You Can Take the Girl out of Oklahoma…

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This was how Oklahoma welcomed me. 

 

About a month ago I went to visit my family in my native state of Oklahoma. I was inspired by my family to move more and to enjoy the simpler things that I sometimes ignore. My family is extraordinary and every time I am around them it is as if I have been given new life. Sometimes it reaffirms who I am. Being away from my home state for so long sometimes allows me to forget what I have inherited and how deep those Okie roots run: the laid back sense of humor, master story telling, and the vein of gumption that runs through all of us.

It’s that tenacity and live wire like energy that is contagious. Inspiration to move and accomplish the physical is everywhere.

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Going to the grocery store with Mom is like an aerobics work out. I was still getting out of the car and she had a cart inside already. 

In the mornings Mom and I would do our perspective exercises. She does a video by Gilad, a very handsome, bulging, swarthy man. She’s done various videos of his for years. I don’t enjoy the aerobic videos so I went over to the corner and played my Pandora music channel and did yoga. This concurrent clashing music didn’t even bother us. At one point we discussed how this could be a metaphor for our relationship.  I said it is funny how we clearly like different things but still hang out because we love each other so much.

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We are so proud of my beautiful, smart, strong sis.

I was encouraged to walk by my sister Katie because she walks everywhere. We trekked all over the OSU campus before I had to take my shoes off and sit until someone brought the car to me. My feet were done but she was still going. I feel after 40 you shouldn’t have to suck it up.

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Yep, we even fed a horse! These people live super special lives.

My brother and his wife have a handsome five year old son named Caleb and he inspired everyone to get physical. Katie and I even risked and failed at cartwheels. That family spends most evenings outside in the sun after dinner riding bikes or watching Caleb ride his big wheels up and down the driveway. I got to ride bikes, slide down slides, fight imaginary wolves and run through the park. Caleb and I even had a session of yoga together. That was so fun. There are these children’s yoga videos on YouTube, and he loves them. A fifteen minute video story of going to an amusement park with a Hispanic penguin had me sweating!

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First time on a bike in years, can you tell?

 

While some of these attempts didn’t work out so well (one slide left me with a swollen and bruised thumb, another with two skinned knees, the cartwheel left me with a slightly sprained ankle, and I also got kicked in the head more than once while rough housing,) the fun that I had was more than worth it. I will never forget this trip because I learned I miss being playful. It is absolutely the best exercise. I miss that idea that my body is here so I might as well see what it can do. Seeing what my body is capable of is an activity I have neglected and it is actually fun. My new fitness goals are: being able to perform a cartwheel, AND get enough arm strength to walk only on my hands while someone holds my feet by the time I go back to Oklahoma. We tried it this time. While I could hold my brothers legs while he walked the living room, I couldn’t quite walk on my hands. I will though mark my words. I am doing planks every day.  If I can walk on my hands then maybe there is even a handstand in my future! Now that is exciting! Won’t my nephew be so proud of Aunt Danielle?

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I felt like this was the appropriate image for a mic drop…

Back Baby Steppin’

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This is me socializing in the park. Even my lunch dates require exercise now!

There so many exciting things are happening in my life right now. I am volunteering at the library, getting to know new people, writing more and exercising more. I have not had an episode of pain in two weeks. I am delighted. My husband is relaxed and I am making very small progress on all areas of my life. I am cooking, walking, and stretching a lot more. I am in the zone.

Something that is helping me besides being pain free for two weeks is this new deal I have with myself. If I do not write at least an hour a day, then I have to forgo my modem and give it to my husband to take with him to work. Without the router I have no internet and no TV because we have no cable. So I have nothing to research with while writing or entertain me while I clean. This is an even bigger motivator to jump start myself than the writing I am already doing. Once I get writing I get more excited about the writing. So this is just a jump start to get the fingers moving! It has worked. This week I have written every day.

