Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Still Waiting for Our First Snow

Each morning, I sit in front of our Christmas tree, listening to Christmas carols, and I wonder what the weather has in store for us. Checking the Weather Channel forecast, there is a slight possibility of snow mixed with rain in a few more days, but the only day that is calling for snow is two whole weeks away. It's all so disappointing; you see, I just love snow.

I love watching snow fall from the sky. I love catching individual snowflakes and examining their delicate patterns. I love the way the land looks when it's tucked under a winter blanket of white. I love how silent the earth is covered in snowflakes. I love walking in fresh snow, especially if mine are the first footprints to leave their mark. I love downhill skiing; not that I'm allowed to go any more. 

A day on the slopes with Bridger and Tanner. I miss those days. And those boys.

I love cross-country skiing, even though I haven't been in decades. I love sledding. Yes, last year my inner child and I bought a sled, and went sledding with all the local kids. I love taking pictures of frost and snow.

When I was a child, snow days were miserable experiences involving cheap plastic boots and thin plastic-coated gloves. Did that stop us from playing outside? Heavens, no. Mom gave us bread bags to wear over our socks to give our feet a fighting chance of staying dry. We knew there would be hot chocolate and a crackling fire in the wood stove for us once we were done playing, so we went sleigh riding, and built snowmen and snow sculptures. We made ice cream from snow, which didn't taste anything like ice cream, but it was fun to try. Snow makes me feel like a kid again.

Circa 1977. We had THREE WEEKS of snow days. (Ice was to blame, but still, SNOW DAYS!)

My kids in Utah have been sending me pictures of their snow days. Bridger sent a beautiful picture of the fields of Monroe during a snowfall. I'm so jealous when Sierra sends me darling pictures like this:

When I pull into our garage, I can't help noticing my bright blue sled waiting for me on the wall. When I hang up my lightweight olive jacket in the hall closet, I look longingly at the tub of hats and gloves. I miss wearing my slouchy hat. I wore it prematurely when Chuck and I went walking over the Thanksgiving holiday, and when I got overheated, I had to carry it in my hands the rest of the way home. 

Friends in Wisconsin and in cities farther north than Saint Charles have already reported their first snowfall. Last night, just to make sure, I checked with Chuck.

"We haven't had any snow yet, right?"

"Well, you thought you saw a snowflake once, but I don't think that really counts."

See, I miss snow so much it makes me delirious; my mind plays tricks on me.

I can't help it; I'm so jealous of everyone who has already had snow. Our turn is coming; I know that. I just need to be patient. 

If you love snow, too, or are would enjoy reading propaganda from a charter member of the snow lovers' club, you might enjoy reading these:

A Kid at Heart

Please Don't Hate Me for Not Hating Snow

Nothing Like a Snow Day

Too Big for My (Ski) Britches

The Novice Skier; That Would Be Me!

It's All Fun and Games...

Zen Skiing

Learning to Ski as a Fifty-something

Overthinking Skiing

No More Skiing?

Goodbye, Skis

Monday, November 28, 2016

Waiting for a Good Haircut

Snips of hair slipped down the black cape across my lap before landing on the salon floor. When the stylist was done, she added root booster to my scalp, and then dried my hair, styling it with her fingers. She sprinkled a powder on my head that she said would make my hair feel like the second day after it's been washed. I guess that was supposed to be a plus, but I've always liked the feeling of my hair right after it's been washed.  

I don't want to even admit to you that I was at a local store of a national haircutting chain, but that's exactly where I was. You know; $9.99 for a haircut. 

In my defense, several months ago, I had noticed a young woman's darling hairstyle, and asked to whom she went. With her referral, I called to see when this woman would be working. As it happens, her schedule is limited to a few days, and the receptionist said people call ahead to find out when she is there, and they wait in line to be seen by her. So, I went to her with high expectations. 

When she spun my chair around to let me look in the mirror, I just stared. Admittedly, it wasn't styled because at these discount haircutting places, they offer haircuts, no extras like styling. My hair had been dried, and that was about it. 

"So, what do you think?" she asked me. I would be a horrible gambler. My lack of a poker face would destroy any chances I had of winning. I know she saw my face fall.

My hair was thinner, and my long bangs were slightly flipped away from my jawline. My hair seemed flat and limp; not exactly what I was hoping for that day.

