Friday, November 17, 2017

Opportunity Knocks Early

Part of the magic of the early morning is the time that I have totally to myself.  I fully embrace the Danish invitation to practice the art of "Hygge" and many posts ago, I wrote and explained that this is not a "thing"; it is a way of living.  "Hygge" pronounced hu-gah, and cozy are very similar but the Danes take theirs more seriously and there is more of an effort put into creating the lifestyle than there might be to creating a cozy something-or-other.

So, I live my mornings at this time of year in my Hygge capsule, filled with candles, just the right mug for my beverage, and just the right accouterments.  I find that surrounding myself with the things that calm and enrich my life is not such a bad idea.  Books easily fill that bill and I always make certain that I have those handy wherever my spirit might land me in the hours before sunrise and shortly after.

This morning, I picked up one of the current reads.  It's a book that can and should be read slowly, with intention.  I don't know where I got this one.  Maybe at the Swap this Summer?  Let's just imagine it found its way into my hands, ready for Hygge season.  The name of the book is "Rediscover Jesus...An Invitation".  I like that.  Not a command.  Not a demand.  An "invitation". So, I take up the invitation every couple of mornings.  Short chapters are what I have found to be especially appealing.  All of the chapters end with points to ponder, verses for contemplation and calls for action. 

I loved the chapter I read this morning.  It was simply titled "Invitation".  Good start.  Now, I'm not going to preach here, I'm just going to allow myself to publish my thoughts and get out.  We're leaving for a long weekend and it's almost time to get into the shower.  But, this will run through brain all day and hopefully, for a long time to come.  The little prayer at the very end of the chapter asks that we make the journey of re-discovery and not squander the opportunity. 

The words "squander" and "opportunity" jump off the page and sing to me.  Life is short.  Each moment that we live is important.  Every person, every place, every thing that we encounter along the way is important.  Seek opportunities to make it everything count.  Don't squander one single thing.
Get up, get moving.  Make friends.  Make memories.  Most of all, make time. 

Get up earlier. I guarantee, you will have so many more opportunities if you allow yourself to have so many more waking hours.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bowl of Stress

Today is Wednesday.  Yes, I'm up early.  I'm up early every day.  This used to be a huge problem for me, one that I tried many, many remedies for.  Nothing, including the drug Ambien, will get me more than six hours of sleep collectively. Those hours do include at least one trip to the bathroom followed by a stretch of wakefulness.  I no longer consider this to be a problem and accept it as a fact of my life instead of complaining and trying to fix it.  I'm productive in the hours before what is considered to be an "acceptable" waking time, getting things done around my home, reading, thinking, planning.  It's all done by seven or eight and I'm filled with energy throughout most of the day.  It works for me.

 What used to be a challenge, sleeping, is no longer.  It's been replaced by many others.  I love a good challenge or two and seem to seek them more as I grow closer to age seventy.  This is not a time of life to sit it out.  Nor is it a time of life to make oneself look like a self trying to be something other than that self.  Nothing worse than an old fool trying to not look like a fool.

I'm not placing an order for a Mustang any time soon.  Nor am I taking up bungee jumping.  I have already met some challenges, especially those associated with body-betterment-for-more-enjoyment-and-better-overall health.  I'm looking forward to planning an adventure in celebration of my birthday in January, but trust me, it won't consist of any time travel.  I'm going to stay the course and act like a lively older woman  at all times during the crossing over process.  More about that later.

So, what's going on in my world of challenge lately?  What's totally scaring me?  What's causing stress and making me feel cowardly and not in control?  What is it that I swear I will conquer if it does not take me down?  What is it that I must perfect before I give it up?  You might well ask.

It's BOWLING.  Bowl-ing??? I used to do that all the time.  Up until the time I didn't do it anymore, like somewhere in my thirties.  I even had my own ball and baby blue shoes.  Every week I would show up at the alley, toddler girl in tow, and I would join other mommies who also deposited their toddlers in the on-site nursery for two precious hours a week.  I did fairly well.  The balls were big, the pins were merciful and I rarely threw a gutter-ball.  It was relaxing and fun.  So....when  my friend Judi told  me about her current bowling team, naturally I asked to join and did. Of course there were a few things I had not considered.

