New Day

Who doesn’t love to linger in bed in the morning, maybe just a little longer than you should?
On those rare days that I allow myself a few extra moments; I actually gift myself with so much more than rest.
Somewhere betwixt sleep and wake, I stare at the scarred and stained floorboards above me.
I wonder about the souls who have passed through this old building.
I wonder what they were thinking and feeling.
What were their dreams and aspirations?
Were they fulfilled? Were they treated well here?
How many fell in love here? How many just fell?
After wrangling my inquisitive mind a bit, I tend to look ahead to the blank, white wall over my closet.
A quaint landscape currently leans against my hutch, awaiting a home.
It would probably look very nice on this bare white wall, however, I can’t bring myself to put it there.
This small expanse of plain, white wall reminds me that every day is a new day.
It reminds me that I can do or be anything.
I can be energetic and creative.
I can be pensive and melancholic.
I can be ambitious and focused.
I guess for now my landscape will await its place, while my white space helps me find mine!

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What do you guys wonder about?

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Change

Change.

Not the coins rattling around in your car’s console; I mean, life changes.

Me…I like change.

I love the change of seasons!

Just when I’m sick of the cold, dark, icy days of winter; spring arrives.

I love spring! It screams rebirth. It promises new beginnings. It’s a taste of summer.

Once summer rolls in, it’s full bore action! Housework be damned…I’m hitting the beach, riding the waves, strolling through woods and climbing mountains.

I’m sucking every moment of sunshine and warmth into my soul!

Enter heat waves…90 plus degree days with 90 plus percent humidity…homicidal tendencies creep in and I find myself longing for sweaters and pumpkin pie.

Fall.

Fall rivals my love of spring. Just as I love the excitement of spring, I equally love the settling which fall brings.

Life slows down as everyone gathers their fruit and nuts for winter. I savor the remaining days of warmth, while secretly longing for snowy days on my couch with a blanket and a book.

Yes, change is good…most of the time.

We expect the seasons to change, but sometimes we experience other life changes; abrupt and unexpected ones.

These changes test our mettle.

Perhaps a change you were considering, but weren’t quite prepared for, occurs.

Conversely, a train you never saw coming might crash into your day.

During these difficult times we dig deep, find our strength and focus.

In these moments we really contemplate our lives.

These moments make the otherwise seemingly insurmountable to-do list, the equivalent of an annoying May fly.

These are the moments in which we grow and change.

This is when we prioritize. We decide what really matters. We are forced to see the big picture, as opposed to the mundane details that often encompass our lives.

Change reminds us to live, adapt and transform.

The dragonfly spends up to four years in water, as a nymph, developing into its final, magnificent stage.

I don’t mind hanging out as a nymph for a bit, waiting to see how magnificent I will become.

Embrace change.

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A Good Cry

A good cry…an oxymoron, right?
Females will readily understand this notion.
Due to societal convention, many men may not.

By a good cry, I don’t mean a, “gee, that commercial or Facebook post really touched me.”
I mean a, “My world just turned upside down and I don’t know what to do with this pain,” kind of cry.

Sometimes it’s easier to just bury the pain; to just compartmentalize it, and plan to deal with it another day.

Easier isn’t always better.

I’ve lived long enough to have many good cry moments. I don’t feel the need to expound upon that. We’ve all been there. Sickness, death, abandonment, disappointment, heartbreak…

I’ve always considered myself a strong person. Crying, to me, equaled weakness.

(Additionally, I don’t cry pretty like the movie stars! I end up with big, red puffy eyes and a snotty nose…yeah, just not pretty!) 

For the first half of my life, I schooled myself in the art of stoicism.

Again, it’s easier to block things out and focus on the next task than it is to face the problem at hand.

I thought I was so cool. I had the ability to shut down and ignore the pain.

Little did I know the volcano I was building for future eruptions.

Then I grew up…a ‘lil bit…

I realized that crying felt good! Crying was cathartic!

I cried in the woods, walking my dog. I cried walking across the parking lot to work. On really bad days, and I mean REALLY bad days, I have found myself in fetal position on my cellar floor, crying like a baby.

Why am I not afraid to admit this, you ask?

Because every damn time, I managed to let it all out and stand up again and face the next day. Because, just because I cry, does not make me weak. In all actuality, it makes me stronger.

I don’t like the person I was when I didn’t cry.

Yes, I was strong, but no one needs to be fortress strong.

It’s better to be human strong.

So I hope you all cry when you need to and otherwise…skip! 

