Good Things

IMG_0902One of the perks about getting older for me has been the soundtrack in my head. There’s a lot of good music in there. Like a Paul Revere and the Raiders song from 1967 floating through my head for the last week or so. I have so much good in my life right now. A fews days ago all the lights dimmed, but if you cultivate gratitude, joy follows.

Every day, even on bad days, I find so much to be grateful for–mostly the people in my life, the ones I love. I have a really nice house and many material things, but I’m just grateful for a roof. I’ve had nice houses before. Possessions do not bring me joy. Well, yoga pants and fuzzy socks, but it’s the comfort factor. When my body feels happy, I feel happy in my head, too.

Among other nuggets from the Bard, I shared Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy “The Seven Ages of Man” with my students. It’s a set piece in my favorite play As You Like It that starts out “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players/They have their exits and their entrances…” When I started reading, I said “Everyone’s heard this, right?” I’m thinking it right now. You know this one, right? Or no? Most students had never heard of it.

I remember the first time I read certain stories and poems, and many other special “firsts” — that magic of learning a new thing. Like the power of gratitude. I started practicing daily gratitude 15 or so years ago. Some days it is really hard to drum up one little bitty piece of it. “Grateful to be here now, with the time and mental focus to know it” is a fallback for anyone who just can’t think of one good thing that happened to them that day, or one good consistent thing in their lives. I have other ones I say every day: “I’m grateful for my family.” And “I’m grateful for my true love.”

Good things bring the joy, and one of those good things is coming up: the weekend! As Paul says, “It’s a groovy world.” So, dance if at all possible. Maybe to this:

 

Worth It

brene.brown.imagesBrene Brown spent her life researching shame, never suspecting until one crystalline moment that under her need to excel was a perfectionism that kept her mired in guilt, judgment and blame. It took her awhile to assimilate her years of research with her newfound self-awareness and the result has been TED talks, new books, and television interviews about her discoveries. Here she is with Oprah!

I have NEVER been a perfectionist. I have always known I am far from perfect. But this too has caused me endless shame, blame, and guilt. Because our culture likes perfect. That’s why we airbrush photos of movie stars.

Blame

What a day I had yesterday. It was almost too much. What saved me, I think, is it started out really well, with a good class and an end date in sight:) I love teaching and I love when the semester ends. So I was feeling pretty good around noonish. Then I turned on my phone. My dentist had cancelled again and the temporary crowns he’d put in my mouth weeks ago were beginning to bother me. Also, I’m going on vacation next week and I wanted my permanent crowns in place before I left. Of course, this was my fault for not understanding the message from a receptionist who had given me some instructions about picking up some shade match at a lab on the way to the dentist’s office. Turns out I was supposed to go to the lab and have the shade matched BEFORE they made my crowns. I blamed myself. What an idiot.

Guilt

Next I came home and turned on the computer to a disturbing message from the B&B (a hundred year old urban farm five minutes’ walk from the kids and soon-to-be grandson). They had double-booked my reservation and I had no place to stay next week! Of course it didn’t matter that I booked first or that I wanted to stay in this place or that it was so convenient to me. They’d already sent a confirmation to the other party and that was that. I would not be arriving at my perfect vacation destination after all. If only I’d been more attuned to my email, I would have noticed that they never sent me a confirmation. If only I was better at following up, I would have caught that way back last winter when I booked my dream B&B. But no, the woman with a million projects just figured everything would work out, when there is no reason to ever think anything will work out without double and triple checking, something I never do because I live my life so carelessly, always hoping things will magically “work out.” That’s where magical thinking will get you. Outside the door of the B&B you were counting on.

