookies. If Chuck eats two cookies per day, and that is actually more than his average consumption, that would mean that these delectable little cookies that I am making for "HIM" would last him a little longer than three weeks. Hmm...but I have to make them EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. That means SOMEBODY is eating about three dozen cookies by herself in any given week, or about five cookies per day. 

Oh, lordy. It's worse than I thought.

Last night, I went downstairs after Chuck was asleep to do a little first aid on my finger. I needed to soak it in warm, salt water, and while I was in the kitchen, the siren song of the cookies called out to me. Chuck's little baggie on the counter had three cookies in it, and while I could have eaten them, and replaced them with new ones in the freezer, I decided to eat them, AND some from the freezer. I popped a couple more in the microwave to thaw them, and had my own little personal cookie festival in the kitchen while I was soaking my finger, unbeknownst to my sleeping husband. Or so I thought.

I tiptoed back to bed, trying to avoid the loud creaky spots on the stairs and in the hallway, but Chuck was awake.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, my finger was throbbing, so I soaked it for awhile," I said, hoping I didn't have chocolate chip cookie breath wafting across the pillows.

"I'm sorry. I hope you sleep well."

I should sleep fine, I thought. My tummy is full, and my finger feels better. Please don't ask me what took me so long, I thought. He didn't. We both fell asleep shortly after that.

Fast forward to this morning at breakfast. 

"Last night, when I reached out for you, you were gone, and then I heard the microwave go off. I thought that was odd."

"Yeah, I was downstairs soaking my finger in hot water," I said, wishing I could just leave it at that, but that is not my style, so I continued, "but I'm not going to lie. I used the microwave to defrost a couple of cookies."

"Oh, I figured you were heating up the water for your finger when you told me you had soaked it last night. You know, you could have helped yourself to my cookies on the counter," he seemed to be mulling things over in his mind, "unless you ate those, too."

"Well, if you MUST know, yes, I ate YOUR cookies, and then ate some FROZEN cookies that had to be thawed, which is why you heard the microwave go off," I continued, feeling my cheeks flush pink, "and then I replaced your cookies on the counter with new frozen ones." It sounded like so many more cookies when I had to explain it out loud. 

"I see," he said. 

What DOES he see? I wonder. Does he see a weak wife, with no self-control, who even eats cookies after she's brushed her teeth, and gone to bed? Does he see someone who can't even stay away from the cookies after discussing just one day ago, her resolve to do better? I know he doesn't see that. He is not one to sit in judgment on me, or anyone else for that matter. He just can't relate to my weakness around desserts. 

Cookies don't have a siren song in Chuck's world. They're simply cookies, a treat to be broken in two, and savored over a period of time, tasting the butter on his tongue, detecting the sugar melting in his mouth, and biting down on the soft chocolate chips. He has probably never downed a half a dozen cookies in one sitting in his whole, entire life. 

But I have. When the siren song begins, there is no savoring. There is only eating, quickly, one cookie, and while still chewing, reaching for another, and then another, and not stopping because I'm full because I eat too quickly for that handy little mechanism to kick in, but stopping when my brain engages, and I finally realize I have eaten much more than a serving, and I really must stop. (In case someone asks me how many cookies I just consumed. Better to have to admit to six, than say, a dozen, right?)

After reading BrenĂ© Brown's book Daring Greatly last year,  I resolved not to have shame be a part of who I am any more, but I have to admit, I was kind of embarrassed to admit out loud what I had done. 

I have never lied about eating more than my share of the cookies; just ask my mom, and I knew I wouldn't lie about the cookies last night, if asked, but man, I really hoped no one would ask. So, I'm owning that yes, I have had more than my share of the cookies. What am I going to do about that, now that it's out in the open?

I'm not looking for advice, friends. I know what to do. I have done it before, and I will do it again. I just have to find that little trigger inside that holds me accountable, that makes me show up in my life, and keeps me present long enough to be aware of my actions. 

Sunday, I started the conversation with my husband about WHY I seem to be eating more than I should. Chuck, while he cannot relate to it, tries to be very empathetic and understanding. I'm sure it seems so simple to him that if I want my pants to fit better, I simply need to cut back on my eating, and exercise a little more. That's what he does; it should work for me, too. Right?

