I Wear Pink When I’m Happy

If you ever see a dog with a yellow ribbon on its leash, give it some space. Perhaps it was traumatized, or perhaps its old and sick, but no matter the reason, if you see a yellow ribbon on the dog’s leash, give him a little space. He needs fresh air and sunshine, but for whatever reason, he’s not likely to enjoy the head pats you want to give him. He can’t tell you himself, so the yellow ribbon is a message so the owner doesn’t have to be quite so diligent in protecting the dog’s boundaries.

Sometimes I wish we humans had signals that we could wear, too.

Some days I’m really, really super happy. When I’m super happy, I wear pink. Pink has become my favorite color. If you want someone to sing show tunes with you on the walkway between the office building and the courthouse and I’m wearing one of my pink blazers, you can bet I’m game. If I’m wearing pink, and you need cheering up, I have extra smiles to give away that day. I’ll listen to your worst jokes and laugh. Sometimes I’ll even wear my pink raincoat. Not even the rain can bring me down when I’m wearing my pink raincoat and carrying my rainbow umbrella.

I’m not always happy. I try my very best to keep a smile on my face, but sometimes I’m really sad and my heart hurts. I don’t have a dress code for sad, but I suppose if I’m wearing my green blazer (the drab one – not the lime green leather one with ruffles), I’m probably somewhere on the sad end of the spectrum.

In centuries past, we wore black to show that we were in mourning. A widow grived anywhere from a year and a day to two and a half years! Black was the color of mourning. I gave that some thought this morning. I thought perhaps that wearing the black was to remind people that you had suffered a loss – to remind them to give you some space, but it seems that perhaps it was to keep the grieving widow from finding her happiness too quickly.

I’m not very good at asking for what I need from other people. I’m not quick to say, “I’m hurting today,” or “I can’t believe my good fortune today, I want to celebrate!” Sometimes I wish I could let people know how I feel just by choosing a shirt.

Imagine if a gray tie / shirt / jacket meant, “I’m really busy today. I wish I had time to chat, but I really need to get this project done,” and people would just smile and nod and let you get your work done without feeling badly.

Perhaps a blue dress / scarf / blouse would mean, “I’m feeling blue – I’m in need of a little cheering up,” and people would stop by my door just to check in. Perhaps they’d touch my shoulder when they talk to me, or drop a chocolate heart on my chair when I’m away from my desk.

Revisiting that “wearing black for mourning” might not be a bad thing. My mom has been gone for two years now. During those first months, there were days I couldn’t talk about anyone’s mom – or about death – or anything that reminded me of Mom, or death, or loss. I couldn’t communicate the need that I had on those days to talk about something else – anything else. I didn’t want people to stay away. I just wanted them to know that if they saw tears rolling down my face for no discernable reason, then maybe then could just hold some space for me. It’s hard to tell people, “I really, really want some company, but I cry when anything at all reminds me of my mom.”

Purple could be for problems we’d rather not discuss. Oh, dear. I think I’d run out of colors well before I run out of emotions.

I’ll still wear pink when I’m happy, but sometimes I cry a little on my way to work. Life’s complicated sometimes.

When you believe it, you’ll see it

“Watching for things” is one of my favorite leisure activities. When we’re driving through Florida, I watch the roadside ponds and ditches for signs of alligators. When I’m at the beach, I watch for dolphins. I excitedly point and take photos when the ‘gators and dolphins make their appearances. My family is rarely as excited as I am, but they humor me by participating in the excitement.

I’ll admit that I may, from time to time, watch for ‘gators and dolphins here in Ohio, even knowing that such creatures would not survive here in Ohio. My husband will see me, apparently deep in thought, looking out the window on a long drive. “What are you thinking?” he will ask. He just shakes his head when I reply, “I’m looking for alligators.”

I stop on my run to watch the waves on Lake Erie for signs of dolphins, too. I have yet to see one, nor a mermaid, but a girl can dream…

It wasn’t so many years ago that bald eagles were unheard of here in Northeast Ohio. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life. The first time that I saw a bald eagle in nature was in Alaska in 2007. It was a remarkable sight. I saw them again, a year later, on a trip to Florida (and I saw ‘gators, too!) Several years ago, I heard that several pairs (of eagles, not ‘gators) had established nests in Ohio. I began to watch the skies and the trees for eagles. I had a long wait.

