Four More To Go….

Alas, my kind “four” readers…there is not much to get excited about in this here neck-of-the-woods. It’s hot and humid in Northern Virginia and stormy weather is headed our way once again. The Poodle will be a mess when the thundering begins and my hair will frizz into another zip code (at least those strands are “going” somewhere I whisper to myself.)

Yes, I’ll admit it…. this present funk is lasting longer than I care to admit. It doesn’t help my psyche one bit either to see neighbors packing their vans and heading to beach vacations and other adventures. Yes…the green monster of envy has taken hold of me but just for a moment. I am only human. Still, abysmal is the only word that springs to mind in my present moment though thank goodness there is– always– this that follows….

And this too shall pass.

Ruined vacations and social isolation aside, we’ve also missed out on pool fun. Though our neighborhood pool opened late in the season this is the first year we have not visited our swimming pool. It’s not that I am worried about catching the Corona virus (really, I am not). It is just that there’s no fun in having to schlep your own lawn chair because the pool deck has been cleared of all furniture and swim-related accessories for safety (after all, pool employees should not be required to spray down pool equipment every hour. Note: not without a bit of sarcasm). Nor is it thrilling, in an effort to minimize pool patron numbers, to have to sign up for a 45-minute slot at the pool (we’ve tried three times and have yet to get a two slots, so effectively, we have given up). Additionally, If we managed to snag a spot we’d be required to wear a mask to enter the pool deck (and, when not in the water), maintain six to ten feet distance in and out of the water from our neighbors and…oh, yes, “it would be great if you could refrain from using the facilities as much as possible.” I suppose I should be happy that masks are not required while in the water! Sigh. Even pool fun has been sucked out of this summer.

So, in an effort to control the degree of doldrums in my little world I walk like a mad woman, arms pumping vigorously, everyday between five to seven miles. It fills, of course, time in the day but it gets me some much needed vitamin D, not to mention a sanity break from all the stress of Covid madness and more. While I power walk I listen to politically themed podcasts or a wide variety of music. Listening to the former this morning made me shake my head in agreement but also filled me with despair and a degree of hopelessness that I have never felt before.

No dear reader, I shall not share what I was listening to. I’d be an idiot to do so in the age of cancel culture and hate-filled vitriol. Just saying.

It did occur to me however, some time later in the morning whilst enjoying coffee on my back deck amidst the calming sounds of my tiny water fountain and the serene pose of my sweet Buddha, that in light of my recent cholesterol and blood lipid panels that perhaps I need to scale back –or perhaps discontinue altogether–listening to anything about politics. For some four decades–through thick and thin and loads of stress here and there–I’ve had optimal cholesterol and blood glucose numbers.

…until now.

Sorry China, I blame it on you. You’ve ruined 2020!

Come on old gal….you must not throw in the towel just yet. Eight months down and just four to go. 2020 WILL END!

There is bliss in that. Right?

Seriously? What’s Next?

Things were going on as swimmingly well as possible, even as this global pandemic still has us sheltering-in-place.

Zion National Park

Until….yet another challenge presents– in what seems as another mountain to climb– to get to the other side of a semblance of normal (whatever that is anymore.)

And yet, mine is minuscule compared to many stories with devastating outcomes.

That said, still…in the middle of the night, when pain was shooting through my left eyeball, I found myself whispering that if I didn’t have any bad luck I’d have none at all.

To recap the last month: first there was the root canal less than a month ago. Peachy keen fun that was. Then there was a tooth extraction and bone graft a week later in preparation for a dental implant. None of this planned of course! The silver lining in all of that was four days of being face down in mashed potatoes. I honestly thought that was rather lovely as eating bowls of mashed potatoes is not normal fare for me.

I even sailed through the post oral surgery stuff quite nicely, without the need of taking strong painkillers.

I’m so badass!

Until this weekend.

It began with strange headaches…quite unusual for me…progressing to pressure and tingling. Then Saturday morning I wake up with a rash on my forehead.

“Lord have mercy this hurts,” I tell my husband in passing just before leaving the house on our early morning walk with The Poodle.

“What hurts?” he asks.

“I’ve got this stupid rash that showed up overnight.”

He takes a look and his response is immediate.

“That looks like Shingles.”

I thought my head was going to explode….and not just from a bout of shooting pain. Shit! Why now?! Why at all?! And, why on my face of all places!

For the love of God what’s next?!” I yelled, as I chugged down a glass of water and Tylenol.

“Well…It is the year of the cicada.”

In fairness, he was immediately consoling and understandably worried too. You’ve got to get that looked at before it gets closer to your eye.

My thought in that exact moment?

I need to make a trip to the store for Bob Evans garlic mashed potatoes.

