Category: gratitude

The New Year waits

I love this lazy time between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  It is the time when I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, time and responsibilities come at me like a loud, fast freight train.  I cannot work, run, clean, cook, fast enough… and that holiday train catches up to me when, like a character from a thriller, I finish it all just in the nick of time.  By Christmas morning I am bleary-eyed and dizzy with exhaustion. So, this time, this languorous space, is when I catch up on sleep and I eat whatever I want, open a book, shop for a new pair of shoes online with my Amazon gift card, write reviews of the make up received in Birchboxes, and admire my new socks. IMG_4193

This is when I recharge.  In the frenzy of preparation for this holiday, I seldom get to truly enjoy it, so this time is Christmas to me. Unfortunately, the rest of the world thinks that Christmas ends on Christmas day.  The radio station immediately stops playing holiday music :(.  My neighbors throw their naked trees into the street and take down their lights and wreaths.  I am saddened by this and I turn to my itunes library to continue my personal holiday right on through to the Epiphany on Jan. 6th [and, honestly, sometimes longer].

This is perhaps my favorite time of year because of the feast of possibility. Saturdays are my favorite days for this reason.  They are generally the only day when there are no responsibilities on the calendar, so they dawn bright with possibility.  For an eternal optimist, this is the piece de resistance- possibility in all its glittering glory.  This time of year, when we put the past behind us, reflect on what went well and what went wrong, and then leave it behind; when we look toward a ribbon of road that twists off into the horizon just ever so slightly.. giving us nothing but miles and miles of hope.

So, I spend these last few days of 2015, mesmerized by the lights on my tree.  FullSizeRender

This year’s unseasonably warm weather has also found me contemplating the evening sky from Bean’s front porch.  IMG_4089

A new year waiting is the best kind of blank canvas.  Happy 2016!

 

 

Methotrexate

I had my med management appt at the rheumy the other day and I had done my research.  I was ready for an aggressive approach advocated by research for people recently diagnosed, only Dr. B was having none of that.  She wanted to do the monomodal approach using the old standby Methotrexate.  I asked which was more effective, MTX or one of the new biologics?  She answered, “well, of course the biologics are, but they are only for people with moderate to severe disease states and for whom MTX did not work or stopped working.”  I said, “you mean, the insurance won’t let you?” She answered, “yes, they have to try the cheap and tried and true drugs first.”  So, there you have it.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield has predetermined my treatment because MTX is cheap and has a generic form and the biologics are new and cutting edge and don’t have generic forms and so I have to wait until I am pretty bad off to get one of them.  I am trying to stay super positive though, and so I am going with gratitude that I am not bad off enough to rate a biologic yet and may never be if MTX puts me into remission and keeps me there.

Dr. B told me that MTX does not have a lot of side effects, the Internet told a different story, so holding my 4 pills plus a folic acid pill in my hand last night I did have pause thinking of the most noxious of side effects like nausea, dizziness, hair loss, stomach pain, extreme fatigue, and so on, that I could experience.  I was alone and I wondered what would happen if I had some awful reaction or got really sick.  But, I was tired, and so I swallowed them and went to bed.

Well, guess what?  I slept like a nice rock.  I remembered to take my nighttime 800 Motrin, so I awoke with less foot pain and even my hands were not too stiff.  I had diarrhea almost immediately after waking, but that was it.  The rest of the day was, frankly– the best day of this past week.  I felt pretty good all day long. So, I feel pretty victorious, like I kicked butt or something.  I am not sure what this means:  I got a bad batch, I’m a badass, I am not affected by this drug like other people are, it’s going to work great, it’s not going to work great, who knows… but I am thankful that I did not have bad side effects today.  I only take it once a week, so I won’t take another dose until next weekend, and Dr. B says I won’t really notice improvements until after like 6 weeks, so it’s a slow drug.  I hope the side effects don’t take that long to show up.

I’m off to bed now.  Everything I read says I need my rest.  I’m feeling positive and hopeful tonight. 🙂

Be calm & keep moving forward..

