Garbage In – Garbage Out

I’m talking trash.

I generally try to surround myself with positive people. However, this is not always an option, and, at times, I struggle with how to deal with people who are less than positive, less than optimistic, less than happy. And what to do when some of these folks are close to you presents even more of a dilemma.

Today I tried explaining to someone that by focussing on the negative, the bad, the undesirable, we are actually attracting the negative, the bad, the undesirable into our lives. Whether you subscribe to the law of attraction, or not, think about it. If all you think about, or worse yet, talk about, is the horrible things you heard on the news, the pain throughout your body, the poor state of your finances, your lack of energy, what are you experiencing? Horrible things, pain, poor finances, lack of energy. What you think, is what you experience. It is that simple. If you dwell on something in your mind, it is what you experience.

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and heard your heart beating? And why is it in the middle of the night our anxieties are most acute? You think, “is it normal to be hearing my heart beat?”. Anxiety rises, heart beats faster. “My heart rate is accelerated!” Anxiety rises, heart beats faster. “Am I having chest pains?”, now focussing on possibly having pain in your chest, and you honestly can’t tell if you’re having pain in your chest, or not! Anxiety rises. You think you’re dying of a heart attack! It is totally normal to awaken and hear your own heart beat, but we can easily convince ourselves that something, potentially, is wrong. We lose sleep, and feel like hell the next day, confirming our suspicion that we aren’t quite right, when, in fact, we are perfectly fine.

This type of thought pattern is common, it is how the “untrained” mind naturally functions. The key to being positive, to being happy, to being content, to evolving into a productive, fulfilled person is to train our minds. Much easier said than done, and, in my humble opinion, it is a job never 100% done. Like doing cartwheels, you may be really good at it, though never perfect. And if you don’t practice all the time, you’re going to lose the skill. Thinking positively is just like doing cartwheels. Practice. Practice. Practice. And never stop. You may get close to perfect, but never quite.

The trash we allow our minds to dwell on is compromising our physical, mental and emotional health, and so, our quality of life, even our longevity. Take the trash out.

In my conversation today, about not focussing on the horrible, the pain, the poor finances, lack of energy, etc., part of my message was what you allow into your mind is usually what comes out. If you fill your mind with garbage; horrible news, that is all you have to think about. If you fill your mind with productive reading material, that, in turn, is what drives your thought processes. If you begin your day not with a mental list of your ailments, your aches, your pains, your poor situation but with affirmations of what you want to experience instead, and with gratitude for the positive things your already have in your life, your whole mindset shifts to those more positive drivers. Garbage in, garbage out.

This is an exercise I do each and every morning. Well, most mornings. And I really want to do it every single morning. And if I don’t, I usually have a more difficult time remaining in a super positive frame of mind. But, honestly, while this may be a starting point, it takes constant “policing” of our thoughts to keep them from nose diving back into the negative during the course of the day. I spent a full year actively re-training my mind to focus on the positive, and still, now and then, I have to give myself a pep talk.

During the course of losing my dream of living on a ranch in the country to foreclosure, during the course of losing the house in town, shortly thereafter, to a short sale, then leaving my husband after a lonely marriage of twenty some years, and getting my kids through the last years of high school and off to college reasonably unscathed during the midst of all this turmoil, in all the trials of moving multiple times, trying to discover who I really was, trying to reclaim my health and fitness, trying to build a life for myself and provide emotional and financial support to my family, all the while trying to progress in my career, I have, somehow, kept quite upbeat and positive. I consider myself a modern marvel!

I read highly nutritive material. I always have on my Kindle, a book I am reading that fosters a positive mental attitude, the law of attraction, developing good relationships, or something along those lines. Yes, I have fun reads, too, novels by Candace Bushnell or Sohpie Kinsella. And always a classic, my favorite being Jane Austen. But I really try to put into my mind only positive matter, so that what come out is positive in kind.

I, personally, believe in the law of attraction. I’ve read The Secret, I’ve listened to it in audio, I’ve watched the movie. And, to me, it a lot of it makes sense. I usually glean out of all the material I read, the snippets I think will work best, and sort of craft my own “philosophy”. But I do believe in the law of attraction, that energy attracts like energy. Positive thoughts are positive energy, and in kind, attract positive results. No, you can’t just think “I want a million dollars” and it magically appears. I’ve tried that. Doesn’t work. But, in thinking reasonable and positive thoughts, I have been able to progress considerably in becoming more financially stable, and, financially independent; mostly by focussing on budgeting and living within my means. But, where a few years ago, I thought retirement was never a possibility for me, I see now, I may, at some point, be able to retire. This, I am certain, is because I am focussing on positive thoughts in this area, and through those positive thoughts I have found positive solutions and have achieved positive results.

I read another book, Relax, Focus, Succeed by Karl W. Palachuk. This was a man who suffered incredibly from pain due to a very real medical condition. Through training his mind diligently, he learned to override the thought processes of focussing on the pain, and now lives a far more pain free and active, fulfilling life. His material is definitely worth a read.

So, in my conversation today, I am hoping I made some sort of impact, because I care a great deal about this person. And while there may be fear of the horrible things heard on the news, true pain, dwindling savings and a resulting lack of energy (probably from depression over the other items), I am hoping that a concerted effort at altering thought processes will provide relief, and, better quality of life.

I challenge you to really, deeply examine your thoughts. What are you allowing into your mind that influences your thoughts, and what are the results manifested in your life? Take the garbage out and keep sweeping up, I’m certain you’ll see a positive difference if you are diligent. Why do you think they call it being down in the dumps?

The Rhythm of Love

I haven’t written in a while. And I’m behind on my projects for work. True, I have been packing boxes, moving truck loads of my belongings from old residence to new, and now unpacking boxes, in every spare moment of my time. I have been residing at the new residence for a couple of days now, and I am really struggling to develop a rhythm in my day.

I think humans were meant to have a routine; a daily routine, perhaps a weekly and monthly routine, and most definitely a seasonal routine. As hunter/gatherers, our lives were very much set to the pattern of the rising and setting of the sun, the change of seasons, and the progression of age. It is natural, and living without a routine, though commonly thought of as romantic and bohemian, is really not sustainable. And so, I am feeling a bit out of sorts.

I like to consider myself spontaneous. I can be. I’d like to think if a friend called and said “let’s go do this or that tonight”, I’d be thrilled and ready to go. I think I would. Usually. But, for every day where nothing spontaneous presents itself, I do like to have a bit of a routine. Perhaps it has to do with my life, in general, with so much travel, and rarely to the same place twice. Though every destination is different, I do have my travel routine; how I travel, the time I prefer to book my flights, what I do as soon as I arrive in the city, at the hotel, etc. There is a definite pattern, if not a routine.

