Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wise Words

Thanks, Marci, for sending this. It's lovely!

Until next time...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hooray for Hollywood!

There are only two ways to live your life:
One is as though nothing is a miracle;
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent...

Does that line sound familiar to you? I think of it every Friday when I'm in Los Angeles for grand jury duty. You see, the United States Courthouse sits right next to Los Angeles City Hall, pictured above. So as I'm walking toward the court house, I can't help thinking of the old TV series "Dragnet," and its lead character, Joe Friday.

Da da dum dum. Can't you just hear the opening notes of the theme song? :-)

I live 50 miles outside of LA, in a fairly quiet suburban area. Ventura County is known for its agriculture, not its traffic jams (although we have our share of those, too.) Living this far away from LA is blessing, but it makes for a nasty commute once a week for jury duty. So I've decided to try and look on the bright side of my weekly early morning drive.

First, I'm up and at 'em before the sun comes up, and I get to see it rise as I drive toward the San Fernando Valley. I make sure to play lovely classical music at that point, to help set the tone for welcoming the light. But once that sun is shining, I switch to rock and roll oldies, and away I go!

I've only lived in California for nine years, coming from Salt Lake City, Utah. So I am still dazzled by all things Hollywood. And I see many of them on my drive every Friday morning. There's the exit to Universal Studios on my left, and the exit for the Hollywood Bowl on my right. Then as I round a curve, I can see that famous round Capital Records building on my right, the recording home of many of my favorite groups when I was a kid (like the Beach Boys, and the Beatles. Ah, Paul, I'm so glad you dumped Heather!)

When I exit the 101, I drive by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Mark Taper Forum. Heck, I can even see the celebrated Hollywood sign when I look out the window of the grand jury room.

Yes, my drive into LA takes a little over an hour, and my drive home takes just as long. I could be an old grouch about it (and sometimes, I am!) but I try to make it enjoyable by getting into a tourist's mindset. It's a small miracle that I am seeing and doing what some people only dream of experiencing.

Now, if I could only get Paul McCartney to call me...

* * * * *

A big HUG to all of you who sent good wishes for my birthday. I had a great day - thank you! And many grateful thanks to Diana at Healthy You Challenge for giving one of my posts a shout out. You rock, girl!

Until next time...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

When One Door Closes...

A light heart lives long. ~ Shakespeare

Tomorrow is my 51st birthday, and I can't wait!

Don't get me wrong: there's no huge celebration planned. In fact, I'll be doing my usual Friday grand jury duty in Los Angeles tomorrow. Listening to tax evasion, bank robbery and child pornography cases for one's birthday... quite the party, eh?

No, the celebration this time is more symbolic: I am ready to close the door on my 50th year. It fell short of everything I was hoping for, and was a year of two steps forward, five steps back --and then some.

First, the weight gain. After working so darn hard for two years to get those 45 pounds off, I let them come back with a vengeance. So rather than looking '50 and Fabulous,' which had been my plan, it was more like '50 and Frumpy.' Not quite what I had in mind.

Then there was the fact that I came face to face with my life-long dream of being in business for myself, and I couldn't do it. Maybe I was scared; maybe I was not driven enough. I've analyzed it to death and the only thing I know for sure is that it wasn't for me.

And finally, just the act of turning 50. Egad - I'm middle-age... more years behind me than in front of me... if not now, when? On and on and on.

So 50 was not a fun year, in many ways. But it's over as of tomorrow, and I've already begin making positive moves.

Since I wasn't cut out to be in business for myself, I decided to stop beating myself up about it. I applied for a wonderful position at our local library, one that I'd dearly love to have. I was one of seventy applicants and made it into the final nine. I'll know in the next few weeks if I got the job. Even if I don't get it, it's a positive step forward.

I've started walking on a pretty regular basis, which feels terrific on so many levels. It increases my self-confidence and lifts the blue moods when they attack. Now, I'm no fool: if I want to lose the weight I've gained, I'm going to have to exercise a heckuva lot more than I am now. My head is not at that place quite yet, although I am actually thinking of going back to the gym. I'm not there yet, but even contemplating it is a big step for me!

