Life is So So Short… 

You hear all the cliches.  Life is short, YOLO, your health is everything, just do it, and so on.  They are everywhere you turn. When you are younger and you hear “if you have your health, you have everything”, you probably smile and nod then go on with your day.  It never really sinks in unless you are suffering some medical maladie at the time.  Most of these saying float around us, especially on social media, and we note them or ignore them but never really consider what they mean.

Yesterday was my first volunteer day at a local nursing home.  I chose the state-funded home rather than a private nursing home because they don’t have a lot of volunteers and most of their residents had no money or family to help care for them.  I’m no expert on nursing homes, so if this is ring, forgive me but that is my best guess.  My employer gives us one day a year to volunteer but while I used this paid day off to help, this is also my new volunteer project outside of work.  My therapist suggested that I was missing helping people and that maybe I try more volunteering.  I’ve been lost since my mom died and my girls are grown.  You go from being needed to being well, not needed quite as much.  And while I didn’t want to rush into something that would be as difficult as caring for a parent with terminal cancer, I did miss helping people.

I chose to try the nursing home becuase when my mom passed, we donated many of her medical supplies to this nursing home.  The lady who took them said how desperate they are in need for donations and help.  The building is an old brick building that once was an old infirmary.  The inside is a little dated and worn.  It’s not posh or set up to feel like a resident is in their own home.  It is simply like an older hospital inside.  They don’t have a lot of money to work with but the place is spotless and the residents are well cared for as far as I could tell.  When I walked in and asked the activities director about volunteering, she whisked me to a nurses station to start my TB test rounds.  They don’t get a lot of volunteers it seems.  It felt good to be needed again, even if it was for a few hours or so a week. 

People shy away from nursing homes because they seem depressing.  This is the place you go to die, confined to small areas.  And honestly, before my mom’s ordeal with cancer and her death, I felt the same.  What changed my mind was in the last weeks of her life, they had moved her to the nursing floor of the hospital and kept her there as long as they could to help us take care of her in her final days.  My mom at this point could not walk or care for herself, she was a shell of who she had once been which was a formidable force of nature who had rose through the ranks of her company to be one of the top people at her site.  Even today, people will tell me, I remember your mom.  She was quite a lady and didn’t mince words.  Yeah, that pretty much sums her up a bit.  She had spent so much time confined to her house and couldn’t do the things she loved anymore.  

For a month, she was under the care of the nursing floor.  They would have different people volunteer and come in and do crafts, or bring in a dog to visit her.  She had people around her in and out all the time.  The thing that was most surprising was she didn’t seem to want to rush home like her past hospital stays.  What you don’t realize is when a person loses their health, their world shrinks incredibly.  Suddenly instead of being grouchy that someone wanted to come sit and do a craft with her, she was excited about it.  Though it seems like a small thing, to her this person added happiness to her quickly fading life.  It gave her a way to feel productive and useful from her bed.  She crocheted up until the last few weeks of her life to keep herself productive.  She hated to be idle and useless.  I read a news story where a bed-ridden man knitted thousands of hats for people in need.  He couldn’t do much, but he could bring warmth and comfort to a stranger.  

The nursing staff became my mom’s friends and they joked with her, got to know us and even shared cake in our last birthday celebration (my husband, my daughter and my birthdays are all in February – my mom died mid-March) with her.  As sad as this all seems, they are the sweetest, most precious moments.  And yesterday, I walked the halls of the nursing home, pushing carts of presents, finding residents packages for ‘Santa’ and ‘Mrs. Claus’ to pass out to people.  Santa and his wife were telling me they do over 40 nursing homes a year and they enjoy it very much.  Watching them walk into an otherwise quiet dining room where half the people are sleeping and seeing them all light up like kids on Christmas, reminded me that it’s often the littlest things that are the most important.  

If you have your health you have everything is truer than we know.  Right now I have the world in my hands because I am able to walk and care for myself.  The people in this nursing home, the only things they own are probably right in their room with them.  You can’t take it with you.  You certainly can’t.  There is a married couple that have to reside in separate rooms.  Which I wish they had a way to reside in the same room.  I’m not familiar with why this is, but I am sure there is rules that require this.  I thought about my husband and I having to live on different areas of a nursing home and I held him a little tighter as I fell asleep last night.   

I watched the staff interact with the residents and saw very real caring.  They love the residents and watch out for them.  I’m not saying you don’t get a bad person in the crop sometimes but the people who work there aren’t doing it for the money because I doubt they get paid premium working in a state home.  I collected a lot of smiles yesterday.  I helped put a new bead on a lady’s charm bracelet, I heard how one of the residents had a sore butt.  I had talked to this lady  before when I was waiting for a nurse to read my TB test.  And just like the first time we talked, she took my hand, smiled and thanked me for stopping to talk to her.  I about cried, I should have thanked her for talking to me.  She was in the memory unit so I don’t even know if she remembered me but it doesn’t matter.  If me talking to her made her day just a little brighter, then that was awesome.