I have been meaning to write this post for a number of days now.  Some of you may know that my weight loss journey has been so successful this go round that I decided to pay it forward and become a health coach for Take Shape for Life.   Anyone who has talked to me in the past 3 months knows that I am crazy excited over this program and how it has worked.  That might lead them to believe that it has been easy for me or glitch-free, but that is not the case.  The things I love about this program are that it is:

  • so simple to follow
  • that it is healthy and balanced
  • the weight loss is faster than on other plans I have been on [seriously, ever]
  • that it is structured enough that I don’t self sabotage by making poor food choices that hijack my blood sugar or fudge on points and flexpoints

I love how it makes me feel- more energized, more alert upon waking, empowered, and sometimes giddy with excitement.  But I have not been successful because I have more will power than someone else [I most certainly do not] or because I lose weight easily [I do not- I have hypothyroidism and it is harder for me to lose weight].  And while it has been the most successful weight loss journey I have had in my adult life [and the most swift], it has not been without moments of doubt or feelings of frustration. 

I have only been a coach for a month now. My new clients include my sister, my boyfriend, my sister’s friend, and several other personal friends. Some of them have complained at times that they are not losing fast enough, that they did not lose fast enough in the first week, that they did not lose fast enough in the second week, or other complaints about the pounds and the numbers of the scale.  My sister called one day and said, “I don’t know what is going on, I haven’t lost any weight for six days and I am getting discouraged.”  I said, “my goodness, you lost 22 lbs. in 25 days- that is almost a pound a day- your body needs to rest every now and again or you are going to look like a Shar Pei!”   She has a lot to lose and had large glycogen stores and lost quickly in the early days.   Some have been disappointed that they “only” lost 5 in the first week and someone else lost 9.  They are happy when they are losing a pound a day or 7-12 in a week, but then dejected when they have a week where they lose none or just a few.  They look at me, seemingly shrinking away in just 3 months and want that and want it now.  Well, these three months have been longer than you think, and I think it is important that I share some details of my weight loss. 

Month Pounds Lost Numbers I was seeing on the scale
October 17.5 190’s
November 5.5 180’s
December 7.5 170’s
January TBD 160’s

I have lost more than 35 pounds, but I started at the beginning of October.  If you look at the chart above, you will see that I have gone steadily downward since I began the plan and I have only gone off plan once- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   If I made a chart of what the numbers looked like each day, you would see how they go up, down, same, up, down, down, same, down- well, you get the idea.   I was discouraged during the times the scale stayed the same or went up, but I trusted that if I followed this plan, there was nowhere to go but down.  I am glad I did not give up. Weight loss is a funny funny thing, too.   You don’t lose in a linear fashion, you have ups and downs even when following the plan.  This is mostly because you are more than70% water and your degree of hydration at any given moment affects the numbers on the scale.  Weight loss is funny too, because you won’t always like how it looks.  When I first started losing quickly, I looked at my thighs at the end of the second month and thought, OMG, I can’t live with these hideous things!  They were sagging and looked like they had had bites taken out of them, like literally there were lumps and bulges in weird places and they were not smooth or shapely.  A month later, they are bagging less and in different places and the bulges and hollows have moved.  As your fat cells shrink, they do not do this in a perfect and orderly fashion, it is sort of haphazard and random.

What if I had quit after that first plateau?  I would have gone back to my old eating ways and most likely gained it all back and more.  It would be three months later and I would remain stuck and feeling sluggish and fat and like a failure. I would not have been able to open a package from Kohl’s and remove a size 10 petite pants and hold them up and go, “geez, I will never get into these tiny little things,” only to have them fit!!!  What a moment that was!  What if I had quit during December when every single day someone was eating wonderous foods around me- butter cookies, candy, cake, meatballs in sweet sauce, martini’s, you name it and the weight was not falling off of me- remember I only averaged a little over a pound and a half a week that month.  I would have missed that moment today, when I walked into REI and took a size L blouse off the sale rack because they run so small  there, only to have to go back and get a medium!  If I had given up, I would not have had my first glimpses at my collarbones 28 years!!

