not-so-manic-monday

Welp, it’s Monday. I start back to work full time next week and I’m plowing ahead with school. It’s about to get loco up en mi casa.

I woke up with a headache today- splitting from the sides of my temples. I had a meeting to go to and a prego friend to help…. Not a good day for a headache. AND I was out of my coffee beans this morning. ay caramba!

A Starbucks grande latte later, my headache vanished. So I rolled the windows down and turned the music up. The wind was in my hair and life was good- for a Monday.

You just gotta live sometimes. I suppose I looked dorky blasting a song and singing along in my uber mom minivan. One thing I’ve realized- do stuff that makes me happy- sometimes just a little thing. But do something everyday.

Yesterday it was this– my twelve year old and I riding along in the car, belting out these lyrics. Takes me back to the good ol’ days of the 80’s. That hair. THOSE PANTS.

 

Live life. Never fear being dorky. Have fun. Be fun. Happy Monday, ya’ll!

Don’t Forget

So many people are profoundly affected by the death of an actor or actress. This week, we lost both- Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall- one by choice, the other by natural cause. We react. We recoil. Then, depending on perspective, we respond to the reaction. CrAzY!

I never cease to be amazed at both sides that get their shorts in knots over these things:

“Why do we care so much about an actor committing suicide when there is practical genocide happening in the Middle East?” “How could such a talented actor, who has inspired and entertained millions, just up and kill himself? There must be some cause- financial problems, a life threatening disease, an unhappy marriage, etc.”

We analyze and pontificate and postulate. We read articles, trying to figure it out, somehow hoping it weren’t true.

Two things are true:

  1. The world and its crises are not on the same playing field as the loss of a talented actor to which millions of people relate with- i.e.- they are not comparable issues.
  2. Somewhere in the midst of it all, loss of life gets sensationalized and “social media-ized” and then we’ve missed the whole point.

Death comes to all and it is never pretty.

I can’t eradicate Ebola. I can’t find homes for all the refugees. I can’t stop every person who is suicidal. I can’t ease the ever-present racial tensions.

But don’t forget these are people. Loss of a human life is always devastating – for any cause and in every situation. We have to recognize that. Robin Williams was a father, husband, brother, friend, uncle, son- and yes, he was a talented guy whose screen presence will be remembered. The countless images of sickly patients waiting to die on gurneys- they belong to a family somewhere. The images of waif like children sitting homeless on the dirt- that is someone’s hungry three year old. The images of a grieving African American mother- she lost her son to violence this week.

Life matters. What we say, do and think matters. Love matters. I might not be able to change the world, but I can make the small world I live in a better place. I can spread love, have joy, offer hope, give help, and promote peace. I can grieve with humanity at the loss of life and offer hope for eternity. I can remember that these are people and not simply news stories.

30 Days Without

 

sugarspoon-5ee1d9cf2615c976d34480051e0cba6762f7cf81-s6-c30I did IT! I really did not believe I could, but I did AND I LIVED to tell about it :).

For a variety of health related issues, I decided to do something radical (for me):

Cut out all forms of sugar- yes, even honey, agave, stevia, et al. Cut out all white things- rice, flour (wheat and white). Cut out all dairy- my beloved cheese and even butter. Cut out all alcohol- yes, I live in NAPA after all.

Here are my take aways from 30 Days Without:

~ Week One… was pure torture- genuine bona fide food withdrawal hell. I went sulking around, feeling sorry for myself, questioning why on earth I would decide to do such an absurd thing!! I wasn’t trying to get in touch with my Neanderthal relatives by eating paleo (as if I could even do that- I choke most meat down as it is). I drug myself around with zero energy and a hungry tummy. My family shook their heads at me. Opening the pantry, I’m pretty sure the chocolate chips would whisper my name sometimes.