So kind reader….This morning I had my first ever virtual doctor’s appointment. It was surprisingly pleasant though admittedly, for this 62-year old, surreal.

“Yes…it looks like shingles is what you’ve got alright.” confirmed the lovely young doctor. I tell her I had received a shingles vaccination six years ago but, after a quick Google search, I learned that particular type vaccine was only good for about five years. The new vaccine, Shingrix, I learned, works wondrously better but it is not always easy to find. The doc this morning confirmed this.

Hopefully, as soon as this bitch of a development clears up I will be able to get the new vaccine.

Lest you think I might be ready to throw myself off a tall mountain, fear not! Yesterday, for the first time since March 14th I was thrilled beyond belief to able to purchase this much coveted item. I am, over the moon with gratitude.

Who knew toilet paper could elicit so much joy and excitement?

Bliss-out peeps any way you can!

It’s Up To My Head

If this elephant of mind is bound on all sides by the cord of mindfulness,
All fear disappears and complete happiness comes.
All enemies: all the tigers, lions, elephants, bears, serpents [our wild and uncontrolled emotions];
All the keepers of hell; the demons and the horrors,
All of these are bound by the mastery of your mind.
And by the taming of that one mind, all are subdued.
Because from the mind are derived all fears and immeasurable sorrows.

Eight-century Buddhist master Shantideva, as quoted in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

My head-space has been in a less than joyful mood for some time. I’m cynical beyond words that complete happiness is within my grasp let alone anyone’s.  I force snippets of laughter and silliness into my days in an effort to create bliss out of thin air. It’s probably the way it is for most folks and truthfully, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not knocking it one bit; any way one can get a modicum of bliss in a day is better than finding absolutely none.

Still, the difficulties of this past year are not quite what I expected following our move out of middle-earth. I realize joy is entirely within my hands and my hands alone but for heaven’s sake, I’m thoroughly annoyed that drama-filled days still seem to define my life! Harrumph.

I honestly believed those days were behind me with the passing of my mother (may she rest in peace). God seems to have other plans for me. I suppose the intent of it all falls under the umbrella of that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

So, in an effort to get control of this messy head-space of mine I’ve turned to just that: HEADSPACE.

HEADSPACE

That would be the meditation app that claims to have over six million people using the app just last year. In the App store it has over fifty-eight thousand resounding thumbs up.

I first heard mention of this meditation and mindfulness training app last year (or so) in the Wall Street Journal. I barely gave it a passing notice since I was trying to go the do-it-on-my-own route, and because (the actual reason) after the first 10 free days, it’s an expensive subscription. Meditation has been a difficult practice for me to wrap my head around. I tried to start in earnest two years ago when life was inordinately stressful due to the challenges with mom. I managed to get myself up to a solid five minutes on most days of the week before fidgeting began. Everything went on the back burner, including yoga, for a plethora of reasons excuses.

So here I am today. With the return of my son, now flat-broke and living in my basement (for a spell), I am teetering on the edge of a balance beam, every fiber of my being shaking as I threaten to topple over. I used to be able to handle life stressors when I was a long-distance runner. There is nothing like a trail run on a crisp autumn day to melt one’s cares away…..

Sigh. Cannot do that anymore.

So, plan B (or is it plan D about now?)…

Get a teensy-weensy bit more serious about a meditation practice…but this time with a little help from the digital world.

The genius behind HEADSPACE, Andy Puddicombe and his business partner Rich Pierson, just may be the ticket to more joy in these stressful days.  Andy’s soothing UK voice has lulled me out of anxiousness for three days straight.  I’m back up to five minutes of guided meditation and hopeful for ten before my free trial is up.  At this writing, I’m contemplating jumping in with both feet into a year-long subscription.  Still dealing with the stress of a second mortgage, I’ll even cut back on my Starbucks indulgence in order to fund the taming of my head-space.

Ahead of the holidays, there is hope indeed for more joy-filled moments.

It’s all in my hands…and up to my head.

Time Traveling Again

I’ve got painters in the house today. The entire house needs a couple of good coats of paint but finances dictate only the front foyer which includes the high ceiling, trim and hallway. Strangely enough The Poodle lays quietly in a chair nearby as four strangers in the house get on with all the prep work of positioning drop cloths, sanding, spackling, sweeping and taping. I ask the painters what kind of music would they like to hear as they work away. English isn’t their primary language. Still one guy is able to say “Eighties music, please ma’am.”

“Sure thing,” I say.

“Alexa, play eighties music from Spotify,” I command.

“Playing songs from the eighties on Spotify,” comes her reply.

Whoosh! 

Lord have mercy! I’ve been listening to classical music for too long.

So, It’s a blast-from-the-past moment on this crisp October morning.  Boy George’s Karma Chameleon fills the room.