One day, on a drive from Cleveland to Toledo, it happened. I saw two bald eagles perched side by side in a tall tree by the side of the highway. I could hardly wait to tell my husband that it had happened, at long last. Once I saw them that first time, I began watching in earnest. Now, several years later, their population has grown, and I see them at least weekly, and often more frequently, on my daily drive near the shores of Lake Erie.

Now, I watch the birds soaring overhead for white heads and tails. I can differentiate between a soaring hawk and a bald eagle by the shape of the head, or the angle of the wings when it is too high overhead to see the color of its feathers. Eagle spotting is one of my favorite ways to pass the time on my commute. I know I’m going to have a good day when I see an eagle on my way to work.

I recently told my husband that I see eagles often now, and it makes me happy every time that I spot one. I learned that he rarely sees eagles. I asked, “do you watch for them?” He told me that he doesn’t look for eagles, and I have decided that’s why he never sees eagles!

Last year we rented a pair of kayaks and took them out on a beautiful fall day on a nearby reservoir where there were dozens of other people in kayaks and small boats. As we paddled back to the kayak return, a young man in a boat with several other “youngsters” playfully asked, “did you see any alligators out there?” I quipped back, “Not yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there,” and gave him a knowing look.

Now that I’ve learned to like kayaking, I’m not sure that I want to see alligators in Ohio. As far as I know, there’s nothing local that will eat me, and I rather like it that way.

You do not succeed by picturing yourself failing. It’s been four years since I last attempted (and finished) a half marathon. On my first attempt, I started the race with a belief that I couldn’t do it, and I proved myself right. On my second attempt I took a different approach. I envisioned myself crossing the finish line every time I finished a training run. I saw myself (in my purple and black tutu), crossing the RunDisney finish line, and when the time came to run the race, I never believed that I could fail.

Diamond Dallas Page (DDP), started me on a voyage that gave me the strength and confidence that I needed to shed 130 pounds before crossing that finish line says, “whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right.” With that in mind, I believe that I can cross the finish line in a full marathon. I will do it. Failure is not an option. That said, I’ve chosen one without a time limit.

Once upon a time, I never looked to the sky believing that I would see bald eagles, and alas, I didn’t see them, even when they were probably there. I will probably stop looking for alligators outside of Florida, because I really don’t think I want to encounter one at Old Woman’s Creek or Sheldon Marsh. I saw a mink running across a log on my last run, though, and I don’t believe that I’m likely to be eaten by a mink, so I will start watching for them, as well.

There could, one day, be fresh water dolphins, and as I’m not likely to be eaten by one, I believe that I’ll keep watching the waves near shore for them, whether I’m in Sarasota or Vermilion, watching the ocean or Lake Erie because I believe that when you believe it, you’ll see it.

The cookie story

I haven’t felt much like Christmas this year. We decided to spend Christmas Day with Mickey Mouse this year since Mom isn’t here anymore and the family seems to be heading in 12 different directions this year. The only decorating I’ve done was to pull a small tree out of a box already decorated and “fluff” it a bit along with putting a strange crèche I found up on the piano. Five minutes. Done. Boom.

While going through a box of Mom’s things, I found a binder full of family recipes. I didn’t think I was up to the task of making the butter cookie cut outs I made with Mom or the chocolate molasses cookies that she sent us boxes of for every special occasion. I decided to make something emotionally easier – my aunt’s “dunkin platters.”

I assembled all of the ingredients on the kitchen island and went off to search for my kitchen aid mixer. I stepped into the storage area and found it right outside the door – not where I expected it to be – but very handy indeed. It was filthy, but I figured it must have gotten dusty when my husband blew in insulation a couple of weeks ago.

I put the full pound of butter on the stove to melt and then I set about cleaning up the dirty mixer. I grumbled under my breath that the last kid to put it away had left something sticky on the base. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it didn’t want to leave. The bread hook and wire whip were in the bowl, which was odd because I don’t store them together. They looked nasty, too, so I stuck the, into the dishwasher. Next, I checked the mixer bowl for any stray dog hair, since we share our home with 3 of them now. Instead of hair, I found a layer of dead bugs in a variety of shapes and sizes. I shivered a little and then tried to shake them into the trash. They weren’t leaving. It took tons of hot water, soap and elbow grease to make that bowl sparkle. I was more than a little annoyed.