During the brief respite from travel I have each year, occurring right about now, I crave a routine in order to get my projects done for work. When we don’t travel and train clients on software, we re-write, rearrange and refresh our class materials. That’s what I’ve been working on the past few weeks, and still I am behind. I’ll get it done, no doubt, but I am struggling, more than usual, with the upheaval of moving in the midst of all of this.

During this time of year, when I work from home, I like to get up, eat breakfast, write in my journal, check Facebook, text important people in my life a heartfelt good morning, work out, shower, and be ready to work by the time I’m “supposed” to be working, 9:00 am in my home time zone. This I can usually accomplish, sometimes it’s a little later, but then I just work a little later. Sometimes a lot later. No big.

My old residence was a house outside in a newer suburban neighborhood, an annoying distance from any convenient shopping venue. The house was actually, originally, leased by my son and a few of his friends from high school for their first years of college. My son being the only of the four that went directly to a university rather than to a community college. After a year or so, the other young men all transferred to other schools in other locations and my son was left at the house by himself, with most of their stuff and all of the rent. My lease was up for renewal at that time, with a sizable rent increase, and after an unsuccessful attempt at securing new roommates, my son asked me to move in. I rented the two smaller bedrooms from him, he kept the master bedroom. It was kind of a strange dynamic, at first, but we settled into a routine that suited both of us. Neither of us were home, much, at all, and when we were, we were often alone. We actually got into the routine of setting aside a Friday night once a month to go to a pub for a beer or to a wine bar for a flight of wine. While living with my son, I was able to stick to my preferred routine when working from home, mostly, and was very happy with that.

My son has moved, having found a less expensive option, living with other college kids, which is a much better college experience than living with your mom. I support that. I wasn’t wild about paying for and keeping clean, the entire three bedroom, two and a half bathroom house. Especially the paying for part. My mom just turned 89 and lives alone in the house I grew up in, an older, suburban, split level home that requires quite a bit of work and maintenance. She struggles with the stairs and with keeping things up. I, being the only child, and my father having passed away just over a year ago, worry about Mom falling or overdoing. Her neighbors have all been lovely and kind and have been looking out for her, but I knew, I’ve known for most of my life, that at some point, I was probably going to have to assist in some way. I consider myself the “floating family member”, I can live pretty much anywhere as long as I’m within a reasonable distance from a decent airport. Well, I can’t live in Hawaii. Or Alaska. Which is really, really, really unfortunate.

So, here I am. Living with my mom. For two whole days now. I haven’t accomplished anything. I have no schedule. I have no routine. I have no solitude. And I have no patience. Breakfast is littered with random recitations from the newspaper, I couldn’t focus on my journal at all. There I was writing down my affirmations, one being “I am a good daughter”, all the while just seething and being generally grumpy because I was unable to concentrate on my task as my mom read snippets of the newspaper out loud to me. I’m pretty sure I was making the same face my dad used to always make, sort of a grimace, when my mom read from the newspaper. I wasn’t ready to work until 10:00 am this morning, and I really wasn’t all the way ready, but I had a meeting. Then I finished getting ready. I worked for a wee bit, had another meeting, then took Mom out for errands. Just like yesterday.

I know that I need to be way more tolerant. I need to be accepting. I need to find a way to secure solitude at one end of the day or the other to do what I find very important to me; journal, reflect, exercise, write, read. Oh, and work.

I have written over 1,000 words tonight, and this feels really good. Of course, I should be working on my work projects right now, try to finish up before next week’s deadline, having probably only put in about six hours of work in the past two days, total. I’ve told Mom that tomorrow, no errands, that I need to work twelve to fourteen hours, after my morning routine. We’ll see how that goes. I am hopeful. I have plans to alter my morning routine slightly to accommodate the “I am a good daughter” affirmation. I will do my journal (affirmations and gratitude) before I go down for breakfast. I will smile while she reads the newspaper out loud and I munch on my breakfast, text and Facebook. Work out, shower and then work.

I am a proponent of change. I think change is good. I am comfortable enough with change to deliberately seek it out. I embrace change. With change comes adjustment, tolerance and acceptance, all four being very upsetting to most people. All four being critical to our ability to develop, to evolve into the people we hope to become. And so, I have set my alarm and look forward to the challenge of a new day. A day where, out of love, I will try to fall into a new rhythm.

Drinking the Kool Aid

I know the reference to “drinking kool aid” is rather morbid, having it’s origin with the Reverend Jim Jones Jonestown massacre, for those of you who didn’t know, but, in today’s vernacular, it basically means, “who do you follow?” So, whose kool aid do you drink?

We all are followers, like it or not. Copycats. We all have someone or some group of people we identify with and seek to emulate, whether we are fully aware of it or not. The “Raider Nation” is one of my least favorite examples. Nascar fans, a more tolerable example. And there are those folks who take on their favorite comedian’s or favorite star’s characteristics. Many years ago, when Jeff Foxworthy and his “you might be a redneck” routine was popular, my brother in law adopted the accent, the inflection, the tone of voice that Jeff used, and he never looked back. He still sounds like Jeff Foxworthy even if Jeff Foxworthy doesn’t sound so much like Jeff Foxworthy anymore. I had a little girl in my Girl Scout troop many years ago who loved the comedian Dane Cook and for a full year, never spoke an original word, everything she said was straight from Dane Cook’s material. I remember in fifth or sixth grade, there was a “popular” girl I wished I were a little more like. Never mind that she was short, round and blond and I was not tall, but definitely taller, skinny and had very dark hair. I invited her to my slumber party for my birthday, and she came. I tried so hard to be like her, I even copied some of her mannerisms, including covering my mouth with my hand when I laughed. This isn’t really particularly cool, or attractive, but for some reason, I adopted that habit because she did it. In a photograph my mom took at my birthday party, there I was in the picture with popular girl, and we both have our hands covering our smiles. I was sort of embarrassed, I guess I didn’t really realize how I was copycatting her. Long story short, I never became as popular as she was, and truthfully, I am okay with that. And, to this day, every now and then, I catch myself putting my hand in front of my mouth when I laugh. Now I just want to be Jennifer Aniston.

