Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fun Firsts

Dear Diary,

I opened a brand new jar of peanut butter the other day. 
After taking the cardboard seal off the top, there it was: the whoosh of peanutty scented air, and that smooth top layer of brown creaminess -- without the toast crumbs. 
What satisfaction I got out of plunging my knife into it!

It got me thinking about other new things for which I get the most satisfaction out of its first use.

A calendar.  That blank canvas on which to shape and mold the year ahead.  Though, let's face it, the kids' schedules really do most of the shaping and molding.  But still, look at the rows upon rows of blank little squares, just waiting to be filled with multi-colored ink scribbles by me, the Master Destiny Maker.  (Let me at least indulge in that falsehood for a brief moment.)

Stickers.  Collecting stickers was a big thing when I was a kid.  Stores used to carry all shapes and sizes.  But, honestly, it was hard to actually use those.  I had a kind of scrapbook to put them in so that I could look at them -- unused -- and show my friends.  Once I was given a whole roll of personalized silvery stickers with rainbow hearts!  Awesome when you are ten!  I rationed those. I did NOT want to use those up.  They were too precious, too priceless.  Rainbow hearts?
Irreplaceable, really. 
So I didn't. 
And I still have them. 
(I did use a few. If you look closely at my profile picture you'll see one!) At this point I wish I could use them up. But what is a 44-year-old going to do with silvery rainbow-hearted name labels? 
And I don't know any little kids with my name to give them to either, so save the suggestion.

Moving on.

Shampoo.  Because I am a good Girl Scout and always prepared, I will purchase a new bottle of shampoo before I actually run out of the old stuff.  Usually it is a different brand or fragrance.  Whatever grabs me or is cheap.  Once I get it home I can't resist using it --just once-- before I'm finished with the old bottle.  Oooooh!  I feel so underhanded and rebellious when I do that!  Sad what thrills me.

How about books?  A new book that has yet to be dog eared, dropped in the tub, highlighted, or jelly smudged (have I mentioned I read when I eat lunch?) is a treasure to open for the first time.

Here's more off the top of my head:
Can of paint.
Nail polish or lipstick.
Pack of gum.
Bag of potato chips.

What else?


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Unpredictable Walk

Dear Diary,

I have written about my walks and paths taken before (Killing Time,10/26/12 and Sharing My Path, 9/25/12).  I haven't been on one in a while.

It is the middle of winter here in the Midwest.  I started walking regularly last spring, when it was
50-or-more degrees outside.  I can find no motivation to pile on the layers and attempt to go walking for half an hour when it is 40-or-less degrees outside.

I think about walking; how if I just get out there and do it, it won't be nearly as bad as my inner couch potato wants me to believe.

So while I was thinking about walking today, about where I would go to do it, it dawned on me that even though I can just go out my front door to walk, my preferred place actually involves getting in the car first. Here are my three most walked paths.

The 'Hood
My neighborhood is a big square made up of two blocks. I would need to walk around it several times to reach my 30-minute-minimum requirement.  That can be dull.  The only time I do this is when I am lucky enough to be with a couple of neighbors.  We walk until we are out of breath from gabbing so much!  Without the company, this walk is dull and predictable.

The 'Hood II
My backyard borders a different neighborhood.  My yard happens to connect to it via a walking path.  It is a larger neighborhood, with a windy, circular road and even a couple of inclines.  And it is large enough to just meet my time limit.  A little less dull, but still a predictable walk.  Same houses, driveways, and barking dogs.

The Speedway
It used to be a racecourse for Jaguars and Ferraris in the '50s.  It is now a public space preserved into a walking/biking path and is surrounded by woods, prairies, and hills that will make my heart pound and thighs scream.  It is ideal.  My preferred path.  Its twists and turns make it a more interesting exercise.  (And with friends, it's even better!)

As I thought about these three paths, the two predictable ones and the one less predictable, I realized why I preferred the one.  Because of the unpredictability.  I prefer the one in which I can't see too far ahead.  I don't know what will greet me around the tree-lined bend.  Another walker?  A hill?  The end?

Sometimes in life I wish I could see into the future, to have a predictable path.  It's the safest way, right?  But then I would become complacent. Always knowing where I am going would probably breed discontent and laziness.

Better to be kept pondering and alert, wondering what is just around the bend, and delighting in the anticipation of what is to come, be it an uphill climb, or downhill relief.