The beater was attached to the stand. I wanted to clean it, too, since it may have touched the bugs. It wouldn’t come off. As I wrestled with the mechanism, more dead bugs fell out of the mixer head. I pinched myself to make sure this wasn’t just a bad dream. Ouch! It wasn’t. It was then that I realized this wasn’t my mixer (thank goodness). It was Mom’s. Those bugs had probably been there for years.

I was still a little queasy. I wasn’t sure that cookies still sounded good, but the full pound of butter was now melted. Waste not, want not..

I have to eat strictly gluten free, so baking cookies required ordering certified gluten free oats and gluten free corn flakes, along with gluten free flour. These were not cheap cookies to make, and they required planning. I was committed now. I went in search of another navy blue kitchen aid mixer. It took a while, but I found it, right where my husband told me he had put it.

I followed the recipe, heated the oven, and lovingly plopped spoonfuls on the ungreased tray. 10 minutes later I found a single 11 x 14 inch cookie instead of 18 3-inch rounds. I decided I needed a smaller spoon. I eventually worked out the right size, timing and temperature for the gluten-free version of these treats. After baking for most of the afternoon, I put two on a plate and made a cup of instant coffee, because Mom always have me a cup of instant to dunk fresh cookies into.

I haven’t cried in a day or three, but when I put that coffee-covered cookie into my mouth, the dam burst. I cried until the tears ran down my shirt, and then I cried some more. It was then that it hit me – these cookies are Christmas for me. Mom made cut outs all year long. They weren’t special. I only got these once a year – on Christmas Eve – and I would eat the dunkin platters because they were my favorite. My aunt who made them is still living, but she has memory problems. I haven’t had one of these cookies in at least 20 years. Suddenly, I was 8 years old and sneaking into a corner with a handful of my favorite cookies before someone else could eat them.

I really needed that coffee. Those cookies are sweet! I guess my adult self prefers slightly less sweet, which is a good thing because even after giving some away there remains a huge box.

I’m leaking a little again. It’s alright. The best memories, sometimes, are the ones that run down your face.

Perfect Sense(s)?

12983773_10154170302648223_4397169664801694898_oOver the past six months or so, my life has been enriched through the use of essential oils.  I’ve read some of the science behind them, but to be honest I really don’t understand *how* they work.  I just know that for me they *do* work.  This post isn’t really about that, though.

I’ve been fighting a cold / sinus infection for a week.  The essential oils have been helping me feel a little better than I usually do, but yesterday, something changed.  I made a batch of essential oil-laced bath bombs to share.  I opened my favorite essential oil – the one that I call happiness in a bottle – and took a whiff.  Nothing.  I held it up to the light to see if perhaps the bottle was empty.  It was half full.  I opened the next bottle and again, nothing.

Although I was feeling congested, I was still able to breathe in through my nose.  I opened the cinnamon and the peppermint – odorless.  I opened the peanut butter.  Nothing.

Confused, I ran to consult “Doctor Google.”  He said that anosmia (the absence of the sense of smell) has a number of causes, not the least of which is sinus infection and nasal congestion.  I flushed my sinuses with my neti pot.  Still nothing.

i lamented to my husband that the I wouldn’t be able to taste the dinner that I had planned.  Graciously, he suggested that I save my labor for another day and offered to feed himself and the “boys.”  I ate my flavorless baked potato and a salad. If not for the varied textures, I’m not sure that I would have been able to differentiate between them.

Back to Dr. Google, I wondered if perhaps my neti pot could damage my sense of smell.  I came upon a discussion thread filled with individuals who had been living without their sense of small (and sense of taste) for long period of time.  One professional chef related how she had battled depression.  Life just wasn’t as vibrant without tasting and smelling.

I thought back to my essential oils.  After battling anxiety for years, I’ve found something that really helps me.  My emotional aromatherapy is something that I not only enjoy – it helps me feel and think “better.”  If this anosmia were to persist, how would I go back to “before?”