Who do you follow? Knowing we are all copycats and followers, we can actually work this to our advantage as we make an effort to evolve into the happy, productive, well-balanced people we seek to become. Who are your role models in your journey? Authors? Media personalities? Me? What characteristics or behaviors do your role models possess that you think would be beneficial to you in your journey? Their focus, their work ethic, their knowledge, their clarity? Are you trying to emulate those qualities?

Having positive role models as we begin to re-assess the direction our lives are going can be extremely helpful. Personally, I have gained a lot of knowledge and inspiration from Jillian Michaels, an unintended target. I just happened to pick up one of her books at Target. I read it cover to cover and it changed my life. Her books and workout videos were the catalyst for me to finally lose those unwanted pounds and unhealthy habits I’d been living with for twenty some years. In a time when I was seeking to redefine myself, heck, to actually get to know myself, I looked to Jillian’s mass media personality to provide me the resources and guidance I needed to find my way. The self confidence I gained from finally breaking the cycle of being overweight and unhealthy unleashed a power in me that has driven me to all kinds of new possibilities, achievements and attitudes.

If you haven’t identified any positive role models, you have the unique opportunity to “shop” for the flavor of kool aid you’d like! If you are new on your journey towards your personal evolution, grab a pencil and a piece of paper and write down three things you’d like to improve in your life. Google those three things, or go to Amazon and look up books on those three things. See if you can spot names that may be “authorities” or role models on the topics on your list. Read excerpts or view videos of them and see if their message resounds, if it inspires you. I’m not saying you need to run to the salon and have your hair cut like theirs, or stalk them, or anything like that! Just get to know their philosophy, their message, their methods and explore whether you think they may work for you. This in itself can be a process, but finding a guiding light, a flavor of kool aid that you really like, is a great place to find the starting point for your journey.

Having a positive role model, famous or not, can influence our health, our productivity, our self-esteem, the shape, direction and quality of our lives. I have a few flavors of kool aid I like right now, and I’m stirring them all together to make the best punch! We all need a little more punch in our lives! How about you?

Scarlett’s Daily (or so) Diary 2/19/2013 – Tampons, Ice Cream and Beer

Tampons, Ice Cream and a Beer

The highlight of my day? I guess so. A trip to Walgreens for tampons and ice cream. Now, to cap it off with a beer.

Moving is a bitch. Especially considering it’s my fifth move in five years. I’m moving the contents of a three bedroom house to two bedrooms in my mother’s house, which, by the way, are both stuffed full of the accumulation of the nearly fifty years she has lived there. Everything she thinks she should keep but doesn’t really want or know what to do with has been sequestered into every nook and cranny in these two bedrooms. As far as I can tell, this matter consists mostly of old, dusty bank statements in boxes so ancient, the black magic marker has faded to pink, utility bills so old, the monthly bill cost, in total, about what a kilowatt hour costs now , recipes she’s never cooked, newspaper clippings, old paperback books, magazines from the 1960’s, a stack four inches high of my Facebook timeline news my dad printed for her to read over the course of several years, that are now well over a year old, and so, no longer news, and other oddities people gave her that she is keeping out of duty, or guilt, and that require dusting. This has required three telephone conversations, so far, today. I’m a little afraid of what may be stuffed in the mattresses, as they are a bit stiff and unforgiving to sleep on, and so will be replaced with my lovely, new, pillow top mattress immediately upon arrival this weekend.

On my end, I am orchestrating the exodus from Sacramento, where I have lived (or nearby) for the past thirty plus years, back to Napa, where I grew up. I am not particularly delighted by this, though everyone I talk to seems a bit envious about it all. According to The Atlantic, today, Napa is the happiest town in the United States, based on a 10 million tweet study. How? My assumption is that the tweets, which were measured on their contents of “happy words”, like “food”, “wine” and “cheers”, were strictly from tourists, not residents. Tourists who got to go home after luxuriating in Napa and shop in their town’s nice shopping malls and work out at premium health clubs and shop at a grocery store like mine, that has a bier garten and live music. These things do not exist in Napa. I guess what Napa lacks in good shopping malls and gyms it makes up for in wine. Truthfully, I can get a wider selection of Napa wine for way less dinero at my favorite shopping center here in the Sacramento area. I guess I’ll come back here to shop, work out, and buy wine. I’ll sleep in Napa.

Regarding the move, though, I am quite proud of myself. My adult children are all off, busy with their lives. I have no man about the house, mine is not so conveniently located 3,000 miles away. My mom is 89 years old and though she means well, is not much help at moving stuff. I single handedly packed 55 boxes, loaded them all into a cargo van, drove it to Napa, unloaded it completely, went out to lunch with Mom, drove back to Sacramento, and helped my son move an enormous couch, television and entertainment center to his new abode. In one day.

This coming weekend, again, without any assistance other than my VISA card and the internet, I have carefully delineated the rental of two different moving vans, two men in Sacramento followed exactly four hours later by two renta-men in Napa to load and unload the big stuff. I have also coordinated with to the moment precision, the transfer of all my utilities, internet, and phone services via a chat session online. I think I could run a war.

Tonight, after my beer, while enjoying my Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, right out of the carton, I am going to try to bundle up another twenty boxes of my life, all carefully labeled and sealed shut with color-coded, room specific packing tape. I am preparing for full mobilization this weekend, carefully balanced with looming project deadlines at work, a strict fitness schedule which was forsaken yesterday and today, and a social life. So, as they say in Napa, “cheers”!

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Only the Lonely

Let’s banish loneliness from the world, shall we? Sounds like some ideal, like something a large non-profit organization might be pursuing, with ads on television and fund-raising efforts, and efforts at raising awareness. I can see the commercials now; silhouettes of singular people, sitting alone, and some catchy phrase to make you feel guilty, pull out your credit card and donate.

I agree. I think loneliness should be banished. But, as with many things, I believe banishing loneliness begins with the lonely. You. Me. Whoever.

Let’s assume you’re lonely. Why? What is it that makes you lonely? Identify the specifics of your loneliness first, then work to solve it. Is it because you don’t have friends? Because you don’t have a significant other? A soulmate? Fine. So, fix it.

If you spend your free time at home, busying yourself with solitary tasks; television, video games, reading, etc., is it reasonable to expect people to knock on your door and seek out your companionship? Probably not.

I once knew a chronically unemployed man. He sat home all day, every day, un-showered, unshaven, drinking pot after pot of coffee, “looking for jobs online”. True, he would, occasionally, submit online applications, usually for the same job with the same company. The result? Still unemployed, with no recent job experience, no new knowledge, stale skills, no network, no leads, and no hope. I used to ask him, “do you expect some employer with a $120,000 per year job to march up your driveway in search of you?” So, what do YOU expect?