Alexa…turn up the volume!

I’m time traveling…instantly transported back to our modest military quarters in Kansas where I lived for two years. I’m an Army wife with a cherubic baby boy whose got a lovely head-full of red curls framing his sweet face.  He’s immersed in tearing apart the pages of a T.V. Guide magazine.  It’s just the right size for his fourteen  month-old hands.  He was a good baby.  I take comfort in that part of my time travel.

I sing along as I put the breakfast dishes away paying no attention to the fact that I obviously have an audience in the house besides The Poodle.

Oh pish-posh I think.  With the immense upheaval of the return of my recalcitrant son, I need all the silliness I can muster to get through one moment and on to the next.

MUSIC… instant stress reliever!

With passion, SING OUT ALOUD! I say.

 

…Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon
You come and go, you come and go
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams
Red, gold, and green, red, gold, and green….

 

The Poodle lifts his sleepy head to all the racket. Did I note rolling of the eyes? If it were possible, I’m quite sure it would happen.

Oh my.  Next on the playlist it’s Whip It by Devo!  Now I am singing AND dancing across the kitchen floor!

The Poodle’s expression seems to suggest: Um…exactly how long are these painters going to be here today?

HA!  There is bliss amid the chaos of this messy life.

One Resolution

platomeme

 

 

I stumbled upon a Tweet/meme this morning that brought home a recent conversation with the wind-beneath-my-wings friend of close to thirty years.  I hadn’t talked to her for many, many moons…too many in fact.  Simply put, as is often the case,  life gets in the way.  Still, she is one of my true-blue friends that I can count on one hand, with fingers left over…a friend that listens and loves without judgement and though a year may pass, can pick up a phone and talk as if we’d only just met yesterday at the local Starbucks for Lattes.

The Tweet?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Plato

Truth!   And from a dude who lived more than 2,000 years ago!

My friend had articulated basically the same thing at one point during our half-hour phone conversation, which is why the tweet caught my attention as I quickly skimmed through days worth of missed tweets while standing in line at the post-office.  As I listened to some of the heartaches my friend was dealing with I felt a knot in my heart.  I ached to be able to provide some kind of life-altering advice.  You know what I mean: as in a light-bulb moment in which I find the perfect solution to the issues she faced.  Alas, nothing came.  I could only listen with heart and soul and offer words of comfort along with a smidgen of wisdom from my own hard-won experiences, which of course, she knew hands-down anyway!  She was doing the right things; making the best decisions possible at any given moment.  It’s the stuff that we all strive to do when faced with challenges…even when we surely encounter folks along the way who judge harshly though they walk not in our shoes.  As we ended our conversation, I shared, once again, that I too pinch myself with gratitude every single day: But for the grace of God, I’d be drowning once again as I did years ago.  Truth be told, my friend has handled what life throws her amazingly well and with abundant grace.  I know this because she is still laughing and the sound lifts my spirit on this dreary, rain-filled day.

Hours after our conversation ended, as I pushed a steam mop across the kitchen floor, I thought about her laughter and the circumstances that brought us together her all those years ago.  I’m transported….It’s as if it were yesterday…and I’m young again (almost).   Through those often tumultuous years of my life, and sometimes hers, there has always been laughter.  She’s not the kind to entertain pity parties; she kicks them to the curb before the thought even has a chance to take root.  That’s what majorly impressed me about her all those years ago, and still does.

So, with all my grumpiness over a multitude of things, uppermost being this ridiculous house saga–one that has dragged on for nearly fifteen months –I need to remind myself to adopt the same attitude.  Pity parties to the curb you go with special emphasis on empathy for the man or woman I may pass on the street or in the produce aisle at the grocery store;  those folks who have nothing positive or constructive to say or who cut me off in traffic or cut in front of me in line at the post office.  Who knows what battles they may be fighting.

So, my one resolution for 2017? The end of pity parties…. and more laughter.  Ah yes….that does make two doesn’t it?!

Okay… so that’s the plan!

[Hopeful] but especially grateful.

Bliss.

 

Working on… Joy

My azaleas are still happily blooming, in October!

My azaleas are still happily blooming, in October!

My azaleas are still blooming and here we are into October.  Crazy, I’m thinking.  Still, like most things Southern (meaning SLOW) it is beginning to feel like fall.  While fall foliage in “Bama”-land is varying shades of boring brown the temps are finally inching down.  Just the other morning the chill was enough to kick my walking pace up a notch so as to keep my hands warm.

“Time to get the Uggs out,” I happily say to The Poodle. The sun has just poked its head over the mountain in the distance as we walk down the hill in the quiet of the early morning.  It’s also windy, so The Poodles’ ears are flying straight back.  He looks like he is ready to take flight.