If you are not losing fast enough on this plan, go back and read your quick start guide and make sure you are not   messing up on types of leans or greens and their amounts.  Make sure you are not using too many condiments [half n half, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners, whipped cream, etc…].  Determine that you are drinking enough water because this is the hardest part for some people and losing weight robs you of water.  If you are sick, go off the plan and come back on later.  Get well first; the plan works best when you are healthy and well hydrated. 

Ultimately, know that if you follow the plan– you will be smaller next week than you are today, you will be much smaller next month, and the next, no matter what numbers are on the scale.  Try not to be a slave to the scale– they are just numbers and you are much more than numbers.  People ask me how much more I want to lose.  At just over 160, I would need to lose at least 35 more to be at an optimal BMI, but those are numbers; I will know when I get there.  Already, I feel younger, I move easier, I breathe easier, I snore less, I feel more energetic, I wake up easier in the morning, I pant less when walking up hills or stairs, I can run faster and for longer jaunts.  I am happier and I make new discoveries about myself every day.  I have learned I was eating way more food than my body needed for most of my life.  I have learned that I can live without bread and Hershey kisses, that I can make small, continuous choices that add up to big success.  I have learned that I can live without leaning on my drug of choice when in crisis or stressed- sugar; and that instead, I can lean on others, I can write, I can go for a walk, I can have a cup of tea, or I can just have a good cry. 

So, when you tell me that you are frustrated and the scale is not doing or saying what you want it to say;  I understand.  I have been there and will be there again.  But, I can tell you that only three months into this journey, every one of those moments have been worth it. 

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Lean Into It

 Reading the latest IndyWeek this morning with my coffee I stumbled upon my horoscope.  Ok, I didn’t stumble upon it… I purposefully sought it out and read it….  Nonetheless, I felt compelled to share it because I definitely needed to receive this planted suggestion this morning.
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Libra (September 23-October 22)

Philosopher William Irwin Thompson says that we humans are like flies creeping along the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We literally cannot see the splendor that surrounds us. As a result, we don’t live in reality. We’re lost in our habitual perceptions, blinded by our favorite illusions, and addicted to beliefs that hide the true nature of the universe. That’s the bad news, Libra. The good news is that every now and then, each of us slips into a grace period when it’s possible to experience at least some of the glory we’re normally cut off from. The veil opens, and previously undetected beauty appears. The weeks ahead will be the closest you’ve come to this breakthrough in a long time.

A perfect example of this shortsightedness has been my summer so far, my summer that is almost over: I have been so hyperfocused on the work list I need to do this summer for my other job and its heft and length, the unfairness of this, and the minutia required to either work at chunking off sections or avoid tackling it at all, that I have missed so many opportunities to enjoy simple splendors surrounding me.

I have been that fly crawling around on the Sistine chapel, unable to see anything except menopause webpages, files in black notebooks, and small avenues of temporary escape.  So, starting today, I plan to back it up and take notice of the beauty around me at any given moment.

I am also reminded of some advice I recently read on a Pema Chodron link for dealing with uncomfortable situations or any human suffering or pain:  change the way you see it and lean into it.  At the time, I did not completely “get” what she was advising.  The change your perspective part seemed too simple and the lean into it seemed obtuse.  Now it makes sense.  I have a few more days of work before I set out on what might be my last getaway of the summer.  I am also reminded of a friend’s facebook post the other day that asked people to stop all the whining and complaining.  She said:

There is too much negativity out there. Folks need to stop complaining and count their blessings, stop looking at everyone else and judging them, etc. Who is perfect? Be happy, peeps. AND, if you took a vacation this year… what do you have to complain about? Nothing. Nada. Smile already. Oh, and stop watching Fox News, yo. That was on at the gym this morning and all they did was spew more negativity, but the Today Show was highlighting the Olympics and I would have much rather watched that because that, my friends, is a positive. Positive begets positive. Add more happy to your life. Happy = GOOD!