I have also met my pedometer goal every day and done yoga three times. I even tried to do a yoga video called Power Yoga with Rodney Yee. Rodney Yee is a yoga instructor born in my native state of Oklahoma. (I just found that out!) He is a very handsome man who apparently only owns pants. These pants are made of spandex and are usually neon colors. I like his calm voice and dulcet tones, but I think I want to branch out. I think that I need something called Half Power because I had a lot of trouble doing those yoga moves so quickly. Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog —  Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog…sweaty sweaty sweaty sweaty but I was done when he got to Half-moon pose and fell over because my knee didn’t like it very much.  So I stopped but was proud of myself for attempting and making it about half way through. It’s been a long time since I even put in an exercise DVD. Actually I think last time I put a video in it was a VHS tape.

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Lynne my library lunch date!

I am also cooking more so my husband and I are eating fresh vegetables and fruits. I got back into making smoothies and eggs with veggies for breakfast. Leftovers for lunch and for dinner I am cooking fresh salads, veggie filled pastas and I make delicious veggie tacos.  I am not saying I haven’t had weird pizza roll dinners once or twice but I have been making great strides to getting my healthy habits back.

It feels like I am just bragging in this post but I feel as if I must after what I have been through lately. I am now looking forward to progressing but more importantly, the most encouraging development is coming back to the program feels inevitable. If I have to put my exercise plan on hold for a month because of pain and there be no doubt I will get back to it when I feel better, then that means I am officially a person who works out. It am not a poser. I am the real deal.

 

The Ocean is Worth It

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We were right there in the sea! 

Have you ever gotten off the wagon? It’s not easy getting back on. Hubby and I went to Cozumel, Mexico for our honeymoon. While there we enjoyed the snorkeling. It was the most beautiful, serene, exiting time of my life. If you have never been, what you do is basically float with your head in the water and have a tube in which you breathe into the open air. The minute I put my mask into the water, I was in another world. A world with no sound, beautiful shades of muted blue and sand, and exotic fish I would have never had the chance to see: It was akin, in reverence, to walking on the moon. Had I the capability to talk I would probably have gasped audibly but I had no medium to express my awe.

We floated all the way out to the buoy before we came up out of the water and then swam slowly back. When we both popped up near the ladder to go back up to our hotel my husband said, “I think we were made for this!”

I giggled and said, “Two chubby people floating in the ocean, who would have thought!” The only downfall from this blissful foray into the ocean was climbing out of the water onto dry land.

I had the flippers still on, and I had to climb up this steel ladder, much like a ladder out of one of those above ground pools. Except, this ladder is halfway in the ocean and covered with slime.  It took several attempts to get up the three steps to finally reach the platform. My legs were a particular form of Jello that made it gut wrenchingly hard to get out of the water at all. My feet kept sliding off and I would plop down into the ocean time and time again. I would then have to collect my breath and then lift myself out of the ocean again and again.

The platform was half out of the ocean. The waves hit the large cement platform most of the time, so it too was covered in slime, but this didn’t stop me from laying down like a beached whale to catch my breath from the physical exertion of pulling myself out of the ocean.

That is how getting back on the wagon feels. The exertion of overcoming the doubt in my belly, the stiffness in my muscles and the weakness in my pallet can sometimes leave me beached on my bed with doubts of my success. I came back from vacation and was sick so my eating habits were atrocious and I didn’t exercise for two weeks because I was extremely sick.

Last week I was getting back to my yoga, walking and veggies. Before my fall off the wagon I had only been vegetarian for about two months. Grocery buying and recipes weren’t cemented in my mind so I again had to reacquaint myself with what to buy and how to cook it. I only walked a mile that first day, and I was up to three miles before. So my one mile left me aching and sore like someone had beaten me with a baseball bat. I was a whining wimp.

I was disheartened but Brad pointed out that I was just getting over being sick and having my “Aunt Irma.” These assurances made me feel better, but I also realized that I had gotten back on the wagon almost like it was second nature. I didn’t think about it as if it were a choice. I just did it. I never stopped doing yoga except when I was sick, and even then I did it once. After I got better, I got the right groceries, and I started walking. Done. No hemming or hawing. I didn’t have to think about whether or not I was going to exercise or eat right. I just did it.

I guess I am just gonna have to remind my body that this is the way life is now. I am a healthy person, who does healthy things. That is who I am now. I climb up the ladder. I will probably be climbing that ladder my whole life, but more time in the ocean is worth it.