Loneliness is a lot like unemployment. In order to find a job, you need to be out there, shaking hands, making contact, making connections, building your network. You need to be active and relevant. You need to be a face with a name and a firm, comfortable handshake and a genuine smile, not a name on an application, a website or social media. You need to be real. The same is true of companionship.

There are more solutions out there than there are lonely people, I’m pretty sure. If you are lonely, get out a pen and a piece of paper. Write down things you enjoy doing; walking dogs, knitting, debating politics, hiking, driving, watching soap operas, wine tasting, walking, running, cycling, cooking, giving back to the community, worshipping, dancing. Now prioritize your list, circle the top two or three items on your list. Now, find a place where people with similar interests go on a regular basis. A church, a volunteer organization, a hiking club, cycling club, etc.

A great resource I use is MeetUp.com. You sign up, peruse MeetUp groups by interest, sign up for the groups that interest you, and attend some functions. I’ve gone hiking, dancing, running, walking, to happy hour, to concerts, wine tasting, zip lining and I’ve met a lot of folks along the way. The hardest part is showing up to the first function without a “wingman”, but once you get through that, you’ll have several acquaintances and you’ll never be flying solo again. Fear is the only thing holding you back from taking that first step by yourself. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt says about fear:

“Do one thing every day that scares you” and

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

My point is, loneliness shouldn’t exist if we all take responsibility for ourselves. Which we should be doing, here, and for most things in life. There are 7 billion people in the world, make an acquaintance with one of them, today. Everyday. They may introduce you to another. And another. Now you have a circle of acquaintances, from which friends and significant others may develop.

True, there are people out there, unlikely to evolve, to become enlightened, who will remain lonely because they don’t know they have to power to change their plight, and if you know anyone who fits that description, reach out to them. In so doing you could relieve their loneliness, and yours.

It IS that simple. And if you say it isn’t, you’re just making excuses. The only thing standing in the way is one, singular, lonely person. You. Get out of your way.

Single Barrel

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A Tale of Drunkenness and Debauchery

I am packing up my kitchen for my upcoming move. While wrapping up the glassware I noticed that I’m one shot glass short in my “matched set”. I also found, for the second time, the bottle of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel and was reminded of a night of drunkenness and debauchery that I, truthfully, don’t really want to remember.

It was the night of the “Ugly Sweater Party” that was to be held at the house I have been living in, until just recently, with my (now) twenty-two year old son. After his roommates, his high school buddies, all moved out for different schools, branches of armed services, lifestyles, I moved in to help save us both some money on rent. This arrangement worked out well for a bit over a year, but we have both found more affordable living arrangements and are moving on. Thus, the packing up of the kitchen.

I first learned of the “Ugly Sweater Party” on Facebook, I got an event invite, to a party, at my house. I must admit, I was pretty relieved, otherwise I may have felt a little awkward sneaking from room to room upstairs, undetected, while the party raged on downstairs.

My daughter and her Navy husband were home for the holidays, so they would be there, and my son’s best friend and former resident of “the house” was home from school in Hawaii and was staying with us, too. Others were invited both on and off Facebook, and no one really knew just how many people were planning to attend. I still don’t know how many people attended. Hmmm.

I am always on a budget, so I had no plans of supplying alcohol for the shindig, though I had a bottle of wine and some beer I could enjoy. My son in law had brought a very nice bottle of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey in a lovely black box to share with family over the course of the holidays, so that wasn’t really on the “menu” for the party, though it was proudly displayed on the kitchen counter. I bought some chips and such, and fortunately, everyone who showed up brought something to contribute to the drunken debauchery that was about to develop. I also had several extra ugly sweaters (from my frumpier days in the nineties) available for those who showed up looking “normal”.

Guests began to arrive, all twenty somethings, and there I was, my matronly self, sipping an exquisite oatmeal stout, chatting with “the kids”. The subject of wine came up and so out came the wine for a generous tasting. Then another beer.

There was a group of young men in the kitchen pouring a round of shots of rum, somehow I was included in this, an unlikely talent of mine is the ability to down a shot of straight anything without a wince, a flinch or a chaser, and apparently, as this had only been witnessed by a few in attendance, I was encouraged to participate. Again. And again. We quickly ran out of rum.

The bottle of Single Barrel was set to the side of the counter, though my daughter and son in law had since left for another evening obligation. At this point, I was feeling a little affected, and I really didn’t want this lovely, expensive bottle of whiskey to be squandered on a group of already drunk college and military kids who weren’t part of the “family” intended to partake of it.

I did, though, have a bottle of “ordinary” Jack Daniels in my secret hiding place, so I quickly ran and retrieved that and shared it, one shot at a time, with the crowd in the kitchen. We quickly ran out of whiskey.

Another appeared, though I don’t know from where, or how, and I don’t think I really realized that it was indeed another bottle of Jack until the next morning when I found two empties. I only contributed the one partial I’d had hidden in my secret hiding place.

I remember standing, or perhaps leaning, in the kitchen, thinking to myself, “whoa, I think I’ve had enough and if I hang out much longer I won’t be remembered for my unlikely talent of being able to down a shot of straight anything without a wince, a flinch or a chaser”. I remember walking, requiring a great deal of focus, concentration and determination, from the kitchen, through the living room, up the stairs, to my room, and that’s the very last thing I remember.

Morning came, the sun was up, and at this point I decided to change out of my clothes, put my big, comfy sweats on and actually get under the covers.

Morning was still happening when I awoke later. I looked at my iPhone. Nope, it was afternoon. Gross. I hate sleeping in. I hate hangovers. Ugh.

My room was a mess, there were knit scarves, hats, mittens and gloves everywhere. And an empty plastic tote in which they all belonged. A flashback; I’d been on the phone and I remember thinking I might need to puke, so I’d pulled the tote down off the shelf in my closet and emptied it so I had a convenient, water – tight, barf bucket close at hand. Nice.

Phone. I’d been on the phone. Another flashback, I’d left the kitchen not only to preserve some degree of my integrity, but because I’d received a text from K-Man of the north (my significant other), his usual picture of a phone, meaning I should call him (I have unlimited long distance, he doesn’t). Thinking a little further back, I think his text was in response to my text “I miss you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. There may have been more exclamation points, and probably hearts and kissy lips emoticons, too. Knowing me.