First of all, the "Flower Shop" league that I was signing on to as a "sub", was huge.  At least forty women of all ages show up.  Next, they take their game seriously.  Scores mean "placement" and every team is revving up to be in that choice First Place spot.  There are Zinnias and Daffodils and at least four other flowers represented by this eager group.  The median age is seventy.  One of the better bowlers it turns out, is ninety!!  And then, there is me.  I had never, in my entire life, which including lots of bowling as a teenager, thrown a ball in a game of "Candlestick" and that, to my shock and horror is what I had signed up for!  Do I have to tell you how scary this was...and still is?  Do I need to say how bad a bowler I have become after many years of absence?

There is some saving grace.  All those years ago, at the same location, my friend Franny was a team mate.  She and her little girl at the time Laura, spent many happy hours with me and my little girl.  Great memories.  I'm sure they both hours on-end spent together in the play room at the bowling alley, the library and our houses. Well, on Day One of this new adventure, in walked Franny and our friendship took up right where it had left off when I left the Cape years ago.  I nearly cried with joy when I was asked to officially join her team due to the resignation of another member. They clearly were desperate to fill that spot!  And fill it, they did, with the Queen of the Gutter Balls.

Candlestick pin bowling is very, very different from what I had done in the past.  It looks and feels unique and it's very hard to get a score about seventy or eighty in a game.  Each week, we play three games.  Each time I get up to throw (yes, you literally throw the ball onto the alley, not roll it), there are two groups of women, both opposing teams, sitting on the edge of their seats, hoping that I will knock at least one pin down.  Good thing my rear-end is a bit smaller as the result of a different challenge, an easier one as it turns out!  All eyes are upon the "new girl".  Their disappointment is easy to read but they are encouraging and friendly and having time each week with Fran makes up for the pain. I try to recall, with each stressful turn I take, that they asked me to join as a permanent member.

I'm going to master this. I won't dread Wednesday;  I'm  going to pull up my all-important average.  I'm going to come out of this with my dignity and self-esteem intact.  I'm going to meet the challenge head-on.  That's what it is all about, this journey of life, isn't it?  Meeting obstacles along the way, finding goodness and opportunity in the smallest of things.  Savoring the moments.  Coming out with dignity and self-esteem that no gutter ball can take away.  One pin at a time.




Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dinner Party Talk

The first cold, cold evening of the Fall season found us at a dinner party, hosted by friends we hadn't seen in a while.  They own a lovely home, not far away, but they also have active "senior" lives and we allow too much time in-between our times together. So, it was a much-anticipated visit.  We love dinner parties, especially in the after-season, when Cape Cod once again becomes our own.

Other than our lovely friend Barbara, we did not know any of the other guests who were selected by our host and hostess in their belief that we would all have some basics in common and would become a compatible group soon after being introduced. This is an art-form.  It took all of five seconds for me to bond with one guest, recognizing his name from his place card at the table.  My brain, which can't produce for me the title of the book I am currently reading or the name of a restaurant that serves seafood on Cape Cod, will allow for strange recollections of names without instantly letting me in on the secret of why I know the name. Slowly, like the hint of fruit and exotic spices in a glass of red wine, the file cabinet in my brain opens and I have a classic Ah-ha moment.  It takes skill in putting together a group of strangers, knowing all the while that these moments will happen.

Last night then, we had the pleasure of spending time with people who affirmed my belief that Cape Cod is a haven for smart, talented and interesting individuals.  Our conversations were lively, not one political reference surfaced.  We talked about travel, literature, food, history and science.  We were writers, college professors, fitness experts, artists and lovers of the Renaissance.  One of the group has just returned from a six week trip which was built around a three-week intensive language course in Trieste. One is the originator of the library system that is used Cape-wide.  One, the past owner of a newspaper that was widely read on the Cape.  Our host taught four years at the American University in Beirut and has traveled extensively with his wife and family, through the Middle East. Our friend Barbara, who can tell you anything you want to know about anything that has to do with Renaissance art or literature, can also build you a house.  My husband, a man who re-invented himself years after so many others had already given up, and became a senior fitness expert,can name almost every muscle in the body and tell you facts from Italian literature in the same breath. I can tell stories, oh boy, can I tell stories.  I'm not too shabby myself!