Dawn is on point.  This is my second vacation this summer.  I have nothing to complain about.  I am happy and that equals good.

Thank you, Jimmy Fallon

I was watching Jimmy Fallon on a talk show this morning and he was talking about a new book called Thank You Notes where he basically writes satirical thank you notes to people for random things that have caught his attention or caused him some sort of discomfort.  My interest was immediately piqued because I am all about gratitude.  I think that a positive attitude is life changing.  However, just like the next gal, I do get irritated about stuff.  And, I often find myself marveling over the mundane and wanting to share my wonder. Here is a method for either sharing your wonder or your irritation using sarcasm [one of my favor forms of humor] and a way to do it in positive, gratitude-based form.  How cool is that?

Jimmy Fallon reads these on his show.  Here are some of my personal favorites: 

Thank you, guy standing in front of me in the elevator at work this morning who I basically spooned with standing up. If only the elevator was playing some Ke$ha instead that music, I would have been all up in that piece.

Thank you, 2:30 in the morning, for always being the first sign that tomorrow’s gonna suck.

Thank you, beach season, for helping us identify the people completely incapable of shame.

Thank you, marshmallow Peeps, for being somehow much easier to snack on than real baby chickens.

Thank you, me from 3 months ago, for promising that I’ll get in shape during the winter. You lying sack of shit. It’s 4:00, put down the Cinnabon.

So, after hearing/reading some of these I decided to write a few of my own based on a recent trip to NYC.

Thank you, Delta airlines attendants for blithely telling us that bar code on the phone would work when you probably knew it never works.  We got to wait in line for the TSA encounter twice!

Thank you, interesting cab driver who couldn’t pronounce Europe, for dropping us off at the entry point that turned out to be the absolute farthest from the gate we needed.

Thank you, Delta staff, for not telling us there was a shuttle that could have prevented us from dragging our stuff on a mile long trek across terrible carpeting and down halls where the people movers were not moving any people.

Thank you, smelly woman on the plane, for not standing up more than two times and allowing the cloud of funk around you to waft backward toward our seat.

Thank you, subway announcer speaking unintelligible ghetto speak, figuring out which stop we were at and how many more we had to go was like a brain stimulating puzzle and that, along with trying to figure out what the hell you were saying, gave us something to do on the long train ride to Coney Island.

Thank you, crazy rude cab driver #1, for not knowing how to program your little box and using such an unfriendly tone that we decided to find another cab.  The seat belts were buried in the seat and had we stayed in your cab we might have been flung through the windows in an expressway collision on the way to JFK.

Thank you, 80’s boom box toting hoodlum at Nathan’s, we love sitting in broiling hot sun and being deafened by really annoying rap music while we eat our messy hot dogs.

Thank you, Monkey Room, for only putting four shrimp in my shrimp cocktail, at $4.50 per shrimp, I couldn’t have afforded more.

I could go on but I have to go to sleep because my trip wore me out.  Bean, if you can think of any just comment them on here or email me and I will include them.

Oh, and thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for giving me a new and funny way to complain 🙂

