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Archive for December, 2008

Riddle Me This…

What do a mouse, a whale, and an astronaut have in common?

I’ll be visiting all of them over the next eight days!  🙂

In about four hours, I’ll be getting on a plane to Orlando with the family.  I’ve mentioned a trip but haven’t really talked about where because the Daughters didn’t know – it was one of their Christmas gifts and, therefore, a surprise – but that’s it.  We’re going to Orlando.  We’ll spend two days at Sea World, a day at Kennedy Space Center (and an evening in Daytona) and then five days at the various Disney World parks.   We’ll spend New Year’s Eve ringing in the New Year in every country in Epcot’s World Showcase…we’ll have dinner at Hard Rock and dinner with Shamu…and dinner on the beach in Daytona.  (We’re going to eat a LOT, I suspect.  Though I’m going to try to be reasonably good.)  We’ll ride roller coasters (WE being the teenager and her friend who lives in Orlando, who will be coming to spend a few days with us) and pet dolphins and soak up some lovely Vitamin-D-stimulating rays (with appropriate levels of sunscreen, of course, though the UV index is LOW-LOW-LOW) and we are going to have fun, dammit, if (as Mom says) it costs Dad a mule.  (She’s from Arkansas, okay?)

I’ll admit I’ve been sort of worried about this trip, because togetherness generally results in conflict in our family.  But now that the time has come, I’m excited.  It’s been a long year, and difficult in a lot of ways…and I’m ready to bid it a relieved farewell.  And what better way to do it than by consciously and deliberately escaping and rejecting all stress, obligation, stricture and routine and going somewhere that is all about FUN?

We do have a schedule (come on, you guys know me, I ALWAYS have a schedule) but it’s loosely structured, it’s flexible and it’s all completely optional.  (Except for dinner with Shamu.  That’s not optional.  Though I do draw the line at plankton; hopefully he’s serving something a little more human-friendly.)  We have a rental car and a GPS and if we decide we don’t want to do things in the order we’ve prescribed (okay, I’ve prescribed) then we won’t.  We’ll go where the proverbial wind takes us.

I am ready to relax.  I am ready to stop worrying and stressing over things.  I am ready to Get Away.  🙂

I’m also ready to start the new year, in a big way.  I do get really introspective at the year’s turning – I’m very predictable and traditional in that way, at least – and I spent a few weeks lamenting how badly I’ve done with living healthy this year.  But this morning, thinking it over, it occurred to me that really it hasn’t been all that bad.  No, I haven’t lost any weight since this time last year.  Yeah, I’ve struggled with eating and my exercise has been wildly erratic.  (In structure and regularity, I mean…I’m not, like, on the treadmill with my arms windmilling all over the place.  Well, mostly I’m not.  Some nights…)

Anyway.  Yes, it’s been spotty.  But looking back over the year, I realize that what I have been doing this year is a lot – read a million tons – of introspective, emotional work.  And looking back at my posts from the end of 2007, I realize that I knew that would be the case.  That’s where I was…that’s where I have been.  And that needs to be done as well.

I haven’t “wasted a year”, as I’ve been telling myself for a few weeks. (And feeling crappy about it.)  The health problems I am having right now – still undefined – are not a result of backsliding.  They are problems I have always had, and events of the past few months have highlighted them and required me to pay attention to them.  And it so happens that some of the changes I will have to make to get them under control are changes that will help me renew my focus on the physical aspect of my self-transformation.

I’ll have to completely eliminate sugar.  Not just cut drastically back – which I’ve done in any case; I’ve never gotten back to eating it regularly or in large quantities  – but completely eliminate it.  The slightest amount of it is enough to trigger an episode of palpitations.  So sugar goes.  No great loss, to be honest.

I’ll (very likely) have to completely eliminate caffeine.  Which means my morning cup of coffee will be history.  😦  I am lamenting that heavily.  Actually, what I’ll probably do is just switch to decaf.  Cause I love me my coffee.  I can give it up…but if I can find an alternative, why not?  And diet Coke is completely and utterly OUT.  (Sob.  Weep.  Whine.)