The dinner was great, the conversations, as one can imagine, fascinating.  We dined, we talked, we shared, we communicated.
And, not one Smartphone invaded our beautiful evening.  No texting interrupted our discussions and Alexa, she was not invited. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Clobbered, But Unblocked

Over dinner earlier this week, a nurturing friend reminded me that I have not posted anything since July.  That is correct.  Severe writer's block?  Perhaps.  Busy life?   Surely.  Procrastination?  Could be.  All of the above?  Without a doubt.

I'm involved again with yet another set of classes for writers-who-want-to-write.  This time, it's only four classes, the third of which, I may have to miss due to the unforeseen circumstances which became very-seen, only yesterday.  I will return to that in a few sentences.....
This time, my academic pursuit is aimed at "creative writing".  Fiction.  Maybe even a character here and there, other than myself.  Dialogue?  Never been good at the aforementioned.  I don't have an imagination.....err, yes, I do; one that at times, dominates my conscious life.  What I lack is the confidence that allows me to divulge the inner workings of that imagination by penning what actually goes on inside my head.  I'm sure this is common.  Certainly, among memoir writers who fear retaliation from the characters they describe from real-life.  Relatives do sue.
So, I'm plugging along, hoping for a character to pop up and a story to unfold.  Oh, that it be that easy. Or is it?

So, yesterday afternoon, after bringing my father to get his flu shot, I set out, once again to prove that old theory that no good deed goes unpunished when I took advantage of time on my hands and set out to do a bit of shopping in Hyannis, AKA, "the city".  I figured that with Joe on his way to New York with my car, I would get a head start on next week, using his car. by picking up some items at Trader Joe's instead of waiting for his return and going together on Monday (always costs more, shopping with him).

It was 3:30 on a beautiful Fall afternoon and the traffic, for some reason, was thick.  When traffic is thus, I approach rotaries with more caution than usual.  We have a lot of rotaries (aka Round-Abouts) here on the Cape for some reason and a lot of people who simply don't know how to get in or out of them, never mind drive in them.  So, one must keep all rules in mind and all eyes open.  If you're already an occupant, you have the right of way until which time you exit - and it's always best to stay in the exit lane, with your blinker on, lest other drivers who do pay attention, will not know your intentions.  Thoughtful, careful and precise use of driving skills.  And that is the way I entered and almost got out of, the rotary.  Almost.  Bump!  Damn!  That black car, despite my warning beep of the horn, came right out of her waiting spot and started into my lane, clipping the right rear of my husband's beloved car.  What?  No bodily harm.  Just a big bump and off to the side of the road where there, miraculously, was a perfect place to park without disrupting the flow of traffic or standing in harm's way.

Irate at what had just happened, I jumped out of my car and professed my disbelief to the other driver, the one who so clearly had violated the law, with the words, "You just hit me when I was in the rotary!!!".  And then, it happened.  A character in search of a story.  A middle-aged blonde woman who looked as if she had just sucked on a big lemon, who's first response, one that will live in infamy, was...."Oh, just shut up and give me your license".  How easy was that?

Writer's block?  Character development? Fiction?  What am I worried about?  Inspiration, it's all out there, as close as the next rotary.  I found mine, on the way to Trader Joe's.  On a perfectly clear day.  In the middle of the afternoon.  All by myself.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Breakfast


It is incredibly easy to become bored and burnt out when using the Bariatric tool to its fullest.  Pardon the pun, but it is also incredibly easy to become incredibly full in an incredibly short time!
So, here I am at almost fifty pounds down, with one more month to go before the six-month goal is met, dreaming up new ways to keep the romance alive.  That's the romance with my new stomach I'm speaking of.  I promised to love and honor it and I'm keeping that promise, I promise.

One of the hardest meals of my day is breakfast.  I don't like to eat upon rising and find that simple egg to be totally unfulfilling.  It just doesn't do "it" and it is dangerous to not have a good start to the day.  I can't afford to be hungry before that "snack" time rolls around.  Also, I cannot have coffee or anything else to drink, during a meal.  I have to wait thirty minutes to an hour after.  You may recall that post about the food slipping through the funnel.  Still works that way.