I couldn't tell her what I thought, so I told her I should be able to make it work. I told her I was glad she had cut it, and I thought I would be able to style it easier now that she had thinned it out. I thanked her before I gathered my jacket and purse. Holding my jaw tight, I went to find Chuck, who had just had his hair cut, too.

At least someone got a good haircut on their first try.

My husband greeted me in the waiting area with a smile. I probably looked a little wild-eyed, but my sweet Beart told me I looked nice. New haircuts take some time to come out of that freshly cut, shocked look, so I was hopeful I could make my hair cooperate after I washed it.

We were expecting a crowd at our house for the evening for a family dinner, and we would be taking lots of pictures. There was still plenty to be done when we got home; washing my hair would have to wait. 

By the time I got soup in the crockpot, and we straightened the house, I figured I'd better hustle if I wanted to do something with my hair. 

"People will be here in 10 minutes," Chuck reminded me. Ugh. I would have to live with my grungy feeling hair for the rest of the night. I gave my tresses a few quick pulls through the hot iron, and called it good enough. 

Bad hair days are in the mirror of the beholder.

This morning when I got up, I finally was able to wash all of the styling gunk out of my hair. With my back to the bathroom mirror, I looked into my handheld mirror to see the back of my head, and I was horrified to see there was a big chunk of hair missing from behind my ear. Someone went a little crazy with the thinning razor yesterday, I guess.


Complaining isn't going to get me anywhere. The stylist can't exactly put the hair back, can she? And if you're thinking it's not so bad; my ear probably hides the bald spot, you would be wrong.

They say the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about seven days. Day one down; six to go. It's going to be a long week.

The waiting begins...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Thanksgiving Diet

Six days after confessing my heavy-hearted experience on the scales with the NUMBER THAT SHALL NOT BE WRITTEN, I actually have some light-hearted news to share.

On November 23, 2016, I promised to report on how I was doing with my relationships with God and food. My weight had hit the highest point I'd seen in about 15 years. On that day, I felt so much shame, I couldn't even write the number numerically. Somehow two-oh-two point six seemed less harsh than seeing 202.6. See how far I've come? There it is; the dreadful number in black and white numbers. 

The first week of turning to God for my comfort, and no longer turning to food as my comforter happened to be the week of Thanksgiving. It could have been a challenging week to attempt to get binge-eating under control because holidays present unique problems of their own, but I'm happy to report that we hosted three family meals at our house during the week, and attended a gathering at another home, and I didn't have any issues with binge eating. Each morning, before I even rolled out of bed, I asked God to be with me, and to help me turn to him when I needed help or comfort. 

One pleasant moment stands out in my mind. Whenever I am trying to take my healthy eating to a higher level, I stock the fridge with Cutie tangerines. When I'm avoiding sugar-laden treats, these help me satisfy my sweet tooth. Cuties are so delicious to me, especially this time of year. I had woken up early, and selected a piece of my favorite fruit to start the day. 

As I sat in front of the Christmas tree peeling the fruit, I took the time to notice the sensations of my experience. As my fingers broke through the peel, the citrus oil sprayed out from the skin, and filled the air with the fresh scent of orange. I took the time to eat each section separately, enjoying the cold sweet juice on my tongue, and chewing each segment before taking another one. I gave thanks for the Cutie. Taking the time to enjoy food, and being grateful for it are such small things, and yet for someone who has consumed large quantities of food without enjoying the pleasurable sensations, it was a good memory from the holiday.

Before Thanksgiving, I wanted to make some special treats for our guests with Miss Violet, so we made chocolate-dipped pretzels. Nearly a week later, and I still haven't had one. I baked brownies, and ate two small ones, one as a test sample, which was good I did because they were seriously underbaked. The other was because I wanted to have one with a bit of cream cheese frosting. It was delicious.

For our Thanksgiving brunch I made biscuits and sausage gravy, and cinnamon rolls, two of my favorite breakfasts that I rarely serve. We had eight of us around the table, and I enjoyed the conversation and the camaraderie, but I didn't overindulge in the goodies on the table. I did have a bite of Chuck's cinnamon roll, and called it good. 