I surveyed the mess on the floor some more. Another flashback. I remember sleeping on the floor and, at some point, awakening cold and sore and climbing, clothed still in my Miss Me jeans and my impossibly ugly sweater onto, and not quite into, my bed. There are few things worse than sleeping in your clothes. One of them is sleeping in your clothes after having awakened on the floor after having consumed more hard alcohol in one night than you’ve consumed in the past year, total.

I decided to go to the bathroom. My bathroom. Upstairs, where none of the party goers should have been. There was vomit in the bathroom sink. OMG, was that mine? Or someone else’s? Upon as close of examination I could make of it with my throbbing head and queasy tummy, I deduced that it looked suspiciously like what I’d had for lunch. I dutifully cleaned it up, which wasn’t easy. Draino finally did the trick. Why the sink, the toilet was only six inches away?

I ventured downstairs to survey the damage. It wasn’t all that bad, all things considered. Those things being a houseful of twenty somethings, home from military service and college for a reunion with friends and copious amounts of alcohol, and, apparently, vast sums of Taco Bell food.

What a night. The flashbacks were becoming more and more infrequent. I had to piece together the rest of the mystery in a more Sherlock Holmes manner, by analyzing clues. Here are some I found.

Clue one: A note, from, not one, not two, but three twenty something men, scrawled in black Sharpie on hot pink duct tape, plastered to the refrigerator; something about burlesque, beauty (misspelled) and a couple of phone numbers. To me. Oh dear.

Clue two: My wireless headset in it’s cradle, recharging, but my phone was off the hook. I usually use my headset when I chat with K-Man because I can wander around the house and do what I do. Or I can curl up on my floor, too drunk to speak, and prepare to vomit in my knit hat, scarf, and mitten tote.

Clue three: Later in the day I received a rather urgent and business like phone call from K-Man of the North, from the travel agent’s office, in order to confirm his arrival and departure dates. We had agreed, out of economic responsibility, that as much as we’d like to see each other over the holidays, it was more practical to wait until there were more funds in the savings account and airfare wasn’t overpriced due to holiday travel. A very vague flashback including crying, and, oh my, begging. Shame.

Then I remembered the bottle of Single Barrel. I felt, since I was the most adult, age-wise anyway, that I was ultimately responsible for it. That bottle was to have been saved, for later enjoyment by “the family”, as was my son in law’s intent. And as he’d left the party fairly early, if it had indeed been consumed, it would have been without his participation. Fear.

I hurried back downstairs to look and it’s spot on the counter was empty. My stomach sank. Or flip flopped. Or both. I was still feeling pretty wobbly, as in I was probably still at a BAC where I should not consider operating an automobile. And this was well over twelve hours since I’d dismissed myself from the party. Shame.

I lifted the lid to the recycle bin in the kitchen, which was full. I kind of poked around, but I didn’t see the empty Single Barrel bottle. There were two empty “ordinary” Jack Daniel’s bottles, one mine, and the other having come from angels, or devils, or I don’t know. Panic.

There were empty bottles of really crappy beer littering every flat surface in the kitchen. The floor was sticky and the place smelled like what I remember a frat house smelling like; booze, stale beer and Taco Bell. Sick.

About this time, my son and his girlfriend appeared. I asked them about the Single Barrel. Apparently, my son, like myself, thrilled, for once, at the prospect of being able to partake without having to be designated driver, had also overdone a bit. He was having vague flashbacks of his own. Neither of us ever relinquish our self-control enough to get anything more than tipsy, let alone “black out” drunk, we love our control that much. And the one time we do, we choose the same night to do so. An all out search ensues. We searched every cupboard. The guilt builds. We search the living room. The guilt builds. We search the garage, the closet under the stairs, the bathroom, the patio. The guilt builds and builds and builds. We search upstairs. The guilt builds. We both vaguely remember discussing the bottle of Single Barrel with each other, expressing concern and , we thought, executing a plan to preserve it. A plan, apparently, that either wasn’t executed, or was very, very, very good, and then very, very, very forgotten. Dismay.

That night, we confessed our sins to my son in law. We swore the bottle had to be somewhere. He didn’t seem upset or concerned by our act of irresponsibility, and he conducted his own fruitless search. The guilt built further.

A few days later, after cleaning up the house, and even going through all the bags of bottles before dumping them into the recycle bin, which I am still ashamed of when I am outside and neighbors pass. When the recycle truck came by the following week, and strained with the weight of lifting that can, and as the can was upended over the cavernous opening inside the bowels of the truck, for what seemed like an eternity, breaking glass, clanking bottles. So embarrassing. But in all those bottles, I found no evidence of the bottle of Single Barrel. Perplexed.

I found myself at Total Wine a few days later, in preparation for K-Man’s impending visit, I was stocking up on wine and beer. Stocking up may be an understatement, stockpiling may be more appropriate. I ended up with a case and a half of wine and four and a half cases of beer. I felt so guilty about him spending his entire savings to buy a ticket to visit my drunk ass, that I didn’t want him to spend a dime on food or alcohol the entire time he was to be here. While at Total Wine, I picked up a bottle of Single Barrel. They didn’t have it in the pretty black box that the original had come in. The guilt built. But, between you and me, I didn’t know how to open that stupid box, anyway. I tried. Several times. It had a secret latch or closure somewhere. Or maybe you just had to have your wits about you to open it. A drunk proof bottle box. Perfect.

I gave my son in law the bottle and he accepted it with some resistance. My son and I still swore, and my son in law agreed, the original bottle had to be somewhere. But where, we had no idea. Ever since the party, we had been making frequent, random searches throughout the house; the laundry room, the linen closet, the garage, again.

I was home alone, which was highly unusual at this time of year with now four extra bodies occupying every bed, couch, love seat and ottoman in the house for the entire holiday season. I was looking for something in my closet. As I have the “kids’ bedroom”, my son has the master (I moved into his house), I have to hyper-organize my stuff. I came from a large, luxurious walk-in closet, now I have a small cave with the silly slide back and forth doors. I have plastic totes for everything; knits hats, scarves, gloves, and mittens. Another for bras. Another for socks. Another for hiking apparel. I have pant hangers with my scarves on them. I have a real weakness for scarves. I have hundreds. They hang down off the hangers in a dazzling array of colors, patterns and textures. They make me happy. Sometimes i just open my closet to admire the jumble of scarves, spilling in a textile waterfall nearly to the floor of the closet. My sock and bra bins are behind the scarves. There is a stack of bins just to the left of these where I keep other stuff, like gift bags and wrapping paper. As I moved the scarves aside to access the bins, there it was. The Single Barrel. In it’s box. Unopened. Safe.

