I’ve Got The Winter Blahs

Winter seemingly weighs me down like the heavy snow blanketing my front yard. Stepping out my door to fetch the mail, I slip on the thick ice, skid, but don’t fall. I take a tentative step forward as my nose hairs frost over and snow fills my boots. I’d hoped to lightly skim across the top of the deep snow drift that was once a cleared path only days before, butImage sink to my knees. Sigh. I finally make it to retrieve the mail, hoping to find a birthday card or my tax refund, but return with our propane bill that is double what it normally is (and unfortunately for me my salary is not). Winter, you’ve sapped my energy. I’m tapped and tired, although that may be more the fault of the influenza I’ve caught despite the flu shot I got. Lying in bed, I try to rest and force fluids, but instead obsess about the bills that are late, the work I’m missing, being a better mom to my children, helping my husband finding a better job that he likes, the book I don’t feel like writing and the half-marathon training I’m now falling behind in.  Much like the snow, the ice, the snow, the bitter cold, the snow, the snow, the snow (did I mention the snow?), my negative thinking blasts me.

Enough already! It has to stop. While I can’t control ‘old man winter,’ I can control my thoughts. I can choose to see the ‘silver linings’ and remember trying times only make me stronger. I can focus on the positives and smile.  I can live mindfully, but purposefully; moving forward, not dwelling on past mistakes nor worrying about the unknown, following my instincts without fear or second-guessing. I can look back to where I was and be proud of where I am now. I can look ahead and know better days are coming. They always do. As Elsa, in the movie, Frozen (hmmm…any coincidence that we too are frozen?), sings, “Let It Go, Let It Go…”  Yes, I need to take that advice. That will be hard, but not impossible. Starting now. Ready, set, go!

Here are five positive things about winter:

1. The beautiful ice crystals outlining the trees in my backyard contrasted again a clear blue sky

2. Snuggling on the couch under a warm comforter with my daughters on a snow day

3. Noticing the daylight lasts slightly longer each day

4. Seeing the smiles on my daughters’ faces as they point to the snow fort they just built

5. A ten-day forecast that shows a high of 51 degrees for next Thursday

And, now I think I will snuggle under that comforter (after drinking some more water of course) and take a nap. I’m feeling better already…Who knows maybe when I wake up it will all have been a dream and the flu along with snow will all be gone:)

Anyone else feeling the winter blues? What do you do to shake it off?

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What Do Fuzzy Caterpillars Have To Do With It?

The past few days on my evening run (I wouldn’t have believed it either if you’d asked me six months ago!), I noticed several fuzzy caterpillars cross my path and thought of my grandma. I live on the same road that she did and on the “back” of my “out and back” route I can see her old house as I return to mine. Strangers live there now. She’s been gone from this world for 16 years now. It hardly seems that its been that long since she put her arms around me and hugged me.

I still remember that giddy feeling I’d get in the bottom of my stomach, that rising excitement and face-splitting smile that’d cross my face when my Dad turned our old Malibu station wagon  on to her country road and her white farmhouse would pop into view. My sister and I would bounce on our seats – “we’re almost there!” Almost too Grandma’s house and staying up late to watch Dallas, eating frozen oatmeal cookies and laughing uncontrollably over a hand of cards. I miss my grandmother. I miss getting her letters and hearing her voice on the telephone. I miss lemonade under the big tree and sleeping under the light-up Jesus picture on her living room floor.

When we moved into our house twelve years ago I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about seeing her house everyday and knowing she wasn’t there. I thought it might make me sad. For the longest time I’d used my magical thinking powers to “pretend” that she wasn’t gone, gone. She was just in Florida or on vacation and would be back soon. My twenty-something self couldn’t bring myself to think of her as dead. It seemed so, so final. When I see her house now though, I smile even though I know she isn’t there or in Florida or on vacation. While she may not be on this earth, she is in my heart. I see her in the smiles of my children.

photo 1So when I see a fuzzy caterpillar cross my path on a run and pretty yellow butterfly, I think of her. I wonder if she sent them to me as a sign that she’s still around, that she’s smiling and proud of me. What do fuzzy caterpillars have to do with it, you might ask.