My Taekwon Do Journey…one year in…

Next week is the one-year anniversary of the beginning of my Taekwon Do journey.

I recall standing alone in my kitchen one evening, almost one year ago; my husband and son both engrossed in their own activities.

Having just cooked two completely different meals to accommodate both dietary needs and personal tastes, I thought, “Is this really all there is…”

It was time to make time for myself.

The idea of studying Taekwon Do kind of popped out of no where.

I had been enamored with martial arts since I was a child, but I hadn’t thought about it for years; decades.

Structured workout routines had long since faded into the backdrop of motherhood.

Daily dogwalking with my best friend Marlo, usually ended with a, “What are you doing for the rest of the day?”

She would invariably reply, “I’m going to work out.”

“You mean that wasn’t our workout?” I’d joke.

What a difference a year makes!  Now, six days a week, I’m either at Taekwon Do or working out; some days both. I love it and actually get grouchy if something interrupts my schedule.

My journey began with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.

I’m forever grateful that my friend Christine paved the way. Otherwise I may not have had the courage to start.

During my first few classes, I stuck to her like glue. I felt so self conscious.

Following one of my first classes, Mr B, my awesome, 6th degree black belt TKD instructor, and owner of Mr B’s TKD, asked me how I felt.

My response, “Fat, old and awkward…but I had fun.”

I was 43 years old and about 15 pounds over weight. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but on a five foot frame it is!

The following week, Christine couldn’t come to class. I had to go all by myself.

I recall walking up the stairs to class, taking deep breaths and trying to ignore the palpitations in my chest.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know anyone else and I felt like a big, white blob.

I did it anyway! I walked into class and tried not to look to stupid.

Did I mention I have zero coordination, I’m directionally challenged and I don’t follow directions well…yeah…I’m pretty sure I looked stupid.

The whole endeavor was really overwhelming at first.

Commands were spoken in Korean and everyone called each other sir or ma’am.

Worst of all, little miss question authority and buck the system had to learn how to listen, follow orders and not respond in debate. (Umm…yeah…still working on that.) 🙂

In response to one of my frustrated, belittling myself moments, another instructor, Mr Davis, 3rd degree black belt, advised me to be nice to myself.

Those words helped immensely. While I was expecting immediate excellence on my part, he reminded me that everyone there, black belts included, once felt the same way.

A couple of weeks in, the routine and the environment became familiar and I was able to relax and enjoy myself.

Belt testing works on a cycle. Roughly every four months you get the chance to advance.

I began at an off time, so I had only 8 weeks to learn 16 weeks worth of material. I asked Mr B if he thought I could do it and he told me that if I worked hard I would be fine.

I was so in!

Study, practice. Practice, study; determined right from the start.

Pattern, otherwise called “Tul”, frustrated me.

Awkward I felt, yes. (I love Yoda!)

As I watched the higher belts maneuver through their patterns with such accuracy and intensity, I felt like a dandelion, in a meadow of heather.

Three belts later, I’m getting the knack of it.

January 2014. My first belt test.

Now, the thing about testing is…it terrifies me!

I’ve never had test anxiety in my life! One walks into a test with knowledge of material and passes test. Easy peasy.

Testing for belts, for me, is excruciating. Enter performance anxiety.

Sitting at a desk, head down, pencil in hand; piece of cake.

Standing before my instructors and their superiors, hoping to showcase my techniques and manage recitations without blunder or falter…so different.

Somehow I’ve made it through my yellow, green and high green belts without throwing up or passing out; although every time either scenario could play out.

I completely appreciate the importance of testing. It’s grace under pressure. One needs to remain composed and able to respond to any situation. Testing definitely teaches that.

Testing aside…let me expound upon my greatest love…sparring!

It’s the most fun ever! No, really, like EVER!

It’s not mean people trying to hurt each other. It’s like a chess match with gloves on.

I’ll admit, my first forays into sparring weren’t pretty.

I earned the labels “bar-room brawler” and “berzerker”. (Yeah…those are not compliments.)

Refinement…that’s what I’m working on now. Targeting; instead of winging it.

Watching and waiting and predetermining what my opponent will do.

It’s been an amazing and transformative year. I’m so grateful for the forces that guided me where I am today.

I’m physically and mentally stronger than I’ve been in a long time.

I feel content.

I feel like I finally found a place where I really fit in.  😀 2014-10-11 17.48.14

Best Friends

Hello Blog. It’s been too long.

I kind of feel like I ditched my best friend for a new boyfriend. We were getting along just fine, then along came Taekwon Do.

