The Year’s End… 

The last weekend of 2015 is upon us and as I reflect back over this past year, it has been one of changes.  It is a good time to reflect and compare the beginning of the year with the end.  Have I grown?  Have I improved?  Have I had fun?   I think yes to all three questions.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions but I do make a few goals.  Actually I limit them to five to not overwhelm myself.  And as my recent blog post, I took out the one goal that was a thinly disguised weight loss goal.  Well actually I trashed all of them and will need to rewrite them though they are similar each year.

One is to finish my degree program which I should graduate May 7.  One deals with my writing and publishing.  One is for inner peace and not letting things get to me so much.  One is a cycling goal where I strive for a particular number of miles to ride for the year.  Which leaves one goal open since I took out the one goal.  It’s like a bonus taking out the weight loss goal and giving myself the freedom to just be who I am.  So what might my new goal be?  Endless possibilities, right?

After the last almost 10 years of dealing with my mom’s three bouts with cancer, her death and the aftermath of deep grief, the light has returned.  The other day I saw one of those quizzes on FaceBook titled “What Friend Has Your Back?”  I usually do them and not post them too often, just more out of curiosity.  I figured it might be one of my daughters or one of my girlfriends who comment on my posts often and it would calculate it on the number of comments or likes I get from particular friends.  Except the answer stunned me.  My mom’s name came up and considering it’s been two years since she was probably even on FaceBook and she didn’t quite get the whole idea of it, I could only feel it was a divine intervention.

This I took as a sign and felt that it was as if my mom was trying to tell me that no matter what, even death, she was still here for me.  While I still miss her every day, I felt the veil of grief lift so I could feel the warmth of the sunlight on my face once again.  This Christmas was a happy occasion even though it was also her birthday.  We felt her with us, we kept some of our traditions but made new ones.  And for the first time in a very long time, I feel positive and uplifted and well, happy. Because I know that is what my mother would want.  Not me moping around, feeling sad and depressed.

A new year isn’t a magical antidote that fixes your life.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is in reality, just another day.  Any day of the year can be a new start.  But it does give you a jumping off point to focus on a new goal or goals.   Though, you can set goals any day or take steps to a new project or improve yourself.  Though I think it’s important to love yourself just the way you are.  Losing weight isn’t the magic bullet.  Sure your life may change but it can’t fix a lot of things.  Or starting a new job might not be all it’s cracked up to be.  Examine your motivation.  If you think it will be the fairy dust that will make your dreams come true, you might want to step back and examine what it is you really want.

People jump from relationship to relationship or job to job or move from place to place searching for something elusive.  when the core issue is they just need to love and accept themselves, maybe speak up for themselves more or change their mindset or maybe just stop being a victim of your own choices.  Accepting responsiblity for your life isn’t easy.  Granted you can’t control everything such as a loved one’s death or your own health if a serious illness strikes, but you can choose what you do in the midst of your challenges.  Either you sit around and feel sorry for yourself or you find a way to thrive with whatever options you have available.

I’m excited about this next year.  There isn’t a magical rainbow promise but if I can meet my goals this year, that would make it great.  And if I don’t meet one or two of them, there is always next year or maybe I need to rethink the goal and adjust it.  My gift to myself this year is to accept myself right here and right now.  As well as being more accepting of others too.

Here’s to a wonderful next year of your life.  Many blessings for 2016!

I Give Up (But in a Good Way)…

Many of my earlier posts swirled around my struggle with body issues and image.  I’ve never been a petite girl.  As my husband says, I have good German genes.  Growing up in the late 70’s and all throughout the 1980’s, it was everything to be thin.  Tiny and thin and here I was, large-boned, large framed and for a while taller than every boy in my class almost.  Thank god those guys hit puberty.  Sometimes in middle school I felt like a giant among my peers.  I wasn’t fat growing up, maybe a little chunky from time to time but when the majority of your friends are in single digit sizes, and you are wearing 12, 14 and sometimes 16’s, well you feel much like the names you’d hear whispered or sometimes if they got brave, said to my face.  It seems our job as adolescents is to prepare our peers for getting our butts kicked by real life and grow a thicker skin.