I’ll have to strictly limit my carbs, and they’ll have to be exclusively complex ones – because even eating too much fruit will also trigger an episode.  Eating things like potatoes or refined flours seems to do so as well.  Again, this isn’t a great loss.  This is the way I’m supposed to be eating anyway.  And I’m honestly really excited to be back to it, knowing that it’s not just nominally a matter of life and death now – now it’s serious.

Exercise is a no-brainer.  That doesn’t have to change, it just has to become consistent again.

Most importantly, I will have to – no options here, and no wiggle-room – get my sleep schedule straightened out and start getting a consistent amount of sleep every single night.  This is a huge one…and the fact that I’m blogging at 5:00 a.m., when I’m only even supposed to be just getting up at this time, is an indicator that this will be the hardest one.  I’ve been an insomniac this year.  I know why, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.  And I’m not entirely sure how I’ll deal with it, though I suspect the other changes will make this problem gradually disappear.

Which leads to the next one…and probably, to be honest, this is actually the most important.  I have got to find some better and more effective ways of dealing with stress.   The new exercise regimen has got to include daily yoga – and how I’m going to fit that in with the consistent sleep schedule is going to be a poser, I’ll admit.  I am going to have to find a way to schedule regular, daily meditation.  And I’m going to have to start letting some things go.  Even if DH doesn’t end up taking another job somewhere else, I may have to change jobs.  I don’t really want to – I’m the one who hates change, though I recognize its value – but I may have to.  Because the other stressors in my life are not negotiable, so the job may have to be.

And I’ve got to get back to consistent, regular blogging and reading, because this keeps me sane and it keeps me connected to a healthy reality (i.e., all of you, who are my hope, my inspiration, my reality-check…in short, my lifelines).

So.  Time management, stress management, and self-awareness, all built around a framework of healthy eating and regular consistent exercise.  Hey, wait – isn’t that what I’ve been supposed to be doing all this time?  Hm.  So maybe my body’s just…sort of…upping the stakes for me?  Definitely bears thinking about.

And that’s my New Year’s Non-Resolutionatory Goal-Orientated Thought-Processification.  🙂   Now, I’m off to shower and dress and finish the last-minute packing…and in less than two hours, off to the airport.

I will try to check in with all of you while I’m gone, if ED will kindly allow me the use of her new laptop (another Christmas gift…yeah, they’re horribly spoiled, but she’s going to college in a year and a half and this will have to get her through five years of that) which never leaves her sight.  (That’ll be a trick on the roller coasters…)  Meanwhile, I hope everyone has a lovely New Year’s celebration, however you’re celebrating, and I will see you all here next year!

MWAH!  (That’s a big, sloppy New Year’s Kiss.)

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So…today is Thursday, and I’m feeling a bit thankful, because I had a great customer-service experience today.  It’s one week away from Christmas, the crowds are insane at the mall, everyone’s cranky, it’s all loud and rushed and obnoxious…and yet, against all odds someone exhibited kindness and cheerfulness and professionalism beyond the call of duty, and made my day.

A friend bought me an early Christmas present – a pair of black leather boots from Bandolino.  Gorgeous.  Perfect.  I’ve been looking for these exact boots forever and haven’t been able to find them – and wouldn’t have bought them for myself if I had found them, because (have I mentioned) I’m extremely broke and in any case, very cheap.  They were beautiful.  They were sexy.  They were flattering.  They were rather expensive.

They were fragile.  One of the boots had a defect, and on the second wearing, it manifested.  My heart was fragile as well.  It broke, too.

I did not keep the receipt.  In fact, I had thrown it away the day before.  The.  Day.  Before.   Frustration ensued, because the store policy is that you have to have the receipt, and the merchandise has to be unworn.  Two strikes.

And yet…Dina, the lovely manager at our Charleston Bandolino store, was a joy to encounter about the whole thing.  She remembered me, she remembered the boots, she sent them to see if they could be repaired and when they could not, she exchanged them for me without a receipt or a complaint.  She was smiling, understanding sweetness incarnate about the whole thing.