I ate some flavorless popcorn as I watched television with my husband.  At the suggestion of a friend, I stuck some basil essential oil up my nose.  It cleared my sinuses, but I couldn’t smell it.  I gave a longing look at the essential oil diffuser in the bedroom and debated as to whether or not I should turn it on.  Would it help me drift off to sleep ifI couldn’t smell it?

I woke up this morning and still couldn’t smell a thing.  I couldn’t “wake up and smell the coffee.”  I started feeling pretty sorry for myself, to tell the truth.

If I had to give up a sense, which would it be?  I couldn’t imagine not seeing a sunrise or hearing music.  Without touch, how would I avoid injury?  Before this experience, I suppose I might have said “smell,” but I find myself rethinking that position.  Taste protects us from consuming spoiled foods and makes life richer.  Smell and taste go together, I have discovered.

We depend upon our sense of smell to warn us of danger – fire, smoke, spoiled food.  what a marvelous creation the human body is.  These five senses work so perfectly together to keep us safe – to enrich or lives.

As I pondered the senses, I doused the tiny ants that had made their way into my kitchen with a spray of white vinegar and peppermint essential oil.  Suddenly, the acrid smell of vinegar penetrated my head and I smiled.

I ran to unmold the bath bombs and my head was filled with the odor of “joy” (yes, joy has a smell).

Today, I give thanks for a world filled with smells and tastes, touches and sights and sounds.  It all makes perfect sense.

Just write what you know.

love,

~Be~

 

 

We’re All Winners!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed that “participant” trophies and awards for every child on a little league team or bowling team were silly.  After all, we need to teach these kids that we don’t all win, right?

I believed in my own misguided way that it was okay for just the “winners” to get trophies.  Sure, the coach should take everyone for ice cream, but they don’t all need sprinkle – “Sprinkles are for WINNERS!”  You get the drift…

I believed that – I really did.  Then something unexpected happened:  I discovered running.

Now my wall in my workout area is adorned with bling from races in Ohio, Florida and Nevada.  I’m signed up for three more in the upcoming months, each with its own medal (or at least a shirt!).  I’ve never won a race.  Several times I’ve been dead last, but I won that medal fair and square.  Sprinkles may be for winners, but medals are for finishers, and I want mine!

maumee twilight shawshank

Everyone’s Faster in Canada

I could hardly wait to get to the track last night.  My husband bought me an early birthday gift – a “real” (purple) running watch.  I spent a few minutes selecting the functions that I wanted to display on the watch face, then I put on my bright coral and red shoes, a wild orange shirt and my black headband emblazoned in bright yellow with “Suck it Up Buttercup.”  I was ready to tear up the pavement.

My husband was heading that direction anyway, so he dropped me off at the high school track a half mile from my house.  I carefully propped my neon blue water bottle where I could get to it, then I adjusted my teal and black headphones, started my music, and adjusted my hot pink phone band (yes, I was a very colorful sight).

I did my warm-up lap around the track, and then I pushed the RUN button on my new toy.  As I began my first “fast” interval, I was amazed – my colorful watch and new shoes had enabled me to shave a lot of time off of my previous record.  I was puzzled.  Was the Nike app that inaccurate?  Was MapMyRun telling me I was a turtle when I am really a (very fluffy) cheetah?

The laps and miles flew by.  I got faster and faster.  Woo Hoo!  I’m flying, I’m flyyyyying.  My hour ended and I ran home, feeling victorious.  I downed a big glass of water and plugged  my watch into the computer cradle, ready to review the full set of stats for my miraculous run.

I synced the watch with the app and pulled up the session, only to see that I had run it at my typical pace, after all.  It only felt fast.  I scratched my head – why did it tell me that I could run like the wind while I was on the track, only to tell me that I’m still only slightly faster than a turtle wading through peanut butter at home.

I looked at my shiny toy again, and realized that my results were displayed in metric.  Maybe I should move to Canada. I like the way my stats read in metric.  I’m “faster” in metric.  My weight is a smaller number in metric.  Oh – and there’s that free healthcare thing.

I’d miss my dog, though.   He’d be faster in Canada too, though, eh?

All Stuffed Up [Learning to Let Go]

I have a huge job ahead of me.  I’m loving and hating every minute of it.  I have too much stuff.  Some of the “stuff” I have hasn’t seen the light of day in years.