Gratitude

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

My Thanksgiving holiday began yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock when I left my classroom until next Monday morning.  Today [Wednesday before] is always a day of cooking and preparation for the holiday.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Jason always says that it is his favorite.  There is no pressure to buy gifts or decorate extensively.  It is a simple, beautiful holiday that is all about abundance– family, food, laughter.  We meet at Shana’s house in Wake Forest and everyone brings food.  We used to go to Wilmington to Mom’s but she finally found that she could not handle all of us descending upon her with our families that were expanding so quickly.  The chaos of all of us staying in her house, even given its size, was just too much and she found it exhausting instead of exhilarating.  So, now she comes to us.  Shana volunteered to be the host for this annual event at least 5 years ago-  maybe more.  She & Scott and the kids wouldn’t have it any other way.  Mom makes a huge turkey and Scott likes making his alternative Turkey– sometimes deep-fried, sometimes cooked in a pit, or under a large trashcan.  Hannah likes decorating and making her homemade applesauce.  Mom makes her s’mores on sticks for all the kids.  I always make the greens, this year they will be curly kale, organic, from Whole Foods made with uncured smoked and peppered bacon.  I also make sauerkraut with diced apples and bacon, corn pudding, and tiny chocolate pie tarts for the kids [Jim loves them too].  I might get ambitious and make a Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake.  Every year there is family, Mom, Jim, us three girls and our families, sometimes Julian, Andrew & now Courtney, and most years there are also others.  Last year, Scott’s cousins from MI joined us along with my new friend, Duane.  Duane will be back this year with his kids. In some other years we have had other random guests– our coworkers or friends with no family close by.  Each year we take family photos, some of us for our holiday cards- and Mom always wants one of her grandchildren.  This one is from two years ago– 2008.  It was my boys’ first Thanksgiving after losing their Daddy.  Before we divorced, when Thanksgiving was still in Wilmington, Kenney would have a huge pig pickin’ or oyster roast at his parents that weekend and/or again on New Year’s Eve each year, so these holidays are times Jason & Alex remember their Daddy cooking and entertaining and making things happen at his parents’ home in Myrtle Grove.

So far, Mom has 10 grandchildren including Jenny and 2 great-grandchildren and another about to arrive at any time– Cooper Thomas Whitman will be her 3rd great-grandchild bringing the grand total to 13!

Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on gratitude and over the past ten years or so, I have truly come to realize what a sacred gift gratitude really is.  I have always expected goodness in my life, and that is what I have received.  I have had my trials, some more challenging than I ever dreamed I would face.  I have felt deep emotional pain, fear, and doubt; but underlying any adversity in my life, I have always been able to draw from a reservoir of hope.  I continually believe that good triumphs over evil- not only in the world at large- but in my small world.  I look for it and I find it every time.  In between times of great sorrow or happiness, I simmer gratitude.

I have so many things in my life to be grateful for:  my children are smart, healthy, happy, and they are close to me– they make me laugh daily.  I am surrounded by dozens of other children who also give me great joy– Cameron, my students, my foster children, nieces and nephews, and children of friends. I not only have a job– I have two that I love.  I am healthy enough to work hard and sleep deeply each night.  I am in love with a man who is kind, funny, loving, and gracious.  I am blessed with two sisters and close friends to share stories, secrets, and laughter. I find beauty in small things every single day.

And so, this Thanksgiving, I will savor every moment of a day shared with the people I love most in the world, and the prayer I will live this day will be: ‘thank you.’

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls “ blossom.” — Marcel Proust

Home movies, Christmas letters, & facebook

Listening to a recent episode of This American Life on my ipod the other weekend, I heard an episode titled ‘Home Movies.’  Ira Glass astutely pointed out that home movies tend to catch glimpses of families at their best during times of joy and celebration or recreation and relaxation.  We don’t tend to take, keep, or catalog home movies of horrible family arguments, Grandpa’s drunken binges, family funerals, or other equally painful events.  He noted that if beings from another galaxy were to study us given only our home movies, they would likely conclude that we humans are a pretty laid back, carefree lot who spend lots of time playing– either around a decorated tree indoors or in or near a body of water outdoors wearing little clothing.

Listening to this episode, my thoughts drifted to other such misleading snapshots in our lives, especially those we share through two other venues:  the annual Christmas letter and everyone’s new favorite pastime:  facebook.

I have not written a Christmas letter in the last couple of years, the couple before that they have been quite short.  Prior to that, before my life imploded in 2004, I did take part in this painful ritual.  Painful, that is, to many of the readers of these yearly missives, especially if the writer is a braggart or writes in Faulknerian run- on sentences that cease to make sense midway through the holiday greeting.  Like so many others, I wrote of our joys and our successes and mentioned nothing of our failures.  I wrote of summer vacations, to Disney and Universal Studios, a summer trip to NYC, Jason’s athletic endeavors and academic awards, and Alex’s burgeoning art talent.  I wrote of my graduate school work and Kenney’s promotions.  In these letters, I announced the purchase of our new home, the prize-winning vegetables from our garden, the birth of our children and how they were blossoming each year.  Nothing can compare to the letters my mother writes where she highlights she and Jim’s big trip for the year and includes photos of the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, Italy, England, or Germany, and then proceeds to tell of the accomplishments that year of each of her three girls and her now eleven grandchildren.