Getting back to Zen

I have a new life and need a new way of living it. I know I need a new tactic on how to approach life. I need to learn what I can handle and what I can’t, and what life is going to be like for me now. I expected life to be different since I have no job, and I am focusing on my health and my writing, but I didn’t have any idea what that would mean. I used to sit at my job and day dream about the time when my husband would be working and give me this opportunity. I thought of the recipes I’d make. I thought about the yoga I would do, and the time I would spend writing and editing my book. I didn’t think about the unpacking, laundry, or the finding my way around a new city. These have been the challenges. While I have powered through obstacles, I have also been a bit whiny about it.

This week I fulfilled one of those day dreams.  I painted a secretary desk white that I had bought on Craigslist. I only had one day to finish it, because my apartment is small and I had furniture coming the next day. I painted two coats and a coat of wax all in the eight hours my husband worked. Two things made this possible, the chalk paint, which dries very quickly, and I think I get into a trance some times. I focused and didn’t stop until a little after Brad got home. It was a beautiful piece of furniture when I got done, but the minute I put down the waxing cloth, I knew I had made a mistake. My back was instantly on fire. I had to lie on the floor until bed time and then had trouble falling asleep because of the pain. The next morning it felt better but my shoulder wouldn’t move and it was asleep. My husband massaged my shoulder but when the feeling came back, the feeling was of serious pain. The entire day I was on pain pills. It still hurt on the pain pills but at least I cared less. I was useless about two or three days. I am just now coming out of it.

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This is what it looked like before I painted it.

I have realized that a lot of my problem stems from not pacing myself.  I have read about being mindful before. I need to induce that awareness now. I need to realize everyday what my body can’t go through and what it can’t. I also need to figure it out before it is too late and I am relegated to the couch for three days. On those days I feel like the worst wife in the world. I know my husband doesn’t think so but I know there are other people who can relate to this. I have to pull my own weight in this relationship or I feel useless and feeble. I need to realize that my body won’t do the things I want it to yet. I can walk two to three miles but not seven. I can do one coat a day but not two and a waxing. It isn’t that I can’t do it really, it is I shouldn’t. I need to pay attention to when my body is wearing down. I have always been taught to push through the pain. No pain no gain, right? I don’t think that is always the truth. I think there is only so much I can do in one day in order to be able to do stuff the next day.

I am new to all this physical activity. I have to be able to walk before I can run, pun intended. I want to one day be someone who can walk seven or eight miles without having to take the day off the next day. I am again day dreaming. Day dreaming leads to accomplishing. I know that is true because I have lived it. I day dreamed of a day when my husband had a good job in an exciting city and I had time to write.  We got here, and now we are going to get better. We can only get better. With patience and pacing, I am going to slowly work my way into physical fitness and domestic bliss.

The after
The after

In an effort to listen to my body more, I am getting back into my yoga practice. I am meditating and trying to listen to my breath and how it feels in my body. Not only will this help me to listen to my body but it will also help me slow down and pace myself. Perhaps it will help me eat in moderation. Any other suggestions on how I can pay better attention to how my body feels and what it can take I would appreciate.

Please Excuse Me While I Write a Love Letter to my Husband

 

This is us on our honeymoon.
This is us on our honeymoon.

The past few days have been a respite from the pain I have been going through. I even made a lovely breakfast for my husband this weekend. I swam and spent time with family and friends. I was limber and energetic. This lasted about four days. This morning, when the alarm went off it felt like I had been boxing all night instead of sleeping. My joints were frozen in place, and my muscles were in pain. I was supposed to go swimming but when the alarm went off, I told my Brad, please I think my body needs the hour sleep more than the swimming. (I don’t know if that is true or not) He agreed, but he was awake already so he left me, and then came back in an hour to massage me awake. Yes, you read that right. Lying down next to me in bed, he very tenderly massaged my shoulders, my back, and even my hands that were stiff and unable to move. He patiently listened to my groans and whispered protests, and softly told me he loved me. I finally was loose enough to move myself into the bathtub so that I could soak my muscles in the hot water. As I bathed and my body loosened I said to myself, do better, be better, because I want to get better not just for me but for him.