My husband lived in this house when he met me.  He had stuff already when I moved here, and when I added my stuff to his “stuff,” the house was stuffed and we both had to give things up.  The years passed, and we each tossed some stuff and bought some more stuff to take its place.  Before long, he lamented to me, “we have too much stuff.”

I did my best to pare down the stuff.  I went through the boxes and tossed some stuff, but there were things that held too many memories.  I couldn’t bear to give up some stuff, so I stuffed it back into (fewer) boxes.

Some years later, my mom and dad moved from their four bedroom home into a two bedroom apartment.  They had to get rid of stuff, but they let me go through their stuff before they sold their stuff at auction.  I loaded up a car or four with more stuff.  I was opening my professional office, so some of the stuff went there, which made room for more stuff at the house.

More years passed, and the ‘rents moved into an even smaller place with less room for stuff.  Once again, I carted boxes of stuff to my house.  I couldn’t bear to let them get rid of the stuff that I had grown up with.   The stuff has sat, stuffed into boxes and untouched since I stuffed it into the garage, basement and attic.

Mom got sick, then Dad got sick and died, and Mom got sick again.  I was so stuffed full of feelings that I couldn’t bear to go through the boxes that stuffed the corners of my life.

I [re]discovered thrift shopping (thank you, Macklemore!) and brought home even more stuff.  Recently I needed to get something from the basement, but the floor was so stuffed full of boxes stuffed full of stuff that I couldn’t find the stuff I wanted.  I realized I had a stuff problem.

My darling, patient husband understands.  The stuff is stuffed full of memories.

When I hold my grandma’s old root beer mug, it ceases to be just stuff. It takes me back to Grandma’s kitchen.  I can see the Hires root beer bottle (the glass kind that you have to open with a bottle opener).  I can taste the vanilla ice cream that has crystallized root beer on the edges.  I feel the long-handled spoon she gave me with my root beer float.

The caddy of red-striped glasses stuffed with newspaper take me to the dinner parties my parents would host.  Mom’s fancy glasses would come out only on special occasions. I felt like a grown up when I could drink my iced tea or lemonade from those glasses instead of the jelly jar glasses or the plastic cups we used for every day.

There is the birch bark tee pee and the Indian chief doll that my Dad bought on a trip out west before I was born. I hold them and hear Dad tell about the steak dinner he bought in Texas for 10 cents with a steak that was bigger than the plate that held it.

It’s all stuff.  The real value is in the memories that are stuffed in this head of mine.  The older I get, the more my house looks like my parents’ home circa 1975. I have my parents’ coffee table, my Dad’s desk lamp, and the piano that Dad taught dozens of kids to play on.  I almost brought home the church organ that he had… but there was no room.  The place was stuffed.

My head is stuffed full of memories.  They are sweet and bitter. Each doo dad and knick knack triggers a mental movie. Dear husband brings the boxes for me one at a time. It’s like Christmas when I unwrap the stuff that was carefully stuffed in newspaper years ago.

I have to let go. There is so much old stuff – mine, my parents’ and my children’s that there is no room for new stuff to make new memories.  I have to part with my stuff.  I’ll keep the treasures that hold extra-special meaning.  The other stuff stays only if I would buy it if I saw it in a store.  As I send the other stuff on to other people who will appreciate it, I will savor the memories that I unwrap. Perhaps I will photograph the items that have the best stories.  As I stuff boxes full of stuff that has no place to be displayed, I should save those memories somehow.

Perhaps one day my children will receive an album stuffed full of photographs and words from their mother recalling moments from the years she spent collecting the stuff.

So far, all but one item has been unpacked intact. The lone casualty is a painted cookie jar.  I’ll admit I nearly cried when I saw it lying in piece.  I asked my husband to glue it.  He said he would… but I’m not sure it’s necessary.  As “stuff,” it’s not worth much.  There’s nothing special about it.  I have the cream pitcher, tea pot and sugar bowl that match. Any one of those things would evoke the same memories.  I’ll never use it as a cookie jar.  Now that it’s broken, nobody else would want it.  Instead of repairing it, I think it’s time to (reverently) stuff it in the trash.

When it comes right down to it, it is, after all, just stuff.  The memories are inside me, waiting to be shared.