Scarlette Letter – September 6, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – The sense of accomplishment that comes from tired, slightly achy, muscles

Affirmation – I am tolerant

Attitude – Feeling tenacious

Activity – Recovery

Nurture – Meditation for fifteen minutes

Enrichment – “Take in life cheerfully”

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – I helped Mom solve her Jumble puzzles, on request. Then I “Amazon Primed”  a new pair of slippers for her.

Connection – A gathering of many, friends and acquaintances, old and new, for a surprise celebration of thirty years of marriage for a couple of lifelong friends

Simplifying – Today’s story is about simplifying.

Story – It’s a Beautiful Life

My life is beautiful.

Constancy, variety, clutter, simplicity.

Because my life is beautiful, I take pictures. I take lots and lots of pictures. I take lots of criticism for taking lots of pictures. But that’s what I choose to clutter my life up with; pictures. I take pictures of everything I eat, for example. I do this for two reasons; to kind of keep a journal of my dietary escapades in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and, because, frankly, I think food is beautiful. I take pictures of all the places I go, all the things I see, the people I love, that is the diary of my life and, as I am lousy with dates, it is also a record of events I oft refer back to. (Continue Reading)

It’s a Beautiful Life

My life is beautiful.

Constancy, variety, clutter, simplicity.

Because my life is beautiful, I take pictures. I take lots and lots of pictures. I take lots of criticism for taking lots of pictures. But that’s what I choose to clutter my life up with; pictures. I take pictures of everything I eat, for example. I do this for two reasons; to kind of keep a journal of my dietary escapades in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and, because, frankly, I think food is beautiful. I take pictures of all the places I go, all the things I see, the people I love, that is the diary of my life and, as I am lousy with dates, it is also a record of events I oft refer back to. I can remember the month and the day, almost to a freakish degree, but don’t ever expect me to remember the year without referring to my pictures! They bring me joy and they are a ready and practical guide to my history.

I experience a certain level of frustration with some of the pictures I take, my food pictures, at home, in particular. There is so much “ugly” and so much “sameness” in my home environment, I feel they compromise the beauty of the subject matter, food, or otherwise. Like power lines across a lovely landscape, I am challenged with finding varied and lovely backdrops for the food I consume several times a day, several times a week. At home. It’s not that the kitchen, or the house, is unattractive, it’s that it is always the same tablecloth and there are cords and phones and appliances always visible in the background. There are the little piles of papers on the table I can’t seem to omit from the frame no matter how I aim the camera. Petty annoyances. Very petty. But, annoyances all the same.

When I take pictures of my meals in my room, my office, or while dining outside on the deck, I have many, I think, lovely options for backgrounds, for landscapes, to enhance the beauty of my feast. This is of my choosing and by my design. This is my beautiful life.

I believe, to my core, that I have a beautiful life, literally and figuratively. True, I am always seeking change, but I like change, I crave the excitement, I flirt with the variety, I tempt the adventure. Whether that change is moving to a new city or using a tablecloth different today from yesterday, it is change and it is welcomed. So, as beautiful as my life is, I’m counting on it to change. You can look out the same window or at the same painting, every day of your life, and it is no less beautiful, but there is so much more to see. My beautiful life, by design, will be ever changing, and this, I wish to collect in photos. Photos are the only clutter I wish to keep, and digital, at that.

What it is about the kitchen I often eat in that I abhor is the clutter and the constancy. Clutter and constancy are two things I try to hold at bay in my beautiful life. It is not my kitchen, it is my mother’s, and, as I currently live with her, in her advanced age, it is the kitchen I use to prepare and, sometimes, consume my food. My mother loves constancy and allows clutter. I’m not standing in judgement, she has a beautiful life that just differs from mine. I am mostly tolerant, but dream a different dream.

As an example of our differences, for the brief and lovely time I lived alone, after leaving my husband and the kids went off to college, and before returning home to accompany my mom, I had a few lovely tablecloths and a variety of colorful napkins and placemats. No two meals were on the same combination of linens! Each was unique and lovely and fun and stimulating. Beautiful.

Different plate, different napkin
Different plate, different napkin

Variety.

My mom has two tablecloths for daily use, oil cloth and elasticized about the edge, big floral patterns that remind me of what interior designers crammed homes with in the 1980’s. There is one tablecloth for winter and one for summer, exactly like the bathroom décor for the past twenty years. May I also confess to you that beneath the everyday tablecloth is a second tablecloth, for padding, and beneath that is the most beautiful, solid oak table, cut on the quarter grain, that you will never see, like the special occasion tablecloths that only adorn the table briefly if company is nigh, or the stacks of lovely china and the sterling silver that have only seen the light of day twice, ever, that I can recall. But, really, you will never see the oak table in the buff, no matter how special a guest you are.