As soon as that thought passes my lips I let out a heavy sigh.  I can feel my mood already taking a turn and not in the direction that I want.  The changing season means swapping out summer clothes for winter.  In my glee for our anticipated move, back in March I packed away books, odds and ends and winter clothes filling three small wardrobe boxes.  I taped and marked those boxes with the full expectation that the next time I opened them I’d be moved.  Well, we know how that’s all going.

No Bueno.

In an effort to soothe my soul, I marched myself over to Barnes & Noble®.

and yes….
I bought another book.

What spoke to me this time?

The Book of Joy: Finding Enduring Happiness in an Uncertain World, published by Doug Abrams.  The book is co-authored by two great spiritual leaders: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Apparently, they’ve been friends for many years.

What I'm reading now.

What I’m reading now.

So far, it’s been a good little read.  These two souls have certainly endured adversity and hardship in their lives and yet they are filled with joy, wonderment and deep compassion for all souls. How do they live joyfully given the pain and suffering all around them?  I want to know!  The conversations between the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama are refreshingly sweet and simple, their banter back and forth playful and even mischievous, like two little boys playing in the schoolyard.   I’ve been reading a page or two every morning over coffee in an effort to step outside of my head more and to gain greater insight into how best to cultivate more joy and gratitude—and therefore less complaining about things great and small.

It seems deceptively simple: Joy and happiness are both within reach at this very moment if I simply look within (not externally).   Intuitively, I know this.  Consistent application and execution of a few commonsense principles (including meditation and even prayer) seems to be quite another matter, especially now as I look at those packed moving boxes with heals dug in: I WILL NOT UNPACK THESE BOXES BECAUSE WE ARE MOVING.

Lately, the more time I spend in my head the more stress there seems to be.  Well duh, right?  Running everyday was my one and only “drug” of choice that kept most tension at bay.  Running allowed me to zone out.  Well…I can’t do that anymore so it’s a bit more challenging to keep stressors at bay…especially as my life seems to continue to be in limbo.   It doesn’t take long for a single thought about my parents or former friends, (ex-anyone!), or even my children to spiral into past-centered thoughts.  So too, when in the wee hours of the morning I find myself almost dizzy from some video-loop playing in my head… filled with notions and emotions that certainly don’t do anyone (especially moi) one bit of good.  And, when I’m stuck in my head I’m also reminded of that stark reality that there are—and always will be— assholes just around the corner and around the world.

Nothing is gonna change that so… breath deeply… get over it…forgive (not forget)…and then move on.

The Dalai Lama says that “the only thing that will bring happiness is affection and warmheartedness.”  IMHO, I’ve got those attributes covered—most of the time.  It’s when buttons are pushed that the little Purple Minion monster surfaces in a snap-of-a finger-kind-of-moment.

I’ve clearly got work to do…but so do about seven billion other people on this planet.  I am not alone!  Yoga—and well, OK…. a punching bag too—helps knock the purple beast to the curb.   The moment I close my eyes and take a deep, long breath, releasing it with slow and purposeful measure, that Purple Minion moment passes and centering (and forgiveness) returns.

And, when I’m in a complaining rut, I’m comforted knowing that even the Dalai Lama complains.  It cracked me up that he thinks the Japanese can be “too formal”:

“The worse thing is the formal lunches.  I always tease them that the meal looks like decoration, not food.  Everything is very beautiful but very small portions!  I don’t care about formality so I ask them more rice, more rice!  Too much formality, then you are left with very little portion, which is maybe good for a bird.!”

 

Made me smile.  Made me laugh out loud.

There you have it.  A moment of bliss (been lots of them today) and even better… JOY.

My Ugg boots are not packed in a box!

Longevity is Blue

We finally caved and bought a new mattress set. Okay so to be completely frank, Rocket-man caved. Me thinks he had grown pretty damned tired of my complaining. He wanted to wait until after our move (is that laughter I hear?!)  Anyhow, that would make darned good sense: Tempur-Pedic® mattresses are quite heavy (ours is a king) not to mention expensive. Getting rid of the old one before our move and purchasing one at our new destination would help keep moving expenses down (I’ve been shedding stuff for months now).  However, as you all know I’ve been sitting on packed boxes waiting for my house to sell for eleven months now.  My patience has grown wafer thin.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that my resolve to smile more and complain less (as was my original intention in writing in this-here blog space) has not been going swimmingly well lately. In fact, my record for the past couple of months has been abysmal…perhaps even borderline dangerous.  Naturally, I’m not happy with myself about that. My only defense?  I’m definitely a work in progress.