I have new boots.  And I am writing to Bandolino to tell them how wonderful Dina is.  Because even if some other clerk might have done the same thing, despite the store policy, the odds are – particularly this time of year – that no one else would have been nearly as nice or pleasant about the whole thing.  (And I used to work at Target, and you know how much their return policies suck.  I know what it’s like to stand there reiterating the store policy while someone rages at you and tells you how much you suck.  Did I mention I once had a person throw a printer at me across the counter?  Yeah, literally, throw a printer.  People get…unpleasant.  It’s very, very hard to keep smiling.  So I appreciate it all the more when other people do.)  And honestly, even if she hadn’t found a way to help me, I’d probably still have written the letter – just because she was so darned nice about it all.

It’s so good to meet decent people.  It sort of makes the whole world a better place.

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I have a major failing, and it’s making me sad and tired.  I have a bad habit of always looking ahead, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.  I get myself through stressful times, or even times that are just extremely dull, by looking forward to better times.

Now, this isn’t an inherently bad thing.  It’s actually helpful, to a point, to remind ourselves that “this, too, shall pass”.  The problem, for me, is that (like everything) I take it to extremes.  Life becomes no more than a series of “it’ll get better whens”…as in, “things will be better when I pay off some debt” or “things will be better when I lose some weight” or “things will be better when this case settles”.  The problem is that it’s all an illusion.

Life happens, and it keeps happening as long as you’re alive.  (Um, DUH.)  The light at the end of the tunnel is an illusion.  It’s St. Elmo’s Fire.  It’s the proverbial marsh gas.   No, I’m not being pessimistic here.  I’m not saying it’s an illusion because things won’t ever get better.  I’m saying it’s an illusion because the tunnel never ends.  There is no “end of the tunnel”.

The “tunnel” is life.  It goes on and on and the darkness is the stress and strain and worries and heartaches of normal, everyday life.  They are always, always going to be there.  There is never going to be some magical time (at least, not in this lifetime – what you believe happens after is your own business, and I won’t presume to address that) when suddenly, the tunnel ends and daylight shines down and we are all dancing merrily and carefree, barefoot, in a sunlit meadow filled with flowers and butterflies and ponies that – to quote my 9-year-old – “eat sunshine and poop rainbows”.  There’s just the tunnel – long, winding, steep, narrow, rough in some places and slippery in others, and always full of shifting shadows.

I know, I know…sounds bleak.  Sounds grim.  Sounds like I’m one oxycontin-Jim Beam cocktail away from buying the farm.  But I’m not, really.  I promise.  Because here’s the thing that I have learned – and of which I have to keep reminding myself.

There is a light.  It’s just not at the end of the tunnel.  It’s right here, in my hand.  I’m carrying  this lantern – this light which is my own optimism, generosity, compassion, empathy, love and self-worth –  and all I have to do is remember to light it.  It can be as powerful and brilliant or as dim and flickering as I choose for it to be.   It’s up to me.

There are other lights, of course – lights held by my fellow travelers – and those are definitely positive things, but I have got to stop depending on them.  I need to feed my own light.   And I need to stop waiting for the tunnel to end.  This is my tunnel, and damn it, I’m going to enjoy it.  🙂

(There are, by the way, beautiful and precious gems embedded in the walls of the tunnel, all along the way.  They’re breathtakingly beautiful.  But if you don’t have your light on, you’ll never know they were there.  You’ll travel the whole length of the tunnel never seeing them, and never being gladdened or comforted by their beauty.  What a tragedy!  And remember…your light doesn’t just illuminate the gems for you – it illuminates them for those around you, too, whose lights might be a little dim for any number of reasons.)

And that’s my epiphany for the day.  The tunnel never ends, but that’s okay, because it’s a beautiful tunnel if I just turn the light up so I can see it.  Anticipation is a fine thing in its place, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that gives purpose to life.  I need to get better at living in, and for, the moment.

So here’s to the tunnel, and I hope that today is a day when everyone’s light shines particularly brightly, and illuminates many beautiful jewels.