Yes, it is the middle of winter here in the Midwest.  And after yesterday's ice storm, tomorrow will be record breaking 60-degree warmth.  Guess where I'll be walking?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's a *Small* Problem

Dear Diary,
I have a problem I must face sooner or later, and really, it is "later" now.

It crept up on me a few years ago, slowly, subtly.

It gave me urges to squint, blink, or force my eyes open as wide as they could go. 
But the problem persisted.

I acquired hyperopia. 
I now belong to a group of people called the middle-aged hyperopes. 
Sounds like great club name for aging rope-jumpers.

No.  It's farsightedness.
What a pain.

Over-the-counter readers have helped for a few years.  But the visual distance at which I have to rely upon them is becoming a greater one.  What was once a use for tired eyes during bedtime reading has now become a necessity for reading price tags, recipes, and menus.  Yes, there is a big difference between a 3 and an 8, both in price and in measurement!

My place on the age-eyesight continuum is now to the point that I can't read the writing on the GPS mounted on the front windshield.  Kind of important when driving in uncharted territory, so to speak.

Perhaps the latest little mishaps seal my bifocal lens fate.  Let me mention two of them.

My body hates the dry air, which is prevalent in winter here in the Midwest.  I use a lot of lotions and potions to counteract the effect dry air has on me.  I have spent many-a-day squirting a store-bought saline solution up my uncomfortably dry nasal passages.  I also use another solution to give relief to my dry eyes, which I use often throughout the day.  I stick them in my purse to use when I'm away from home.  The problem came one day when, sans glasses, I grabbed from my purse the nasal spray, and proceeded to relieve my eyes with it. Yeah.  I can tell you the saline used for the relief of one body part does not transfer to relief in other body parts.  And can be slightly irritating.

Continuing with my lotions and potions theme, on a weekend away from home, I decided to make use of those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion the hotel so generously provides. After my shower, I needed to squeeze out some lotion for my luxuriously soft supple skin, ahem.  OK, I actually needed it for my wrinkly, crinkly neck. So I dabbed it on, and boy, did it start a subtle stinging sensation. 

My beauty tip for the day:  Conditioner may not be used as a substitute for lotion.  Rinsing with cool water is recommended.

But I do count my blessings.  I was glad I chose not to use the conditioner (i.e.lotion) in the shower earlier. Hey, those bottles are tiny and the letters are even tinier!

So, I shall continue to use my readers, which have become a semi-permanent hair accessory.  Reaching for the top of my head to pull down the glasses nestled there has become second nature to me.  Who needs bifocals, when my readers have a lovely home atop my head? 

One day I will embrace my identity as a MAH (middle-aged hyperope). 

Just not today.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not a Trivial Matter

Dear Diary,
By now I think it has been established that I like to write about trivial things.
  • Household chores
  • Vacations
  • Post-Its
  • Deer Sightings
  • Parakeets
  • Sitting around a parking lot
  • Etc.
Honestly, my day is full of trivial moments.  Heck so is my life.  So here comes another trivial observation for me to write about. Well, it's a confession, really.

I am no longer confident in my ability to use a pen and get my thoughts properly down onto paper, and get it right the first time.  I am talking about writing a good old-fashioned letter (a rare, antiquated activity these days).  I need to first type it on my computer.  If it is a good long letter, I have no problem printing from the word processor and then just scribble my sig at the bottom.

But there are a few occasions when I want to send a hand-written note.  However, I start by typing my thoughts onto paper, tweak it, spell check it, and then hand write it out. (In fact, honestly, this is why I decided to blog my writing instead of journal it.  Hand-writing vs. typing these posts?  Easy choice.) 

Yes, much of my daily life is made up of triviality, like decisions on typing vs. writing.  Decisions and situations that are mostly unimportant in the grand scheme of life.  In fact I think most of my life is white noise trivia.  Stuff that takes up my time, which masks what really matters.

So what does matter in my life?  What gives my life its value?

My relationships and my faith.

Matters of the heart and soul are never trivial.

Soon I will be writing a letter.  Actually two.  To strangers across the sea.  To prisoners I don't know.  And it is no trivial matter.

I will spend a long time fashioning/typing the words I will eventually put to pen.  I will look up scripture and think carefully about my message.  These letters will probably be some of the most important letters I have ever written.  One will go to a man named Alim, in China, and one to Imran, in Pakistan; both persecuted under a government hostile to Christians.

Here is more information on the persecuted church and prisoners who need encouragement to get through each hour of the day.  The Voice of the Martyrs is doing amazing work of supporting the persecuted and their families around the world.

And I am happy to discover they have a blog!