Shame

Scrolling through my email, I found a note from a new editor. MY new editor. For Luke’s #1 Rule, a book I expected would be released right now. I opened the email and read the short note from the person who is my THIRD editor on this project. I’ve only ever had one editor before with this publisher, who I have pubbed two novels with. And yet here was Luke, my best effort, the book of my heart, the novel that took me from labels like “chick lit” and “paranormal” and “romance” author to “contemporary author” stalling and stalling again. Why? The first editor kept it awhile and gave me some general comments, most of them negative. I was relieved (although a little hurt, suspecting that editor #1 hated Luke so much she refused to work on it) when a new editor was assigned. That’s when the waiting began. And continued. And continued. I did get a set of good edits from editor #2 but long after I’d turned them in, I still heard nothing.

Then the note yesterday. What could have gone wrong? Editor #2 had seemed to love Luke. Why then a third editor? I recognized my shame triggers: not good enough, who do I think I am to write a big contemporary story that encompasses everything from divorce, child custody, blending families, love, meddling mothers, and addiction? Who was I to think I could pull something like that off? It was much too complex for a writer with the limited skills I possessed. Shame, shame, shame. I managed to reply and thank this third editor, who I assumed was a new hire they’d foisted me off on.

Turn Around

But they hadn’t foisted me off, I saw as I scrolled down to a lovely and thoughtful message from editor #2 explaining that her admin duties were keeping her from getting Luke out in a timely manner and so she had brought one of their powerhouse editors, a long-time tested and true editor, to usher Luke into the world. Shame zapped.

The owners of the B&B were so apologetic, taking full responsibility, and offering to find me accommodations next week in the same neighborhood and a free stay at their urban farm another time. They came through with a beautiful place. Guilt gone.

As for the dentist, the receptionist tried to book me in for next Tuesday. Next Tuesday is my last day of work. I will be grading research papers and watching research presentations. I will be calculating and filing my final grades with the college. I will be packing (we leave Wednesday!) but I need my crowns so I said okay. Because I always say okay. The receptionist said “if that’s convenient for you” and I said “it isn’t, actually.” Then I asked if she had my new crowns in the office. Yes, they had them. It’s just the dentist had to reschedule. “Well do you have anything THIS week?” “Let’s see.” She actually giggled. “I didn’t think of that. Oh yes, can you come tomorrow at 2:30?”

Yes, I can, right after my pedicure. So there was the day, a full cycle of guilt, blame, and shame heaped upon my own head but then also handled. I am not perfect, and I have never aspired to be. I’m imperfectly human, and shit happens to everybody. But because I am worth love, respect, and kindness, especially from myself, I knew what to do to turn things around. Thanks Brene Brown. You are awesome.

Help for Falling Faces

coffee.meOne of the benefits of being pleasingly plump is having far fewer wrinkles than skinny girls our age. The saddest drawback to the fun of losing inches and gaining confidence is finding out that, wow, toes get wrinkled! I loved my plump little feet. Now I notice there are actual wrinkles at the tops of my toes. Really?? The indignity of it all!

Lisa and I talked about this. She said for her the arms were the worst. Oh, yeah, arms. I don’t go out in public without them covered. I looked over my wardrobe recently and thought “just donate every top without at least an elbow length arm to charity.” Well, that’s impossible as the people who design and sell clothes have not gotten the memo that we boomer women really would like a little variety here. Sure, tank tops and sleeveless dresses are perfect for summer, but not if you have to wear a sweater over everything just so your arms don’t show. On the plus side, Lisa says that the extra sag in the skin from fat loss does recede with time. Want all the Lisa Plan posts to date? Go here.

By far the most obvious of all the sags and bags and wrinkles is the falling face. I’ve seen this in so many friends, you lose weight, you  look ten years older. And yes, I’ve seen it and freaked about it in the self I formerly believed without vanity. Ha! I’ve always had wrinkles around my eyes. I smile way too much. They’ve gotten really deep. I’m talking trenches here. But I’m okay with them. They’ve always been my friends, those wrinkles. My forehead, ah, there’s always bangs. And those things on the sides of your face that make you look a little bit like a puppet, the ones from the nose to the mouth and then the second set from the mouth to chin, on either side of your face, those’ll be sagging  more too. Sad to say. Also, you know  how smokers, as they age, get the wrinkles around the mouth? Yeah, I haven’t smoked in 25 years but I can see those starting up too. Or I could until I stopped looking in the magnifying mirror.