Same tablecloth.
Same tablecloth.

I came home from a business trip to find a package on the back counter. Contained in clear plastic wrap was a tablecloth, an exact replica of the tablecloth presently on the table. With grave concern for my mother’s mental acuity, thinking she had ordered the tablecloth not realizing she already had it, I inquired. She said the elastic on the old tablecloth was stretched out, had I not noticed? So, a new, an exact duplicate, was ordered as an improvement to our well-being and lifestyle.

Same tablecloth. Different plate, different bowl, different napkin.
Same tablecloth. Different plate, different bowl, different napkin.

Constancy.

As for clutter, I find it tiring, truly, it drains my energy and zaps my enthusiasm. I am not immune from clutter, none of us are, I have my own clutter, and pots calling kettles black, Mom and I are always intolerant of the other’s clutter. I truly believe mine is to a minimum. I moved five times in five years, I have kept only what I’d be willing to move again. I have made continual and concerted efforts to further declutter, on a regular basis. I have limited space in my rooms, my storage unit, and my life, for anything, much less the unnecessary. I find a great deal of satisfaction and a real sense of freedom in letting go of things I truly don’t need or use on a regular basis. I love to liberate things that weigh me down to become someone else’s stuff.

Same tablecloth.
Same tablecloth.

Mom’s clutter consists of unused items that have just always been there, décor and dated electronics, and paper. Lots and lots of paper. She carefully writes the date on each and every piece of mail that is received and files it for further handling at a later date. Further handling may consist of paying the bill within, ordering the items advertised, sending the donation requested, or letting it pile up precariously in “the office” until shredded. She shreds junk mail. She spent an entire day, a full eight or ten hours, shredding the accumulation of worthlessness one day last week. What doesn’t make its way to the pile in the office, resides on the kitchen table or on two of the four chairs around the table. It was occupying three of the four chairs until I moved home and wished to sit to eat. When company threatens, the piles are shuffled away to the office at the very last moment before the doorbell rings and are quickly returned to their respective kitchen resting place as the front door closes behind them upon the guest’s retreat. The company only tablecloth as quickly disappears. I don’t even see it happen, it just occurs, quickly, as if by ninjas.

Different plate. Different napkin.
Different plate. Different napkin.

Until I required two of the three bedrooms this house affords, those two bedrooms were for overflow. When company came, all that was about was put within and the doors were closed. I have no idea where all that stuff has made its way to, with my occupancy, but I am certain it is somewhere.

I’ll admit, I’ve lived similarly, but not entirely by choice, when I was living with my husband, who I would have to say is as close to a hoarder as I’ve ever known. Entire rooms in our various homes were “off limits” to guests, and every surface was filled to capacity with all the things. The accumulation. The stuff to be dealt with at some later date. Like when we moved, but, even then, most of the stuff, including piles of long dusty, faded mail, was tossed into a cardboard box, taped shut, labeled, moved, and never again reopened. If something of importance was buried in such a box, a copy was requested from the original issuer and then piled somewhere until dusty and faded, boxed and moved. I’m breaking out in hives at the recollection of this.

Different plate. Different napkin.
Different plate. Different napkin.

Clutter.

“My” kitchen, my beautiful kitchen, is in storage. All of my beautiful things, my pretty plates, my beautiful bowls, my lovely linens, and my special serving pieces. I don’t have a lot of things, just a few carefully selected pieces. Please. Remember, I moved five times in five years; I’ve kept only the very few things I absolutely adore! And, in “my” kitchen, I only have an item or two out at a time. In “my” kitchen, there are so few things, in total, that all the things have ample and generous space in a few cupboards. In “my” kitchen, one beautiful piece or another is brought out to compliment the meal of the moment, it is put away when the dishes are done, which is immediately, and the next meal is entirely differently accompanied.

Kitchen appliances bore me. True, there are some I find indispensable, a couple I don’t have I find highly desirable. But kitchen appliances, like Victorian children, should not be seen or heard, unless or until absolutely necessary. If the appliances don’t have a place in a cupboard, they don’t have a place in “my” kitchen. I honestly think I could keep kitchen appliances to a toaster and a coffee grinder. I might enjoy a really nice espresso machine, but that would be an obscene luxury item and it would require quite a bit of real estate in a cupboard. And constant care and cleaning. I gave my last not very expensive espresso machine to my son, but then, for a bit, moved in with him and had to endure its very infrequently used existence on the counter top. It required dusting. I loathe dusting.

Truthfully, as for pots and pans; I could thrive with my cast iron skillet, a high quality sauce pan, and a stock pot. The cast iron skillet serves for everything from Dutch oven to sauté pan. I yearn to keep it simple.

