Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 1

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Since the blogging goals I set for myself have been thrown so far off track by life, I decided to jump into April with both feet and join the Ultimate Blog Challenge and post new content each day. I can’t promise mind-blowing thoughtful and philosophical content each day, but I can promise that I will post something every day during the month of April, even if it’s just a selfie of me bashing my head into the nearest wall. Haha, I’m just kidding. I think. Read more

Yoga is My Friend

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I love yoga. It is my go-to workout for everything from simply feeling good about my body’s physicality to needing the hour or more of meditation and silence. I am a serious practitioner. By serious I don’t mean that I practice every day or that I have mastered all of the advanced asanas, just that I take my practice seriously and use it for the intended purpose: silence and concentration on the self and the moment. Read more

Love Letter to Ernie Hemingway

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My husband, the man whom I call Ernie Hemingway on this blog, is the love of my life, my rock and my soft landing. So on this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write him a love letter. Read more

Cleaning House

I’ve been cleaning out my house for, well, it seems like forever. The reality is that while my house may be clean, it is cluttered. Extraordinarily cluttered, by my child’s things, my husband’s things, and a lot of my things.

I am claustrophobic, so much so that I cannot even pull the covers up over my head, so much so that if my space is too cluttered, I start to lose it. I like to have my things contained in an organized fashion. I’ve been known to refer to The Container Store as my spiritual home. I have turned The Boy into a convert, and he likes to have his Lego blocks organized either by the complete set or color and lined up on a bookshelf for ease of access. It sounds crazy, but he actually plays with them more if the blocks are organized and he can find them easily. Read more

Another Chance

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Here it is another January 1, another new year on the calendar, another chance. Each January 1, we all make resolutions regarding our behavior. It’s almost instinctual; even if we swear we’re not going to get caught up in the hype, it seems that we all stand up a little straighter, square our shoulders and try something new … for at least a few days. Read more

December: Boot Camp Perfect

Well, we’ve finally reached the beginning of the end.  The end of my year of new resolutions, that is.  According the my roadmap for this past year, December is the time to engage in “Boot Camp Perfect.”  By that, apparently Ms. Rubin means that I should follow all my resolutions and determinations all the time. Read more

The Majesty of Thanks

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True Majesty: American bald eagle in flight, July 2013

As I begin the great Thanksgiving cook-fest, with the feast looming less than twenty-four hours in my future, I thought I’d wipe off my hands on the dish towel and turn from the stove for a few moments to give thanks. Read more

Keep a Contented Heart in November

Well, here it is again. That time of the month. The time when I drag out my muse’s guide to finding happiness and write myself notes on the next layer of my happiness and joyful cake creation. Here’s what Ms. Muse has to say for the month of November.

Keep a contented heart.  A contented heart is a even sea in the midst of all storms.  So said William Secker in his treatise The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Splendor, published in 1660.  Amazing that it’s the same some three hundred and fifty years later.

a) Laugh out loud.

She’s right. I should laugh out loud more. We all should laugh out loud more. It just feels so gosh darn fantabulous when we do it. The sun seems to shine brighter for a few moments, the air seems to warm, and the endorphins rush through our bodies. It can change my whole outlook on a day.

What do I do to ensure I laugh out loud at least once a day? For starters, I have a child who is learning to read and sometimes mispronounces words in such a way that I can barely even understand what he’s trying to say. My child also loves to sing, and I mean loves it as if it’s his favorite chocolate treat. He belts out whatever tune he is listening to, and at times it’s all I can do to keep the car on the road I’m laughing so hard. Which makes him smile and sing more loudly, which makes me laugh more…. You get the picture.

I also read amusing books. Currently on my nightstand is Jen Lancaster‘s The Tao of Martha.  Ms. Lancaster is a seriously funny woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Consequently, when reading her books, of which there are many, I tend to laugh out loud and try to live my life with the same grain of salt approach she seems to espouse in her essays.

Laughter is good for anything that might ail us. We all need more, so I’m going to continue laughing and smiling and feeling good. It helps me get through the days when the sun doesn’t shine so brightly, which was a lot of September.

b) Use good manners.

I have my mother and Emily Post to thank for my somewhat rigid adherence to “proper” and “appropriate” behavior. My parents drilled me like they were each an Army Drill Sergeant to ensure that I knew and utilized manners. Proper table etiquette, even when all we were eating was grilled cheese sandwiches. Thank you notes for everything and in a timely manner, e.g. no later than two weeks after the event, the gift, etc.