Now here’s the good news. All kinds of help is available. I have not had Botox nor filler, neither facelift nor eye-lift. I have not had a lifestyle lift. Not that I think any of that is bad, but I don’t like the way fillers make movie stars look. You can always tell and they remind me a little bit of bunny rabbits when those folds plump out so obviously. I don’t want to inject myself with poison and I don’t want someone to cut my facial skin off, trim a few inches, and then sew it back on. It scares me. Even the lifestyle lift, which several friends have had done, sounds gruesome. I heard they take these big hooks and thread them through your skin and hook them over your ears! I don’t know if this is true or not, but rumors like that make me go “NO!!”

Serums are huge right now, but most of them contain Retin-A, which Lisa swears by, and I cannot use as my skin is too sensitive and it gives me a nasty rash. But Tera, my stylist, sells a natural product called Renique made of papaya and other enzymes that plumps the skin naturally. Because I’m sorry Oil of Olay but you just were not cutting it alone anymore. (I still use this cream on my neck and face for sunblock safety and who knows, maybe it helps the falling face a little bit too). Tera is awesome. She fixes my hair really cute too. Having a good cut and color does wonders for your face. If I had the nerve, I’d post before and after Tera pix. Oh hell, I’ll do it.

Before Tera

silver.cindy

After Tera

me.new

And that after Tera was before I started using Renique. Let’s see if I can get a close up of what the old face looks like right now.

After Renique

close.Cin.2.photo

I know. I feel bad about my neck, too. But I see a real difference around my eyes and those whatever they are lines around the cheeks like some kind of strange parenthesis. Whatcha gonna do? Well, there’s not much I’m willing to do. But I’ll do a few little things, just to make this fun and so people won’t ask me if I’m sick. That has happened to more than one friend of mine as they lose weight. I may not look so young anymore, but I still look healthy, and that’s really what weight loss is all about. Want to see what Tera’s place is all about? She owns Absolute Salon and Day Spa and they’ve got a website!

Old Things

old.thingsI have always loved old things, ancient things even. Mythology was my favorite subject in high school and I still study the early Persian myths and religions. Gods and goddesses and pagan magic hold an allure that has always been there.

Almost everything I own is old. Mostly inherited, as my grandfather made furniture as a hobby and I got lots of that. I have my granny’s hope chest, old Pennsylvania Dutch that she updated in the 60s with an antique wash. It’s peeling now but I love it still. Since it’s been refinished it’s not valuable. Just sentimental.

Counting the items of furniture in my office alone, of the 11 pieces, 6 originally belonged to my grandparents. 5 bookshelves, two my grandfather made and three from IKEA. Two cabinets he made. Her hope chest, where I keep my files. The lovely ottoman with intricately carved legs that I just could not get rid of when the springs and stuffing finally poked through. I had it reupholstered and my guy (when you collect old things, you always have ‘a guy’ who helps you mend what breaks) went ahead and refinished the bashed up legs too. They are so beautiful. Maybe I love old things because of the care people used to take with craftsmanship. Maybe it’s because these things remind me of my grandmothers, both passed on, both their homes such sweet sanctuaries for me as a child.

The book in the photo above was my grandparents’ too. “Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes” (1936) has two subtitles. The first “with Recipes for FOOD BITS FOR THE COCKTAIL HOUR” (yes all in caps) and “The Art and Etiquette of Mixing, Serving and Drinking Wines and Liquors.” I have looked through this book often, but never made a drink or a ‘food bit’ from it. I learned to bartend with a similar, slightly updated version of a book like this. So I’ve made Sidecars and Pink Ladies for people. The cocktail shaker in this photo is also a family relic, from the 50s, from my parents. It’s still the only shaker I own. You can see it has matching shot glasses. The 50s were big on comic accoutrements. Not my favorite era, but if someone gives me something useful, I keep it instead of going to Restoration Hardward and finding a beautiful silver shaker that looks retro, like from the 20s. I’ve seen those and adore them. I have lots of things from the 20s. But I keep my old 50s shaker because I prefer using what I have, even silly old things.