Different bowls. Different napkin. Same tablecloth.
Different bowls. Different napkin. Same tablecloth.

Knives and forks and plates and bowls and chairs and napkins; in my dream kitchen, there’d be just enough for me, for mine, and for a bit a bit of company, and no two items would match! They’d be eclectic and collectibles, new and ancient, and I’d let each guest select the color and pattern that struck them! And, when not in use, they’d be tucked in a neat stack in their appropriate cupboard or drawer.

“My” spaces would be decorated only with flowers, an ever changing bit of art or whimsy, a seasonal and varietal splash of color from a valance, a pillow, a candle, a picture book, a cozy throw, and a few photos.

Clothes and shoes, if they don’t fit in the closet or I haven’t worn them in a year’s time, off they go to Goodwill. I caught myself, only once, replacing my thick plastic hangers with thinner wire hangers so as to fit more into the closet. I can be cagey like that, brilliant, but devious.

Books are down to just the ones I am likely to refer to or reread, and, unless of a whimsical, interesting, varietal, and only occasional coffee table picture book, they are being replaced with electronic versions as can be afforded.

I am as paperless as this still paper dependent world will allow. I scan and shred daily. Mail that is not vital or relevant does not even enter the house. I subscribe to electronic statements and no print literature, and I call catalog companies who send me print catalogs and beg them to stop. I threaten to stop doing business with those who will not honor my “paperless please” requests, and I follow through.

As Mom and I “clutter bash” each other I have to remind her, like dieting versus a healthy eating lifestyle, simplifying and decluttering is a lifestyle. Simplifying and decluttering is a lifestyle you choose and that you live, each and every day of the rest of your life, it isn’t something you do for two weeks and then pray for lasting results, like the cabbage soup diet. Like choosing wholesome ingredients and carefully planning and preparing healthy meals, keeping the clutter that accumulates in our lives to a comfortable level takes commitment and a permanent change in behavior.

My beautiful life, in its perfected form, is a life where company can arrive unannounced and my world is clean and inviting, simply, effortlessly. Simple, uncluttered surroundings require so much less effort; less dusting, less scrubbing, cleaning happens daily with a quick swipe of a cloth across a smooth, empty surface. Dishes are done as they are used. Nothing accumulates. Everything has a place and is replaced in its place after use. This is so exciting to me I can barely contain my glee in describing this! This is my beautiful life, I have lived it briefly and yearn for it again.

Simplicity.

My life now, in my childhood home, beautiful in execution, but not in aesthetics, with all that I need and all that I use, quartered in two bedrooms, with the exception of one of the two closets, and some highly contentious space in the middle of the garage floor. My beautiful things that do not fit into Mom’s home, that I don’t require regularly, are stored, at a huge expense, in a storage unit a couple of miles away. Were this house, or a house a fraction the size, vacant, my beautiful life would easily fit within, without clutter. Simply. This is my vision, it has been my reality, and it is what I lust for now. It is the lifestyle I choose, like being active and eating clean, it’s what makes me feel joyful. I love my life. It’s a beautiful life.

Scarlette Letter – September 5, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude: I am grateful for all the courageous and independent women in history who’ve inspired me, among them, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and, now, Coco Chanel

Affirmation: I am remarkable

Attitude: Independent

Activity: Run 13.5 miles

Nurture: Meditation morphed into nap (what do you expect after a 13.5 mile run and an eighty mile drive?)

Enrichment – Listened to a chapter of Wayne Dyer’s “I Can See Clearly” on Audible during drive

Nourishment – Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – Nothing more than kind words and good wishes for everyone’s holiday weekend

Connection – Great conversations while running with my running club this morning

Simplifying – Figured out how to use Microsoft Word and Dropbox on my iPhone so I can blog on the go more easily and don’t have to carry my iPad all the time

Journaling – A Story

My best friend, doppelganger, and soul sister, Jardin D Fleur, posted a little story yesterday about cartwheels. In summary, she’d responded to a Facebook post that asked “Would your eight year old self be proud of you right now?” True to form, Jardin’s response was both insightful and funny, she said, “I don’t think so, I can no longer do perfect cartwheels. I think I’ll go practice.”

I began to think about cartwheels.

I used to be very good at doing cartwheels, and, in fact, I don’t think a day passed between my first cartwheel at about the age of six and the age when such displays became uncool, say, cheerleading aside, in high school, that I didn’t do a cartwheel. (Continue Reading)

Perfect Cartwheels

My best friend, doppelganger, and soul sister, Jardin D Fleur, posted a little story yesterday about cartwheels. In summary, she’d responded to a Facebook post that asked “Would your eight year old self be proud of you right now?” True to form, Jardin’s response was both insightful and funny, she said, “I don’t think so, I can no longer do perfect cartwheels. I think I’ll go practice.”