photo 3Well, here’s the story. When my sister and I would stay with my grandma, we’d always take a long evening walk (she’d always take her manicuring scissors with her as protection from bad guys of course). As we walked along the side of the road she pointed out the caterpillars to us. She used to say you could tell how bad the winter would be by the color of the caterpillar. I, however, can never remember if it’s the darker the color the worse the winter or the darker the color the better the winter. The caterpillars around my house are pretty light-colored this fall so I’m hoping the light color means a light winter. I Googled it and found out the caterpillars are actually called woolly bears or woolly worms. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a definitive answer on what the caterpillar’s color actually predicts. So, I’m thinking that legend is much like the ground hog’s shadow and winter will be what it will be.

Does anyone out there know what the caterpillar color winter predictor legend is? I’d love to know!

Maybe Jack Frost Isn’t So Bad After All

photo credit: Ennor via photopin cc
photo credit: Ennor via photopin cc

The icy wind chills and blowing snow from four months ago don’t seem quite so terrible after a week of heat advisories. Yes, I know that is blasphemy coming from this summer-loving gal. However, after sweating through seven days in a row of 90-degree weather combined with 95% humidity and no central air, I’m ready for some cooler temperatures. And yes, I’ll deny writing those words come January when my feet are frozen and summer is a distant memory.

The home I grew up in did not have air conditioning.  When I was in high school my parents broke down and installed a window air conditioner in their bedroom. My mom was a school librarian and home with us during the summers. I think she got tired of sweating all day in addition to mediating the bickering between my sister and me.  On the really hot days we’d all pile into her bedroom and watch soaps, read or play cards.  The nights cooled down and with the windows open and the fan on, it really wasn’t that bad (although I’m sure I complained about it a lot). Interestingly my parents installed central air after my sister and I both moved out.

Thus, for twenty-two summers or so, I lived without that modern technology called air conditioning .So when my husband turned on our central air on that first hot day of the year back in May and nothing happened, I decided we could live without it this summer. How bad could it really be? I worked all day in air conditioning, so I’d really only have to live AC-free in the evenings and weekends. We could be a “green” family this summer, I reasoned. Plus, we’d save money on electricity and an AC-repair bill. I figured if it did get really hot, at the least I’d sweat off an extra pound or two. It was a winning situation all the way around! Our broken AC was actually a blessing. We sailed through May and June with a few hot days, but the nights cooled off to the high 60’s and low 70s.  With a cool breeze blowing the curtains, I feel asleep with ease. When July started out cool and rainy, I figured we could tough it out sans-AC for the entire summer.

Rewind to a week and a half ago, when the “heat wave” hit. After a weekend of not sleeping, of sweating within minutes of after taking a cold shower, I cracked. On Monday morning, my husband got home from the night shift. Casually, I mentioned maybe we should call the repairman to look at the central air after all.  He reminded me that I wanted to save money this summer. I told him I’d find some other way to save money. He then pointed out that by the time the AC guy could come out to our house the heat wave would be over. And he did have a point. Dejected, I left for work, hoping the weather would break soon and wondering if I could sleep in our mini-van with the AC on if I parked in the driveway! Thankfully, a few hours later my inbox dinged bringing an email from my husband. He’d called the repairman and they’d be by later that day or Wednesday morning at the latest. Elated, I hoped to come home to the glorious coolness only AC could bring. That was not to be, however, and the girls and I sprawled in front of the fan on the pull-out couch for two more nights.  Wednesday morning brought the genius man who fixed our central air though.

And yes, the heat wave did break and the forecast for the next week calls for highs only in  the low to mid 80’s. Will I turn the AC off? I think not. As I type this post, I’m lying in my bed in relative coolness as our AC works to keep us comfortable and I am more than thankful. Lesson learned.

What about you? Can you live without  AC in the summer?