baby.meBeauty is subjective and to me old things that are also useful hold charm that brings me great joy. I hate buying new clothes. I wear my jeans until they tatter and fall off. Same with shoes. I don’t buy new jewelry as I have so much vintage from my grandmother. And I wear it. None of this has anything to do with nostalgia. It is all about using what is given and cherishing what has come before. Now when I post a #TBT photo on Facebook like the one here, that’s nostalgia. 1978. Me and my first child, bonded in a way that was wholly new magic to me. There’s some danger to nostalgia, I think, if it makes you long for the past. I don’t. I remember how we were and it makes me happy that everything turned out so well for him, and I move on. Life continues in the present. It’s not that I want to live in the past. For one thing, I’d have to be an invalid as I cannot imagine having to wear a corset.

There is a huge disconnect living in an ultra-modern home and loving antiques. I got lucky just before we moved in last year; Mom gave me some contemporary living room furniture. She buys new furniture every few years (!) because she wants a fresh look. This concept is foreign to me. So much so that when we got here, Al bought everything we needed. (Is there anything more cold than stainless steel appliances? I would have chosen RED). I made half-hearted attempts to insert my own opinions, but ultimately I let him choose everything except my reading chair, which has, no surprise, a distinctly vintage feel with just enough of a contemporary edge to fit somehow with all the leather and glass and that huge television that takes up half the room.

There are things I like here. The fireplace. Having a mantle for my Buddha and my children’s photos. I collected and framed all the art on the walls over 25 years, and eventually found a perfect home for every piece. I used to haunt antique stores for old frames. Yes, some of them are on these modern new walls. The old things I love live in uneasy harmony here. But my baby, a grown man now, lives in a 1920s Craftsman story-and-a-half that I greatly anticipate seeing for the first time.

I’ll see my new grandson, too, if he decides to arrive on time. And I’ll love him as I do his father. New humans, now those I like.

Love After Love

tim.moon Super moon shook up some worlds this weekend, and I have yet to catch up with all the changes in my own little universe. This is, for example, my first post from my new boyfriend, Mac. I thought I could hold on to Dell a little bit longer as a back up, but he refuses to play second best and just sort of died on me. Also, no mouse!  

So here I am without Dell, without a printer, without a map or a mouse. Just the shards of a super moon blow up in my online world. Yeah, high class problems, not that I have much …except for that one I’m teaching tomorrow. We read a poem the first day that resonated with a lot of students. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Derek Wolcott celebrates something every person who has ever been on a diet needs to learn: self love.

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self,

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored for another,

who knows you by heart…

Sit. Feast on your life.

Truth & Fiction

kissYesterday I met a writer friend at the library to talk about his novel-in-progress and other writer stuff. It was a great meeting. For me there is nothing like a one-on-one conversation. It’s my very favorite. Like reading a book, just you and the author on this ride. So to have a one-on-one with another writer is such a treat.

One of the things that came up was how much of ourselves we put into our characters. Melissa is ME. She’s the most autobiographical character I’ve ever written, like literally pages torn out of my teenaged diary. But at some point, my characters leave me behind and become themselves. Even Melissa. For one thing, my first sexual experience was nowhere near as romantic as Melissa’s was with David. But she waited a long time to be with him and I wanted to give them something special. With help from a friend (I still am not overly confident about writing love scenes)  I think I did.

My writer friend is a journalist, a very good one, who is trying out the fictional waters, and while writing is writing and good writing in one area is going to increase the chances writing in another area will also be good, at least at the sentence level, the word choice level, the degree of sophistication in the prose, there are big differences in fiction and fact. Plot, for one thing. But character? I can only speak for my own experience, but I use my emotional life to fill out the gaps in my characters’ internal stories. I usually change everything about the plot because my life is rather dull. I’m a teacher and writer. When you see these types on film, you see two minutes in the classroom, not four hours. You don’t watch someone writing a novel, although that might be an excellent new sleep aid.