I began to think about cartwheels.

I used to be very good at doing cartwheels, and, in fact, I don’t think a day passed between my first cartwheel at about the age of six and the age when such displays became uncool, say, cheerleading aside, in high school, that I didn’t do a cartwheel.

I was a latchkey kid for most afternoons from some point in grade school, on. I was alone for a few hours after school almost every day, and almost always on Saturdays. Every day when I came home from school and every Saturday morning when I woke up, there was a list of chores written in my mother’s recognizable cursive, left conspicuously on the kitchen counter. I’d play all afternoon, watch cartoons and my favorite syndicated shows, talk on the phone with friends and do whatever I wanted, until about ten minutes before my mom was due home. Then I’d quickly do my chores and go upstairs and pretend to be laboring over my homework. One of the things that fell under “do whatever I wanted” was cartwheels. In the living room. Which was, I’m sure, forbidden.

My mother’s living room has always been this vast, unused, somewhat sterile space. Reserved only for the most important of company, we dare not, to this day, enter the room. More recently, my mother quite elderly, has become “lost”, on a couple of different occasions. I’ve been unable to find her. In these instances, both times, I’ve looked everywhere; in her room, her bathroom, the garage, the backyard, the family room where the TV is, her office, which is really where the washer and dryer were intended to go, but the old, oak roll top desk has always resided. The washer and dryer were relegated to the garage. Each time I’ve “lost” my mom, I finally found her, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, in the very last place I looked; the living room. But it stands to reason that it would be the very last place I looked! We never, ever, ever use the room. We’re lucky I just didn’t call the authorities and report a missing person before looking in the living room for her!

The living room is quite large, large enough to do cartwheels, obviously, and has a dining room attached. Fashionable in the 1960’s, the living room is “sunken”, meaning there is a tiny step, say four inches, down into the living room, then back, up, into the dining room. The carpet in the living room has always had a nap, and I think this was a required criteria for the carpet each time the old was replaced with new, which, by the way, was only ever because the color became unfashionable and certainly not because it was worn. The nap of the carpet would tattle immediately, alerting my mom to the fact that someone had trod through the living room. You can imagine what cartwheels would do; handprints and footprints, dozens of them. We won’t even mention the times I roller skated in the living room with the neighbor girl from across the street while our moms were at work!

I just included in my chores each day, a quick run through the living room with the Eureka, canister style, vacuum, carefully “laying down the nap” of the carpet. This was tricky, but I became quite skilled; you simply started at one end of the room and backed your way across, vacuuming in one direction only.

Scarlette Begonia

I was hiking in Marin County last weekend, outside of Bolinas. The trail I sought led to a fresh water waterfall that tumbles onto the beach and flows into the Pacific Ocean. Alamere Falls. This has been on my “to-do” list for quite some time. As I love to take pictures, and especially selfies, I’m a believer in the practice of taking routine, if not daily, selfies, I will frequently dream up opportunities for a great selfie and incorporate it into an activity. Once in a while, I will plan an activity around the idea for a selfie! My idea for a selfie for this particular hike was one of me doing a cartwheel in front of the waterfall and using my miniature tripod and the “Slo-Mo” feature on my iPhone to capture it. I’d then take a screenshot, mid slow-motion video, of the perfect moment of my cartwheel and the most epic selfie of the week would be executed. My hike to Alamere Falls occurred on a very warm, very pleasant, very popular, very crowded Saturday. Though the hike included a quarter mile of crouching through a narrow “poison oak tunnel”, and then required a rather dicey descent down a steep cliff from the top of the waterfall to the beach below, there were hordes of people on the beach. They had all somehow managed to carry umbrellas and picnic baskets and bags of food and blankets and all kinds of crap. It looked like South Beach in Florida during Spring Break. My plans for a selfie were instantly altered from cartwheel on deserted beach to a quick, opportunistic snapshot at the one and only and very precise moment when only the waterfall and I were visible in the viewfinder.

Scarlette Begonia

I still wanted to do a cartwheel, on the beach, selfie or no. But I was afraid. I haven’t done a cartwheel, like Jardin, in a very long time. Am I still capable? Able? What if I tried and failed? I’d be embarrassed. Or worse, maybe I’d be injured and given the state of the trail to the beach, I have to be evacuated to a trauma unit by helicopter! Not likely, I know, but I decided against it and headed back up the cliff, back through the poison oak tunnel, out to the main trail, on to the trailhead where I left my car. Failure.