~ The second week was better. I went to Peet’s Coffee and ordered an almond milk latte’ and it was delicious. (NO, I refused to give up my beloved cup of coffee.) I began to notice how sweet ordinary things tasted- lettuce, peas, carrots. I felt less deprived, but still craved a piece of bread- just one little whole grain piece with just a wee bit of butter perhaps. SIGH… I finally figured out how to feed myself alternatives and I cannot tell you how copious my almond and cashew intake was. Raw almond butter was my everyday rave.

~ Week three- I kind of hate to say it out loud, but I felt good and pretty darn proud of myself (although you can’t know how many times I wanted to just grab a spoon, pour some honey in it, and savor the pure ecstasy). The big test came- baking chocolate chip cookies for my dad, who had come for a visit. I solemnly do swear that I did not have a granule of the dough or cookies. (I might have snuck a lick from the spatula of the peanut butter pie I made though- SHHHH.)

~ At the beginning of the fourth week, I finally discovered there are alternatives for “baking”. After a run to Trader Joes for coconut flour and flaxseed meal, I whipped up my own banana bars, using NO sugar. Although the texture was not a satisfying buttery baked goodie, the taste was surprisingly sweet. Even my oldest son partook and thought it was decent. This week found me resolved and steadfast- and UBER SICK OF SALADS WITH VEGAN DRESSING. Ok, but truth be told, I was not missing the cheese, or wine or butter any longer.

I was an addict going through a sort of detox. After the initial feeling like I might die, and the looking longingly into the bag of chocolate chips, I dug in mentally (See, stubbornness IS good for something!)

Then, the 30 days was over and I ate my first chocolate chip cookie. I wasn’t that impressed. In fact, I kind of thought, “What’s the big deal?”

And I thought of a parable for life: We often think we want something. Maybe do this one thing or get this other thing because we think we deserve it or it makes our lives better. It turns out to be not that great after all. It takes our focus away from something much, much better.

Do I intend to eat this way forever? Heck, no. But I learned a thing or two about will power and the bewitching affect something like sugar can have in the mind and body.

I’m actually looking forward to baking up some healthy vegan muffins AND sinking my teeth into a decadent chocolate brownie topped with sea salted caramel from time to time!

Mantras to Live By

I grew up in a house of idioms. No, not IDIOTS! Idioms- catchy, sometimes pithy sayings meant to convey life application, but sometimes equally as baffling, crass and just plain ol’ unhelpful.

You see, I’m not quite sure if was a generational thing or a cultural thing (or perhaps my parents just had a way with words), but they were adept at throwing an idiom at any situation. It is said that there are 25,000 such expressions in the English language. I easily heard at least 5,000 growing up.

So maybe this scarred me. I can only retain short one-liners because frankly, I spent much longer than I should have trying to decipher what these words ACTUALLY meant. Or maybe this helped me become the lover of words that I am today; these deeply, meaningful brain-twisters made me dig under the surface for meaning (which I’m pretty certain only left weird mental pictures).

At any rate, I do currently subscribe to living by mantras, not in a Buddhist meditative kind of way, but as a simple implementation tool for my mind. The truth of its strong message can hold sway over the negative thoughts that come too easily. Here’s my list of favorites:

La Vita e Bella– or Life is Beautiful (in Italian)- When I saw the 1998 movie with this name, I was struck with profound emotion. (If you have not seen the movie, do and watch it in Italian with English subtitles.) This was also the year my mom passed away, which compounded the message home to me that: each day is a gift, life is too short to be lived in the doldrums, and if I live it beautifully, I can rise above the ugly.

God is everything. I am nothing. – Now before you get your feathers ruffled, let me say that I know this is contra to what our Western culture espouses. And this is the very thing I fight against every day. After years of misguided expectations for myself and unrealistic “putting on a pedestal” of people or things, I realized that humbling myself was the very place I would find true happiness. By acknowledging that God is the pinnacle from which all else is divinely appointed in my life, I finally have rest. This does NOT mean that I sit emo-ishly in a corner with a self-abasing razor strap held to my back. It does mean that I submit myself wholly to the GREAT POWER that is God, not from a needy weakness but from a willful whole-minded humility that admits my utter ineptness to be the master of my own destiny.