These are stories that amaze me.  These people are my heroes.  They struggle daily for survival, while I harp over trivial matters.  It humbles me.  It points me to the awesomeness of God.

Now that is no trivial matter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time to Face the Mess

Dear Diary,
I have so many loose ends to tie, which is why I sit here in front of the computer, honing my writing skills and avoiding the unpleasant.

I took a good look at my bedroom this morning.  It is this close to being featured on the reality show Help! I Can't Find My Bed, Nor My Spouse.

I have a fairly large bedroom, so it has become the place where I put things that don't otherwise have an active role in the rest of the house.  I have a section which is the odds 'n ends holding area.  It holds my things I only use seasonally or occasionally --space heater, steam cleaner, empty gift boxes, craft stuff, stuff to give away, and yes, even a crib mattress.  And where else does one put the twelve-box package of facial tissues from Costco?  Then I have a corner for the bins of seasonal and oversized clothes that will eventually fit my daughters.  Then I have the ironing area, complete with hanging clothes, which has already been established in this diary as a limited activity zone in my house.

On top of that, I decided that this year the top of my queen-sized bed would be off-limits to all the birthday and Christmas gift wrapping in December, including removing sticky tags and cutting the annoying sparkly, yet festive, paper to size.  (No more sparkly-paper-covered gifts from me.) So I created a folding table wrapping area, which, along with all the gift wrap and bows I had to keep nearby, used up the remaining space I had left on either side of the bed.

It's time to take down and pare down.  And it's daunting. 

I like to tidy.  There is a satisfaction in that. 

But it's hard to pare down sometimes.  To let go of things I might need again someday.

Well, the time has come to face the mess. 

If I were really shameless I would provide a before and after photo of today's work.  Nahhh.  Some things, like my messy room and my actual ability to clean it up, are best left to the imagination.

Shamefully Yours,

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Audacious for Advice

Dear Diary,

Ever meet an expert or professional of some useful service and want to pick their brain or get free advice?  I do all the time. 

Oh, you are a hairdresser? 
What do you think of my hair? Do you think this cut fits my face?  Should I take out the gray?  How do I hide my cowlicks?  Do you know a good cosmetologist?  I need to learn how to accentuate my eyes. Better yet, do you know a good, but cheap, cosmetic surgeon?

You are a family practice physician? 
Boy, do I get pains in my (fill in the blank).   In fact, right now I am kind of achy in the (fill in the blank).  Is this something I should get checked out, or just take Advil, or what?  And there is this thingy on my foot. Do you think it's serious? Will I need x-rays/surgery/medicine/therapy?

You work for a talent agency?
You know I used to be on the stage. Loved it.  Was told all the time I'm a natural.  Always wanted to do ads and TV and stuff.  Have you seen my kids?  They are pretty photogenic. My oldest did a rad Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz in 6th grade.  Yup, they are pre-tty talented.  And, well, you know where they get it from...

A techno geek?
Wow, you know my computer runs real slow, and sometimes my keyboard won't type the letter 'a'.  Oh, and to properly boot it I have to simultaneously press Shift-F12 while standing on one foot and humming the UW fight song.  Can you check it out for me?

You are a photographer?
Wow, we are looking to get the family portrait done again since the last one we did was before our youngest was born.  Now she's 10.  You think you can pull off the miracle of getting all five of us to simultaneously take a good picture (complete with ten non-blinking eyes)?  Oh, and could you give me some highlights and a chin-tuck while you are at it?

Just to clarify, these are not things I would actually say to a specially trained person outside of their office.  I may think them, but I am otherwise too shy and conscientious to bother them with my little problems.  "Make an appointment," my right-shouldered angel of conscience would say. Audacity is not me.

I am guessing there are some who don't mind answering those questions, even on their day off.  Likewise, I'd guess there are many who grit their teeth in annoyance when they are asked for their professional opinion for the umpteenth time at a dinner party.

Thankfully I don't have a vocation like that so I am not peppered with requests for advice or opinions. 

"Oh, LJ, you are a wife and mother of three girls?  What is the best way to wash a pink, sparkly tutu?" 

Until next time,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Xtreme Vacation

Dear Diary,
So, I'm back from Christmas vacation.
This was not just another pack the dog, kids, and husband into the minivan and "off to grandmother's house we go" kind of vacation.

Nope, this excursion was Xtreme at every turn.  Before I go on, I must provide a warning to my more sensitive readers that some descriptions and comparisons may be too graphic for your sensitive natures.  Steel yourselves.  Or look away.

