What to say?

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Anne Lamott, my favorite spiritual rantist, let loose on her Facebook page today about what people should say in certain situations.  It is brilliant and you should read it if you haven’t already.

I’ve been in several situations this week that relate.  My own was on Memorial Day which is notoriously a somber nostalgic day for me.  Add to that everyone plucked my last nerve, because do you still not know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  Nothing was moving fast enough for me, I was due for a pity party extraordinaire, and the day just wouldn’t end fast enough.  It wasn’t even a full moon.  Enter my best friend Sandra, who has an uncanny ability to just pick up the phone for no reason and get bombarded with my shit.  To which, she listens and nods (even though I can’ see it) and then says a few words of brilliance at the end of my rant that puts a bow of validation on it and tells me to pour and inch and take the rest of the day off.  I barely even remember what those words were but they worked just like they always do.  The funny part is she doesn’t really trust that so she keeps me on a kind of “watch” through the next day…just in case.

Then another dear friend learned of her mother’s stroke, which left her devastated and helpless being so far from her mother.  There are things as adults of a certain age that we know are inevitable yet we are struck by them none the less.  We had an entire discussion by text…how the hell do you comfort someone and read their emotions by text.  It’s possible if you know them very very well, if you know what their underlying pain is, the pain they only show certain people they trust.  It can be done if you create a vigil of keeping in touch and checking in.  It can be done if you mirror what they are saying and just let them know you’re there for them, which is infinitely easier by text.  This is a day by day, minute by minute situation uniquely suited to the instant messaging phenomenon.

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There is a relatively new practice where people create a Journey page for someone who is ill.  It becomes a place where progress can be shared and prayers can be exchanged and all manner of positive discussion can take place.  There is a huge initial outpouring from friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, note the word initial.  There are the best of intentions from each of the participants but somehow people drop off, especially if the progress isn’t good. It becomes uncomfortable and people can’t seem to find the words.  This makes me at once sad and pissed.  I get it, you don’t know what to say but it’s a commitment people sometimes don’t realize.  Someone has to keep that commitment, yeah I know.  Perhaps post, haven’t heard in a while, how’s everything?  Just thinking of you.  How’s the family?  Anything you need?  Be the person who starts the conversation again, even if it’s uncomfortable, say something.  They will appreciate it more than wondering where everyone went.

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There are times when it’s better to react with no reaction like me wanting to tattle on the guy that’s taking up valuable parking real estate with his third car (which he’s not supposed to have) only to find out it might be because it would be easier for his near death dog to get into from that parking space.  My constant nagging myself about checking my motivation proved invaluable in this situation because I kept asking myself why does this bother you so much.  What makes you so righteous…amen, keep checking that motivation.  My sister is having a similar conversation with herself about a friend of hers and I’m pretty sure she’s coming to the same conclusion; some things are just not yours to speak to…

In the end I think I gave some solid advice to someone just going into divorce mediation this week.  I suggested she make a list of what she wanted posed in the most positive light possible starting with the things that would be easiest to say and for the other to hear.  The list is important in these instances if one tends to get flustered and God knows you can live much easier with yourself if you’ve taken the high road.

“listen before you speak and if you speak with truth and compassion for yourself and himself it will be exactly as it should be…”

Do with that what you will.

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day ∞ 3PM

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I hope you will forgive me when I say that today is not the day to thank a veteran for their service.  You can do that any other day, every other day but not today.  Today is the day to remember the veterans that lost their lives in battle, our war dead.

As much as I would like this to be about all the veterans that have gone on, my father, Kyle’s father, Muriel’s father and as much as my heart aches that they are no longer with us it’s not about them either.  And they wouldn’t want it to be.  They understood that this day was about the some who gave all.

When my father spent his last years at the NJ Veterans Home in Paramus we had the honor of being there each Memorial Day.  It’s a solemn and nostalgic day for most of the residents who share stories of Sargent This or Lieutenant That or Ensign Whoever among themselves not with you but with each other.  To be fortunate enough to overhear these stories is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life. These men and women suffer that loss each year and it never gets easier.  They enjoy their visitors and their hot dogs but only after the most heart wrenching version of taps is played.  Live, in full uniform, no recording. With hand to heart and tears running down their faces they remember.