Yeah Right, Keep Dreaming Baby…

The girls officially started summer vacation almost two weeks ago already. They love the warmer weather, playing outside, no homework and later bed times. I love burying my nose in their sun-kissed hair and watching their arms and legs brown up, despite the sunscreen I insist they lather on. The other night as we were walking along, I talked about what we were going to do the upcoming weekend. My oldest looked at me and smiled. She said, “you know what I love about summer, Mom? I forget what day it is! I bet you don’t though, because you still have to go to work!”Sigh. Alas, she is quite right, though. For the most part, I know what day we’re on and how many days left until the weekend! I’m quite envious of my daughters. It’s days like that, I wish I’d gone into teaching (unfortunately, my authoritative aura is lacking and I’d be like the substitute that goes home crying because the class ran over her – not good for me or the kids.)

As the days continue to grow longer, though at least I get to enjoy spending more time outdoors with the girls after work and on weekends. As I’ve recently started a fitness obsession, we’re walking, riding bikes and shooting hoops in the driveway. What we haven’t been doing (at least not yet), is swimming. While the girls love splashing about, the pool is not one of my favorite summer activities. If I could float undisturbed on a raft (without getting wet) in my own private pool with a tall, tall fence I might enjoy it more. However, the idea of putting on a scrap of material (or in my case a really big scrap) and parading around in a public place with much of my body exposed mortifies me (hence, the above-mentioned fitness obsession!). On the bright side, at least I don’t live in a country where bathing suits are optional!

Me, Age 26
Me, Age 26

The other day I came across an old photo of myself (see right) in (gasp) a bathing suit (with a t-shirt over it). I remember cringing at this photo back in the day when it was first taken. I didn’t think I looked good – at all. I didn’t think I was pretty enough or curvy enough. Looking at the girl in the photo almost 20 years later, I would give anything to look that good in a bathing suit again! So I’m thinking, either I didn’t look as bad as I thought back then or my standards are lower these days! Unfortunately, I don’t think even if I ran 10 miles a day or limited myself to 900 calories a day, I could ever look like that again.  It’s a shame I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

So I’m thinking as I stand in front of a mirror once again mentally criticising my body and they way I look, I wonder if when I look back at my 43-year-old self 20 years from now, I’ll wish I looked as good now as I did then. What would my 63-year-old-self tell me now? Would I tell myself I don’t look half as bad as I thought! Hmmm. Probably. So, why not think it now?  Why not be happy with myself they way I am right now? Well, because I know I could look better and feel better. Out of all the uncertainties in this world, I can control my body. I control what I eat, how much I sleep and whether I jog two miles or sit on the couch and watch TV.  And so, I’m running/walking in my second 5k on Saturday. Yes, the obsession continues….For now…

What about you? How do you see yourself in old photos? Do you think you look better or worse than you thought you did back when it was taken?

 

Wanted: The Ultimate, Ultra Umbrella

2013-01-29 09.06.17April in Northwest Ohio has certainly lived up to its motto, “April showers…” this year. Actually its been more like “April down pours.” We should have the best “May spring flowers” ever. Today’s been no exception to the rain. Rain would be fine, if it weren’t for the wind. The wind is merciless and unrelenting.

It’s pointless to carry an umbrella around here. No less than two minutes after I raise it up, the wind flips it inside out, I curse it, struggle to right it, end up wetter than I would have if I’d just made a run for it, and toss the mangled umbrella in the trash. I’m not really a prissy or anything. I don’t mind getting a little wet. Really, I don’t. I just want to get from point “A” to point “B” without getting drenched. I’ve tried all sorts of umbrellas from mini-compact to golf, they all end up – inside out. This is why I seek the ultimate, ultra umbrella. I believe it must exist somewhere out there. It doesn’t have to be a Mary Poppins-type umbrella. I’m not looking for magical or supernatural qualities. I just want one that’s sturdy enough to withstand a windy, rainy day in Ohio.

Anyone?

What Begins With “A”?

ImageRecently I learned that the month of April is the “Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.” Always up for a good writing challenge, I of course signed up to participate! (I know those of you that followed my 40 days of Lent photo-a-day challenge on Twitter are skeptical because I “crashed and burned” after day 16. I have two good excuses, reasons though: 1) My “me” time is from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM and I couldn’t take good photos at night and 2) The themes were two stifling for my creativity). Any way for this challenge, I have to blog about something that starts with the letter of the day from A to Z for the entire month of April (except Sundays). Today’s letter, being April 1, is the first letter of the alphabet, “A.”