So in my grumpy state I’ve been carping on about piddly stuff including my lower back pain for some time. Okay, that’s arguably not piddly but I usually muscle through things of this nature.  Some of it could be due to working out. Certainly I cannot bounce back as quickly as I did in my forties or even early fifties! Epsom soaks are now a weekly occurrence as opposed to a once-in-a-blue-moon thing. Make no mistake…. I do love them! No complaints there! But I’m fairly certain the culprit has been our aging mattress. It’s nearly 15 years old….a good five years past it’s prime. So we took advantage of Labor Day specials and made the purchase (heaven arrived on my doorstep three days later precisely at 10: a.m.)

As we drove away from the mattress store to continue on with errands, a thought popped into my mind. As we wound our way over the mountain heading for Home Depot I shared my thoughts with Rocket-man who was immersed in Word With Friends on his iPhone.

“Wow. That was an expensive buy!  But you know, most likely we’ll only have one more mattress expense after this.”

“How do you figure,” asked Rocket-man still playing his game.

“We’ve got a good 20 years left on this planet. If we’re really lucky maybe 30.”  I’m not trying to be morbid here….just realistic.

“Ah. I see what you mean,” came his soft reply. With that, he placed his hand over mine.  “But you’ve been reading about life hacks for longevity. We could have two more mattresses in our future…maybe even three.”

It’s true.  And with that, I’ve found that longevity is colored blue.

 

Blue Zones: Where people live the longest and in relatively good health.

Blue Zones: Where people live the longest and in relatively good health.

 

The other day while perusing the stacks at Barnes & Noble I’d picked up a National Geographic special edition magazine devoted to the topic of Blue Zones…areas around the globe where people live measurably longer lives… especially compared to Americans.  A team of researchers literally circled in blue ink the places around the world where they found the highest concentration of centenarians (folks age 100 and older). For those who are interested, check out books by Dan Buettner, the founder of Blue Zones, an organization devoted to helping Americans live longer. He’s written several books on the topic (and yes….I purchased one).

I ordered a latte at the coffee bar and took a seat to flip through the magazine. The first country that was listed as a Blue Zone was Okinawa (for inquiring minds, there were five Blue Zones covered in the magazine: Okinawa, Sardinia, Loma Linda California, Ikaria, Greece and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Okinawa.  Hmm.  Ah yes!  I vaguely remember reading The Okinawa Program, by Bradley J. Willcox, M.D., M.S., Craig Willcox, Ph.D., M.H.Sc., and Makoto Suzuki, M.D., Ph.D. some years ago while studying for my Masters degree. I suppose—as I often do—I did a brain dump after reading it!  But, as I read, knowledge bits were coming back to me, aided I am quite sure by the grande-sized caffeine jolt.

A bullet point list of Okinawa’s longevity foods includes: bitter melon, Tofu, Sweet Potatoes, Garlic, Turmeric, Brown Rice, Green Tea, Shiitake mushrooms and Seaweed (Kombu and Wakame).

Hmm.  I’d say I do a fair job of incorporating most of these longevity foods although I am not inclined towards tofu…blech.  Apparently, according to Buettner, Okinawans eat tofu like the French eat bread!  After my last sip of coffee I made a new resolve: let’s put some excitement into our diet and try some new things.   I decided to start with one thing in the list that would be new for me.  Seaweed.

Next stop?  Whole Foods of course.

No problem finding seaweed at Whole Foods.  For example, in the cracker aisle there were a number of seaweed snack products.  I pulled three different seaweed snack items from the shelf.  One brand had “Strangely Addictive” printed in bold red letters.  Into the cart it went.  I also picked up more sweet potatoes and green tea.

"Strangely Addictive?" Not so In My Humble Opinion!

“Strangely Addictive?” Not so In My Humble Opinion!

Later that evening Rocket-man and I talked about this whole longevity thing.

“I mean realistically…do we honestly even want to live to be 100?  And what about the money?  How can we afford to?”   If I could reach the age of 100 enjoying relatively good health with Rocket-man at my side (yes, the man who often makes my eyes roll to the ceiling in exasperation over one thing or another!), without being a financial burden on anyone, I could see the merits.  Despite the world being such a topsy-turvy place, there is much that is wonderful to behold all around us (yes….even in middle-earth Alabama!).    All that is required is an open mind, which admittedly, seems to become harder to achieve the older one gets.  Add to that the joys of remaining close to my sis and her family.   I’d include my children, but while I do love them to pieces, at this writing I think they’d much rather push me over a cliff well before I reach 80!

As Rocket-man and I sat down to catch-up on Outlander I brought out the snacks I had gotten hours before at Whole Foods.