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

I have similar fears about doing handstands in yoga class. I used to do handstands all the time, in the house, when my mom wasn’t looking. My bedroom door opens up onto a hallway and there used to be a perfectly blank wall right there, so I’d do a handstand and rest my heels against the wall. I did this for most of my childhood and even into early adulthood. As I moved back home, to the same house, a couple of years ago, to help Mom out, I’m back in that same room. However, the wall in the hallway is now adorned with a framed painting by Walter Keane that, for my entire childhood, hung from a wall downstairs in the family room. I often wonder if Mom moved the picture to thwart my secret and unstated desire to practice handstands in the hallway, at the age of 52, so I could hope to successfully perform a handstand in yoga class without trepidation.

Scarlette Begonia

What’s with this fear? And trepidation? What’s with the concern of being embarrassed if I mess up a handstand in yoga class or fall doing a cartwheel on the beach? I know not many 52 year old women are seen doing cartwheels on the beach or handstands, outside of yoga class, but I still want to do them.

Fear and embarrassment. So negative. So limiting. So unlike me.

I’ve thought about practicing cartwheels on the lawn in the backyard, but have been shy about it. The surrounding neighbors have two-story homes with windows that overlook our lawn. Unless I practice under a tree, they “might see me”. And what, I ask myself, would be wrong with that? They might be impressed, or amazed, or inspired! Or maybe they’d think I was odd or silly. So? So, today, this afternoon, after sitting on the deck, reading for a while, I fought back my fear, my trepidation, my embarrassment, my shyness, and I went down the steps and onto the lawn. Okay, yes, I hid under the cover of the boughs of the tree, and I very cautiously, very pensively, positioned myself to do a cartwheel. I did my little hop, skip, and then, just like being a kid; hand, hand, foot, foot. Perfection. I did another, and another, and another. I felt free, and young, and spirited. I felt amazing, I felt proud. I can still do cartwheels and shall now do them whenever and wherever I please. I will, in fact, now go down into the living room, as Mom has toddled off to bed, and I shall do a cartwheel!

Tomorrow morning, I will quickly vacuum the living room, just to lay the nap of the carpet back down.

Then, I think the Walter Keane will be occasionally removed from the hallway wall, when the TV is very loud downstairs, and I shall practice, to my delight, my handstands!

Because it makes me feel happy!

Scarlette Letter – September 4, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude: I am grateful to have plenty of quiet time alone to create and reflect

Affirmation: I am present

Attitude: I am feeling solitary and content

Activity: Aerobic shoe shopping (rest day for long run tomorrow)

Nurture  – A hedonistic pleasure; I sat in the shade on the sunny deck, read a chapter in a novel and enjoyed an IPA with lunch. For dinner, a chapter from a Wayne Dyer audiobook, “I Can See Clearly Now”, and a chapter from the audiobook “Life of Pi”.

Enrichment – Every living thing has something to share, watch, and learn

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – Good “carma”. I make it a practice to let cars merge or turn ahead of me in traffic. I also allow pedestrians to cross. I committed these acts several times, today, in the very crowded Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Target parking lot and good carma paid off; I got the best, shadiest parking spot in the whole lot!

Connection – Only social mediocrity, I mean, social media.

Simplifying: I dropped off a bag of clothes and a pair of boots at Goodwill. But then I bought a pair of shoes. A small pair of shoes, I think I’m net ahead, for the day, in the matter of matter.

Journaling – Today’s Story

The Playground Bully

Do you remember being a kid, out on the school playground, during recess? You’d play with your friends and try to avoid the playground bully.

I’m an only child, and, as a kid, I struggled with two things. Having very little exposure to social norms for children until grade school, I had no real examples to emulate. I was, initially, very bossy. I bossed my friends around, told them what we were going to play and how we were going to play it. I remember once recess, in particular, the two girls I’d been playing with, started to yell at me. They told me what to do and what not to do, and they weren’t very nice about it. I started to cry and they told me that’s how I treated them all the time. I was instantly reformed. From that point on I suffered more from shyness and fear of not being accepted, until adulthood, though, I think I’ve now almost overcome that affliction, too!

I also remember a large, swarthy, brusque girl in my class. I was quite tiny and she made about two of me. In the second grade. Her name, believe it, or not, was Helga. And she was a horror! She was the first bully I ever encountered, though certainly not the last. I still encounter them!

Helga called kids names, mean names. The standard playground response when someone called you a bad name was to retort, “I know you are, but what am I?” Which usually elicited a worse name. The better and more final response, we found, was, “What you say is what you are!”

These words, actually, ring very true throughout life. People tend to look externally for a frame of reference for self. If a child is told they are dumb, they believe it, they adopt that as truth, and are shaped by that for a very long time, even, perhaps, for life. We have become aware of what the fashion and entertainment industry has done to our self-perception with airbrushed and impossibly perfected images of models and stars; we feel inferior, imperfect, fat, and ugly, when in fact, we just don’t have a team of makeup artists, airbrush artists and Photoshop editors to craft our appearance on daily basis.