This letter became a huge challenge, however, the year my life was turned upside down and shaken out like the contents of a messy handbag.  I remember several years ago, writing a ‘real’ Christmas letter that mentioned my youngest son’s increasing anger, the holes he was placing into the walls with his balled up fist, our nasty, horrible divorce, my ex-husband’s descent into drugs after quitting a six-figure job when faced with an executive intervention.  This letter detailed all the new psychotropic drugs we now purchased and that I had to take a second job to keep up; so now I was neglecting my children just to pay for their psychiatric care.  I never sent this letter, of course, but writing it gave me a perverse pleasure and allowed me to see just how silly the sugar-coated Christmas letter really is, and how painful a really lofty one is to read for someone who is presently walking through hell.

As to facebook, that playground where voyeurs and narcissists connect, just one look at the statuses provides evidence toward this comparison.  We create profiles that capture the best of who we are.  We include only the good photos of ourselves, and if we are under 20, they are most often self-taken at arm’s length or in the mirror of a bathroom.  If we are over 40, we don’t want the camera to magnify our new laugh lines or age spots, so we include photos taken from a slightly greater distance. The college-aged FB user shares updates of parties and adventures.  The newest facebook devotees, the 25-60 crowd share snapshots and status updates about current or upcoming vacations, children’s accomplishments, the incredible cake just created for a lavish party, all the holiday gifts piled round the tree, the new car, and even perhaps, what we had for lunch or the movie we are about to see.  I must admit I am part of this group.  I don’t share minutia, but I certainly log in almost daily to see who is [which I guess makes me one of the voyeurs].

Some fb friends are giving us glimpses of the real them; especially friends who are out doing good in the world, battling cancer, or sharing the nitty-gritty in their lives with freshness and honestly that puts it all into perspective.  My hat is off to them.

But, I have sometimes wondered what it would be like if we shared statuses that reflected the darker or baser sides of our lives or personalities.  If a user was to suddenly begin sharing his envy over his neighbor’s new pool, how excessive shopping led to a recent car repossession, a spouse’s suspected affair, or details about gambling debt or porn addiction.  I doubt I would want to stay tuned in.  I might want to turn off this friend and his problems like I turn off the nightly news when it just gets too bad to watch any longer.

I like finding long lost friends from high school and seeing how great they look and how well they are doing.  I like that facebook allows me to socialize with a whole lot of people I would not normally socialize with.  I keep in mind, however, that what I am seeing is a carefully crafted version of who these people are– that only gives me a few limited facets of their multi-faceted life.  I’m okay with that.

After listening to the episode ‘Home Movies’ on This American Life, I headed out to the back yard to play with my teenaged chickens.  I was shortly joined by Jason, Alex, Jenn, and Cam.  We did not film this moment, but it was one of those times that I would have liked to have captured on film or video.  A family laughing and talking on a bright, clear, early summer Saturday morning– enjoying the warmth of the sun on our faces, the soothing sounds made by the chickens, and the soft feel of the feathers in our hands as we held them.  The beauty of this moment did not escape me.  I was warmed by its simple joy.  We made a memory that morning, and I can imagine my children remembering it– perhaps one day a very long time from now after I am gone– where in laughter and conversation one of them might exclaim, ‘remember when Mom went through her chicken phase?’

So, keep taking snapshots and video of those moments of joy.  They are important because they remind us of the greatest pleasure in life– spending time with people who we love.  And those times, those joy-filled moments, make all of the hard times that we don’t want to capture and save, bearable.  They give us hope.