Right. When I'm ready. I'm getting there. If being aware is the first step, I'm almost ready for the next one. Tomorrow is my day of reckoning. Not next MONDAY just because Monday is when everyone starts a diet, right? I'm starting tomorrow because I'm giving myself today to sort through the emotions behind my eating, and I'm going to commit to my best friend, and to you, that I'm going to get on top of this. Today, my job is to figure out how to silence the sound of sirens.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Delicious Deception (Denise and Chuck's Eggs-ellent Adventure: Part 2)

What am I going to do with my finicky eater? I joked earlier in my blog about MY BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, referring to my husband and his distaste for all fruits and eggs, and most vegetables. By his own admission, Chuck is a "55 year-old with the eating habits of a four-year-old." I'm discovering his admission does not imply a desire to change the way he has eaten all of his adult life. 

Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry Seinfeld) wrote a recipe book that I used "back in the day" called Deceptively Delicious. For you young moms out there, this book has so many creative ways to incorporate fruits and veggies in your child's diet. After I'd gotten the basic concept down, I passed my book along to a friend whose children were making meal prep difficult. 

Whenever Chuck hears the blender in the background of our phone calls during his commute after work, he suspects me of blending vegetables to be hidden in his dinner. I've considered joining forces with other moms of picky eaters to get more tips on adding veggies AND eggs to my recipes.

"You USED to eat eggs all the time," Chuck's mom chided when we were discussing his limited enjoyable foods list recently.

"I USED to, but I didn't like them," Chuck responded. He told me he was so relieved during the seventies the media reported that the cholesterol in eggs was bad for us. His mom stopped serving eggs for breakfast, and he rejoiced.

We've all seen the pendulum swing in the arena of dietary guidelines. Right now, eggs are getting a lot of good press, so I'm thinking SOME eggs on the menu wouldn't be a bad idea, but if our only source of eggs can be cake, we're both going to be in trouble! My diabetic husband, and I with my ever-present desire to weigh 20 pounds less, need to find a healthier way to eat eggs than chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies!

I wonder if there is a way to hide eggs in something besides a CAKE. Hmm...I'll be spending some time on Pinterest in search of some good recipes. If I start with things I know he loves, like macaroni and cheese, and meat loaf, I may make a convert of him yet!

Am I still playing the part of Sam-I-Am? Yes, although less vocally, and with a little less enthusiasm these days.

"Would you like them here or there?
Would you like them anywhere?
Would you eat them in the house?"
Would you eat them with your MOUSE?
"Try them! Try them! 
And you may!

If you will let me be.
I will try them.
You will see."

Remember what happens next? The character LOVES green eggs and ham. He just had to try them. For this instance, I am hoping life will imitate art, but I'm not holding my breath. In the big scheme of things, we have more important things to think about than who eats what at our dining table. I love my picky eater, and will continue to do so, even if he only eats eggs in cookies and cake.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Fell in Love with His Words

So here I am, happily married to a fellow WORD NERD, who captured my heart with his words. We connect in so many ways, but at our core, I would say that our love of words draws us closer together even more.

Chuck and I have Facebook to thank for our initial connection. We were in a common interest group with other singles, and I had posted a cartoon that sparked a conversation that we took to private messaging. We Clicked from the Beginning. Immediately, I was attracted to Chuck's use of words; he had an impressive vocabulary, was familiar with conventions of grammar, and he even knew how to spell. Be still, my heart.

When we met for the first time, it was in the Asheville airport in North Carolina. When Chuck took me in his arms, and I looked into his eyes that night, I said, "You are perfect. You are just what I thought you would be." 

You see, I had already fallen in love with his voice, his words, and who he was inside. Meeting him in person just confirmed everything I knew about him during the weeks we corresponded, talked on the phone, and Skyped.

At the end of that first week on a chilly Friday morning on a beautiful panoramic overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Chuck Bennorth asked me to marry him in a haiku. 

Next to you always,
this is my heart's true desire.
Will you marry me?

My mind raced to form the perfect haiku response, and my silence sent the wrong message to my sweetheart, and I could see his nervousness growing, so, exasperated, I finally told him, "I can't think of a haiku reply fast enough, but, of course, I will!"

We wrote our own vows for each other, working on them for the weeks before our wedding. CHUCK'S VOWS were so meaningful to me, knowing he had carefully chosen his words for me. MY VOWS were my best attempt to verbalize how I felt about this wonderful man, and my promises to make him my priority. We continue to write separately, and together, sharing our love through our words, spoken and written.

Throughout the 12 hours we are apart each day, I smile when my phone dings with various notifications. We exchange emails, Facebook messages, and texts. We play Upwords and Words with Friends, online word game apps that are on our phones. 

Chuck asks for a topic each day for writing, and he shares haiku and free verse poetry with me in our online journal we keep together on Evernote. We compose poems with our magnetic words on the fridge.