When I graduated high school, I pretty much starved myself my junior and senior year.  And I got down to a size 10.  Not quite single digits but almost.  I literally ate like what I assumed a model would eat.  Pretty much little to nothing.  I was tired a lot, didn’t have a whole lot of energy but at least I wasn’t “fat”.  Looking at photos of me back then, I think I really would love to go back and slap myself for thinking that.  Hindsight though… I got married young to someone who was very emotionally and verbally abusive.  When I got pregnant at 20, I gained 70 lbs with my 8 lb 1/2 oz baby so I really didn’t lose the baby weight after her birth.  Sixty-two of those pounds were pretty much still mine to carry.  I gained 50 lbs with my second child.  I lost some but not very much.  My third child, I worked out and ate better and only gained 30 lbs.  And then came the divorce.  Nothing like a good life changing event to help you lose weight, even if it’s not on purpose.

In my mid 30’s, married for the second time and miserably married to someone even worse than the first husband, I turned to eating for comfort.  My knees started to hurt going up the stairs to the bathroom.  I was out of breath easier.  I felt like shit all the time, in a nutshell.  Since we didn’t own a scale, I finally bought one and stepped on it then immediately started crying when the digital number popped up.  The display read 282.  I was less than 20 pounds shy of 300 pounds.  Well, there was my problem.  Around this time I was also first diagnosed with depression and started treatment.  Everything finally clicked into place and I started taking better care of myself.  Except I still didn’t feel right and finally when I was 40, I was diagnosed by my OB/GYN with hypothyroidism.

Though people believe if you get treated for hypothyroidism the weight comes peeling off but in reality it doesn’t.  The only thing I found is losing weight is even harder than before though my advancing age has a bit to do with that as well.  And the fact I like to eat.  I’ve maintained the same range of weight/size going a bit up or down since I was 38.  Recently I saw were a plus-sized model was angry with Victoria Secret because of what she sees as an unrealistic body image.  I read the article and then looked at the comments which were mostly cruel due to her very large size.  People screaming how unhealthy weight is but weight doesn’t always determine health.

I know thin people with many more health problems than I have but I also try to eat healthy 80% of the time and I exercise doing things such as cycling for 40 miles at a shot, hike, practice yoga and once in a while kickboxing.  My last checkup and blood work there weren’t any issues other than my LDL was not where he’d like it to be but it’s common for those who are hypothyroid.  Being larger doesn’t automatically mean you are unhealthy.  I can’t speak for the plus-size model, she is much larger than I am but I also am not her doctor.  I can’t speak for the thin VS models either.  I just feel like can’t we all just f’ing quit body shaming one another no matter what size we are?  Maybe mind our own business and live our own life?  Be accepting of everyone, no matter size, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and so on.  Can’t we ever just grow up and put our adult pants on and stop acting so cruelly?

Lately, I’ve noticed my clothes are tighter.  We moved in September and I never really got back into my riding schedule and now it’s December in Ohio.  I haven’t been watching what I have been eating either and I think the big change of the move had me emotionally eating without me really noticing that I was doing this.  So I just open up my Livestrong app that I use for food journaling and start doing a check of myself.  I start working out more.  Since I no longer own a scale, I only can go by my clothes.  I’m starting to go back the other way but every time I try to diet or really focus on losing weight or getting smaller, my subconscious rebels.

Each year in December rather than resolutions, I write down 5 goals I want to achieve in the next year.  The first one I wrote down for 2016,  is to lose weight and be more fit.   Then I wrote one for my writing, one for cycling, etc.  As soon as I wrote #1, it bothered me.  It felt like my old New Year resolutions where I would put “I will lose 50 pounds by December”.  I stopped that practice because it always felt like I was a failure when I didn’t meet that weight.  It dawned on me yesterday, that I’ve written a lot about accepting yourself as you are and not worrying about what others think but yet here I was making the same type of goal that I said I would not do.  It was just worded a little different.  I was letting my size bother me.  And in doing so, I was making myself miserable again.

My subconscious fights this thinking by giving me cravings for sweets and junk food I normally don’t have when I am not in this mode of essentially dieting.  I’ve overcome many years of bingeing by following the author Geneen Roth’s advice.  Trusting your body to know what it needs and wants.  The moment I try to control that process, my body and mind rebel.  It says, hey I thought you loved me not hated me, why are you doing this?  So you aren’t perfect, no one is!  I opened my little hard bound book that I wrote Goal #1 in and I tore out the pages, tore them into pieces and then threw them away.  Now I will rewrite my goals and pay attention to what I am asking myself to do.  Maybe I should change #1 to “Love Myself Just as I am”.  Because really that’s what I need to do.   My husband loves me just as I am and thinks I’m beautiful and sexy, he never says you need to lose weight.  My kids and friends love me just as I am.  Shouldn’t I love myself just this way too?