Whenever I think about the letter “A,” I immediately have the Dr. Suess “ABC” book running through my head. . .

“Big A, Little a…What begins with A?”

Why, April begins with “A.”  And that’s no April Fool!

I wonder how many teachers are secretly rejoicing that this prankster’s holiday falls on the Monday after Easter and a lot of schools are still on Spring Break! My daughters were pretty disappointed. I can remember as a school-ager the hushed whispers and laughter in the halls, the girls’ bathroom and by the lockers as we discussed and planned how we would fool our teachers. We thought we were pretty tricky back then.

Besides April Fool’s Day, as a child I remember that April brought with it a very real anxiety in the pit of my stomach. You see somewhere I read or heard or possibly even imagined that April was tornado month. I thought that most tornadoes occurred in April because of the changing seasons. The thought of those cool and warm masses mixing it up in the sky above my house caused me to lie awake many nights, especially if it was thundering or heaven forbidden a tornado watch in effect. The tornado scene in the “Wizard of Oz” terrified me. I lived in fear of being sucked up in a tornado in the middle of the night. I sweated each day of April and rejoiced at the first day of May, some how having avoiding another tornado season (little did I know back then that tornado season lasts all summer). I’m sure the fact that we had many tornado drills at school during April and that for some reason it seemed the “Wizard of Oz” always seemed to come on TV right around Easter contributed to my April/Tornado association more than anything else.

These days I’m not as fearful April tornadoes (although I still have a keen ear for hearing the tornado sirens and will be the first one waiting on a bad storm in the basement – a must-have criteria when purchasing a home). In fact, April now brings with it anticipation of the longer days, spring flowers, budding trees, warmer weather and the A to Z.

What about you? What do you think of in April? Leave me a comment below!

 

I Saw My First Robin This Spring On My Way To Church And…

Image
The Lil Robin by Bobbi Jones Jones (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22188&picture=the-lil-robin)

I saw my first robin this spring on my way to church this morning and smiled. Seeing that red-breasted bird after months of dreary bleakness always brings me hope. The little guy was sitting in a patch of brown muddy grass next to a stop sign – prime worming ground I’m guessing. Unfortunately for him and me tomorrow freezing rain and snow are in the forecast with the official start of spring only days away.

Last year at this time we had unseasonable 80-degree weather. It doesn’t look like even the luck of the Irish is going to bring that warm sunshine this March. Sigh. Yet with the tweet of that “rocking” robin I am reminded that in the coming weeks the trees will bud and the daffodils and tulips will bloom. And while I wait for the warm weather to spring me (get it spring?) from my bulky winter coat and sweaters, I’m taking the time to declutter and purge the things crowding out light and energy from my life.

Yes, in research for my next novel, I’ve been reading a lot about Feng Shui. In particular, I just finished a book by Cathleen McCandless called “Feng Shui that Makes Sense – Easy Ways to Create a Home that FEELS as Good as it Looks.” The principles and ideas behind this art and science of arranging and making a living space a place where you want to spend time and actually enjoy fascinates me. The concepts make so much sense to me. Step one in the form process is to get rid of anything you don’t love or doesn’t provide a practical use. So I’m slowly going room by room to get rid of the CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassettes, old clothes, shoes, toys, books, knickknacks and other stuff taking up space in our house. After three trips to Good Will in the last few weeks, I’ve gotten rid of bags and boxes full of stuff and it feels great! In fact it feels better than great, it feels wonderful. I know I have a long way to go, but I will get there bit by bit, bag by bag, box by box. The best part is that my girls are getting into it too. They spent yesterday with me going through drawers thumb up-ing and down-ing clothes and toys. I am proud of their eagerness to make our house more of a home.

As my five-year old said the other night as she explained to her Dad why we were loading two garbage bags of clothes into the van. “Clutter causes confusion!”

Yes an “A-ha” moment from her kindergarten class’ life guiding principles. Yes, indeed…clutter does cause confusion. And so here’s to a clutter-free life filled with clarity and understanding.

What about you? Have you heard of or tried feng shui? Any tips or suggestions?