Only they can remember with the full respect the day deserves having been there and lived to tell about it.  They do not take that privilege lightly and they don’t speak lightly about it either.  They alone can look another veteran in the eye and speak volumes without uttering a sound.  They alone can smile at the well-intended gratitude of those around them and hope that they will also take a minute to hear taps at the local parade and understand the meaning and heartbreak in the melancholy notes.  I won’t ever be able to hear those notes without the lump in my throat or the tears on my face. I have those tears now, I have them each year.

There are thousands of families reliving the loss of someone dear each Memorial Day.  Mostly these families are enduring each day without their loved one. If you are mindful you can hear snippets all around you.  In the grocery store when a little boy asks his Mom, did Daddy like watermelon too? Yes honey he did she says in the most controlled and low voice you will ever hear. She has to turn away.  Then the volunteer collecting for the care packages to go overseas with his hand on a young man’s shoulder telling him it will be alright. There are stories and legacies everywhere begging to be honored in just the smallest ways.  It is the very least we can do to stop and truly participate in their grief if only for a moment.

From the Memorial Day Tribute site:

In 1996, a humanitarian organization based in Washington, D.C., known as ‘No Greater Love’ conducted a survey on children and asked them why they think there is a holiday on Memorial Day. It was agonizing to hear their remarks that were all associated with barbecues and extended weekend parties and celebration, while they hadn’t the vaguest idea about the sacrifices of the soldiers in whose honor it is celebrated. One of the children was even quoted as saying that this was the day when swimming pools open! Thus, the organization came up with the idea of ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ to remind and especially, let the future generations know about the real meaning of the holiday. The idea clicked with the President and Congress and since 1997, it became a standard American tradition. National Moment of Remembrance requires everybody to keep silent for a minute, exactly at 3.00 pm (local time) when ‘Taps’ is played and reflect on the glory of those who have shed blood for us. The federal government hopes to raise public awareness about the heroes and their valor by introducing this moment.

The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children. -William Havard This is your opportunity to participate for just that moment.  Perhaps someone will thank you…

 

Mindfulness

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I began learning about mindfulness many years ago under incredibly tumultuous circumstances well before it became the catch phrase of the decade.  It’s been tossed around by everyone it seems but the people I trust most to toss it around are Louise Hay , Jon Kabat-Zinn and the staff at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

My definition, the one I’ve been honing for several decades, is “stay in today”.  I know it’s pretty broad and I’ve narrowed it down quite a bit myself but in essence if you stay in today so much angst can be alleviated.  You know how big a fan I am of angst, distant cousin to drama and worry.

I started with affirmations and learning the power of the mind body connection.  I suffered terribly from anxiety, and hopelessness, and bad luck and on and on.  My turning point was a gift from my best friend as I was lamenting the guardian angel energy that kept himself out of trouble she suggested it might not be guardian angel energy it might be my energy…   What? I had energy?  Turns out I have extraordinary energy.

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I’ve been working diligently on and with mindfulness for the last decade.  My health has improved, my life has improved, so many good things come my way that continue to surprise me and I live in gratitude.

Enter a wonderful weekend in Vermont to validate the things I’m doing right and hand me on a silver platter more ways to improve my life.  Ways to banish the cortisol!!!! Evil hormone that it is, maker of belly fat and thief of sleep, can be counteracted with mindfulness. Of course there’s more to it but if you start with mindfulness, if you stay in today, in the moment, and look up from the damn phone..l mean engage with your life, you will be amazed at what happens and what you’ll see.

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One of the biggest ah ha’s was mindfulness eating.  How the hell does a foodie not live in that space all the time?  When I’m eating something fabulous I’m definitely mindful but my problem has always been not being mindful to my hunger cues and getting to the sugar drop stage of no good can come from even opening the refrigerator.  I know you’ve seen it, you keep reminding me…

For the last month I’ve been practicing listening and following the cues and hopefully you can attest that there has been an improvement.  No bail money has been required, not once. What a relief, to us all.

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I began meditating in earnest many weeks ago and continued the practice while in Vermont.  It’s one of the methods they endorse for most everything.  There was a fabulous chair at the end of our hallway that called me each day.  Finally I listened and though it was on the way to one of the outside entrances, no one bothered me, it was sunny and warm and light and quiet.  If I had my way I would have hauled that chair home with me.  Just sayin.