Thanksgiving dinner we spent with Chuck's folks, and I took a little bit of everything that was on the table. Yes, even the stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. There was no pie, but I offered cinnamon rolls and Sugar Jumble cookies. I skipped dessert, and later that day, when I had room in my tummy, I enjoyed a serving of my favorite health food: Buff Pumpkin Stuff which is a healthy version of Crustless Pumpkin Pie. 

Chuck and I have had our own version of Opting Outside during the week by going for walks together each day of his Thanksgiving vacation. Chuck has been pretty motivated, too, since his doctor appointment the week before the holiday, and is trying to get his diabetic numbers into a healthier range. It sure helps to have him on my team working with me.

A gratuitous picture of my husband and our adorable grandson because it's one of my favorite shots.

We were able to spend Saturday evening with extended family, visiting with two of our sons and daughter-in-law, and CJ. There were temptations there for me: pizza and carrot cake piled high with cream cheese frosting, but I managed to sip on a Diet Pepsi, and chose a small square of pizza when I felt hungry. 

One week down; 3.6 pounds gone. Yes, there is a part of me that is nothing short of amazed that I was able to lose weight during one of the biggest eating holidays of the year. I would have been content with not gaining, but I am now below THE NUMBER WHICH SHALL NOT BE WRITTEN! 199 may not sound like anything of which to be proud to some of you, but to no longer be in the two hundreds feels like such a relief, and it gives me so much hope. 

Thank you for your words of encouragement and support last week. It had been a rough couple of weeks for me, and knowing I was not alone in my struggles with eating, and my lack of faith, gave me hope in my attempts to turn things around. I am so thankful for each of you who wrote to me to share your own experiences, and I am also grateful for the moral support of two of my biggest cheerleaders when I need help: Chuck and Sierra. 

I'm feeling so thankful I had good news to share with you after Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Number Which Shall Not Be Written

My day of reckoning had arrived. For nine weeks, I had been giving intuitive eating a try. I was hoping for improved eating habits which would lead to weight loss. I may have gotten rid of some of my hang-ups about food, but to say I am a successful intuitive eater would be a lie. It was time to hold my feet to the fire, so to speak.

I know; I said I wasn't going to weigh myself, but you know what? The tighter my jeans got, the more I couldn't deny that I don't really have a handle on intuitive eating. I kind of got stuck in the "rejecting diet mentality" phase, and I was living there. No dieting. I may have thrown all caution to the wind.

I stepped on the scales Monday. Two-oh-two. Point six. Sigh. That number is so shameful to me, I can't even write the digits numerically. 

I hadn't lost any weight. Over the last two months, I had managed to gain five more pounds, and push myself past the number I swore I would never see again. At this rate, I would weigh more than Chuck by Father's Day. 

Heaven, help me.

Disclaimer: I know weight is only a number. I know weight does not define me as a human being, but I also know that weight is one of the markers for health, and I will suffer consequences with back pain, shortness of breath, arthritis, and high blood pressure if it continues to climb. I also know that not everyone can relate to the numbers on the scale which please me or frighten me. Some people would be horrified to know what my healthy weight is, and some are horrified that I have admitted how much I weigh. And there are some shaking their heads, thinking "let's trade problems." This is MY weight I'm talking about, and MY feelings about it. I make no judgment on anyone else.

This week, I decided to own where I was, and be accountable, and weigh myself. My weight graph chart would be great if it were for projected income or market futures, but considering the graph was initiated to record weight loss, and the line is climbing upward, it is disheartening.

How did I get here, you may be asking yourself. Eating was a contributing factor, obviously, but what else is going on? 

Last month, I had an a-ha moment. Food has been my main source of comfort ever since I was a little girl. I have used food for emotional support all of my life. 

We've heard about the seven deadly sins. I know what mine is. Gluttony. When I am overwhelmed with life, I do not turn to God; I turn to food. When I am frustrated, sad, lonely, uncomfortable, or anxious, I do not pray for help. I go to the kitchen, and eat until those dreaded feelings go away; until I've numbed myself from the emotional pain or discomfort I'm trying to avoid. 

My altar has been my kitchen sink, where I tend to eat when I'm unhappy. Food has been my god; a false god, but definitely mine. What a waste of devotion.