I originally wanted to write about my first surf lesson -- and it will be mentioned. But I realized there were other things worth highlighting as well.  Let me itemize just a few of the Xtreme moments.

Worshipping the Almighty God on Christmas Eve, who humbled himself to become a helpless, human child, because he loves me so very much.  That is undeniably, Xtremely awesome!

Finding myself with my finger stuck in the barrel of a Glock.  Surprised?  Yeah, I was too. The circumstance of this event is too Xtreme to even explain here, so maybe it's better left to the imagination.  Assuredly, it was not loaded and I still have all ten fingers.

Plunging 200 feet on a 90-degree drop aboard SheiKra, the Diving Roller Coaster of Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay. 
Oh. Yeah.
One second, weightless; the next, pulling so-many-G's at 70 mph. 
That is Xtreme, especially at my age.  My 13-year-old daughter was on one side of me.  Another boy about the same age on the other side.   I giddily warned him I would be screaming my head off.  He gave me the "OK, lady" head nod, then proceeded through the whole ride in the Hallelujah hands-to-heaven position.  Showoff.

Fishing for the big catch 8.5 miles off the coast of Clearwater.  Plenty of fish caught, the biggest by my husband (grouper, 26").  Perhaps the Xtreme moment was throwing a cast-off, 12-inch grouper back into the water and watching a pelican dive for it -- and successfully scooping it into his sack of a beak.  It was like watching him snag a 5 lb. barbell!  How would he swallow that thing?  He flew off a few yards to contemplate this without an audience.  Good moment for the National Geographic Channel I'd say.

Surfing for the very first time!  For all the times in my life that I've been to the coast, surfing was not something I have tried.  Not until the spontaneous invitation from my cousin hit my eardrums.  Yes, I will try it, but no, I don't have my suit and isn't the water freezing?  Oh, you have a wetsuit I can borrow?  Well then, I have no more excuses!

This was a head to toe wetsuit.  I have never put one on in my life.  Stuffing myself into this thing took all of the concentration and muscle effort I had.  And to boot I was in the bathroom where I couldn't escape the mirror showing me just what I was trying to put into this thing. I panted, pushed, and prodded my flesh into the neoprene tubes.  It was like stuffing Jell-O into a straw.  I think it took me 10 minutes to get it on, and I was weak, so weak, from the effort.  My cousin kindly called through the door, "I'll help you get the zipper up."  Good.  I was too fatigued to do it myself anyway.  I open the door to be told, "Uh, the zipper goes in the back, not the front." 
WHAT????  Now I gotta put this thing on ALL OVER AGAIN, after I first EXTRICATE MYSELF from its rubbery grip???  Close door.  Tug, pull, peel, pant.  Pause.  There it lay.  A rubbery blob of a body suit that WILL NOT get the best of me!  The bathroom walls and mirror were closing in on me.  The fatigue was overwhelming, but, no, I am not a wimp!  I will show it who is boss!  Weakly tug, shakily stuff, and breathlessly prod.  Victory!  Another assist with the zipper and I was off to the beach, weak-kneed and shakey armed.  (Thank you for carrying the board, cuz.)

The rest of the experience I will summarize as a salt water cleansing.  I learned that it is very important -- nay, essential, to stay to the back of the board while surfing.  This lesson was taught over and over again.  The picture here is of a rare moment when I became one with the wave while kneeling.  The rest was pretty much a water boarding experience.

So, my Christmas vacation had its moments of new discoveries and experiences along with the familiar traditions and events.

But there is one thing I have wanted to do for a few years now.
Something so horrifying and outrageous that even my husband tells me, "No way." 
I know people who have tried it that say "never again."
My Xtreme desire?

To have just one meal at the Waffle House.

It's Xtreme, but YOLO!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A New Day

Dear Diary,
Ahhh, the new year. A clean slate in the form of a crisp, new, freshly marked calendar hanging from my fridge.

I find it amazing the psychology that goes into the dawn of one day -- which is no different than any other day except the date assigned to it: January 1.  It is a day loaded with meaning and good intentions for the year ahead.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could assign that newness of January 1st to every day of the year?
The high hopes and expectations.
The vows to change our lives for the better.

Somehow it just doesn't work that way, especially come mid-January when we have already
failed our diets,
shirked our commitments,
and given excuses.

Well, I am glad I have this time to feel optimistic and hopeful, and even just a little bit in control of my destiny (ha!)

May 2013 be full of  "Happy New Days"!