I went home feeling elated.  Yes, some of what I saw could be considered very depressing but reaching out to people, strangers, it felt very good and it made me realize that at this point and time, I own the world.  I can sit around and feel like I missing out on something, that I didn’t achieve this or that goal that in the end, doesn’t even matter.  I have my health, I have my family, I have a home, a job and health insurance, I have food and clothes and more possessions than I know what to do with sometimes (and donate a lot).  

It is easy for me to feel sorry for myself sometimes especially around the holidays.  I miss the hell out of my mom.  Christmas (her birthday) just isn’t the same.  But there are people in that nursing home with no family or friends that care for them.  The activities director was telling me that residents’ families bring in the gifts to be passed out by Santa but they also donate extra items to make sure each person receives a gift.  I recognized some of the people since it is a fairly small town.  A lady who had been a cashier for years at the small grocery store.  I never knew her whole name but I do now.  A gentleman I vaguely remember from my church when I was younger.  His wife had given me a Precious Moments figuring when my first daughter was born.  She had passed years ago and her grave is close to my mom’s.  He no longer remembers me but I said hello anyway.

Yesterday’s experience really gave me levity in this week of Christmas.  It is a tough week for me.  I want to be happy and celebrate for my grown daughters to carry on our traditions but part of me just wants to take down all the decorations and forget there was Christmas at all.  Last night I came home and felt much different.   Who knows how many Chrisstmases we have to celebrate in our life or even the choice as to where we celebrate it at all.  If our body gives out, if our mind fails, we could be sitting in a wheelchair half asleep when ‘Santa’ brings us a small gift.  

Life is so short.  Love today.  Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.  Do yourself a favor in 2017 and volunteer if you don’t already.  It is a wonderful gift.  

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U-hauls, Empty Nest (Sorta), Food Journals and Next Chapters…

A lot has happened since my last blog post.  Yesterday, I moved my two oldest daughters into the house my oldest bought.  Her first house!  I’m so excited for her (and a little melancholy) and immensely proud of her.  This is a house that she bought all by herself by saving up for a long time to build up her savings.  When I was driving a truck load over to her new house, I started thinking of myself at that age, 25 almost 26.  At her age, I had been married for 5 years and was pregnant with my 3rd child and we had just moved into our first house that we bought.  

The thing is, back then, I’d never thought about buying my own house.  You were programmed to think that you went to school, got married (maybe college) and then the house came.  At least in my family.  While the 1970s still encompassed women’s liberation from the 1960’s, even in the mid-late 1980’s when I was a teenager, the old ways still clung.  Though I was an independent person to an extent, it never dawned on me to buy my own house because very few women I knew had done so unless they were divorced or “weird”.  Fast forward 21 years and here is my daughter buying her own house.  And watching the social media feeds, so are a lot of people her age, male or female without the trappings of having to get married first.  

Had I been in a better situation had I just worked and bought my own place, rather than marrying someone that I did not really want to marry?  I think so though I would not have the great daughters I have today.  A lot of it has to do with the Christianity that I was familiar with growing up.  The male was the head of the household and the female more subservient.  Which I am not saying is good or bad, but maybe it just wasn’t the only way.  I think of the potential in life that I had not developed because I was stunted by a patriarchal mindset.  Not blaming anyone, or being a victim, but you are influenced by those ideals swirling around you.  It simply had not dawned on me to just focus on my own education and career like my daughter has done.  Then buy my own house and when love arrives in your life, you don’t feel dependent on that person.  You know you can take care of yourself which is what I really pushed for with my daughters, as it is miserable to believe that you are dependent on another person for your life.   

Being independent means you have to face the fact that you are in charge of your own failures and successes but that is the reality of life.  I spent a good part of my life feeling that I needed someone else to help me achieve my goals.  Someone like a parent, a boyfriend or a spouse.  But they weren’t really in charge of my life the way I depended on them.  I was so miserable and unhappy tying my future and my goals to someone all the time.  Not that you don’t have joint goals with your spouse but when you let go of your individual goals, the things that make you happiest, you are not living authentically.  Luckily, I have a husband now who doesn’t want to control every little thing in my life and he actually steps back and forces me to do it on my own sometimes.  Which is good, because I’ve spent way too much time in the shadows.  My former spouse’s shadows, my mom’s shadow, etc.  I reached a point in my life when all that had faded away and I was left standing there thinking, OMG, who am I? 