The two weeks before my 56th birthday were hard ones. My birthday correlates with the fading of autumn, and the onset of winter. I love all of the seasons, but the transition from fall to winter is not one I'm always ready to accept. My emotional state took a nosedive. 

Red flags surfaced. My clean laundry began piling up in the clothes basket in front of the dryer. For a girl who loves doing laundry, this shift should not have gone unnoticed. I was taking two to three naps a day, and woke up wishing I could stay asleep. I cried. In public, even. I didn't get off the couch much, and I didn't go for walks. I procrastinated even simple things like grocery shopping and sweeping the floor. Food seemed to be my saving grace.

What am I going to do about this latest statistic about my health? They say to do the same thing over and over and expect different results is insanity, so I'm going to try something new. 

Allowing myself to seek comfort in food has been so foolish. I have been worshipping the wrong god, thinking that eating would take away my pain. I need to turn to the Comforter, and surrender myself to Him. Food will have to step down from the altar; I'm going to let God be my god from now on. I know; what a concept. 

When I am struggling, I will take my problems to God in prayer, and trust that He will comfort me. I will admit my weaknesses, confess my sins, and ask for His help in overcoming my bad habits.

By sharing this embarrassing turn of events with you, I'm making myself accountable to you, too. I'm just trying to keep things real, and in order to do that, I have to hold my feet to the fire every once in awhile.

Right now, I am promising to check in with you in a month, and tell you how it's going. Wish me luck, send positive energy, or say a little prayer for me. I can use all the help I can get.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Simplifying the Holidays for Sanity's Sake

It's the MO-OOOOST wonderful time of the year. So many holiday festivities are filling up the calendar, it could make a head spin. For our family, Thanksgiving is this week, and Christmas is hot on its heels in just a few more weeks.

There are so many things to add to our to-do lists, aren't there? The shopping, the baking, the visiting, the caroling, the parties, the dinners, the wrapping, the decorating. While these can be the best of times, these can also be the times that try our souls. 

There is much to do, but it's important to focus on the things that bring us joy, and try to eliminate some of the things that keep us so busy, but perhaps are not our priority. While you're planning your strategic attack on the holidays, don't forget to pencil in some time to sit back, and just enjoy it, too.

I saw a wonderful graphic online, and would have considered putting up here, but the Grammar Nazi in me wouldn't allow the misspelled word the space on my blog. The sentiment was perfect, though: 

The Holidays Are Meant to Be Enjoyed, 

Not Conquered.

Managing two homes and juggling adult children's schedules takes some effort. For us, it means coordinating with in-laws, biological parents, and having TWO Christmas trees and TWO holiday meals. Just like Doublemint gum: "Double your pleasure; double your fun." We also get to double our preparations, and double our cleanup. It's all good, but I'm realizing that although I love holiday traditions, there are some I am willing to surrender.

One Christmas, I dragged my Christmas village down from the attic, and it sat by the sofa for days. The boxes were nice and Christmas-y, but were not providing the look I was going for. I kept thinking I would get around to displaying the charming buildings and figurines. It's not like I didn't have time; I was retired, after all. I just didn't have the energy, or the enthusiasm, for some of the details like I used to do.

As soon as I decided to not display the Christmas village, I felt some tension leave my shoulders. What a relief. So I removed the stimulus of guilt, returning the boxes to the attic, and got on with ENJOYING the holiday.

What is haunting you this holiday season? Greeting cards? Save some trees; perhaps a newsy Christmas email would suffice. Fancy wrappings for a mountain of gifts? Avoid the hassle of boxes, paper, and ribbons; invest in some gift bags to be reused each year. (I did that when I was working full-time, and it saved me so much hassle.) Big family dinner? Assign everyone an item from your menu, and enjoy the day with your loved ones.  

This Thanksgiving, we are hosting a family brunch for Chuck's boys, and a dinner later that day for his folks. My head started to spin when I thought of all of the preparations required for those two meals. Chuck gently suggested that not everything has to be made from scratch. He is right. There are a couple things I LOVE to make, like my rolls and cinnamon rolls (same recipe; SMART), and I will take the time to make those. There are dishes that are available at the store that are "ready-made" and "homestyle" that will be good enough, and sometimes trading our expectations of perfection for "good enough" can help us keep our sanity.