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Opportunity Knocks

Okay, so here’s my chance to put my efforts at avoiding magical thinking to the test.

Had a semi-worrying doctor’s visit today (aside from the three hours I wasted for a fifteen-minute discussion, but that wasn’t worrying, that was infuriating); probably absolutely nothing, but something that – in the past – I’d have fretted over endlessly on the premise that doing so would help me avoid the worst.  (Here’s my rationale on this, and it’s not so illogical:  Whenever something terrible happens, you always hear people say “I never saw it coming!”  Right?  So, that should mean that if I make it a point to think of all the horrible things that could possibly happen, then I’ll never be that person, right?  I mean, what are the odds that I’d worry about something outlandish and it would actually happen?  I mean, you absolutely never watch the news and see someone saying something like, “I just knew that house was going to fall on my sister, I swear, I just had a feeling when I saw that twisty cloud and all those Munchkins dancing around!”)  But right now, I’m just tired and stressed out and trying to accomplish so many things, I don’t have time to worry about this.  I really don’t.  Besides, we’ve been down this road so many times, with no quantifiable results, that I just don’t feel like worrying about it.

So I’m not going to.  I’m not even going to think about it.  I’m going to assume that it’s nothing, that everything will be fine, and move on with the things I actually can and need to control.

I’ll let you know how it works out.   Of course, if you feel so inclined, a prayer or two wouldn’t be taken amiss.

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Making a concentrated effort to get back into the blogging habit, here…there’s so much to do that I can’t seem to figure out what’s next, let alone get it all done, but I’m taking a minute, nonetheless.

It’s mid-December, folks.  Has this shocked anyone the way it’s shocked me?  Where has this year gone?  When I reflect back, so much has happened that it shouldn’t seem like it’s been a short one, but…it’s true that the older you get, the faster time flies.

I’ve just got a few things left to do to be ready for Christmas.  This year is going to be low-key, because we’ve sort of restructured it due to a big trip we’re taking between Christmas and New Year’s.  This means most of my holiday stress hasn’t been gift-buying, it’s been candy-making and gift-making and trip planning and the uncertainty of future plans…but most of that is just about behind us.  I finished the last of the homemade gifts last night, and the candy is all made.  The girls and I (meaning, they’ll help for five minutes and then it’ll just be me) are making Christmas cookies tonight and then we’re done.  I will have a few very last minute gifts to pick up Christmas Eve, but they’ll be little ones.  Meanwhile, I can focus on trip planning.

I’m excited, though, that even amidst all the hustle and bustle, I’ve been diligently rebuilding my exercise habit.  My walking partner and I haven’t been able to get our schedules to sync up – we work different hours right now – so we tried doing early morning walks.  That didn’t so so well – turns out she actually does need sleep, who’d have thought? – but it did kick-start me into hauling my happy butt out of bed a little earlier in the morning to hit the treadmill.  So far, the only days I’ve missed were scheduled days off, so I’m pretty proud of that.  (You have to understand here, I am the very antithesis of a morning person and in fact, am actively campaigning for an official elision of the word “morning” to “mrng” just so it will, in fact, be a four-letter word.)  I have also been making an effort – this one more spotty – to also do an evening workout, and while that one’s tougher because the evening routine varies more, I’m still doing it whenever I can make it work, and I feel great about the fact that even if I miss, I know I had that morning treadmill session to keep me on track.

My very biggest problem right now is seemingly-terminal PMS.  I have been Grouchy Smurf for a couple of weeks right now, and I know that some of it is stress, but mostly I think it’s hormonal.  If something doesn’t give in that department soon, I may well go completely Bursar.  (If that didn’t make sense, you aren’t reading enough Pratchett.  But then, you can never really get enough Pratchett…)

Looking ahead, I’m doing a lot of thinking about the New Year.  I try to take that opportunity to revisit the goals I had for this year, evaluate how I did and what I might need to change or rethink, and what things I think I need to do next year to make it the best it can be.  So I’m thinking about that, and one of the things I know I need to do is get more structured with this blog.  This year, I’ve sort of lost focus on the healthy habits that it’s supposed to be supporting, and gotten a lot more philosophical and thoughtful with things.  While that’s fine – those aspects are a huge part of the whole process for me – I do need to come back down to earth and be a little more focused and regimented with things.  So I’m going to be working toward that.