I gave breakfast a lot of thought and it wasn't until very recently that I came up with a new idea, one that works and will tide me over until the next wave of boredom arrives.  It all happened when I took my granddaughters out for a morning treat at a local cafe a few weeks ago.  I ordered an egg for myself.  The counter person told me that they bake all of their eggs and I gave it a try.  Sounded like a lot of work but the other day, I had some time and a burning desire to find out what a baked egg was and what it actually entailed and I was thrilled to find out that it is easy and quick.  You can Google baked eggs and you will find a multitude of ways in which to get results.  This morning, I cranked the toaster up to 400, sprayed a tiny bake dish with cooking spray and layered some uncooked turkey bacon pieces, next some uncooked greens and finally, 3 eggs that I scrambled a bit.  Popped that in, watched it until the eggs were set and there it was....baked eggs for two.  Easy and so good.

Joe made me a second cup of coffee.  Not a thrill after the eggs but.....I dumped my coffee (with its half and half already in), into a tall plastic cup and added a container of chocolate protein drink and a bunch of ice cubes. Over thirty grams of Protein in that alone and something to sip on an hour after the nice protein breakfast. Yummy!

One meal at a time. Changing the way I relate to food.  Yes.  It can work.

It all starts with breakfast.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Walk on By






Dionne Warwick's hit tune from the sixties has absolutely nothing to do with what I am about to write, yet it is the inspiration for the thoughts that keep threading through my brain today.

Five years ago today, my mother died.  So, five years ago, today, my life changed and I traded in my adult and independent self for the "responsible child" persona that I wear every hour of every day. 

My parents were always independent, a good couple who did pretty much what they wanted most of the time.  They relocated to the Cape, leaving family behind, including a brand new first grandchild. A beautiful home overlooking the bay, a swimming pool for low-tides. Lots of friends visiting, and, until my mother's  illnesses, a seemingly care-free life, free of guilt.  My mother's mother died during those years and her aging father remained alone in his home until his death.  It was my mother's sister who looked after his welfare while my mother enjoyed her life.  Stinks, doesn't it?

My grandfather and aunt died.  My parents aged,  moved from the home on the beach, bought another one and spent Winters in Florida, carefree and far away from children and grandchildren.

As the years went by, my mother took on one health challenge after another, bravely and without complaining.  She overcame obstacles but knew that one day, in the not-too-distant-future, she would lose the battle.  It was during that time that we returned to the Cape and soon after, I finally retired from work forever.  Way too soon, I might add.

Five years ago, Mom died.  Five years ago, my independence died with her.  Five years ago, I became my father's child again.  And nobody asked if there was any way in which they could help, nor do they today.  My family members take vacations, lots of them.  They feel "entitled" to their "rest", to their escapes.  Were I to list all the places everyone has been in the past five years, I would fill this page. Sure, we've been to Italy, I spent a nice chunk of time there after my mother passed away.  It was the last time I would enjoy an "escape" from reality.  My family appreciated that the months before had taken their toll and that I needed time to grieve, without burdening them mind you. My grieving time.  Even in grief, I had to consider others.  Go away, lest you drag them down.  Ha! 

Vacations are not on our horizon.  My father will not submit to "outside" care so I'm it. He'd starve without me and his dementia blocks out any emotional response he might otherwise have to that dilemma. 

Please, do not think that I am a "good daughter", that the Good Lord will reward me for all of this stuff.  In fact, I probably will be punished for the resentment that I harbor, for the ways in which I have approached all of this.  Real saints go about their business without complaining or writing blogs. They accept and perform duties with love, kindness and selflessness.  I don't.  I still silently curse my parents for never making plans for who was going to go first and what was going to happen.  I still resent everybody else in the family for assuming that I would be "the one".....and only. I still get angry at my father, despite the fact that his advanced age of nearly 96 does not allow him to understand the need for help, helpers.  People who I can rely upon to fill in for me, to tell him to change his clothes if nothing else.  People who would not be scared children, unable to get to the heart of important matters.  People who would be on the payroll!!

Oh, I am not alone in this.  My husband also suffers. And, we have a small group of friends who also have been put into the role of caring for elderly parents on their own.  For that, we are grateful.  It's good to know that we are not the only ones who will be old people, caring for very old parents; who may very well die before we get a chance to live without heavy guilt and g.d. responsibility coming before all else. It's a comfort in knowing that other siblings have fled the proverbial coop, but will one day return like vultures to split inheritances right down the middle. As my father believes, "it's the law".  Of course it isn't but that generation is hard-wired to believe it is and there's nothing morally we can do to change it. 