Ask yourself if there is something you could simplify, or even dispense with entirely, to make your holidays more about peace, joy, and love. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself what is most important to you. Take courage, and eliminate that frivolous task that's been hanging over your head lately. I bet no one will even notice. 

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays, and some time to simply enjoy them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Impulse Shopping

On our way to celebrating my birthday at a favorite restaurant of mine, we were driving past the Toyota dealership when Chuck suggested we stop in, and pick out a Highlander. He knows I have a soft spot in my heart for the Toyota sport utility vehicle. 

Once upon a time, I had a metallic gold Highlander, the only SUV I've ever owned. I loved that car. It had a lot of get up and go for a 4-cylinder, and I loved the view from the higher chassis.  When I got rid of it, it had close to 150,000 miles on it, and it was still going strong. I had buyer's remorse pretty quickly after buying my first-ever brand-new car, not because I didn't like my Hyndai Sonata, but because I just missed my Highlander.

There were not many pictures to be found of my old car, but in this particular one, I had joked that a front-wheel drive Highlander is a pathetic snowplow, so I decided to use it as a driveway decoration since it got stuck in the deep snow on this winter day. 

I laughed at Chuck's suggestion last night, saying buying a new car would be the most impulsive thing we could do on my birthday. 

"Well, yeah, if we bought it tonight, it would be impulsive, but if we picked one out, and waited until tomorrow to buy it, it would be well thought out, and not impulsive at all."

That's my Chuck, always making me laugh. And yet, here we are on our computers, the day after my birthday. One of us is writing; one of us is browsing Highlanders on the internet. Guess who is who.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Being at Peace with My Age

Happy Birthday to MEEE!

A few days ago, a friend offered to share intention cards with us. She selected a random card for each person who requested one, and shared them on her Facebook page. The one she drew for me was this:

This is a perfect intention for me because on November 18, 2016 I am turning 56. The intention card was a good reminder to count the blessings of getting older, especially since aging has some inherent icky parts. So far, all of it's manageable; the fading eyesight, the age spots, the pesky whiskers, the aching joints, the forgetful brain. When I look at the big picture, though, I mostly just smile.

I've always been at peace with my age, whatever the number. There may have been some years along my journey I wouldn't want to relive, but I love birthdays, and have found something good about every year I've been given on this earth.

Chuck and I were talking about the seasons of our lives. I broke mine down into decades:

Teens: Self-discovery. (I was trying things on to see what fit for me: humor, attitude, studies, friends, books.)

Twenties: Selfishness. (Life in college was all about me, and what I wanted to study, be, and do.)

Thirties: Selflessness. (As a mother, I learned to put someone else's needs before my own.)

Forties: Physical strength and stamina. (My life felt out of control, and I focused on getting healthier.)

Fifties: Spiritual growth. (My goals focus on my faith, relationships, and serving others.)

At nearly 56, I have to admit, I am no longer middle-aged. Who wants to live until they're 112? Do you think there are any perks left once we hit our fifties? Let me tell you some of mine.

I'm married to my best friend. It may have taken me more than half my life to find my sweet Chuck, but I finally did, and what a blessing he is to me and my family.

My kids are all adults. There may have been a time I dreaded that, mistakenly believing I would lose significance in their lives as they became more independent, but I am finding that we are closer than ever. I'm so grateful for the laughter and the love they bring into my world. I am honored when they share their concerns, their fears, their accomplishments, and their dreams with me. I am so proud of them. Of all the things I've done in my life, they let me know I did something right!

At this stage of the game, I no longer concern myself with the latest fashion trends or worry about fitting in. If it's comfortable and it fits, I wear it. Like I've said before, it's liberating not to worry about what everyone else thinks

Why yes, I am wearing my husband's denim jacket.
If I feel like going the extra mile doing my hair and makeup, I do. If I don't have time, or the inclination, I've discovered it's just not that big of a deal.

More and more, no makeup and yoga pants feel "just right."
One of my sweetest blessings is I am a grandma. Who knew you could love a baby you didn't give birth to this much? I love being CJ's grandma, and I hope I get to be a grandma to lots more little ones. It is so much fun!