Scarlette Begonia

So, what do you say you are? What do you tell yourself, about yourself, on a daily basis? And what lasting and damaging effects do you think that cruel, playground, bully has had on you?

As  students of happiness, we need to be aware of the words we hear and how we allow them to influence us, and the most important words we hear are the words we say to ourselves, silently or aloud. Be kind. Be kind to others. Be, especially, kind to yourself, in word, in act, in deed. What you say is what you are.

Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Letter – September 3, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for the very special people in my life and for the cherished time I get to spend with them

Affirmation – I am kind

Attitude – My life sparkles

Activity – Window shopping

Nurture – Steam pedicure

Enrichment – “Friendship is gained by listening instead of talking”

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Begonia

And a lovely dinner with my man, his family and their family friend; a treat so delicious and rare, I did not think it appropriate to snap a picture; use your imagination!

Giving – I let several cars in front of me in traffic and pitched in on a lovely steam pedicure for a friend who is having surgery tomorrow

Connection – A great day with my love, his friends, and his family

Simplifying – I didn’t buy anything while window shopping, knowing my wallet is emptier than my closet

Sunday Sauce

We wait all week for the weekend, whether our days off are the traditional Saturday and Sunday, or other days during the week. Sometimes the only thing that gets us through the week is the promise of those days off.

As our weekend arrives, there is great anticipation, a celebratory feeling as the final day of work draws to a close. Our weekend begins, sometimes, about half way through the final day of our week; productivity decreases, distraction increases, and we count down the hours, then the minutes until we are free.

By Sunday, we begin to gear up for another week of work ahead. Sometimes, a sense of finality, of, dare I say, dread, develops, no matter how much we love our jobs. The fun and frolicking and freedom give way to task and chore and preparation. The joy of the day off is, sometimes, seemingly mitigated by the fact that an alarm must be set for morning, adequate amounts of sleep planned for, and, often, chores completed for the week ahead; laundry, ironing, meals planned, shopping done, meals prepared ahead. Such as Sunday Sauce, a traditional Italian family custom (no, I’m not Italian, but I love the idea). The week’s meat scraps and leftovers are combined into a sauce pot with tomatoes and other sumptuous ingredients, and are simmered together to make a sauce that is used throughout the busy week ahead. Sunday Sauce is spooned over pasta, meat, and vegetables and makes meal preparation throughout the week faster and easier, but no less homemade or delicious. But, the making of Sunday Sauce is one of those tasks we do with the foreboding of the long week ahead drawing nearer and nearer.

Recently, I seem to be experiencing this phenomenon twice per week. I work a traditional work week, with Saturday and Sunday off. I often have some flexibility during the week and can shuffle some of my projects around to allow me some time to spend off with my guy, who works a non-traditional work week and usually has a couple of weekdays off. So, Sunday is my Sunday and, well, today is his Sunday, and feels a lot like my Sunday, too.

As our day elapsed into evening, the pallor of solemnity seemed to increase. As shirts were ironed and the NetFlix movie drew to a close, as morning alarms were set, I was sent home with a quick goodbye kiss. My weekend, and a long, holiday weekend, at that, technically, begins tomorrow afternoon as soon as I conclude with my client. But, my weekend is sort of “on my own”, as my sweetie works. Oh, I’ll fill every minute and I will enjoy it. But come time for his next, and only day off next week, I’m scheduled to work with a number clients, all day long.

Do you see what is happening here? I am living in the future. I’m thinking about tomorrow, I’m thinking about two and three days from now, I’m thinking about the middle of next week, and all rather negatively. This is our tendency, and really, our doom. The daily doom and gloom that we let seep into our lives revolves around living in the past, dwelling on the past, living in the future, focusing on the future.

It is now. It is a beautiful evening and I’m with one of my favorite people. Life is meant to be enjoyed, like a present. In the present.

Scarlette Letter – September 2, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have available to me

Affirmation – I am focused

Attitude – Joyful

Activity – Just a little strolling

Nurture – Hugs, kisses, hand-holding, loving, and snuggling

Enrichment – “Make sure you understand your beliefs”

Nourishment – Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Begonia

Giving – only love and compliments

Connection – I spent the afternoon and evening with my sweet, wonderful, man

Simplifying – I bought a very small, zippered, cosmetic bag and filled it with absolute essentials for an overnight stay: two small toothbrushes, toothpaste, small container of floss, a couple of makeup wipes in a Ziploc, a sliver of face soap. The case slips into almost any purse I carry and negates the necessity to carry an overnight bag for those spontaneous outings and overnights that seem to manifest when I spend time with my sweetheart (that’s why the two toothbrushes)

Simple.
Simple.

TV Guide Lifestyle

Like most people, I am a creature of contradictions. Is it possible to love both routine and spontaneity? I believe so, because I do.