I ventured beyond our companionable state into a whole new world; a new set of friends and challenges. It’s a bit encompassing.

Martial arts first spoke to me while watching Kung Fu as a child. It’s where I’m meant to be.

But that’s another blog for another day…

Today epitomized the perfect summer day; blue skies decorated with a few wispy clouds and a gentle breeze stirring the finally, dry air.

Thankful for this I am; as I try to become one with my back spasm.

Since this stabbing pain in my back limits me from doing much more at the moment and my windows are wide open, allowing the breeze to flow through my house, I’ve had the opportunity to take notice of so much more.

The rustling of the leaves and bird song was enough to soothe any soul; but my moments of incapacitation gave me an even more wonderful gift.

The loud rumble of boys, nearly men, running about our yard, conjured thoughts of how things have change over the years.

“Tag” turned into “Man hunt”.

“Snacks” turned into a full course meal.

“Ahhhh, there’s a bee,” followed by flailing arms, turned into “Hey, I just got stung by a bee.”

Those squeaky voices changing to altos. Boys turning to men.

I hope this is the summer they remember forever!

The summer right on the cusp of cars and jobs and girlfriends.

The summer of being goofy with their friends.

The summer that friendships became lifelong bonds.

The summer they will try to recapture later in life.

Love these guys! 🙂

Self Conscious Shopper

I really don’t mind Christmas Shopping. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either.

Every year, I swear that I will start early and be done before Thanksgiving. I even made a pact with a co-worker this year that we would both start by September first.

Nicely done Jane!

I failed. It’s mid-December and I’m no where near finished shopping. Am I worried? No. Am I stressed? No.

I guess I’ve adopted a laissez faire attitude about it all. Whatever…the gifts I don’t find will magically transform themselves into gift cards (which most people probably prefer anyway!)

My son and I hit the Yankee Candle store last weekend (“buy 2, get 2 free, coupon” in hand, oh yeaah). After intoxicating ourselves with the scents of numerous candles, we debated over our favorites and checked out.

As we left the store, a nicely-dressed man in his twenties, standing in the opening of the adjoining store, handed me a sample of something.

As a long-time frequenter of fairs and carnivals, I’ve mastered the art of ignoring mid-way squawkers.

I half-turned and said, “Thanks,’ as I took the offering.

“Do you even know what I just handed you?” I heard from behind me.

My response: “Nope.”

Enter salesman. Albeit, not a very bright one!

To paraphrase, ‘It’s a wonderful hand lotion,’ dramatic pause…long, look into my eyes…

(ok, not like a Nicholas Sparks, ‘I’ve just met my soul-mate’ kind of look. More like 3.2 seconds)

Anyway, he then asked what kind of eye cream I use.

My answer: “None.”

Seconds later, I’m sitting in his chair and giving my son the, let’s humor him look.

Einstein squeezed lotion on the webbing between his thumb and index finger and started dabbing it under one of my eyes. To my son he says something to the effect of, ‘You will be the judge.’

While massaging the lotion ever so gently beneath my eye (which felt quite nice actually) he explained how this lotion would remove the fine lines and puffiness under my eyes. SCREECH…did you hear the brakes on that sales pitch?

Really dude? Did you just point out my fine lines and puffy eyes and think I was going to bust out my fine credit cards and puffy wallet to buy hundreds of dollars of your product?

As salesman of the year finished his handiwork, he turned me toward my 14 year-old son (who, by the way, wouldn’t compliment Queen Elizabeth under the duress of Scotland Yard guards). He asked him, “What do you think?”

The look on my son’s face became one of my greatest Christmas presents ever! He was completely perplexed as to how to answer without hurting anyone’s feelings. I could see his, and feel my, giggles bubbling.

I bailed him out. I politely thanked the salesman and told him that I was shopping for others but if I ever needed any “product” I would definitely ask for him.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

Lucky for me there was no immediate, dramatic transformation. How awkward would it have been to continue shopping with only one wrinkle-free, luminous eye?!?

Sorry, I do not have a yummy recipe to share with you today, as I spent the rest of the afternoon scanning the myriad facial creams, lotions and potions in an attempt to recapture my youthful radiance.

Lotions and Potions

This may take a while…
JUST CURIOUS: What must haves are on your snowstorm shopping list?

Moving on…

Balloon Turkey

I received some news on Friday that had pretty much slain the heart of my holiday spirit.

I realize it’s probably unkind to continue this post without disclosing what that news was, but it’s not my news to share. So I apologize for that. Feel free to supplement this post with your own version of “bad” news.