I've done some clothes shopping recently and have bought some new outfits in bright summer colors. Cute tops and capris that make me feel part of the world instead of hiding from it in sweats and a t-shirt. Yes, the clothes are in a much bigger size than I was wearing two years ago, but they are an investment in my self-confidence - and that's critical for any of us who are in the process of moving forward.

Finally, I'm feeling at peace with the idea that I'm middle-aged (actually, way past it since it's unlikely that I'll live to be 100!) I've stopped pushing so hard in all areas of my life and am cutting back so I can enjoy the activities I choose to do. If I want to live a long, healthy life, I need to lighten my heart, which means acknowledging that I do enough and that I am enough. It's time to enjoy my life.

So all in all, I think I'm giving myself some pretty terrific birthday presents including shutting the door on my 50th year. I'm going to take what I learned from these past twelve months and move into the rest of my life with a lighter heart, my stomach sticking out waaaay too far, and my head held high!

Until next time...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yes or No?

It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny.
~ Jean Nidetch (founder of Weight Watchers)

I heard an expression recently that keeps running through my head:

When you say YES to something, you say NO to something else.

Isn't that powerful?

For me, that expression is all about choices and consequences. Some are immediate. For instance: when I chose to go for a walk, I give up spending that time quilting. Bam! That 45 minutes is gone. Conversely, when I say YES to not exercising, I get the time to quilt, but I say NO to greater stamina and flexibility -- a more long-term consequence of my choice.

I think we all face that YES/NO question in many areas of our lives: how we use our time, how we spend our money, how we deal with our relationships, how we take care of ourselves.

If I say YES to a wonderful job I'm interviewing for this morning, I say NO to the freedom I've come to enjoy. If we say YES to giving our daughter the wedding of her dreams, we say NO to a secure retirement for ourselves. If I say YES to the choice to eat what I want, when I want it, I say NO to an active and healthy old age.

When you say YES to something, you say NO to something else.

It's all about choosing the direction we want to take in our lives. On days like today, however, I wish someone would give me a clear road map to follow!

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Dreaded "E" Word

If you carry your childhood with you,
you never become older. ~ Tom Stoppard

I'm curious about something...

When did "PLAY" turn into the dreaded "E" word?

You know the one I'm talking about -- the word we all cringe when we say we have to do it... the word that makes many of us sigh and say, "Yes, I know I should, but..."

Yeah, that word.


Think back to when you were a kid. Remember how much fun it was just to be moving all the time? It didn't really matter what you were doing: playing hide-n-seek with friends, rolling down a hill, bike-riding with your buddies. We were all about action when we were little!

What happened?

I used to love playing dodge-ball and Red Rover, turning somersaults on the grass, roller-skating with the kids in the neighborhood. You would have thought I was a child jock! Now, don't get me wrong: I always hated gym class -- that embarrassing time for all us overweight kids who hated being picked last and were mortified because we couldn't keep up. But that was exercise: the other was play.

Ah ha!

My friends and I discussed this today as we did our brisk walk around the park. When we were done, Rosemary turned to us and said, "So let's do something fun - let's go swing!" We each found an empty seat (unsure if our bottoms would fit - but they did!), pushed ourselves to get going, and flew into the sky!

It was an amazing, free feeling -- something I haven't felt in a long, long time. For the last few decades, I have much preferred having my feet firmly planted on the ground, thank you very much. So soaring as high as the swing would allow today was like being a kid again. I was moving -- and it was fun!

I've asked my hubby to fix up my old bike, as his birthday gift to me. It's been sitting for over ten years now, so I'm sure it will need new tires and plenty of oil. But I'm ready to stop exercising and to start playing again.

Can I suggest that we all think back to the ways we moved as children, and perhaps find a way to experience that enjoyment again? Movement doesn't have to mean the dreaded "E" word. Let's make activity fun again!