I would describe myself as a disciple of spontaneity before I’d say I was a proponent of strict routine. I think there are routines that are helpful, based on personal preferences, needs, and desires, but I truly believe that spontaneity is a component of a joyful lifestyle.

The household I grew up in, the three of us, me, Mom, and Dad, was very routinized. Everyone got up at exactly the same time every work/school day. Breakfast was almost always the same for every week day, for long periods of time. Lunch may have had slight variations, but always had the same components. Dinner was predictable, though delicious, based on the night of the week and which diet book Mom was following at the time (Scarsdale was her favorite, though I think there was a “Pritikin” in there, too). Dinner was always at precisely the same time every night, timed to quickly follow the very predictable time of arrival of my dad, from work, a quick cocktail, and his shower. After dinner, Dad stayed at the kitchen table, drank his wine, did his bookwork, and read Time magazine before heading to bed to repeat the process anew the next morning. Mom headed downstairs to the family room to watch the same sitcoms night after night, week after week, year after year, rotating new offerings into the rotation as other favorite shows stopped airing. I remember M*A*S*H*, and the Six Million Dollar Man, All in the Family, the Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time. It was a T.V. Guide lifestyle, and it was good.

Raising my own family, we were far more bohemian. While the children were young and I worked full-time, we did set aside some time for routine; homework and dinner together. For most of their childhood, there was no television programming. There was a T.V., but it was for watching videos together as a family.

We often opted to dine out rather than prepare meals at home. My husband’s work schedule varied and sometimes he even worked from home. When my kids entered grade school, I moved to a part-time position, which I clung to until they were nearly through high school and it became financially necessary for me to take a full time position. We had many, many, extracurricular activities that filled our afternoons and evenings. While those extracurricular activities were confined to meetings that fell on routine days of the week, the events and activities for each of the meetings themselves were always new, fun, and interesting, no two were ever exactly the same.

Now that the kids are grown and we’re all on our own, I’ve come to really crave spontaneity, but I do appreciate some sense of routine. My job, until recently, required a great deal of travel, I was never in the same place from one week to the next. Now, for the time being, I work exclusively from home, but have a varied and unpredictable schedule.

If I could design my life, I’d like my mornings free until about 10:00, that’s when I’m most creative. Then I’d like my late mornings free, until noon or so. That’s when I most like to work out. And that’s all the routine I crave. The rest of every part of every day would be reserved for spontaneity.

Spontaneity, I think, fosters a sense of youthfulness, an expression of freedom, and encourages living in the moment. These, I believe, are components of a joyful lifestyle. Living a routine, T.V. Guide lifestyle seems to be our nature, our inclination, the comfort zone. There are benefits to both routine and spontaneity; the challenge is finding the right recipe.

Scarlette Letter – September 1, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for the creative streak I’ve been experiencing lately

Affirmation – I am courageous

Attitude – I am feeling confident, creative and optimistic. I feel like I’m ready to move forward with some long overdue changes in my life

Activity – Ran/Hiked/Hill drills – 5.21 miles and wee bit of weight training while on a conference calls

Nurture – I sat on the deck, in the sunshine, watching the birds and the bees and the wind in the trees, while eating my lunch

Enrichment – a quote “Wisdom is all about learning how to live a better life”

Nourishment

Scarlette BegoniaScarlette Begonia
Scarlette Begonia

Giving – Other than donating my five cent “bring your own bag” refund to a local charity and letting two cars go ahead of me in the Whole Foods parking lot, I did nothing today to benefit humanity

Connection – Other than limited texting, blogging and social media, I connected with no one at all today.

Simplifying – I have one bag of clothing ready to go to charity, I did not drop it off as I’d hoped to today

Journaling – A little bit of a story to share with you today:

Adequate sleep is proven to be beneficial to our health, to our effectiveness, and to our sense of well-being. Sleep is underrated.

My problem with “getting enough” sleep is that it takes up so much super valuable time. I tend to awaken early because the world awakens early. I awaken as the sky lightens and the world begins to stir. I’m an early bird. I, however, get most of the things that are really important to me done after work, after my workout, after dinner. This is my time to enjoy music, a story or movie, write, read, or visit with loved ones. I’m a night owl. Sleep is overrated.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night. There were a number of contributors; too much coffee as I was captive in an online training session in Adobe Captivate8. Another contributor, yesterday was a “recovery” day after my ten-mile race Sunday, and my three consecutive hiking days Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So I got no exercise. Finally, for some reason, late at night, while watching a delightful movie, I decided a bowl of dark chocolate Coconut Bliss “ice cream” would be a good idea. Sugar and cocoa. I eat dark chocolate frequently, but usually quite early in the day. Sugar, I have practically eliminated from my diet. I could feel my heart race after the first bite!