The biggest perk at this age is I'm retired. I finally have time to work on my hobbies. There is plenty of time to read, write, take photos, practice yoga, go for walks, and meet friends for coffee. The one thing I never seemed to have enough of when I was working and raising my children was TIME. Finally, I have time, and if I'm not doing the things I want, I have no one to blame but myself. 

Fifty-six. I'm thinking this is going to be a another good year for me. I have Chuck, and our awesome kids, and amazing friends. I'm pretty healthy; my back and arthritis problems are not slowing me down much any more. 

Am I at peace with my age? Yes. Heck, I actually LIKE being a fifty-something. It's not a bad thing. All of you young whipper-snappers have something to look forward to.

What's the best part about being YOUR age? Go ahead, share it here. If you are younger than I am, remind me of the good times, or if you're older, give me some goals! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

How Can I Be a Better Person Today?

There is a newlywed couple in our church. In wishing his darling wife a happy birthday Sunday morning, the husband mentioned on Facebook that every day he asks himself this question: How can I be a better husband today?

Such a serious question for a young husband, and yet, what a difference it must make in their lives.

Sunday, I was having a really good day, and got out of bed early. When I read this heartfelt post on Facebook, it struck me that it is a perfect question for wives to ask, too.

How can I be a better wife today?

It all comes down to some pretty basic things:

Putting someone else's needs before our own. 
Being patient. 
Extending love and understanding.
Lending a helping hand.

Later when Chuck woke up with a headache, I put aside the things I was doing to massage him with lavender. We enjoyed our time together during the morning. While he got ready for church, I loaded the car with our water bottles and camera bags. It felt good to serve him because he is so good to me.

Am I the perfect wife, or what?

No; no, I am not. Just a few hours later, I requested a stop at McDonald's to get a Diet Coke. 

Chuck and I are pretty good at listening to each other; it's the hearing each other's words that challenges us. I was born with a hearing disability, and the older we get, the less either of us hear. We are constantly asking for repeated statements. I teased Chuck that we talk at least twice as much as most couples because we have to say everything twice for understanding to take place.

Chuck didn't hear the part of my request for a trip to McDonald's; he just knew I wanted a soda, so as he drove, he was looking for the first place he could find; a gas station or whatever.

Why would I care where we go? In my pitiful defense, I mentioned McDonald's because I knew a large drink would only cost a dollar. I'm a selective tightwad. I try to save money on certain things, like Diet Coke.

When Chuck saw a Burger King, he pulled in to the drive- through. I was confused because I'd asked for McDonald's, knowing all the other joints charge so much more for drinks. He was confused because all he knew was he wanted to get me a soda as quickly as possible, and he thought he was making me happy. (Who's the demanding diva in our house?) I winced when he paid $2.37 for the large soda, and later I had to apologize for not just being grateful for my drink. He tries so hard to make my every wish come true. 

How could I have been a better wife? I could have just expressed gratitude that I had been given exactly what I asked for; the details really don't matter. By being patient with hearing deficiencies, and accepting of all tokens of love, even sodas that cost more than a dollar, I could have shown Chuck the love he deserves.

Who is working hard at being a better spouse? My sweet husband is; that's for sure. I have plenty of room for improvement. 

The next day I woke up much later, feeling out of sorts. The thought wandered through my head as I lay there, knowing Chuck was heading downstairs with another bad headache: "How can I be a better wife today?" Ugh. That question is more easily answered when I'm feeling energetic and happy. At that particular moment, I was just feeling groggy and tired, but I pushed the covers back, and headed downstairs to see how I could help. 

Chuck was on his favorite couch; his head propped up on pillows. I grabbed the bottle of lavender, and had him rest his head in my lap as I gently rubbed the lavender into his temples and across his forehead. I was tired, but how much effort does it take to apply oil to my husband's forehead? Hardly any. He encouraged me to go ice my back and rest while he made his own breakfast, and packed his lunch. 

When he left for work, I trudged back upstairs, and made a pillow fort beside me to block the rising sun from my eyes, and I pulled the blankets up under my chin. Before I fell asleep, I was aware of the lingering scent of Chuck's cologne in our room. I am so thankful for that man; I just need to be more consistent in the ways I show that.

We get a new chance every day to be a better person, spouse, parent, partner, sibling, or friend. There are so many ways we can show our love and appreciation. It is becoming so apparent to me that I could try much harder, and I intend to do just that. My husband deserves to know how much I love him every single day. 