That’s the problem with hanging your shingle on someone else and not yourself.  You lose yourself and who you are or in my case, maybe I never really took the time to figure out who that was or I thought I knew already.  And that doesn’t mean you can’t be in a relationship to get there either.  You can, you just have to pick a relationship with mutual respect and where each or one partner doesn’t want to control the other.  Yes, it’s scary when you do something on your own especially if it’s important to you.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have a good support system or people who encourage you but you realize that you are the one driving the bus so to speak.  I’m 46 years old and this is finally dawning on me.  That my fear and lack of self-confidence kept me from going after what I loved.  Instead, I stood by my man (which for 18 years of my life was disastrous) and never really did enough for myself.  I hid behind other people.  It was easier that way.   Well nothing good ever comes easy.

As my house empties a bit, I am now sitting in what once was my middle daughter’s bedroom that overnight became my office.  A place to write and work on projects where I can focus and fight my urge to be up cleaning and so on.  I’m a bit ADD that way.   in a way I was sad they left, but proud at the same time.  LIke any change, it takes me a little to adjust to it but I usually make the best of it all.  in a way, it is exciting because I can focus more on my goals.  I miss my daughter a little but she’s just ten miles away and having my own “room” for the first time in 26 years is actually nice.  I woke up this morning and was running different room configurations through my head.    

On the food journal note, yesterday marked my monthly measurement milestone.  I have lost 9 pounds and 6.5 inches (8 different measurements).  It’s been hard to stay focused on journaling.  Many days I want to blow it off but I’m forcing myself to stick with it for 3 months minimum.  I was excited yesterday by the loss of inches because my weight fluctuates.  It can go up and down 5 lbs in a day or two.  Weight isn’t the best method for me, mostly I am doing it more on a scientific outlook but the measurements give me my actual progress.  That and how I feel.   I feel really great inside and out so that is worth the hassle of logging everything I eat.  Three months is what they say you need to create or break a habit.  So I’m going at least 3 months on this food journal journey.  We will see how I feel when I reach that point in February on my oldest’s 26th birthday! 

Well, I need to close as I am having my first volunteer day at the local nursing home.  Im a little nervous but I always am when it ones to something new.  I’m excited about the fact the Winter Solstice has passed and the days will start getting longer.  I’m excited for 2017 and what all it can bring.   I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.  Cheers!

Food Journal: No Cheating!

I’m just a few days shy of using my food journal app, My Plate, for three weeks.  I’ve lost 9 pounds just logging in my food and keeping within an 1800-2000 calorie range.  No food is restricted and I eat what I want as long as I stay within my calorie range.  I’ve been learning more about portion sizes, trading off and eating healthier in general.  It’s been a good tool to learn the best way to order when eating out.   We tend to eat out a lot but I don’t want to restrict myself from doing something we both really enjoy (not cooking!).  

Things I’ve learned: Portion sizes are a big contributor to keeping me heavy.  It’s easy to overestimate.  I have days that I am not very hungry and others where I feel I can’t get enough to eat.  On my hungry days, I turn more to protein to get me satisfied.  Cooking at home is the easiest way to keep calories under control even though we love to eat out.  We are working at balancing our eating out by cooking a bit more.  This is the best way to eat healthy.  I have been focusing on packing my lunch for work more often as well.  Putting more fruit in my lunch bag to keep snacking to a minimum as well as I purchased snack size bags of microwave popcorn for the days at work that I am extra hungry or stress eating.  And sometimes at home or at work, I will eat more when I am bored.  

I noticed when I get close to my calorie count for the day, I want to flub entries to give me more room to chow down on more food.  I caught myself doing that and realized if I cheat on this, I am actually cheating myself.  I need to be brutally real on this food journal or I’m not doing myself any favors.  I’m sabotaging myself in learning to eat better and healthier.  This is a lifestyle change and if I don’t go all in, then I am going to fail to correct the behaviors and habits that make me feel so crappy inside and out.  I’m not doing myself any favor by flubbing my food journal.  If I want to eat a bit more, I can move a bit more with exercise to give myself a bit of a buffer. 

My clothes are getting much looser, I have more energy and I feel better about myself in general (I sound like a commercial).  It won’t be long until I am going to have to go shopping for a few new pairs of pants to wear to work because the ones I have are getting too big and threatening to fall down.  No one at work wants to see me standing there in my undies and since they don’t have a place for a belt, I’m going to be buying new clothes.  Don’t worry, I’ll survive having to get new things! Ha… I hate shopping for new clothes but I love having them.  