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued,
is always just beyond your grasp, but which,
if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

My African Violet is blooming again! It's been healthy and happy for a few years now, but I haven't been able to coax a flower out of it for a while. But today, there's a cheery little blossom enjoying the sunshine.

Diane, my friend and fellow Master Gardener, sent me the quote above, saying it was one of her favorites. When I asked what it meant to her, she replied, "We all have our 'to do' list of activities we need to accomplish in our pursuit of happiness. And perhaps, if we got off the treadmill, we could see that we are already... happy."

Isn't that the truth?

It sounds so corny, but I sure need to take time to enjoy the moments in my life. Not the big, 'this-is-so-fabulous!' kind of moments, but the tiny ones that added all together, equal true happiness. Like watching a bird having a great time washing itself in the birdbath the other day... or working hard to have the seams of my quilt block match up and being pleased when they do... or enjoying the feel of the sun on my face as I walked yesterday.

None of these things are life-altering, huge moments. But when I add them together, they show just how content I can feel when I become of aware of each small moment.

So maybe we all need to get off that treadmill Diane spoke of, and stop 'pursuing' happiness (even if our forefathers claimed it was an inalienable right!) Maybe we'd do better to just sit quietly and notice that happiness is already here.

Until next time...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Pattie's Day!

St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -
a day to begin transforming winter's dreams
into summer's magic. ~ Adrienne Cook

I decided years ago that St. Patrick's Day was MY holiday.

Am I Irish? Nah. Well, maybe a little. I'm what is fondly referred to as an American "mutt" -- a mix of all kinds of things. Some Danish, some English, so there's probably some Irish in there some where, don't you think? Plus they say that all of us are Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

I adopted the holiday as my own back in my college days. I mean, with a first name like mine, it's a natural fit! Those were the days of green beer and green vodka - crazy parties that lasted until the wee hours of the mornin'.

My, how things have changed.

We celebrated here on Saturday night, since two of my four kids were here for dinner. I made corned beef and cabbage, which these two adore. Their dad and I are pretty fond of it, as well. I was feeling very mature, very much like the grown-up woman that I am today... then Katie handed me a small glass of Bailey's Irish Cream (of course!) tinted with green food coloring.

It made me smile, and I almost (almost) danced an Irish jig. It's good to know that some traditions never change.

For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way-
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.

Happy St. Pattie's Day, everyone!

Until next time...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Accentuate the Positive!

Your mental attitude will lead you into the light
or hold you in darkness. It will lead you to hope
or despair, to a glorious success or a miserable failure,
and it is entirely within your own power to
choose which it shall be. ~ Orison Swett Marden

Ah ha! Something I've known for a long time has now been "proven" by modern medicine:

Attitude really does change everything!

More to the point, it has an effect on our health. ABC News carried a story tonight about how a positive attitude can have an impact on the body. Here's an excerpt of what was said:

Conventional wisdom and old wives' tales tout the benefits of a positive attitude, but now Duke University researchers believe a cheerier outlook on life actually may help save lives.

Their study indicated that the difference between optimism and pessimism can affect a person's heart, giving more credence to the mind-body connection.

"This study shows that heart patients who are more optimistic in their outlook are 30-50 percent less likely to die over the nine years following their diagnosis," said Dr. Redford Williams, of Duke University Medical Center.

Researchers suggested optimistic patients may survive longer because they adopt healthier lifestyles, and take their medications as directed. They also are less likely to feel stress, which can damage blood vessels.

30-50% less likely to die, folks. Now that's worth adopting a positive outlook on life!

I've always felt that whatever energy we give to the world comes back to us. So if you put out negative thoughts and words, that's what you draw to yourself. You find bad things often happen to you because that's what you expect to happen. But if we give off positive energy by looking at the glass as half full, we attract positive events and positive people because that's what we expect. That doesn't mean that bad things don't happen to positive people. They sure do! But we have a way of looking for the silver lining, searching out the lesson to be discovered in every hard thing we face.