I also realize that without disclosing the nature of this news, I leave it wide open to speculation on the intensity of my sadness.

Although I’ve been guilty of doing so myself, I don’t think we should ever impose our perception of how someone else should feel or react to any condition or situation.

Anyway, I spent the weekend on auto pilot; cooking, cleaning, planning, organizing and such. Once finished (as if one is ever really finished), I sat at my computer trying to decide what to write about.

The only words rambling around my head involved sadness, loss and mourning.

The fact that so many are gearing up for a festive holiday season, focusing on well-planned menus, decadent desserts and shopping lists only made it worse.

The thought of heading up to my attic, as I do the day after Thanksgiving every year, to bring down box after box of Christmas decorations made me sick.

I just wanted to wish away the holiday season and skip right to New Years and hope for a happier 2014.

In reality the holidays will arrive and as a wife, mother and daughter, I will have to put on a happy face and make the season as full of great memories as I can.

I will do this, and while I’m sure I will truly enjoy the tree-trimming, cookie baking and what-not, deep down the ache will remain.

I liken the ache to a sore muscle. At times you don’t notice it and then when you move a certain way; it’s back like a smack in the face.

So as I sat before my computer repeatedly deleting every negative word that came from my downtrodden soul, I gave up. I decided I wasn’t writing anything until the pain receded.

Monday morning I dragged myself into work. I crossed the parking lot muttering my usual litany of Monday curses with an added dose of WTF.

My coworkers’ attempts to reach out to me received responses such as “yep” and “nope”.

As I sat at my desk, trying to focus on my work, it became increasingly hard to speak. I just wanted to never speak again. I really wanted to just shut out everyone and be left to wallow alone.

By mid-morning I got over myself as I realized my silence was not the only silence.

None of our usual happy, sarcastic banter filled the room. I’m pretty sure they didn’t talk about their great weekends and holiday plans because they knew I was hurting. (Yes, my co-workers are that awesome!)

I then realized I didn’t just have a black cloud hanging over me. I WAS the black cloud.

That’s just not me.

Bringing down the masses is not my thing. I’m usually the one thinking of the goofiest thing I can do to cheer up someone else.

So I’ve put my pain in a little box and set it aside. Life goes on.

I’ve been through enough grief to know the difference between denial and moving on; and that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve accepted what has come to pass and instead of dwelling on this latest chink in my armor, I’m going to count my blessings.

First and foremost, I am grateful for the overall health of my family. I send positive thoughts to those whom might spend the holidays battling accidents or illnesses.

I am thankful for my husband who loves and supports me, most of the time. (There was that time he vetoed the raising of llamas and chickens…Probably for the best! I let him have that one.)

I am thankful for my children; again I interject, most of the time. They bring me joy and sadness, wisdom and stupidity, humility and pride.

I am thankful for both my parents and my in laws (all of them!) I have the best support system ever. Not that I ever ask, but if I needed help, any one of them would step right up.

I am thankful for my home, even if we refer to it as “the fort.”

I am thankful to have a good job and the most amazing co-workers ever. When you spend more time with your co-workers than your family, it’s a bonus to really like them. I hit the jackpot there.

Oh yeah, one more, I’m thankful that my teenager took the time to see “Hunger Games-Catching Fire,” with me this weekend. Good movie, quality time!

If you’re feeling the need for some comfort food, this Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie might do the trick.

Tell me about YOUR favorite comfort foods!

Gluten Free Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie

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What you need:

 

3 c cold milk

½ c sweet rice flour (or cornstarch)

4 heaping tsp (low sodium) “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base

2 t minced garlic

1 t celery salt

1 t paprika

½ T black pepper

1 ½ c water

3 T butter

12-14 small red potatoes, diced

1 c chopped celery

6 oz petite carrots

½ c finely chopped onion (don’t tell my family that’s in there!)

1-8.75 oz can of whole corn

1-8.5 ox can of Le Sueur baby peas (yes, I’m picky!)

4 raw, boneless chicken breasts, cubed

What you do:

 

  1. Whisk the first nine ingredients together in a large bowl. (Make sure the water and milk are cold, so you don’t get lumps!)
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients (except the peas and corn) in the crock pot in this order: potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, chicken
  3. Cook on high for 6 hrs, stirring periodically. (I’ve never tried this one while not at home, so I’m not sure about the whole set it and forget it thing. Let me know if it works for you!)
  4. In the last few minutes, toss in the corn and peas.

Enjoy with gluten-filled or gluten-free biscuits and you will feel like you just got a big ‘ole hug.