This is a question worth asking. How can we be better versions of ourselves?

How can I be a better wife today? 

How can I be a better person today? 

How can I be a better friend today?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Don't You Even Care?

There were several days I showed up at Monroe Elementary, and realized that dressing in the dark had not served me well. Some days I had on a navy blue sock and a black sock. I may have even had similar shoes on that were different colors. It happens.

Back then, I was a little more uptight. A little more concerned about what people thought about me.

You know what I love about being me right now? I honestly don't really care if anyone approves of what I look like or what I do. I feel like my heart is in the right place, and all the rest is just details.

These days, I wear mismatched socks on purpose. I wear socks with sandals if my feet feel really dry and need extra time with lotion.

"But Denise, does it look good?" I know what some of you are thinking.

See, I think that's the wrong thing to ask.

"Denise, don't you even care any more?" is the better question.

And the answer is no. I'm liking the freedom that comes from doing what I want, the way I want, when I want. Yeah. The liberation that comes from being myself feels pretty darn good.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When You Feel Sad: Life Lessons from a Kindergartner

My heart sank on Monday when Violet's mom told me she wouldn't be able to come for her visit. I'd been having a tough week emotionally and spiritually, and was looking forward to our time together. It's hard to feel sad in the presence of a five-year-old, especially Miss V. I was consoled by the fact that she would be coming the next day.

As Violet kicked off her shoes by the front door, and hung her backpack up on the banister, she began to tell me about her day. We sat down at the kitchen table, and quietly ate the ice cream her mom had sent with her. I was impressed with her new vocabulary words she was learning in math; sphere, cone, and cylinder, and she told me a square is a special rectangle. Violet said one of the boys in her class had cried, and one of the girls told her she wouldn't invite her to her party. I heard all about the kindergarten elections (Duck beat Farmer Brown, in case you're interested), and tried my best to answer her questions about the Presidential election. I'm not sure I helped; I may have been as confused as she was. It had been a day of ups and downs for my young friend. 

As it turns out, I wasn't the only one having a bad week. Violet was so sad and scared after school yesterday that she had cried on her bus ride home. She had talked to her mom about it, and then she shared it with me. 

Violet focused on getting her vanilla ice cream onto her spoon, while I tried to assure her that she was safe because her mom and dad will always be there to protect her and love her. When she told me she usually keeps her sad things to herself, I reminded her that it's okay to feel sad, and it's always good to talk to someone about it. Violet nodded, her big brown eyes looking at me through those long eyelashes. She was so quiet, and much more subdued. It seemed she was carrying quite a burden. 

Adults are not the only ones experiencing worry or anxiety this week. I could relate to my young friend's feelings. 

Miss Violet seemed to have matured so much since I last saw her. We usually take lots of silly selfies, and she almost always loves to show me her gymnastics tricks in the living room, but not this time. This visit was different. I just followed her lead, and let her decide what we should do.

Guess how we passed the afternoon. We simply spent time together. We ate ice cream. Some of the time we talked, and some of the time we didn't say a word. Silence is okay when you're with friends who understand what you're not saying, too. We went outside for some fresh air at the park. We decorated the Christmas tree, and we colored in a coloring book together on the living room floor. 

We did nothing fancy or elaborate, we just spent time together. There is a comfort to be found in our friends, whether young or old. 

If, like Violet and me, you are struggling to get on top of emotions this week, here are some things you might want to try. I think Violet had some good ideas for dealing with the sads.

When You Feel Sad

1. Cry, if you feel like it.

2. Talk to your mom.

3. Spend time with a friend.

4. Learn something new. (Kindergartners learn something new every single day. I was impressed with her sign language, reading, writing, and math vocabulary.)

5. Eat some ice cream. (Or the comfort food of your choice.)

6. Go outdoors for some exercise and fresh air.

7. Do something that makes you feel happy.

8. Entertain yourself with something that doesn't require your brain to work too hard.

When it was time for Violet to go, I realized I felt so much better. We had done things together that made me feel calm and relaxed. Miss V had helped me forget some of my worries, if only for a little while.

Maybe you have more suggestions for kids and grown-ups to try when we are feeling sad. Violet and I would be happy to hear from you, if you do.