So now I can admit it: I am a bona-fide, card-carrying optimist! That doesn't mean that I don't get down and depressed. I've had some really tough things happen in my life. But I've grown as a human being and learned something from every one of them. Heck, I'm still learning - and I hope that process never ends.

If you're a pessimist, it's not too late to change your view on life so that you too can reap the benefits of being positive.

What am I saying, though? If you're a pessimist, you probably skipped over this entire post!

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Sense of Peace

In the depth of winter I finally learned that
there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Have you ever experienced that feeling of knowing that something about you has changed? It's almost as if you can feel something click, and you know that things inside you are different. I've had this feeling a couple of times these last few days.

The best way I can describe it is to say that I feel like my winter is over.

Turning 50 last year really did a number on my head. I'm rather embarrassed to admit that because it sounds so clich├ęd. But darn, if it isn't true! I turn 51 this month, and it's time to move on from the introspection of this past year, and get on with my life.

I don’t have a clear feeling yet of where this will take me, but I have a much stronger sense of what I don't want to do. I don’t want to squander so much of my energies on things like the computer and the television. I don’t want to feel stressed and over-extended (and I'm the only one who can control that!) Most importantly, I don’t want to waste time beating myself up -- about anything. I've done that for as long as I can remember, and I'm over it.

The winter of my discontent has ended (with apologies to Shakespeare!) Turning 50 made me face the reality that I have more years behind me than I have in front of me. So if not now, when? I choose to spend whatever precious time I have left doing good where I can and finally feeling at peace with myself.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Quilt Connections

Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces,
joy and sorrow, stitched with love. ~ Author Unknown

I finished another quilt block this week. It's called Ohio Star, and it's a pattern I've always wanted to try. I know that you advanced quilters out there will know that it's a pretty simple block to create, but I am very proud of the way my first attempt turned out (pictured above)!

There are lots of things I enjoy about quilting. I love playing with fabric, for one. I take pleasure in using my creativity to match patterns, colors and values. I feel satisfaction when I see a finished block, a completed row, and the occasional actual quilt!

But I also feel proud to know that I'm taking part in a time-honor craft that women (and some men) have been participating in for centuries. Quilting gives me a feeling of connection to the women who came before me. There is a strong sense of history that comes from creating a traditional block like the Ohio Star.

My Mom knitted and crocheted, and was an accomplished seamstress. She made all my clothes when I was a kid. She was not a quilter, however. Yet each time I thread the machine I inherited from her, I feel a sense of connection to the woman I miss most in my life. Mom tried to teach me to sew when I was younger, but I was too impatient. She'd always admonished me to slow down as I sewed. Her warnings came to fruition once when I was sewing a straight seam much too fast, and sewed through my finger: the needle went right through my fingernail!

Mom's been gone ten years now, but she's with me every time I sit down to quilt. So are the generations of women who've put needle to thread and produced both utilitarian creations and works of art.

Today is International Women's Day -- a global day connecting women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential. Quilting is one of the ways I connect to other women, to feel part of the larger, creative female community. What's yours?

Until next time...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Word Play

The kind of humor I like is the thing that makes me
laugh for five seconds and
think for ten minutes. ~ William Davis

I love to read. So my husband sent me the following in email, and I thought I'd share it. It's just too funny!

My favorite is the one about the smog in Los Angeles. Which one is yours?


I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Police were called to a day care where a 3-yr-old was

resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off?

He's all right now.

The butcher backed up into the meat grinder and got a little

behind in his work.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a

small medium at large.

A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became a

hardened criminal.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

A will is a dead giveaway.

A backward poet writes inverse.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism,

it's your Count that votes.

A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was

fully recovered.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair,

she thought she'd dye.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

:-) Until next time...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Just Say No

If you accept the expectations of others,
especially negative ones,
then you never will change
the outcome. ~ Michael Jordan

Once again, my sincere thanks to all of you who posted such loving and supportive comments on my last entry. I've been letting everything soak in over the past few days since I ran into my former Weight Watcher member: your thoughts, emails from friends, my feelings about everything that's happened since I stopped working for Weight Watchers. And I keep coming back to a phrase a dear friend emailed to me:

You are not your body.