There is a composition notebook in which we write back and forth. Within the pages, we write words only for each other. Things too personal for anyone but us. There are affirmations, confessions, apologies, poetry, and through it all, a love that deepens with each and every word.

Both of us blog, but because Chuck is gainfully employed, and we'd like to keep it that way, he only writes in his occasionally, and I try to write each week day. His blog entries feel like gifts to me; he shares his point of view of our life and love with the world in his writing.

Our house is filled with books. There are bookshelves, of course, and also stacks of books scattered here and there. Each week, we go to the Saint Charles Public Library (Mama, aren't you proud?), and we bring home books about authors, poetry, and writing, and Chuck selects several books on tape to listen to on his long commute between home and work. 

I bought Chuck a book about haiku at Town House Book Store on one of my walks into town.

Words are the greatest gift to me. Texts, emails, letters, cards, poems, books; I love a gift that can be enjoyed over and over again. Whether the words are silly jokes or whispered secrets or serious conversations, when they are shared between word nerds like us, their significance grows.

I fell in love with his words; I fall deeper and deeper each day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Word Nerd Is Born

Words have been a siren song to me ever since I was little. Learning to read with Dick and Jane, in Up the Hill and Down, opened up a whole new world for me. I was that weird kid who loved phonics, learning the diacritical marks, and breaking down words to make sense of their meaning. My doodles involved writing words in bubble letters. 

My parents passed on their writers' genes to me. They both have written poetry. My mom has even written songs. They both articulate themselves extremely well. While Dad was a great joke teller, Mom could never quite remember punch lines, but they were both good story tellers. 

When I was little, I loved listening to the stories Mama told us on the couch, in the bed, or in the tent during rainy days at Buggs Island. She entertained us with all of the traditional fairy tales, and my personal favorite, Little Black Sambo. I was fascinated with his scarlet jacket, and his emerald green trousers. Mama was good at descriptive detail. 

Each week, mom took us to the Amherst Public Library, where I could choose a stack of books to take home. She would point out what a good bargain the library was. Our library card was free, and afforded us nearly any book ever written. 

How I longed for my very own books from the Scholastic Book order at school, though. Mama would set the flimsy colored newsprint flyer aside, and remind me that the next time we went to the library, we could look for the books I wanted. "You'll only read them once, and then you'll wish you had your money instead of a book you'll never read again," she would say. Sigh.

One time she let me order a book of my very own. The book I selected was The Wednesday Witch. I'm not sure I chose very well, but how I loved that book. It brought a smile to my face to discover it in my classroom when I became an elementary teacher a couple of decades later. 

As young girl, I loved reading The Bobbsey Twins books, and anything about horses. Misty of Chincoteague and Billy and Blaze were some of my favorite characters.

The only board game I have ever really liked is Scrabble. Please don't ask me to play The Game of Life, and if you make the mistake of asking me to play Monopoly, I may forget my manners, and go into rant mode about why that is the worst game ever in the history of the world.

We have Mrs. Scibal to blame for my fancying myself as a poet. My sixth grade English teacher marched me in to the principal's office to read the poem I wrote about our pony, DAPPLES. Was it a poetic masterpiece? No, not even close, but her encouragement meant everything to me during that awkward time of my life. My confidence as a writer grew from that small spark of praise.

In seventh grade, I even liked copying our vocabulary words with the definitions, and using them in a sentence. Much to my teacher's dismay, I found a way to work a horse into every single sentence. I took it as my personal challenge to keep the equestrian theme going all year long.

I couldn't wait to take a foreign language, and the only one available in junior high was Latin, so I took it. Who studies Latin at the age of 13? Um, I did. I took two years of Latin from Mrs. Bragg, biding my time until I could take French from Mrs. Ligon. French was the language of love; no one told me how impractical it was. I was simply in love with the romance of the romantic language. I even minored in French in college. 

I will read anything. Cereal boxes, magazines, self-help, fiction, non-fiction, Readers' Digest; I even attempted William Shakespeare's plays, for the heck of it, in college. A man in Chicago O'Hare airport just shook his head at my response when he asked me if I were reading the book for an assignment, or just for fun. 

I love words. They are the gifts that I treasure; my happy box is filled with my favorite things: the handwritten notes from my children, special notes from school children, the poetry and customized cards from my husband. I save these treasures in my happy box to read on days when I want to recall sweet memories.

My own words are a gift to myself. In writing down the feelings of my heart, and the events of my life, I have an opportunity to re-live each moment when I read my writing later. Between my words and my photography, I can live in the now fully, and enjoy those moments again later, any time I want. Words make me happy.