My husband bought us a rowing machine, the kind with a water tank on it for resistance like in the show House of Cards.  He decided to go with this because of the fact it works 80%+ of your core muscle groups and it’s a great cardio/calorie burning exercise.  I can torch up to 1000 calories an hour on that machine or so depending on how vigorous and long the work out I do.  Either way, it gives us an excellent snowy or rainy day option.  Right now it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home so walking really isn’t an option for me and as much as I love cycling, putting on all that gear to ride 5 miles and get frozen isn’t my thing.  We are just waiting for our older two daughters to move into their new house right before Christmas to set it up in the finished basement.   Though I can attest as much as I exercise during the warmer months, it really comes down to what you eat.  I can ride miles and miles and never lose a pound until I change my eating habits.  Exercise though is key for me to feel good and be strong so I don’t want to give that up either.  Especially at 46.  

I have a Christmas party to attend tonight so I’m eating judiciously to allow myself a little more calorie budget for the fancy food and adult beverages that will be on hand.  A little planning ahead helps.  I may go over my calorie limit but this is a special occassion and I’ve been spot on or under the last almost three weeks.  A little splurge now and again isn’t going to kill me.  But I definitely do not want to set back all my hard work either. I am looking forward to trying on my dress tonight.  I haven’t worn it in a year and I’ve lost weight since this time last year.  That is always a good feeling when your clothes are a bit looser.  🙂

Remember to treat yourself with kindness this holiday and every day.  You’re worth it!  More updates soon!  

Food Journal – Two Week Reflection & Progress

Today marks the 2 week and 1 day journey into utilized a food journal to help me see what I am eating and be more aware of my habits as well as my tendency to emotional/bored eat.  As I mentioned in my last post, I do not see this as a “diet” but as a tool for lifestyle changes that will help me be healthier and hopefully live a better life.  I don’t believe in dieting because you can’t sustain those habits for the rest of your life unless you have extreme willpower.  I don’t.  Personally, I don’t want to think about eating all that much and would rather I teach myself better habits so I don’t have to sit there and think, “but I exercise all the time, why am I not losing weight?”.  That answer is simple.   I eat like crap.  

Using the My Plate app on my smart phone, I’ve tracked most everything I’ve put in my mouth for 14 days.   I’ve seen where when I’m sitting to watch tv, I start getting bored and want to snack even though I’m not hungry.  If I get upset or stressed, I start wanting something sweet to eat even if I ate less than an hour ago.  As much as I hoped I conquered emotional/ stressed/ bored eating, I really hadn’t.  Though to be fair, I have overcome bingeing though.  I may eat when I’m not hungry but I don’t do it in a way I’m sick as a dog after downing a half gallon of ice cream or a whole family-sized bag of barbecue chips.  Baby steps.  

The food journal has forced me to look at how and what I eat.  I’ve instantly become more aware that my idea of portion sizes is wrong and I overestimate them.  Dammit health magazines, you were right!  I’ve started to adjust for eating a heavier meal.  The next meal I eat, I go lighter.  Most days I stay within or under my calorie goal.  I made sure to pick a calorie goal based on my weight, age, gender and activity level but mostly I’ve been weighing myself daily (I know I swore I wouldn’t weigh myself but this is for science) to see where a good calorie range may be for me.  Too restrictive and I lose weight too fast.  Too generous and it stalls.  

My goal is to roughly lose a pound a week but I have no magic weight that I want to be.  I know that since I am much more athletic than my younger years and I carry more muscle than ever so I have no idea what I may weigh when I reach the general size I think would be healthy for me.  And no it’s not a size 0 or 2.  I’m aiming for a misses size 14-18 range.  Since size 14 jeans vary from manufacturers , this isn’t a great tool either so I picked a range.   I have no hard fast size or weight goal.  Just to eat healthy, exercise, be fit and strong.  To feel good and not like a slug.  To be able to ride my bike faster and longer, to hike harder trails, to just look in the mirror (without being a self-critical B) and like what I see.  To feel good about taking care of myself rather than feeling like crap because I don’t. 

Results.  After two weeks of using the food journal to stay around 1800-2000 calories (I used a range because it feels less restrictive), I’ve lost roughly 7.6 pounds.   The jeans I bought this spring one size up because I gained weight over the winter are getting too big and I went back to my size down jeans I had been wearing before the weight gain and they fit good.  Progress from just two weeks.  Of course this won’t be the case all the time as you tend to plateau which requires you make some adjustments which I will deal with when that time comes.  The best result is not weight loss or wearing my smaller size jeans, it’s the fact I feel better in general.  I have more energy, the nerve issue in my hip (which can come from obesity) is starting to see drastic improvement and I feel more positive about myself.  Okay, I also feel a little more sassy and sexy!  

I’m not sure what the next two weeks will bring but if there is anything fun to report I will post a follow-up then about my next results.   I’m looking forward to what those may be!