Old habits are sneaky, the reemerge in different ways.  Listen to your inner cues though and follow what feels right in your heart.

Charity – Even the Smallest Gestures Matter

The holidays are a time of year when people seem to band together to help those less fortunate have a happier holiday.  There are toy drives, food drives, Angel trees, Adopt-a-Family, holiday meals, etc.  With all the bad news in the world, bombarding the television, social media and print outlets, this helps me feel like most of the world isn’t crazy terrorists or psychopaths.  I’d like to believe there is more good in the world than bad, otherwise, our world may not even exist soon.

Today, my daughters and I are going shopping for a girl, age 10, whose mother is living at a women’s shelter.  I don’t know anything about her, her life or her situation other than the list of her like on a paper stocking.   I picked her name from our break room board because we always pick the oldest kids as their names are usually the last ones chosen.  This girl loves books and science and girly things.  I figure my daughters could relate to her as they are self-proclaimed nerds who love books and science and sometimes even girly things.

I have no idea if the child we pick will like even one thing we purchase or if she even appreciates the gifts.  We give in faith that we are guided to make the right choices.  I overheard someone Scroogy when I was out one day shopping saying to their shopping companion, they didn’t give to programs like the angel tree because they figured the parents or kids would return the gifts or sell them for drug money.  The person went on about how it was a waste of their money and I had to bite my lip to not walk up to a perfect stranger and tell them how short-sighted they were being.  I just reminded myself, that they were missing the entire reason for giving.  Sure, I bet some people do take this charity and convert it into drug money.  But I’m pretty sure the majority of people who are struggling to give their kids Christmas are not corrupt, drug-addicted heathens.  They are simply having a rough patch.  Anyone can have a rough patch.

Some people think you have to give a lot to give at all.  Not true.  Even a ten-dollar football or baby doll could turn out to be a cherished gift they always remember.  Even if you don’t have a lot of money to give yourself, you could buy 10 cans of canned corn to put into the food drive the next time you grocery shop.  Every little bit helps.  Not all charity has to be donating thousands of dollars to matter.  Even something so small as reaching something on a top shelf at the grocery for an elderly person makes someone’s day brighter.  Acts of kindness are another type of charity that cost $0 to do.  And think if everyone in the world, every day did one kind thing for another person how much better our world could be as the positive energy affects others through a wave of kindness.

I’ve told this story before but when I was young and living in a very, very tiny town in Missouri near my father’s parents, our life was always in upheaval due to my father’s alcoholism.  I never felt as if I fit in at school where I had 7 people including me in my class because everyone knew my daddy was a drunk.  I literally attended a two-room Lutheran school-house, it even had the bell on the roof much like a church. At times I would get tormented by the other students if my dad did something stupid like ran his car off a dirt road into a tree one night.  There wasn’t much going on but farming in that area, so someone like my father generated a lot of gossip which of course kids over heard and then fomented me with shortly after.  I always prayed for summer break because I could lose myself out in the fields of my grandparent’s dairy farm, milling about with the farm animals who didn’t judge me or just hang out in my bedroom, safe from ridicule and the knowing, scorning glances of my classmates.  We were the joke of the area.  The family that made everyone else feel better about themselves.

Looking back and knowing more about my classmates families, mine wasn’t the only one that had dysfunctional drama going on behind closed doors, mine was just more public.  I imagine it made them feel better about their own issues and I don’t hold any bitterness or anger toward anyone.  Not fitting in gave me the gift of my own company, a very creative imagination and the ability of enjoying being alone without feeling as if I’m missing out on something.  This also started me writing as I would make up stories of “dream lives” where I could escape from my own pain.  This bred a lifelong love of writing and reading that has always been a comfort and escape.  It also taught me humility and how even the smallest charity can bring love into a troubled family.

I might have been 8 or 9 when the social worker showed up at our small white house next to the cemetery .  Someone on my mom’s side of the family who lived in another state called social services worried about our living situation.  Actually, I believe they thought my dad was sexually abusing my sister and I which was the furthest from the truth.  My mom was angry and bitter about that for years, I can’t really blame her, I would be too.  The social worker would talk to my sister and I, both together and separately with my mom there or not.  It’s been so long it’s all a blur at this point.  I didn’t really understand what was going on.  I just remember it was near Christmas and the social worker had pretty blonde hair that was curled into ringlets almost which was the fashion of the late 1970’s.  She had a kind face and bright blue eyes.