And all I keep thinking is how everyone else in my little family just walks on by. 

You lucky bastards.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Months

I'm drinking a Carnation Instant Breakfast as I write this.  I'm having zero problem getting it all down and I'm not too certain that it will do the job of filling what used to be my full-sized adult stomach, the one that today, is the size and shape of a medium banana. As I sip, I can't help but recall Day One, post-op, my breakfast tray, and the hour it took me to ingest a few ounces of the same item, vowing with each forced sip, that I'd never eat or drink anything again.  Nausea and anesthesia fall-out ruled my life for the first twelve hours and all I truly cared about was getting back to my home.  That was three months and forty unwanted pounds ago.

It scares me to think how quickly time has passed.  Four times the short time span becomes an entire year.  At my age, I wish for longer time spans, less fleeting memories. But, in that time, I became an eye-witness to my life as it changed for what I hope, will be forever more.  I didn't cry, but I did fess up to "this" being the hardest thing I had yet done, in those early hours after being "sleeved".  I had a moment of intense fear and quite possibly, agonizing guilt for what I had done to my poor body.  How could I, how dare I, consciously and willingly make an irreversible change to what had been a body that had honored me with years of perfect health and strength?  Was I reversing my good fortune?  If I could not drink an ounce of Instant Breakfast, how could I ever have a normal meal again? Would any of my life return to normality? Again, I held back tears.  I did what I should have done many years before.....I decided then and there to take one day at a time, one meal at a time, one sip at a time.  A promise I was to forget over the next few weeks as I doubted myself and felt that I had become a "statistic", one who failed to see results following the loss of 80% of a stomach. I returned to that state of mind, and trusted my brain and body once more, drawing upon my deepest religious convictions and all of my self-preservation skills and I soldiered forward to where I am now, at the three month mark.  My blood work came back.  I passed with flying colors.  I have had no side-effects other than changes in food preferences.

Now, I can't think for one moment that anyone would be led to believe that I take any of this for granted.  When I first started writing about my "journey", I told my writing mentor, June, that I was going to knock it off.  I feared that my words would bore readers, that they would feel that enough was quite enough already. I was afraid of being billed as "self-absorbed".  June's response was "no, don't stop!" She encouraged me and kept me on track by suggesting that perhaps I might be of assistance to someone who was considering weight loss surgery, that my words might be just what they needed to hear. So, I chose to continue.  It has been said that it is when we write we discover much about ourselves and when I write, I am amazed.

Every journey begins with one step and all great journeys are made in faith.  Mine began with friends who buoyed and supported me, step by step.  My best coach ever, my husband Joe, who remembers all the things I forget and forgets all the things I remember and my amazing, amazing, mind-blowing friends who have kept me going with patience, understanding and generosity. I am grateful every day and thank God for this abundant gift, this beautiful array of loving people who encourage me, trust me and live my life with me.  They are so courageous! Friends who have taken walks, accompanied me on visits to the Surgical Center, making each one a fun trip rather than an annoying ride over the bridge when they could be elsewhere.  The friends who say "let's do lunch" or "how about dinner?" and don't avoid me because they think I don't eat. And, my best friend of all, my daughter, my "second-shooter" who I was reluctant to tell of my plans lest I would worry her. Instead of taking on the burden of worry or trying to discourage me, she made it her business to do the homework.  She researched and learned what would lie before me with the same fortitude that she has shown in making her own successful life choices.  When I was discouraged, she listened with empathy and made suggestions.  When I was encouraged, she celebrated with me and when I hadn't noticed signs of progress, she quickly brought them to my attention.  If I did this entire thing for no one else, I did it for her and her daughters and somehow, I think she totally understood that.

There will be more grunts and groans, of that I am sure.  Life won't always be this peachy-keen. I didn't buy an insurance policy that guarantees me perfect, lasting health and happiness.  I simply took a leap in faith and for now, it's paying off.  One day at a time and prayers for those who don't have choices, who have to go on journeys to far worse places.