The last flashback, though vague; a drunken discussion with my son, mid-party, probably somewhere between the first and second bottle of “ordinary” Jack. I remember, sort of, telling him to put the Single Barrel in my closet, on top of the gift wrap bin, where I’d always hidden my reserve of Jack (which he never knew). He vaguely remembers this discussion as well, and we have comedically re-enacted it a few times, because it must have been pretty funny to witness. Drunken me, clutching the coveted bottle of Single Barrel, lurching over to my son, swaying, handing the bottle to him and saying “Goh upshtairs (pointing, here, I’m sure) and put thish in my closhet. On the bins, behind my shcarfsh, sho no one drinksh zit”. He likely replied, “got it” and dutifully lurch stepped over to the stairs, arm extended, bottle grasped around the neck with a clenched fist, white knuckled to be sure not to lose grip on it, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was observing his stealth like moves as he surreptitiously removed the Single Barrel from harm’s way.

After it’s discovery, I took a picture of it and texted it to all parties privy to the situation. It was returned to it’s rightful owner and ended up being enjoyed at another Facebook/party/event I organized during the season; Game Night. Nothing like a fermented game of Apples to Apples! This party was a bit more controlled. There was drunkenness and debauchery, but not me, though I did show off my rare talent for taking shots, but only twice.

Needless to say, with two full bottles of Single Barrel, and after a party of such epic proportions, when the holidays were over, shortly thereafter, and all but my son and I boarded airplanes for various parts of the world, the north, Alaska, the south, Brazil, the east, South Carolina, there was still a partial bottle of Single Barrel. Somewhere. And now, nearly two months later, I have discovered it’s hiding place in the kitchen. The missing shot glass, however, I fear is lost for good. Probably also a victim of drunken debauchery at the hands of someone in a very ugly sweater. As for the remaining Single Barrel whiskey, I guess I’ll put it in a box and take it with me when i vacate this abode. I’ll be sure to mark the box in large, bold letters “SINGLE BARREL”, lest the bottle be lost again.

Just Do It

That was the Nike slogan a few years back, and it still resounds, it is still relevant and appropriate every morning I open my eyes to meet a new day. Just do it.

I don’t care if you weigh 400 pounds and can’t lift yourself off the couch or if you’re a 110 pound marathon runner, we owe it to ourselves, to our family, to our country to – just do it. To get healthy and remain healthy. Do it every day.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that between 2007 and 2009, 2.4 million people became obese. Harvard researchers fear that 42% of Americans will be obese within the very near future, and this, they estimate to expand to 75% by the year 2020, if we don’t change our ways. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that weight related diseases account for ten percent of all medical spending, impacting the cost of health insurance for all of us. Employers are terrified of this trend and how to cover the increases that are expected as we become larger and larger. My employer offers us monetary incentives (reduced rates and reimbursement plans) for active and healthful lifestyles. The National Institute of Health estimates that $75 – $125 billion is spent each year on the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity related diseases.  Being unhealthy is a burden not only to yourself, your family, loved ones, but to our nation. This goes way beyond being a personal lifestyle choice. The choice may be personal, the cost is global.

I don’t care how you start. Just do it. Find a success story that inspires you, read it, follow it if its ongoing, then make your own story. Seek medical advice, trying, at all costs, to avoid quick fixes like surgery and prescriptions. More lasting, satisfying and meaningful results come from one thing only; more lasting, satisfying and meaningful work. Hard work, daily sweat, and adopting moderation into your life. With each day comes some small triumph, and in time, however long it takes, your life is reshaped, remodeled. The burden is lifted.

This will require great effort, of course. But think of the great effort your life already requires. Is there a significant amount of effort required to stand up, to walk any distance, to bend over, to tie your shoes, to go to the bathroom, to bathe. This will just be a gradual exchange of effort.

If you are resistant to the idea of changing yourself for the better, talk to somebody you trust, a friend, an expert of some sort, a therapist; what are the underlying causes for your resistance, for your self destructive behavior? Get to the root of the cause, resolve those issues, then take the next step, the step to better health, now knowing you are worth it and you deserve it, you were always worth it.

An alarming trend in our society, coincidentally matching our increase in obesity, our increase in heart disease, in diabetes is the advocation of tolerance for obesity. I, personally, do not think less of overweight people, having been one myself (my BMI put me in the “overweight” category for the better part of two decades, and I flirted with “obese” a time or two). I will admit, though, that people who won’t make an effort to become healthier, just baffle me. Being baffled is not disrespect. I respect everyone for who they are, whatever shape or size (or color or creed, or nationality or religion, or political party or sexual orientation). I just really want to help! I want everyone to be able to really experience health, to experience life, to be fulfilled. 

Now to be brutally honest; as a frequent flyer, when I see a new baby, a toddler or an obese person enter the cabin door, I’d prefer to sit next to the baby or the toddler because at least I’ll have room for my shoulders. If someone is going to take up a quarter of my shoulder space, all of the arm rest and prevent me from being able to sit comfortably, maybe even cross my legs at some point during the flight, I’d like them to contribute to the cost for the portion of my space they’re using. Thank you very much. 

There is another movement afoot, of sorts, that I find quite offensive, and it seems to be somewhat in line with the tolerance for obesity campaign, and that is the public disrespect of skinny people, skinny girls in particular. “Skinny bitch” is actually the phrase I see most. Just like some people have a natural tendency to be large, others have a natural tendency to be slight. By no fault of their own. The persecution of these people is as cruel as the persecution of the obese. It doesn’t hurt any less. Persecution is never appropriate, on any basis, for any reason. 

For those of us who have to work very, very, very hard keeping unwanted pounds off, the persecution of thinness causes, in me, besides a silent explicative, the same reaction the gun control issue invokes in me, “you want to take sides and fight it out?” In both cases, being both armed and fit, I’m thinking the odds are in my favor. But let’s not go there, shall we? Luckily, I have great self control, I am able to control, for the most part what I eat, how my firearms behave, and I even have some control over my thoughts. 