One day she came with oddly shaped packages wrapped in bright Christmas paper, two of them.  We sat on our small couch and she gave one to me and one to my younger sister.  We were so excited, a present BEFORE Christmas and from a complete stranger.  This never happened.  We knew we were poor, at least I did.  My father didn’t work but attended college classes when he wasn’t too drunk and my mom worked as a typist for a company near the University of Missouri campus that typed dissertations and papers for faculty and students.  We got a few from our parents gifts on our birthday and Christmas and usually not in between.

We ripped open the paper and immediately I was let down.  It was a blonde doll with yarn for hair, a  happy plastic face and a soft green calico fabric body.  My sister got one with brown hair like hers.  She was thrilled, she loved dolls.  Me, no so much.  But not wanting to hurt the lady’s feelings, I smiled big and told her thank you, I liked it very much.  Then I took it up and threw it on my bed and ignored it for days.  One night we were upstairs when we heard my dad’s big booming “drunk voice” carrying on in the kitchen.  These are the times I would get scared and hide under my bed or covers.  Usually my  bed covers because our floors were not carpeted and you could hear whatever fight or commotion even more because there wasn’t much insulation between you and the first floor.

I heard something break and knew he was fighting with my mom.  Sometimes he would hit her or throw things at her in a drunken rage.  One time my mom called the Sheriff but they just shrugged it off telling my mom they couldnt’ do anything because they were married.  Back then, domestic abuse was not something a man, at least in that area, got arrested for.  Today my dad would get arrested and hauled off to jail.  I am sure pre-Internet age, women’s shelters were more for people in larger cities.  My mom felt as if there was no where for her to go.  She would run away to her family only to have my dad follow her back to Ohio and convince her to go home.  That was the time when you didn’t divorce, you had to stay, even if it was abusive.

As the fight escalated, I crawled into bed and for the first time, hugged the doll close.  The soft body and yarn hair were comforting.  As I cried into the doll’s hair, I was grateful for the social worker’s kindness.  She must have known the doll would serve as a way for us to cope with the turmoil in our house.  I kept that doll until my house burned down in 1994.  It was always a reminder that a stranger cared enough to show me a small gesture of love.  The doll probably only cost a few dollars back then but the love it held was priceless to a scared little girl hiding under her covers when her life was so out of control.

Eventually, in 1983, my mom and dad were then living in Ohio and my mom was employed full-time at the company I work for now.  She came home one day from a business trip to find my father passed out drunk at the kitchen table, a shotgun pointed at me and my sister as we cowered in the corner too afraid to move, me, always the protective one, in front of my sister shielding her.  My mom sent us to my friend’s house while the city police removed my father.  This time she wasn’t patronized and told there was nothing they could do.  My father never came back into the house.  My mom and I took all his possessions out of the house and left them on the rental house’s car port for him to pick up.  She had enough.

I can’t say I was sad about my parent’s divorce.  It was more of a relief.  I still lived in a small town but not near as small as in Missouri.  I’m sure people knew about my father but eventually he went back to Missouri and we were left alone.  He never paid child support so we were always hurting for money until about the time I was a senior in high school five years later.  My mom moved up in her company and finally bought a house, all on her own where she lived until she died in 2014.

Since we worked together from 1998 until she retired in 2010, we participated together in the food drives, etc. that our company sponsored.  My mom, knowing the charity and generosity of others who helped her through tough times, gave generously.  Paying back and paying forward the kindness she received during her hard times.  We’d go to stores and load up on canned foods, toiletries and other things she knew people would need filling up the trunk of her Buick Lesabre and sometimes even the back seat.

We would smile knowingly at each other in the car after these shopping trips because we knew we had overcome a lot together.  My mom especially, raising two teenagers on her own while working long hours at a very stressful job.  Sometimes she’d squeeze my hand as if to say, “we made it”.   My mom and I were always a team of sorts, even from the time I was younger because we had to do the things needed to survive.  I cooked and cleaned while she worked long hours, doing laundry to help out.  At a young age, I figured out how to fix plumbing issues because we simply didn’t have the money for a plumber.  I mowed the are and raked the leaves.  I started working early to ease the burden of her having to buy me clothes  and give me spending money.  She never asked, I just did it as I knew I wanted to pull my weight, I wanted her to not feel bad because she couldn’t give me the things she felt she should.

We used to ride to work together, I would get phone calls at my desk all day long as she needed this or that even though I didn’t usually directly report to her.  That’s just how it was with us, we relied on each other heavily over all those years up until the moment she left this earth.  And now I feel her watching over me, her voice still in my head, her soul still living on in try daughters as I will watch them do or say something that sounds just like their grandmother.