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Mindfulness walks have always been my thing.  I don’t take my phone, I don’t listen to anything but the world around me.  I love hearing the birds each morning, I love the sounds and smells coming from open windows and I never want to miss someone calling my name to say hello.  The only time I’m not fully engaged is when I have my camera, then I’m focused on the world around me in a different way.  Its old school, you have to look through the lens and your vision is narrowed to within the frame.  I’ve been known to wander through fairs and markets and gardens and crowds with my camera and I am so grateful for what seems to download.  I see things through a completely different filter and it continues to surprise me.

Rooting yourself to the earth is yet another way to practice mindfulness.  I’m sure I have an unfair advantage being a gardener.  I love the smell of the earth after the rain, I love the digging, the planting, the weeding, hell I even love hauling the damn boulders out of the back shade garden.  I know…

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Being mindful allows for a different perspective, it’s non-judgmental, you can imagine the pain others have that make them act the way they do.  It  doesn’t condone bad behavior but it creates a better understanding at times.  It’s a weight lifted, not everything is yours, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to and you can begin to be kind to yourself.  You can learn how fabulous you really are and you can begin to weed out those who don’t believe in you and your new way of thinking.

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I believe that mindfulness comes best to those who serve.  Themselves first, then serving others brings a continuance of good coming to them that you won’t want to give up.  I’m pretty sure the only thing that you’ll be giving up is the cortisol contamination, the excess worry about things that mostly never happen and the abuse you give yourself for what you believe you caused or created when really you simply weren’t paying attention…Now you are and you will begin to see the power that is you.  I remain ever grateful for the ability to stay in today.

Food

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Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  Michael Pollan

That’s pretty much what it comes down to but somehow life gets in the way.  Enter a little fireball named June with a quick wit and a way of pausing before giving you the answer to some questions you never even knew you had and you start to put things in perspective. Because yes that’s another thing it comes down to.  What is it?  One’s relationship with food of course. Because it’s never about the food and yet it’s always about the food… How the hell to get around that lovely paradox.

Agatha Christie once said “when engaged in eating, the brain should be the servant of the stomach.”  For me it was not about the eating but about the hunger recognition which led to a scene out of a Snickers commercial.  I can go until I’m shaky, sweaty and hangry so consider yourself forewarned.   The number one way to start dissecting the paradox is to reset the barometer by listening to your needs, what a concept.

There is a hunger scale that starts at you’re so hungry you’ll eat anything and goes through to you’re painfully full and may even feel sick.  Throughout our weekend at Green Mountain at Fox Run we were privy to the pendulum effect.  There is a balance to everything they give you but a recognition that you’re probably not operating in that balance.  The hunger scale is a perfect example, balance begins at you feel you’re getting hungry and it’s time to think about what to eat and ends at totally satisfied; hunger is gone and you won’t be hungry for hours.

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What they provide are delicious meals, snacks, a hunger hutch, amazing well water from the tap, coffee, tea and condiments.  What they don’t provide is a list of what you should and shouldn’t eat.  People come looking to be told what to eat, to be controlled in what they think is an uncontrollable situation.  But at GMFR they are not the boss of you…you can be trusted, you know yourself better than they do, you are in charge of your own possibilities.

What they also provide is the science you need to understand your gut, your relationship with food and the food itself.  Michael Pollan also said, you are what what you eat eats.  Do you know what you’re eating eats?  Cheetos never ate anything…see what they’re saying.  A fabulous Vermont Cheddar on the other hand…

I am a foodie and a fabulous cook.  I have never been one for Cheetos or any really highly processed foods.  My sister lovingly…refers to me as Sister Nuts and Berries but even with real food you can get to that point of overeating because you’ve starved yourself albeit unknowingly.  And speaking of starving yourself, do you know what your body does when it doesn’t know when it’s going to get its next meal?  It SAVES EVERYTHING….can a sista win?

Yes, a sista can win through mindful eating:

  • Tune into your hunger and appetite.
  • Focus on the food and how you feel as you eat.
  • Be aware of the aroma and appearance of the food. If you don’t like it stop eating it.
  • Eat slowly and savor each bite chewing thoroughly and concentrate on taste, temperature and texture.
  • Check your level of fullness and degree of satiety. Check for the pause, if you put your fork down check in.
  • Enjoy the eating experience.

Think it’s going to happen overnight?  Ruth Reichl said in Delicious, “I am telling you that if things can change for the worse, the opposite is also true. But only if you open yourself to the possibilities.”

I am at a definite advantage in that I live alone with no others to accommodate, I love to cook so I know exactly what’s going in my food and I’m a pain in the ass if I don’t like something I simply don’t eat it.  Not everyone has that advantage.