And that’s what’s happening in my world right now.  Hope everyone’s having a great start to the week!

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Alive and Kicking…*

Just a quick check-in to let the world know I’m still alive and kicking.  December’s a rough month around here – just like everywhere else – so it’s hard to make time for anything not completely essential, and unfortunately posting seems to be in that category of late.  I will be back to regular posting, I promise, I just can’t say exactly when.  😦

But for now, I’ve found some lovely words  – courtesy of somethingbeautiful.blogspot.com – I want to share with you…concepts that the English language doesn’t have words for, but should.  First, my personal favorite:

Ilunga
From the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, this word has been chosen by numerous translators as the world’s most untranslatable word. Ilunga indicates a person who is ready to forgive any abuse the first time it occurs, to tolerate it the second time, but to neither forgive nor tolerate a third offense.

That is just about my life philosophy in a nutshell.  I live this.  I’m officially changing my name to Ilunga.  Nice to meet you, I’m Ilunga.  Okay.  It doesn’t flow.  But still.

Next:

Mamihlapinatapei
From Yagan, the indigenous language of the Tierra del Fuego region of South America. This word has been translated in several ways in English, always implying a wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.

I’d so love that one, if I could pronounce it.  How handy would this be for romance novelists?  You could cut your word count by about 100 words in one go.  We need a word for this, people.

And last, but not at all least:

Cafuné
From Brazilian Portuguese, meaning to tenderly run one’s fingers through someone’s hair.

This one chokes me up a little.  Why doesn’t our language have words for things like this?   We are clearly pragmatists rather than romanticists.  Which I think is sad.  But for this one, you’d need two words, I think – one for a purely affectionate gesture (for instance, a mother with her child), and one with sensual or sexual connotations.  You’d need to distinguish, I think.

Yeah, I’m a bit of a word geek.  And on that note, while I’m doing Word(s) of the Day, I’ll do a Book Recommendation for the Day as well – if you’re interested in linguistics, if you like sci fi or fantasy, if you like sort-of-unsubtly-feminist literature – if you enjoy any of these (it doesn’t have to be all, the books work on all of these levels independently) check out the Native Tongue series by Suzette Haden Elgin.  It is comprised of Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, and Earthsong – but Earthsong is really a complete departure from the story told in the first two.

And lastly, the Song of the Day:  Let It Snow!  Because here, it is/has been/will be snowing, and I am quite loving it.  And how cool is it that WordPress’s home page has little snowflakes drifting over it, BTW?

Yes, I’m easily entertained.  🙂

One final note:  I’ve been hinting around about possible changes in the wind, but I haven’t wanted to say much because it’s been so nebulous.  As events have unfolded, it hasn’t really gotten any less nebulous, but it’s looking like more change even than I initially thought (if it happens at all) but spread over a longer period of time.  I don’t expect to know anything any time soon, though, so I’m staying mostly mum about it.  I only mention it as a further partial explanation for why I’ve been so quiet, here and on all of your blogs.  Right now, the biggest thing on my mind is something I can’t actually talk about…and it’s hard to focus on much else.  I am reading, though, because I don’t want to get too far behind.  And I still love you all.  🙂

And now I have to go get some work done, so “change” doesn’t come in the form of unemployment.  Have a lovely Friday, and a lovely weekend.

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*Yep.  Another 80s song title.  You’re welcome.  🙂

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Hello (Again)…

[Continuing our saga of 80s song titles…anyone wanna guess the artist here? (Hint:  There are several, but the one I’m thinking of is from 1984.)]

Happy Monday!  I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend or, if you’re not in the U.S., just a wonderful weekend in general.  I’ll be trying to check in with everyone today, to catch up a bit, as I’ve been off the radar for a while now.