One year for Christmas my mother found and gifted me a book on manners penned by none other than Ms. Emily Post. I still have it on my shelf with the the note-filled margins, underlined text, and dog-eared pages. I still consult Ms. Post regularly, but these days it seems that most of her advice is considered antiquated niceties that we can all eliminate from our lives due to the instantaneous and often impersonal nature of the digital age. I disagree wholeheartedly and so stick to the advice and manners that have gotten me this far in life.

Several years ago I bought the updated version of Emily Post’s book for my two step-daughters.

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I thought that as they went out into the world as young women and began interviewing for jobs, receiving engagement, wedding or baby gifts, knowing how to deal with the acknowledging and thanking people for their kindnesses would be helpful, especially since so few people attend to social niceties these days with the advent of e-mail. I gave the books with that precise sentiment.  As both opened the gift in my presence, they both said thank you, having such a resource would be great.

Two years later?  Both books are still sitting on the shelf in their respective closets upstairs, unopened. One moved out and left her copy here.  Does anybody want to purchase a slightly used copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette? I can give you a really good deal!

c) Give positive reviews.

I consider this up there with manners. If I’ve received good service or had a good experience, I say it. I shout it from the rooftops. I am a firm believer in the maxim that if you let people know they’ve done a good job, that will make them want to do it again and again to get the feel good rush from positive feedback.

Accordingly, I’m one of those people on Amazon and Yelp and Open Table who reviews service providers. If the meal, the product, the service has been good, I let the provider know. Of course, I also let them know if it’s been bad, but I think it’s just as important to put out good vibes into the world as bad.

d) Find an area of refuge.

I’m working on this. I actually reclaimed my sunroom over Labor Day weekend and made it into a sitting/reading area.

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However, it’s off the kitchen, so although it’s a lovely spot in which to have a cup of coffee and chat with Ernie Hemingway or a friend when children are playing, it’s not really a refuge. Too public. So I’m looking for different space in the house.

Our house has a central family room where everything happens. We also have a formal living room, which at this stage of our lives is largely unused. The only time it sees traffic is when the Christmas tree goes up and when packages are delivered to the front door. It also tends – like so many other open spaces – to attract junk and become a storage area when it’s not being used for the Christmas tree.

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For some time, I’ve been planning to make the back corner of the room into a quiet area where I can meditate and practice yoga. It’s sunny and bright, and the farthest corner of the house away from the main traffic areas, so it feels distant. Just what I need for quieting my mind and soul.

Of course, I have an office, too, but currently it’s situated in the laundry room on the other side of the master bath, and over the garage, so it’s not quite as isolated and quiet.

Plus, it’s cold. It is so cold that even when the heat is on, I need an electric space heater to keep marginally warm. It is so cold that once the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees, my cat won’t even hang out in there with me. It is so cold that the winter after we moved into our house we needed to install heat into our garage to ensure that the pipes for the laundry didn’t freeze. I don’t know precisely what the previous owners did about that particular problem, but I don’t care. I now have a garage that stays at a relatively balmy 55 degrees all winter. Getting into a cold car is not really a problem, unless of course, I’ve been lazy and haven’t put the car into the garage, nor is frozen pipes, truly the most important thing.

My husband decided several months ago that his office, located off the family room, should be mine so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time upstairs away from the central living area, but it’s still got a lot of his books and other stuff in it, so it doesn’t feel like mine yet.

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Maybe I’ll work on getting the walls covered with my stuff and then I’ll want to use it more. I’ll keep you posted.

For now, though, I think my quiet area in the formal living room – or the Christmas tree room as we call it – is my best bet. I’ve got a folding room divider that I’ll put behind the couch, a meditation chair for which I’ve just redone the cushion, my super thick yoga mat, and a Bose sound dock into which I can pop my iPhone to play ocean music. Now I just need to get all the junk out of that room.

And did I forget to mention that Thanksgiving is at our house?  Namaste.

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Shared Experiences? Not.

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I’ve been getting questions about my experiences with particular individuals with whom I’ve had contact or relationships over the years of my life. In particular, whether my experience with people makes a statement about those individuals. It does not.

Any experience I’ve had in my lifetime and about which I may write here is MY experience. Nothing more. My writing about something makes no specific statement about the person or people with whom I’ve shared that experience. It makes a statement about ME, and how I perceived, distilled, and internalized the experience of engaging with that person or those people.

I’ve known and interacted with a lot of people over my lifetime as we all have. And guess what? The person we knew in high school may be the same at the twenty-fifth reunion, but they may also be hugely different because of the life they experienced over those twenty-five years. We may only know a father as a devoted family man who attends all of his kids’ sports and school events, but when we meet an old friend of his from college, we may find out that he was known among his fraternity brothers as a bit of a womanizer.