Just do it. Make the effort to make a change. After two years of hard work and sacrifice, having lost fifty pounds and five pant sizes, I was able to do an hour on the cardio machines, an hour of Zumba and an hour of cardio weight lifting, in the same night, if I chose to (which was not all that often). But running a single mile, outdoors, on real terrain, seemed insurmountable. I joined a running club, my impetus was to run 13 by 13, and the day I did my timed mile, to identify which “pace group” I would train with, I was so triumphant! I ran a whole mile without stopping. I ran a whole mile at a fairly respectable time, though my heart rate was way off the charts. Within a few months, I’d moved up a couple of pace groups and could run six, seven, eight miles. Another month and I could run ten or twelve. I completed my first half marathon running at a pace a full minute faster than I’d trained at. Then, I ran eighteen, then twenty miles. I continue to run. Now I’m shooting for a full marathon, which, honestly, seems insurmountable right now. 

It all starts with the very first step. It all starts when you lace up your shoes, stand up and take that very first step. Every step forward is a success, no matter how far you go. One little step forward is one little step further than you were yesterday! Whether you are running or walking, whether a block, a mile or a marathon, every step forward is a triumph.

My first home work out video, when I first started this journey, I did half the warm up, half-heartedly. Sweating and panting, I was impressed with myself that I was able to remain standing to view the remainder of the forty minute video (thanks Jillian Michaels). Within a week, I was able to complete, with effort, the video, following the “beginner girl”. Now, I can run twenty miles, I cannot complete a Jillian Michaels video at the hardest level, following the “advanced girl”. And I’ve just begun the “Insanity” work out series, talk about humbling, there is no “beginner girl”, I am the “beginner girl”. I have yet to finish every exercise in any one video. But I make progress every, single day. Just sayin’, don’t let what others can do discourage you, there should ALWAYS be someone to inspire you, there should always be something to aspire to. Marathon runners often continue to strive for longer distances, fifty kilometers, fifty miles, a hundred kilometers, a hundred miles. Seriously. Weight lifters always strive to lift more weight, high jumpers always try to reach new heights, long jumpers, new lengths. There is no athlete out there content with where they are. Athlete, or not, we should not be content with where we are. 

I am fifty pounds lighter, I wear a single digit jean size. I am not content. I have more capacity for improvement in my cardiovascular fitness. I definitely have more muscle tone I could develop, I still have the whole rest of my life to keep fit to live to it’s fullest. 

And I know I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always have a little extra skin on my belly when I lean over, I’ll probably always have a bit of cellulite, I’ll always have those stretch marks. Does that prevent me from moving ahead? No! Hell, no! That isn’t the point. It isn’t at all about how I look, it is so much more about how I feel! And I want you all to feel as good as I do, all the time! I feel amazing! My ability to manage stress is greatly improved, my energy and enthusiasm is greatly improved. I am more focussed on tasks, I get more accomplished in a day. I am so much happier. What doesn’t sound appealing about all that?

So, I invite you. Just do it. I’ll be right there with you!

Show Me a Man

Show me a man who knows balance in life; a man who works very hard, but knows the value of a enjoying the stillness of morning. A man who can perform any task offered him, however daunting, however physical, however long. A man who cherishes a few moments swinging in the hammock on the porch in the early evening just as the ravens pass overhead on their ritual path. Show me a man skilled in many trades and who can grow a garden where many struggle. Show me a man that knows he could earn far more by working longer hours, days, weeks, months, years, but knows that money won’t buy back the time he spent in toil, and so chooses a simpler, less extravagant lifestyle.

Show me a man with integrity; a man who will quickly admit his mistakes, even if it means less money in his pocket at the end of the day. A man who is honest about his feelings at any moment in time. A man accountable for every thought, action and deed. Show me a man that will do today what he says he will. Show me a man known for his good word because he has always lived up to his word. Show me a man that makes no excuses. Show me a man who looks for the best deal, but only if it is fair and honest.

Show me a man with wealth beyond measure; not a man with a big paycheck, solid portfolio, an important title, pricey real estate, a luxury automobile, for these are not true measures of wealth. The fickle economy, changes in technology, the volatility of the markets, can bring a man with tangible wealth to his knees in a moment. Show me a man with true wealth; a man without debt, a home that is paid for, a man who lives within his means, a man that knows the value of a dollar earned and a dollar saved, a man with a practical outlook on the future, a man that values what he owns, a man that has long standing relationships and a good name in his community, a man that is able to do any job, work hard, and be proud of his work at the end of the day.

Show me a man with compassion; a man who will open his home to those in need. A man who will teach someone disadvantaged the value of earning their keep, of saving a portion of their pay, of developing themselves so that they may become independent. Show me a man who will represent his friend in front of someone who seeks to take advantage of them. Show me a man that will listen to the stories of the old, the ambitions of the young, the concerns of a friend, the tears of a lover.

Show me a man with respect; a man who can live off the land but doesn’t gloat for his conquests. A man who understands the balance of nature and when the balance is being tipped, realizes it is better to have less this year to hopefully have more in the next. Show me a man who maintains a friendship with his high school English teacher. Show me a man who will take an elderly man fishing so his wife won’t worry.

Show me a man who is handsome; a man who doesn’t look like he walked off the cover of a magazine, but a man with a genuine smile. A man who cares for himself, his hair, his skin, his teeth, but not out of vanity. Show me a man with kind, smiling eyes and a playful grin. Show me a man that takes pride in his appearance and even more pride in his character.

Show me a man who is strong; not a man who works out at the gym to create muscles that will rarely, if ever, be used, other than to impress others. Show me a man who is strong enough to work incredibly hard, physically, all day, every day. Show me a man who can swing an ax, who can build a shelter single-handedly, who can fix anything and fix it right, a man who can climb a steep hillside, a man who can hunt for his own food and manage what he has claimed.

Show me a man with patience; a man who develops lasting friendships, a man who meets a woman at the wrong time and waits until it’s the right time. Show me a man who will work, save, then buy. Show me a man who will do with less to enjoy life more. Show me a man who will do without rather than compromise his savings.

Show me a man that knows how to communicate; a man who will be honest about his past, his present and his plans for the future. Show me a man who will patiently tell his lover what he likes, what he doesn’t. Show me a man who will listen before he speaks, and speaks that which is worth listening to. Show me a man who likes a lively debate, but not for the sake of triumph. Show me a man who can express himself without the constant use of explicatives. Show me a man that knows his turn in conversation. Show me a man with a kind, even tone, a man that speaks softly that he will be listened to, not a man that yells to be heard.

Show me a man that is intelligent; not a man with an accumulation of diplomas and degrees hung upon the wall that demonstrate only the completion of some curriculum. Not an intelligence measured by an institution, but an intelligence demonstrated in how he conducts his life. Show me a man that understands life, understands people, understands the world, from paying careful attention, remembering valuable lessons, applying practical wisdom, knowledge and discernment. Show me a man that learns a lesson, remembers it and applies it. Show me a man that can educate himself in anything to accomplish what must be done. Show me a man that knows himself.