Life just gets troublesome, sometimes.  Even when it’s not in a bad way, it can just consume all your attention and energy just to stay functional and deal with the have-tos.  That’s where I’ve been, lately, and a lot of my want-tos have suffered as a result.  But I’m trying to find some balance.

Last week – well, late the previous week, actually – I was thrown a bit of a curveball that had me reeling.  To put it in simple terms, an opportunity appeared that could change life enormously for my entire family.  It’s an amazing opportunity, but of course change is always hard and as we all know, to gain much we sometimes have to give up much as well.  So, while I don’t want to go into details because this is all still very nebulous and may well end up nothing more than smoke and mirrors, I am working on coming to terms with the possibility of enormous and significant change.

At first, I was both dazzled by the opportunity and devastated by the changes that would be necessary.  As time has passed, though, I’ve swung mostly to the “dazzled” side of the fence.  The problem, for me, has been that I have been so very happy and while, in theory, this change should bring greater happiness, the truth is you never really know.  There’s always the possibility that it might not.

But while I am reluctant to give up the happiness I have had, I am (somewhat uncharacteristically) not afraid that I won’t be able to find the same happiness post-change.  There’s a certain equanimity within me, a certainty that no matter what, I can find this happiness, because it’s not dependent upon others.  I’m learning, it seems, to be happy within myself, rather than looking to others to make me happy.  So that’s a wonderful thing to realize.

That doesn’t mean I’m not nervous; of course I am.  No matter how great change is, it requires adjustment and adaptation, and that means the unknown.  The unknown always scares me a little.  But part of me is terribly excited, and feels that I’m embarking on some great adventure.

And of course I’m overthinking the whole situation, because as I said, there’s an excellent chance this may all be no more than a pipe dream.  But I like to be prepared, mentally, just in case.  🙂

I got some news at work today, too, that threw me off-balance, just as I was finding my feet, so I’m still a little unsettled from that.  But I’m trying to roll with it.  It’s another situation that could mean different things, and I won’t know which it is for a while yet.  So I’m trying to just let it go and keep my focus on the more immediate things I have to deal with.

For example:  Christmas is only 24 days away!  Somehow, while I’ve been thinking and stressing and wondering and worrying and struggling to dig myself out of the depression-hole that I stumbled into, the year has waned and now we’re on the final lap.  How did that happen?  I don’t know, but I know I have a ton to get done before the end of the month.  A trip to plan for – though the planning will be sparse on this one, I still need to do a certain amount to feel comfortable and in control – Christmas cards to address and send, gifts to buy and wrap, a house to decorate, daughters to keep from throttling…oh yes, and work.  Always work.  And in the midst of it all, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  That hasn’t been as much of a struggle so far as I’d feared it might – I’m not losing, but I’m maintaining nicely – but it’s about to get much harder.  It’ll be better if I can get my emotional feet under me, but if these hits keep coming, that’s going to be tough.

The thing about that, though, is that life always sends you challenges.  Always.  So if I plan to be healthy for the rest of my life – which I do – then I’ve got to find ways of integrating healthy behaviors so deeply into my life that these stressors won’t affect them.  I am making progress toward that.  I’m not perfect, but each time something comes up, I do a little better at not letting it interfere.  So in that sense, the challenges really are blessings – sort of on-the-job training, if you will.  And the flip side of it all is that the healthier I am, the more physical and emotional energy I will have to deal with these challenges.  I’m trying to keep that in mind, and make the time to take care of myself.

I want to thank all of you who have checked in and let me know you’re thinking about me as I’ve been so quiet.  It is awfully nice to know people are thinking about you.  I promise, I’m going to do better at getting and staying caught up.  And yes, I will be posting my thoughts on the Twilight movie soon.  They’re written, but I need to make some changes and amendments now that I’ve seen it three times.  🙂

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has a wonderful Monday, and is enjoying the countdown to whatever holiday you celebrate.  If you don’t celebrate at all, I devoutly hope that you are having good luck with staying calm amid the insanity around you.  🙂

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