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It would be impossible to relay all the info we received on food and its benefits here in this post.  If you walk away with anything it is the balance and the pause you should be concentrating on, not the missteps.  Reichl also said in Delicious, “Change works both ways. You must accept those moments, experience them, and let them go. Because if you allow yourself to get stuck in that minute, nothing will ever change.”

Three weeks later I continue to process all the glorious information we received and put it to use as well as I can. I balance my carbs and my proteins and eat a ton more plants. Friday is still pizza night with homemade dough and organic marinara and plain ol mozzarella.  I still use butter and a touch of cream in certain things and yes I still enjoy my pinot noir each night.  But the shift has come in the timing, the amounts and the complete enjoyment.

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“Life itself is the proper binge.” – Julia Child

Movement

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Once upon a time a long time ago when I lived in a third floor walkup with only on street parking, played racquetball at lunch and danced all night I was incredibly fit, shocking I know. The importance of movement at that time was irrelevant, I was having a blast.

Fast forward several decades, I leave it to you to figure out just how many decades, I am round.  No doubt you’ve noticed.  Through complacency, tumultuous times, yo-yo dieting and a lack of motivation I have become…round.  I go back and forth between how the hell did this happen and it is what it is.  No it’s not…and I know exactly how this happened.  Now what to do?

Enter the best kept secret in Vermont, I’m pretty sure they really don’t want to be the best kept secret so look here, and life as I know it is changed forever.  Not overnight, not in the gym, not in boot camp, but in real life, my life.  I am beginning where I am, what a concept.

LynnAnn Covel is the dynamo leading the fitness department.  She is trained in several areas of expertise and has been at Green Mountain at Fox Run for the last 26 years, well here you read it:

An energetic and inspirational leader, she heads up our fitness department, lending her own special touch and motivational skills to help women learn to love physical activity. Through her personal training and L.I.F.E. (Lifestyle Integration for Empowerment) program, LynnAnn provides personalized fitness programs and strategies needed to facilitate changes that make all the difference in “taking it home and making it work.”

Here’s the thing about LynnAnn, you would never know that she’s been at this for the last 26 years.  She brings a freshness to each day, she has an amazing sense of humor that goes right to the crux of what you think you want to use as an excuse and her pragmatism leaves you thinking, well shit of course I can do this…

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Add to that the now famous LynnAnnisms and you’re pretty much set:

Your pace is THE pace.

Something is better than nothing.

I’m doing this for me and no one can take it away.

I’ve been playing around with functional fitness as a way to incorporate movement into some of the many things I do all day.  Things like walking the dog, really walking the dog.  She’s not that happy about it especially on the weekends when we continue up the hill instead of making the right. Things like stretching when we get back using the porch steps, she sits on the step above where I’m stretching and gets a cookie at the end.  She’s beginning to like that part.

I found myself watching my Nutriblast whirring around for the minute it takes and thought I’ll do pushups against the sink while I’m waiting.  I do squats to get the clothes out of the washer and dryer (front loaders).

I took my first yoga class at GMFR and loved it.  Imagine looking out a huge cathedral window at Okemo as the sun sets and the candles scattered around the room come into their own as your first class. I mean really is that a tough act to follow or what?  Best I can do is sun salutation right out of bed. But hey, something is better than nothing, am I right LynnAnn?

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She stresses finding something that will work for you on a personal level, something you enjoy, some way to make it work.  We had a bit of a mindfulness walk one morning and I couldn’t help equating that to my photo walks.  When I’m behind my camera I’m so busy looking around that I lose track of time.  God knows how many steps later I feel like I got my fitness in without even noticing.

We practiced ti chi one morning which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I took a ti chi class several years ago and really enjoyed it then too but didn’t quite know where to take it after that.  I could never remember the sequences so it fell by the wayside.  Fast forward, lot of that going on, through the magic of Amazon Prime I’ve downloaded several ti chi classes through TIVO.  It’s all just magical this universe I’m living in.

Growing older is inevitable but aging is optional said someone recently, damned if I can remember who, but that resonated with me.  That along with something LynnAnn said about saving for your physical future needs to go hand in hand with saving for your financial future.  After struggling to recover my financial future I can certainly see the benefit of recovering my physical future as well.   My gratitude runs deep…

On our final day in Vermont we took a walk in the woods, it was the only time I felt it appropriate to bring out my camera so enjoy some of these wonderful last moments spent in Okemo State Forrest.

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