For a peek into this autobiographical novella of my teenage vagabond years? “Sweet Melissa” s on sale for a sweet price for a few more days.

What’s Your Number?

scale.toes.photo Holidays have always been tough for me, and I dreaded getting on the scale this morning. But I did it, because I am no longer in denial about this little problem I have with pounds. Just like most of America, I had more calories than usual over the weekend, as my FB posts clearly show. I did manage to stay away from all desserts except a chocolate vodka. But you know, it’s vodka. Does it really count?

I wasn’t sure.

Reason it was such a big deal to me is because I had not been going down number-wise for a few weeks and I was at one of those thresholds, you know, like you were in the 120s and now you’re in the 110s. Those are not my numbers and I’m not ever telling. I have not weighed 110 since I was twelve years old. But anyway, I made a couple of adjustments and finally lowered the middle number and just would have been so sad to go up again. But I didn’t! I stayed the same:)

As they say in WW, staying the same over any holiday weekend is something to celebrate.

How I did it:

First, I knew we were going out to dinner Saturday night and that we would likely being having fried fish. So for lunch I had a huge salad. And then after dinner, I danced. A lot. When I dance, I really move. Waist, hips, legs, hands, tush. All of it is in on the action. None of this foot shuffle, wave the arms once or twice stuff. The band was playing oldies and I knew all the dances, the twist (of course), the jerk, the swim, even did some mashed potatoes just to mix it up.

Also, I didn’t eat dessert at a friends’ house party on the 4th. Someone sweetly provided me with a bowl of berries, but I would not have had the cake anyway. Also, I brought a big green salad to the house party for my plate. Heaped it high. I eat a big salad with lots of greens every single day. So whenever the “bring a dish to pass” memo goes around, everyone knows Cindy’s bringing salad. So those were the things I did right. I won’t talk about what I did that might not have been perfect. Just two tiny changes.

The other change was something I don’t even think about anymore. Instead of the usual barbecue fare, I had a yummy vegetarian burger: Portobello and blue cheese. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, and my friends are so kind, they always do something special for me. This helps at barbecues. They had thick burgers, used to be my favorite, and also Coney dogs! I would not have had any, but the fact that they took the time to grill me that great burger made me feel special instead of maybe just a tiny bit deprived.

Yesterday, I said no to alcohol and no to all the sweets in the house and no to any carb that wasn’t 100% whole wheat. I really had a lazy day but I just didn’t eat the way I used to. Because I had two bigger mini-meals earlier in the day, I had fruit (fresh cherries, yum!) and yogurt (plain Chobani) for dinner. It was plenty. My tummy gets a little messed up from too much party food and drink and the yogurt was soothing, the cherries sweet.

Maybe not quite as sweet as when I stepped on the scale this morning.

My usual day after two days of partying would include pasta, crackers, chips, (any crunchy snack food!) chocolate, ice cream, and most likely pizza for dinner. So I made a few small changes and like the results. I always used to believe that these changes were too difficult, but they aren’t. What’s different?

I am. I was ready to make the changes I needed to, and this weekend is proof. Usually I would have gained a couple of pounds from the extra wine and the nibble of this and bite of that. But, not today. Today I stayed the same sweet number.

When I used to gain during holidays, and complain to Lisa how hard it was to stick with a plan during festive occasions, she said “It is hard. It’s really hard. You’re right about that.” I think just having her acknowledge that this weight loss business can be a struggle helped. I keep saying it’s easy but it takes awhile to get to easy. I’ve been doing this for more than a year.

Knowing before you start that there will be times when it’s really really hard, but also knowing that you can just make minor adjustments and achieve great results over time, those things are what helped me keep with it. I knew Lisa’s struggles and I see how well she’s done after her weight loss. She inspires me every day. I hope she inspires you, too. Miss any of my Lisa posts? They’re all here.

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