Everyone has a story- none of which you know and most of which you wouldn’t understand. This mantra came on the heels of the previous one- to be humble and to recognize that humanity in general is a beautifully messy business. This means every aggressive driver that flips you the bird, every grumpy waiter or waitress, every cross cashier, every holier than thou church member, every overly hormonal know it all young adult, every cantankerous older person- they all have a story, written over decades by every person and circumstance that has been part of their cosmos. Give that person grace & mercy because you know what they say- “Humans are like snowflakes- no two are alike.” 🙂 Your story isn’t theirs.

Words mean something. – You are probably saying, “Duh” and making a face while reading this. Shame on you!  This mantra, though simple, is one I tell my children and myself over and over and over again. I have this little problem of being, oh, let’s say, slightly venomous with my words. I let my emotion bubble and foam up over the very essence of what I should have said and boy does it make a mess- (think boiled over sugar mixture on a hot stove). Our words really DO have powerful sway, they really can’t be retracted and they showcase what’s in our heart. The book of James says it best:  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

These are my “basic mantras”- the simple profound truths I repeat everyday because they MEAN SOMETHING.

What mantras do you live by?

Windows

We spend our lives looking in and out of windows.

Upon waking every day, the first thing I do is go turn on the coffee pot and open up my kitchen window’s blind. I look out and determine what kind of day it is: grey and foggy, cool or warm, bright and sunny. In that moment, I also assess the view in a purely metaphysical way. What kind of day lies ahead? Happy, melancholy, worrisome, carefree, over scheduled, relaxed, burdened, peaceful?

Windows are like snap shots- just a portion of a bigger picture.

If we look in the window of someone else’s life, it may appear picturesque- almost perfect. Envy arises because perhaps this view is so wholly unlike our own. But remember this: don’t be deceived. Just like the display widows at a department store, it shows the best, the prettiest, the coolest, the most alluring, the trendiest, the slickest, the most put together items to be found. It is a living mirage that doesn’t look like that outside the large plate glass.

It’s funny how, even looking out our own window, shows only a sliver what’s beyond. It may appear to be a beautiful day, but what I don’t know is that just a few houses down, an ambulance has arrived to take someone away in it.

Maybe it is time to change perspective, to remind yourself that the view from a window is just a snap shot, a still frame in the bigger picture of life and yours is never going to be just like anyone else’s. Or maybe your window has been far too long covered with filth, making the view of even a lovely day impossible to see.

Bits and Bobs

So, forgive me. I’ve taken a weeeee bit of a break. The respite offered was truly needed this year. Besides a lovely family vacation, I have taken some time to inventory- my life, my house, my priorites.

Back in December, I wrote a little ditty called, “Meet Grinchetta” about the stresses of Christmas (maybe I’ll post that NEXT year).  It was during the midst of my own personal Grinchmas that it happened.  The street was perfectly quiet and still as I walked the dog. Despite my mad rushing mind, I suddenly became acutely cognizant of the carefully laid lawn décor and colored twinkling lights. Instead of my knee-jerk response of a possible eye-roll or disdain over the gaudiness, I smiled a genuine smile. I paused- this was pleasant, a sight to take in, appreciate and remember- a season fleeting. From that moment on, I vowed to let Christmas enrapture me.

I would stop the madness, stop worrying about my Amazon orders or wondering how to strategize my next Costco trip without feeling like I was in a stampede.

I made batches of my favorite candy, a recipe handed down from my great grandmother. I lingered over the recipe card written in my mom’s impeccable penmanship and shrugged at the vanilla extract stains on it. I didn’t bake a single cookie though, which is a first.

I played the shmultzy Christmas music and sung along out loud to the likes of Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. I REALLY listened to the rather steamy lyrics of: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Who knew it was so scandalous?)

Then a new year snuck up on me. Maybe I was enjoying myself a little too much. 🙂

It came anyways. 2014. And I didn’t make any resolutions. Oh the bliss! But that’s a story for another post…