I awoke at 4:30 AM and really didn’t get back to sleep until about ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off at 6:00. Being a disciple of putting time to good use, rather than toss and turn in frustration, I outlined a couple of article ideas, organized my lists in Evernote, and reorganized my Dropbox, then fell back to sleep. For ten minutes.

I’m filling up on coffee, again, today. Tired and more training.

I have a thought of an invention: a sleep compressor. If we can compress air, if we can pack all the nutrients good, clean food is supposed to supply us into a sticky, sugary, gelatinous ”gummy vitamin”,  surely we can figure out how to compress sleep. Wouldn’t it be cool to get, say eight or nine hours of sleep in an hour or two, or maybe even eight or nine minutes?

I have plenty on my plate and have never been a student of physics. Or whatever. So, if you want to take my idea for my sleep compressor invention and run with it, great! Let me know when it’s all done and I’ll be first in line to buy it!

For Me and For You

I ran a ten-mile race last weekend. I didn’t win the race, but I did win.

I’m reasonably new to running, I started running at the age of 48, just four years ago. I’ve run a few half-marathons and one full marathon, so far. I didn’t win any of them. I’m registered for a couple of half-marathons and four full marathons over the next year. I won’t win any of them. But I still win.

Scarlette Begonia

Why run in races if you’re never going to win?

Running, for me, fulfills a couple of very primal needs I discovered I have rather late in life; it makes me feel free and it fulfills my competitive spirit. If I’m not in it to win it, how does it fulfill my competitive spirit? I compete with myself, I strive for continual improvement.

Fitness is a lifestyle I believe in, it is a lifestyle I foster, it is a lifestyle I create for myself. Let me clarify fitness and what it means to me:

Fitness is a lifestyle that facilitates good health, well-being, continual self-improvement, self-confidence, and self-worth. Joy.

Fitness is not getting skinny enough to wear that dress to the high school reunion. Fitness is not losing weight to look good, to catch that guy, to attract that girl, to get the engagement ring, to fit into the wedding dress. Fitness is not bulking up enough to win a body-building competition. Fitness is not racing once to prove it can be done. Fitness is not about doing it for someone else.

Fitness, your health, your well-being, are only ever about you. It is a choice and one you choose because it brings you joy.

Scarlette Begonia

I run as part of my fitness-focused lifestyle. It is hard, but it brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. I race because it’s fun, I enjoy the fanfare, I enjoy the people, I enjoy having a measure of my personal improvement.

In this past weekend’s race, there were 540 finishers. I came in 309th. Clearly, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t even in the top 50%, but I’m still a winner. I finished. I ran ten miles. I did, however, run at a faster pace than any of my previous races, though this was the shortest race I ever ran.

I poured over the results, the results of others, knowing everyone runs, and races, for different reasons, for very personal and individual reasons. Some folks do run to compete, to win, to be the fastest. Others run for the sheer pleasure. Other folks run because they can. Sadly, some folks run to please someone else.

Scarlette Begonia

The fastest finishers, the winners of the race, the folks who took home the purse and the prizes, ran a full five minutes faster per mile than I. One such man was 72 years old. Winning. I reviewed the field of finishers near my finish time, I came in a couple of seconds behind a woman who was 74 years old.

Scarlette Begonia

I looked at the people who came in last, and these folks were, in my perception, the true winners of the race and should be awarded the highest purse, the biggest medal, and the most recognition. In the last ten finishers was a woman, 99 years old. Winning. Finisher 540 of 540; a woman of 83. Winning. How blessed to be of such good health at that age to complete a ten mile running race, and, judging from their pace, they were moving along fairly well. They eclipsed my rather ridiculous hiking pace. My rather ridiculous hiking pace elevates my heart rate to an aerobic level, it causes me to sweat profusely, it makes my muscles all wonderfully sore for the next couple of days. A 99 year old woman and an 83 year old woman and a smattering of other octogenarians maintained that pace for ten full miles. Think about it; many folks that age aren’t able to drive ten miles, or walk ten feet. When I grow up I want to be 99 years old and finish a ten mile running race! Run because you can.

Scarlette Begonia

I am speculating, but I’m pretty sure those elderly runners aren’t running that race for anyone but themselves. To live to be 99, or 83, is accomplishment in itself. To be able to run ten miles at that age obviates a commitment to fitness, a personal desire for a fit lifestyle. They aren’t running to get in shape to fit into that dress, to get the proposal, to find a date, to please someone else. They run because they can and because it is their choice, their lifestyle, and, I’m guessing it brings them an incredible amount of joy, confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.

And that, my friends, is truly winning.

I do it for me. Do it if you want, but do it for you.

Scarlette Begonia