“I’m trying a new longevity hack for us.  It’s seaweed.  It’s touted as being one of the excellent low-calorie, nutrient-rich choices for longevity according to the Okinawa diet,” I told Rocket-man as I handed him the bag of seaweed chips.

Rocket-man eyed me suspiciously.

“What?” I said in mock innocence.   I pointed to the label on the package.  “Look, this says these are “Strangely Addictive.”  You know….we thought we wouldn’t like crunchy Wasabi chickpeas, and now we’re totally hooked.  How bad can these be?”

Having said that….

“Here Mikey…you try it first,” I joked.

Rocket-man picks a chip from the bag and tentatively takes a bite.  Then he pops the rest into his mouth.  Well…he did not gag but that isn’t saying a lot.  He’d eat two-week-old left-overs if left to his own device.

“Well?”

“It’s palatable.  I’ve had worse,” was all he said.

Then I take a chip.  “Interesting,” I say as my nose wrinkles in mild disgust upon a tiny nibble.  Still, I was determined to give it a good go.  Perhaps another one would set better in my mouth.

Nope.

Now comes a gag. Blech.

“It’s terribly fishy tasting.”  The explosion of fish taste in my mouth felt one hundred times stronger than burping up just one fish oil capsule.

Rocket-man laughed.  “It’s seaweed….from the ocean….silly woman.”

I went to the fridge scavenging for anything to take out the taste.  I selected Fage yogurt with mixed berries.  Twenty minutes later I could still taste an ocean’s worth of seaweed in my mouth.  So, I fixed myself a chunky peanut butter sandwich, slathering on more peanut butter than usual.

Are you freaking kidding me?  Not only have I already consumed an extra 400 calories I’ve now made it worse as fish and peanut butter together battle for superiority in my mouth.

Suffice it to say that seaweed is one diet longevity hack that won’t be implemented in this house.  I hate the thought of throwing out the other snacks I had purchased. Perhaps I can donate the unopened bags to the food bank?  Rocket-man thought that was mighty funny.  We are in Alabama after all; seaweed chips wouldn’t be considered a holiday staple.

So folks,  I think I’ll stick with what I know and love (that would be the Mediterranean diet).  Luckily it turns out its fairly close to another Blue Zone diet; Ikaria Greece.  What’s not to love about a diet rich in extra-virgin olive-oil, potatoes, feta cheese, almonds, chickpeas, wild greens, coffee and wine!  That, along with their lifestyle practice of a daily nap seems like bliss to me.

Just thinking about my lunch of chickpeas and greens with olive-oil and lemon has got me feeling younger already.  Then a short nap.

Bliss… times two.

 

Dammit Doll Duty

When I learned that my dear friend Harry had passed last Friday I cried on and off well into a sleepless night. Good memories of Harry made me cry, and then when all was quiet and calm in my heart…..out of the blue, bad memories that had absolutely nothing to do with Harry bubbled to the surface too.

What was that all about?

Life.  Being human.  That’s the short of it, I suppose.

In any event, I looked like a complete wreck the following morning. When you’re twenty and you have a good cry you can pretty much recover your looks quickly.  At 58…not so much. My eyes were mighty swollen and I was dragging due to lack of sleep…and yes, sadness too. I should have stayed in bed with my down comforter pulled over my head.  But The Poodle needed to go out and a new day was calling.  After two cups of strong espresso and a determination to not the let day be drowned in sadness I got dressed to go to an early morning punchbag class.  Yes, swollen face and all.

The punching bag is a terrific tool to get stuff out. It’s amazing how much pent-up emotions like angst and anger literally melts away by punching a heavy bag.  It helped deal with much of the stress of last year…the mamma-drama and so much more.

I figured however, that this particular punchbag class wouldn’t be of much use to me.  I didn’t have anything pent-up inside….just a lot of sadness and my head wasn’t in for a workout, let alone my body.

I was wrong.

I did let a few tears fly, prompting questions from a punchbag mate…and the instructor as well.  I answered them…recovered myself quickly, and then kept punching.  Then stuff bubbled to the surface.

Punch, punch, punch: Got to keep movingI’m not going to wind up like my mother.

Punch, punch, punch: I’m angry that my friend is gone.

Punch, punch, punch: Time is flying. I have fewer years ahead of me!  What in the hell have I accomplished in life so far?  Nothing!

Punch, punch, punch:  I’m tired of thinking about illness, death and dying… I’m angry at myself for not living better in the present  moment.

Punch, punch, punch: I’m angry that I’m angry.

Later in the day I have a short conversation with my mother.  It doesn’t go well. Often any more, our conversations don’t go well.  It saddens me deeply. Then it makes me angry.  How can her fuse get any shorter is beyond me.  Why can’t she understand that we are all trying to help her and going through hoops to do so.  We want her to be happy…even just a smidgen would be lovely.