It's SO easy for women to define our success or our failure in life based on our appearance. It's no secret why we do: we're surrounded by messages that we must look a certain way in order to be accepted in society. It's almost impossible not to buy into it.

But I think it's critical for all of us to remember that we do NOT need to measure our success as a human being based on what anyone else thinks we should do or be or think or feel. We can - and must! - define success on our own terms.

I chose not to weigh last night at my support meeting because I knew the scale would likely show a gain. I also knew that I have done many good things for myself this week that have nothing to do with the scale: I walked three times -- longer and harder walks than I've done so far; I've cut back on enjoyable commitments I made prior to being empanelled on the grand jury (there just aren't enough hours in the week right now.) Plus I was called to interview for a job that I want very much (keep your fingers crossed for me!) I did NOT want the number on the scale to diminish all the good things that are going on in my life right now.

When I worked for Weight Watchers, I knew that the best thing I could do for my members was help them gain a sense of self-worth, to fight against the messages society gives to all of us about our bodies. Losing weight and getting healthy is hard work. It can only happen when we care enough about ourselves to invest the time and effort it takes.

So starting today, I reject the propaganda that I can only be happy if I'm thin. I reject the lie that I am valuable only if I lose weight. I embrace the idea that my body is strong and lovely and carries me from place to place while I accomplish many good things in my life!

Because of this belief, and not because of the warped messages society sends me, I'll treat my body with love and respect by exercising, eating healthy more times than not, and pampering myself physically as often as possible.

I am not my body, but I choose to care for the body I have!

Until next time...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

True Confessions

Learn to... be what you are, and learn to resign
with a good grace all that you are not.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel

I used to be a Leader for Weight Watchers.

There - I've said it!

That's really a hard thing for me to tell people. I imagine what they must think when they look at me now. I mean, I wear my failure at my former job on the outside for all the world to see.

I'm really hard on myself when it comes to this issue, in case you couldn't tell. I would never, ever be this critical of another person in the same situation. But inside of me, there's a voice that says, "You should know better. You were a successful WW Leader."

And I was successful: I led thirteen meetings every week, reaching over 300 people. I helped numerous people learn to believe in themselves and reach their goal weight. Most important to me: I helped people realize that attitude effects every area of our life, including -and perhaps, most critically - this weight loss journey. If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. (Henry Ford)

I believe all of that in my heart of hearts. Which is why it's so hard to run into a former member of mine, as I did yesterday. I was doing my duty as a federal grand juror: she was a witness on one of the cases we were hearing. The first feeling I had was of shame and wanting to run away before she saw me. Then the adult in me took over. I had to remind her who I was. Now, to be fair, it's hard sometimes to remember people when they're out of the context of where we usually see them. But I also know that adding 50 pounds to a body changes its appearance substantially.

I have been overweight my entire life, then I successfully lost weight on the Weight Watchers plan. I went to Leader Training the same week I made Lifetime membership. I spent no time living with myself as a thin person before I became a leader and started focusing on others. Big mistake: I know it and they know it. Now there's a rule that one must be at goal weight for at least six months before becoming a leader.

Before you think I'm blaming WW, I am not. I loved being a leader! I love the program and still believe it's the healthiest, sanest plan out there. Meeting and encouraging all those incredible people week after week has been one of the highlights of my life. But I didn't take the time I should have to experience life as a thin, healthy woman. There was a lesson somewhere along the line that I didn't learn, so life is presenting it to me once again.

So there's my true confession. I am trying hard to let go of the idea that I should know better because of what I used to do for a living, and that's going to take some time and a whole lotta self-love. Twenty years ago, I had to stop smoking twice before it finally clicked and stuck. I will get healthy again, although maybe never as thin as I was when I worked for WW. And that's OK with me.

Until next time...