Show me a man unlike any other; a man who can, by himself, throw a dinner party for eight, a man who can bake not just bread, but brioche, a man who has a tidy home. Show me a man who puts thought into every task, a man who builds his home so that his bedroom window has a unique view, that he may someday share that view with someone he adores. Show me a man who is able to think of the creation and also build it. Show me a man that doesn’t expect more of people, but inspires them to expect more of themselves.

Show me this man, the rarest of rare, an unexpected treasure, the man of my dreams. My dream come true.

A Walk in the Desert

I realized, after perusing Facebook this afternoon, that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I’m “sort of” Catholic. I was raised Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism when my kids were young. My dad had been Catholic, as a youth, and so had my husband. It seemed so natural, I loved the ritual and the routine, the seasons and the celebrations.

In all that has transpired in recent years, honestly, my faith has been shaken a bit. I do still “believe”, but, what, exactly I believe in is kind of loose, a little vague.

Whether a practicing Catholic, a Protestant, or a pagan, I think there is value to taking a walk in the desert, which is, loosely, what Lent is symbolic of, the forty days that Jesus fasted and wandered in the desert.

In years past, I have given up all sorts of things for Lent. Keeping in mind, that it is supposed to be “a sacrifice”, something that we will struggle with fasting from. One year, I gave up beer, Diet Coke and coffee. That was the longest forty days of my life. I was, at the time, preparing for a ten-day backpacking trip where indulging in beer would definitely be out of the question, as would Diet Coke, and coffee would be difficult. As soon as Lent was over, I enjoyed a beer. Coffee, I continued to fast from, and, truthfully, I felt fantastic. The day after coming off the trail, I headed right for the Coke machine and had an ice cold Diet Coke, downing it in about two gulps. Then belching. It was divine. I have considered giving coffee up again, perhaps permanently, but I usually come to my senses. Coffee is something I enjoy, just one (large) cup, every morning. I lapsed immediately back into a daily Diet Coke habit after the backpacking trip, but knowing I could live without it gave me the strength to finally give it up for good, a few years later. Its really just a chemical cocktail that affords us absolutely no nutritive value and that our bodies have no idea how to process.

Another Lenten fast of note was giving up bread. This I accomplished a couple of years ago. I. Love. Bread. I had just embarked on my life altering journey towards fitness, catalyzed by reading Jillian Michaels’ book Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! I gave up bread for forty days and learned that I can live without it, and the ten pounds that immediately fell from my body. To this day, I only eat “traditional” bread about once a week, and only if it is extraordinary bread, like at a nice restaurant. I do eat “sprouted grain”, flourless bread, a time or two a week, usually for a piece of toast or half a sandwich. A loaf of “sprouted grain” bread, at $4.50 a loaf, lasts me well over a month.

One year, believe it or not, I gave up audible burping and farting. No. Really. My kids were older teens at the time, and the family had always found humor in such “expressions”. Upon leaving my husband, I decided it was kind of gross to be so brazen with one’s gastric occurrences. I decided if I ever allowed myself to enter into a relationship again, I would refrain from this activity, out of respect. I theorized, that to be so comfortable with someone as to be so violently disgusting was really quite disrespectful. So, I gave up belching and ripping off farts. I, of course, must occasionally pass gas, it is part of the digestive function, after all, but I make every effort to show some respect and keep it quiet. And, if an audible one slips, it is followed by a blush and an “excuse me”. I am usually afforded the same respect in turn.

Last year, quite honestly, I think I just gave up Lent. Have you noticed, that for each year I gave up something for Lent, I benefited for far longer than the forty days? I’ve successfully used Lent as instigation for self-improvement, year after year after year. With the exception of last year, and for this I feel repentant.

So, as we are about sixteen hours into the Lenten season, I am a little behind in selecting what it is I should fast from for the next forty days, what it is I hope will become a lasting fast, something that I will benefit from. Chocolate? No! Beer? No! Wine? No! Butter? No! Sex? No! I had a couple of friends mention caviar and sit ups, but as I have not actually had caviar in quite some time, nor have I done sit ups, favoring plank work instead, I don’t think these are actually good choices, other than being totally “doable”.

I thought about, maybe, nose picking, which I only do when I’m alone. Don’t laugh! You know you do it, too! At least I don’t do it my car! But, I don’t know, I just can’t bring myself to respond to the lively conversation on Facebook with “I’ve decided to give up nose picking!” So, then, what?

I’m certainly not out of bad habits, I’m just having a really hard time identifying any that I am prepared to forsake for any period of time, chocolate, beer, wine, butter and sex, and, really, none of those are BAD habits, especially sex. And wine. And chocolate. And beer. And butter. Perhaps moderation rather than abstinence is what I’m favoring. Except for sex. Perhaps, for Lent, especially after the alcoholic and chocoholic escapades of the last couple of months, I will limit my intake. And chocolate. And butter. I do enjoy these substances immensely, and probably a bit more than I should. Hence that sneaky ten pounds that is bulging out over the top of my jeans as I sit cross legged on the couch writing this.

Okay, then. That’s it. Moderation with wine, beer, butter and chocolate. Let’s be clear.

Wine and beer, my goal has always been to limit alcohol to one beverage per night. I can do that. In fact, I’ve been pretty good about that since about Sunday.

Butter. I probably consume two tablespoons per meal, including what I use for cooking. I will halve this. So, no more than three tablespoons per day.

Chocolate, which I do eat daily. I did manage to move from milk chocolate to dark chocolate a couple of years ago, so that is a positive development. I will limit myself to one square a day, plus the one tablespoon of cocoa powder required for my workout recovery drink (chocolate milk made with coconut and almond milk and raw turbinado sugar).

Anything else? Yes! I do seem to have developed quite an affinity for peanut butter. I spread it on apples, which is both delicious and nutritious. I have taken to just eating it out of the jar with a spoon. Organic, of course. I’ve refrained from it for a few days now, which has been good. I think we’ll put a limit of one serving per day, serving being equal to whatever the jar says. And I will measure. And I promise I won’t shop, deliberately, for a brand of peanut butter where the stated serving size is larger than the others on the shelf. You see, I know me, that is how my mind works.

Done. Lent is in progress. I am walking in the desert, fasting. Time for a slice of coconut cream pie! A walk in the DESSERT!