I’m rummaging in one of my drawers for a pen when I see my Dammit Doll.  Ah Ha! Duty Calls Dammit Doll!

I take a hold of her a whack her like a madwoman for a solid 30 seconds on the kitchen counter.  IMG_4800

The Poodle sits on his bed nearby, observing my melt-down.

Once I am done, I feel immeasurably better.

Whew. Thank God.

I suppose I needed a little more today than just a morning punchbag session.

I gingerly place my Dammit Doll back in her drawer hoping I don’t have to see her again for a while, and yet, ever so thankful that she is there when duty calls.  The Poodle comes to my side and in an instant my heart melts with love.

Duty calls Dammit Doll.

Duty calls Dammit Doll.

I’m sorry you had to witness that my four-legged-love.

I reach into the fridge to get him a piece of cheese.

“Cheese?”I ask.

His eyes say it all.  He’ d do anything for cheese.  He sits tall, waiting for his treat, almost struggling to maintain stoic Poodle dignity.  It’s as if he is thinking:  Well…um..If you feel so inclined.

He takes his cheese and trots off happy as can be.

And there you have it.

All is right with the world….for the moment.  And that’s how it should be.

 

 

Earworm Blues

Music ear worms far better than those negative ones!

Music ear worms far better than those negative ones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the Christmas tree last night….”

Over and over… this Christmas song has been playing in my head….morning, noon, and night.  I don’t even know all the lyrics to this song!  I’ve been humming it….singing parts of it….in my head and out loud….

I’m not sure how this particular ear-worm got into my head but it needs to make an exit….like now would be good.  Short of putting my head into a bucket of ice water, I’m not sure how to get rid of it. It’s been rolling around in my head for a couple of days.  Hmm…or has it been a week now?  Did it begin as a result of sitting in one dead car for three hours waiting for a tow truck?  Thinking about how the ear-worm got lodged into my head isn’t enough to help me forget Michael Jackson’s high pitch voice to that song either.  And pray tell, why must Rocket-man chime in with trivia when I tell him of my problem?!

“Oh…you see…. The Jackson 5 were not the first to sing this song. I think Wayne Newton….or, hmm…was it Andy Williams…who made the recording before Michael Jackson did,” informs Rocket-man.  I’ll confess to turning a deaf-ear to my husband.  And, for the record a British dude wrote and produced the song back in 1952 and it was sung by thirteen year-old Jimmy Boyd.  Inquiring minds check here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Saw_Mommy_Kissing_Santa_Claus).  HA! Who said this blog spot wasn’t educational!  Any how, since then, a number of artists, to include Bobby Sherman, Reba McEntire, Mitch Miller and John Mellencamp sang their versions.  And why, for heaven’s sake, I’m I even bothering to go all “factoid” about this silly Christmas song?  It’s certainly not helping to get that song out of my head!

Excuse me while I go off in search of that ice bucket….

So, my current ear-worm blues got me to thinking about things that get stuck in one’s head.  Like negative stuff.  Negative ear-worms!

Why is it that negative thoughts so easily worm their way into our brains, like some weird virulent sci-fi type bacteria, literally spreading from head to heart in minutes, obliterating positive thoughts (and the possibility of them too).

How I’d love to be able to take a pill designed specifically for negative ear-worm eradication.  I’d argue that it’s a health imperative that needs addressing–way more important than global warming!  Drug companies could make a fortune selling supplements to snuff out negative ear-worms.  And for the record, absolutely it would be a natural (non-hallucinogenic) drug.  Precautions on the label?  Warning: This drug will kill negative ear-worms. A rush of positive thoughts may leave you feeling unusually blissful for hours and hours.  Can you imagine a world full of blissful people with nary a negative thought in their heads?!

Alas, wishful thinking, right.  But who knows: They’ve sent a man to the moon…. and scientists have successfully cloned some animals….

So on this first day of the New Year I’m doing what I can to take it moment by moment despite the efforts of some negative ear-worms trying their best to derail a positive start to the new year. I realize in this life it’s often five steps forward and one or two back, but the point of it all is just to keep moving forward.  Onward.

To that end, on this day I’ve got a pot of lentils simmering on the stove for later inclusion into an Italian recipe I’m trying for the first time.  And, I’ve decided to try a new veggie since my sis suggested I give it a try: Parsnips.  I’m not certain this pale cousin to carrots will be my thing but I’ve got some chopped and drizzled with olive oil ready for roasting in the oven.

So, I’ve still got Michael Jackson in my ear. I suppose it’s far better to have a musical ear-worm than a negative ear-worm.

Yes! That’s the spirit!  Embrace the music and banish the rest.  Here’s to kicking at least one negative ear-worm to a galaxy far, far away!