Today, the girls and I carry on her spirit of charity not only just around the late year holidays, but all year in being kind to others, especially those who don’t quite fit in.  I’ve seen my girls champion for kids or people who are ostracized by the larger group.  They don’t see race as an issue or disability as something to be afraid of or avoid.  Nor is sexual orientation or even gender differences are something they judge a person on.    They seem to look past all these things that people especially in a small, predominately white town are wary to be exposed to and see the person as simply a person.  I am incredibly proud of my girls for accepting others as they are and not expecting them to be just like them.

Sometimes I hope this is a bit of my influence, teaching them as they grew up that you can’t always judge the book by its cover.  Like when I was younger and people of my community probably poor white trash or someone to feel sorry for as she had a drunk for a father.  Just because my daddy was a drunk though didn’t mean I would grow up to be a drunk too.  Or that being poor meant I was lazy or stupid or would grow up to be on welfare all my life. Or that I had to prove anything to anyone else at all.  I only had to prove things to myself.  There were times, when I had such a bad day at my tiny school, that the only thing that made me feel better was that blonde-haired doll my social worker gave me.  I could look at that doll and know I was worth something to a complete stranger.

Charity can be a powerful way to change the path of someone’s life, it shows them love and that love can make all the difference in someone’s world.

Mindset – A Mind Game

The old adage – Glass half full or half empty is a good example of how your life can be good or worse just by how you look at something as simple as a partially filled glass of water.  Just your mindset can change a bad situation into a good one or vice versa of course.

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with my job.  Our company is one site of much larger corporation so I work with people who do my exact same job all over the US and other countries.  Which I will admit, is pretty cool.  However, I am the only one in my position of all that I’ve spoken to that doesn’t have her own office (though many people at our site don’t), who is lumped together with the “admin group” or what used to be called the “secretarial pool”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, I think my biggest frustration is that the powers that be don’t understand my job has evolved from what it once was 15 years ago which was simply typing and distributing documents, to a much more complex and involved position.   Which is great because I love the challenge but it becomes even more of a challenge when the people who don’t understand my job fully make decisions to make it more difficult to do what they request and do my main job.  Not that I am alone by any means.

I have looked out there at what other jobs are available on times when I feel like I have had enough and I’m not really seeing anything that says, “here it is, your dream job”.  Actually, I don’t think I have a dream job except for maybe a writer, one that makes money enough I can stay home and write shuttered away from the world in my creativity.    Then I thought about it this weekend, listing out mentally the pros and cons of my job.  The pros very much outweigh the cons.  So what do I need to do to make myself happier with circumstances that are normally out of my control.

The only answer I am able to come up with is to just change my mindset.  It is the one thing I do have control over.  Just because certain people overlook me or pigeon-hole me into a certain ideal they have created in their head, doesn’t make me less valuable than other people there.  It just makes others short-sighted.   I don’t need to prove anything to them that I haven’t already.  You can’t lead a horse to water so to speak.  I’m full of clichés  for this post.

Does it really matter what they think in the grand scheme of things or that they don’t quite understand the full array of my job duties?  No, not really.  So wouldn’t I be happier if I walk into my work day determined to ignore all those little things that are bugging me that I can’t change?  Simple answer, of course I would.  I am way more than my job.  Outside of work, I barely give these people a fleeting thought.  So adjusting my mindset could make a big difference in my life.  There is no magic job out there.  Only if I create it myself and even then it will have imperfections.

Again, I was worrying about someone else’s opinion of me rather than focusing on what I believe and know about myself which of course makes you miserable.  I am who I am and there is no changing it.  Not that I want to change who I am.  Does it matter if I perform tasks that really aren’t my normal job duty and are viewed by others as menial?  No, I get paid the same.  I don’t really mind doing some of them anyway.  It’s a nice break at times.  If other people feel they are better than me because they don’t do these small tasks, then does that matter at all?  No.  Because my self-worth doesn’t come from whether or not I do the tasks that no one else wants to do.  Does it make me incapable of running my own successful small business? Not at all because I’ve already done it and proven to myself I have talent for business.  I tend to forget all I’ve accomplished in my life.  I may not have an advanced degree but even if I had one, I imagine I would get treated the same.

My mindset should be thus.  I am very fortunate in life.  Fortunate financially, I have a good and flexible job where I work with great people, my kids are healthy, my husband loves me very much and I have a lot of other family and friends that care about me as well.  I can choose  to either make myself miserable or be happy.  I choose happy.