The girl with whom we shared a cubicle wall when we first started working at age 22 may be just as much of a flirtatious man-eater at 45 when we run into her on the street lo those many years later, or she may be a happily married mother of four who shudders to think of her early dating history. The sweet boy who worked in the office fax room and smiled shyly at you may always stay that shy and unassuming, or he may come out of his shell and develop a thick skin along the way to becoming a successful businessman who treats people callously.

The point is lives have chapters, many chapters. We all have second, third, fourth, and even more, acts to our stories. And that’s just what our lives, our pasts are…stories. Our stories. Not the stories of those with whom we’ve interacted or with whom we’ve had relationships, personal or professional.  Does the experience of the first or second chapter of a life negate the experiencing of a third, fourth or later chapter?  Of course not.

I once had a boss who hacked into my e-mail account while I was going through my divorce because he was sure that I had left my husband for him and was jealous that I was dating other men. Apparently, he thought that violating my privacy and betraying my trust was the ideal way to get me to have a relationship with him. Do I believe that he treated every other woman in his life that way? Of course not. Do I believe that he would treat me the same way now? No. Would I ever again give him the chance to treat me that way? No effing way. But simply because that was MY experience with him, in no way does my relating my experience and my feelings about that experience mean that he was guaranteed to treat the next woman he was with the same way. In fact, I am pretty sure that his later life experience of marrying and having a daughter ensured that he would never do such a thing again.

In my twenties, I had a friend who claimed she didn’t like sex. Years later, when she was in an entirely different situation and different relationship, she confessed to me that she had been so wrong about that. If her original statement had been taken as an indictment of her as a person and her ability to enjoy physical intimacy, she might never have gotten into the second relationship. But the person with whom she shared the later relationship didn’t hear about the statement until she chose to reveal it. Her new partner didn’t take her first partner’s experience and internalize it as his own.

Everyone reacts to different people in different ways. Every moment in our lives is different, and our actions and reactions vary from each moment to the next because once a moment is past, we can never recreate it.

So for anyone who thinks that my relating my experiences says something about the individuals with whom I shared those experiences, do so at your own risk. These are MY experiences, MY interpretations, MY feelings. You might be missing out on something or someone fabulous. Seasons change. Circumstances change. Most of all, people change.

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The First Loss

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Today I had to tell my little boy that his grandfather died.  My father-in-law’s death was sudden, and my heart broke for my sweet boy when I told him that his Papa had died.  All I could do was wrap him in my arms and hold tight.  Until he pulled his head back, took my face in his little hands and said, “Mama, you need to blow your nose.  You keep sniffing in.”  Then I laughed.  He smiled, kissed my cheek and told me he loved me, then scampered off my lap to play with the bowling set he has set up in the family room.  Normal, everyday routine.

I know what it’s like to lose a grandfather.  I lost my mother’s father, my Grampy, in 1987.  I was 18 when he died, and I miss him always.  Every time something wonderful happens, I hope he knows about it and is happy for me.  Each time I accomplish something, I hope he knows and is proud of me.  When my son was born, I thought how much he would have loved to have another great grandson.  When I got married the first time, I hoped he would approve; when I got divorced, I knew he would be angry at my ex-husband for the way he treated me.  When I married my Ernie Hemingway, I knew Grampy would be happy that I had found someone to love and with whom I could build a life.  And every holiday season, when I pull out my tree and all the decorations I miss him desperately.  Still, even after all this time.

My heart aches for my husband, who lost his father.  I want to put my arms around him and absorb all the pain for him, take it away so that he can smile again.  I know he will someday smile again, but I would give anything for him not to hurt until then.  I will do whatever he needs me to do in the coming days, pushing my own grief to the back of the line so that I can help him, hold him through his own tears and the waves of grief, and perhaps in that way take some of the blows for him.  I want to comfort him, but I know that what he wants most I cannot give.

I will sit with my husband and his brothers, his mother, his children, in the coming days and nights.  I will hold open my arms for anyone to nestle in, to claim a hug should they need one.  I will cry when I think about what a good man my father-in-law was.  I will know how fortunate I am that my husband was raised by such a remarkable man and that my son got to spend time with him.  I will feel lucky to have known him for as long as I did.  I will murmur to my husband how blessed he is to have had such a father, and how proud his father was of him.  And someday, when my little boy finally understands that his grandfather is gone and comes to me crying, I will tell him how lucky he was to have been loved by his Papa, and how honored his Papa felt to be loved by him.

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