Happy New Year ❤

 

 

 

 

Fifteen Minutes!

I’ve done it five times since last Thursday.

And for more than five minutes!

Folks….that’s huge for me.

And no…It’s not what you’re thinking, although I’m sure Rocket-man would have liked it to be!

I’m an early riser which is curious since I’m often a tossing, turning, and wide-awake wreck on most nights. I envy Rocket-man who sleeps like a rock; he’s gone within two blinks of an eye when his head hits the pillow.  So, last Thursday morning (at precisely 4:30) I was at the kitchen sink getting ready to prepare my morning espresso.  I’m moving through quicksand with one eye open, literally as I reach for the can of espresso coffee from the cupboard. Rocket-man is dead to the world and so is The Poodle.  Truthfully, this is how I like it in the morning. Absolutely quiet. No T.V. news delivering doomsday headlines…no expectations to throw the squeaky ball from The Poodle. Just sweet nothingness…quiet.  A thought struck me as I reached for the espresso pot: You should try to meditate…now is the perfect time.  meditation

I’ve been struggling with this whole meditation thing for quite some time. God knows I needed a solid practice last year with all that I went through in Arizona but I couldn’t seem to make it work for me. Every day there seemed to be one catastrophe or another to deal with. I reasoned that my long walks in the Arizona desert were enough to manage my stress levels…or, once home, that punching a bag at my favorite workout studio SWEAT, would release the pounds of frustration, anger and sadness I was carrying around. And while those outlets, and others, were helpful, I felt that something was still missing in my attempt to handle the stressors—both physical and emotional—in my life.

And now, with the winds of change in the air bringing more stress with it, I know it’s now or never.  So…in that moment I made a change to my early morning routine.

I put the pot down, picked up my iPhone, and made for the sofa. Wrapping a blanket around me, I situated myself on the sofa, trying to get as comfortable as possible. My knees won’t allow for a true lotus position (and quite frankly, it is not necessary to the practice) so I simply sat cross-legged. I pulled up the clock function on my phone and set the countdown timer for fifteen minutes.

FIFTEEN MINUTES…are you nuts?, screamed a voice on my left shoulder. That’s very ambitious missy considering you‘ve yet to make it past five minutes. You’ll never make it!

The journey begins with a single step, reminded the little voice on my right shoulder.

I closed my eyes and began focusing on my breath. Inhaling…exhaling.  I notice my breath is very choppy at first. How could this be? The chickens aren’t even up yet at this hour! I’ve just rolled out of bed literally minutes ago and there isn’t a drop of caffeine in me; truly, my day has not even started!  I couldn’t seem to slow my breath down nor bring any sort of rhythm to it. Negative thoughts immediately flooded the space between breaths.

NO. Not this time. I’m going to see this through. No judgements…just let it go…let it go.
Now…back to the breath.

Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out.

And so it began.

It took a few minutes but eventually my breathing evened out. My breath became much less shallower. With each inhalation and exhalation I was able to bring a fullness to each breath; It became deeper and slower. Slow inhalations followed by even slower exhalations. Each time a thought floated into my head space—and there were many—I’d accept it without admonishment and then I’d gently let it go. Back to the breath, said the little voice followed by my impromptu mantra: I breathe in…I breathe out.

…..until the dainty ringtone sounded on my phone, signaling the end of the session.

Fifteen minutes. Wow.

I opened my eyes. I didn’t move for a moment or two. I broke out into a smile.

Did I reach some altered state? Did I have some brilliant stroke of insight that would change my world or that of another?

Nope.

But I did feel serenely calm and light as a feather as if the burdens in my world had vanished into thin air. For fifteen minutes (well, make that thirteen because it took a few minutes to find my rhythm) I was absolutely free from a near constant rumination of negativity. Oh the bliss I felt in that!

Since Thursday, I’ve committed myself to four other early morning sessions on the sofa. Yesterday, fueled by a heightened sense of accomplishment, I increased the time by two minutes confident that I was becoming really good at this meditation practice. I was served a plate of humble pie however. I became quite fidgety and couldn’t shake it…my mind wandering all over the place like an action-packed movie. I’ll confess to a peek at my phone to determine the time left. With a sigh I noted that I still had another five minutes to go! So, I ended the session early. This was not giving up by any means! What I did learn from this “imperfect” session was that I was able end it without beating myself up —something I would have assuredly done a week ago.

Just like life, some days will be easier than others. It’s part of the journey. If only for a day…I am very excited about this new morning routine.  I’m not sure where it will take me but that’s Okay.  If it gets me through the roller coaster of life with more grace, compassion, and acceptance, I’ll be enormously grateful.

Breathe in…breathe out….. IMG_3577