In my life, I have been surrounded by people who have chronic pain, people I love greatly and I have been at a loss on how to be of comfort, until now. My youth minister when I was in high school said something that has stayed with me all these years, “Love is not a feeling, it is a commitment.” This is so true. I have been trying to learn how to express my empathy and my concern for my loved ones, Brad has taught me how. It isn’t the words. It isn’t even the tone, it is the consistent presence. It is the habitual exchange of care and warmth. Brad wakes me up everyday gently, and he is never impatient because he knows mornings are hard. He understands when I need to spend my break refueling and calming down instead of calling him. He has been so good natured about the eating no carbs when his favorite food is pizza, he got a gym membership with me even though he hates being around other humans (especially the athletic types), he went to said gym in his pajama pants because he didn’t own any athletic ones, he eats Kale, makes sure I remember my medication and vitamins, and rubs my feet when the neuropathy hits them as it so often does. He holds my hand when I am on the floor crying.

So handsome
So handsome

It isn’t just what he does; it is the consistency with which he does it. A man who is usually only patient with computers is infinitely patient with me and my pain. He is a miracle in my life and I hope it never ends. He loves me unconditionally and because of that I feel that I need to step up and be better for him. I need to work through the pain, show him at every opportunity that I am okay and that he is the most amazing wonderful husband in the world. So not only does he comfort me this way, he engages me and inspires me to get better, and handle things better for him.

 

When he laughs, he lights up my heart. It is the truth. I promise.
When he laughs, he lights up my heart. It is the truth. I promise.

Envy as Motivation

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See, beautiful and a beautiful Christmas dinner

I have this gorgeous Aunt Nicole that I idolize. She is a lean, curvaceous redhead with spunk and charisma. She is one of those women who you wish you could hate because she does everything perfectly. She is a sharp dresser, maintains a beautiful home, and is so good at cooking that she is a caterer. Her fluency in the kitchen I totally envy. A normal dinner at Nicole’s is like spending time with a confident beautiful chef. She times the meals perfectly and only serves the most fresh and desirable food. She does all this while making sure your glass is full and effortlessly entertaining her guests with jokes and stories. She accomplishes all of this without breaking a sweat. When all is said and done, the kitchen is clean, she kicks her feet up, and still has the same make up on that she started with and not one hair out of place. See what I mean? If she wasn’t so nice, loving, funny and congenial, we would all hate her.

While I am not too shabby at making certain meals people rave about, dining at my house is an experience of a different color. You may be met at the door by my husband or me, or you might just hear a panicked “COME IN!” When you make your way to my kitchen you will see me running around frantically opening and closing the oven, or dumping pasta, and all while trying to get drinks all at once. The entire time I am sweating, breathing heavy, and my hair (that I perfectly curled only an hour before) is pasted to my forehead. I rarely entertain anymore because I just don’t seem to pull it off without being a puddle of a human before I have even laid the dishes on the table.

Red faced, clammy and slightly smelly, I sit down to a meal with my guests and try to catch my breath. Mostly the conversation is held by my guests with only an occasional word from me, and there is no doing the dishes while I talk to other people. That would turn into a wet t-shirt contest.

One morning I managed to pull off a beautiful breakfast for my writing group. I made pancakes and eggs. They were the whole wheat kind, some with blueberries. The coffee and tea flowed. I even managed to fill people’s glasses as soon as they were done, and hopped to it in order to bring my guests warm flapjacks when their plate was empty. I was calm, cool and collected. This meal was so unusual that I remember it seven years later. We joke that I was channeling Aunt Nicole that day. We believe that at some point in the morning she must have fallen asleep because that is when I accidentally spilled hot tea all over myself.

I want to lose this weight so that I can entertain without melting down. I want to be able to cook and entertain while being effortlessly pretty. This cause can only be helped by losing weight and getting in shape. I think exercising is the only way to improve my coordination, agility, and my ability to be cool under pressure. I want to glide into my dining room with beautiful food and laugh and gab with my friends. I want people to say, the way I remark on my aunt, “How does she make it all look so effortless?

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Nicole and I at my wedding, which see catered! It was so delicious

 

I Hate Treadmills

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My favorite Willow trees

I feel like, for the last few years, I have been running in place. I have made a few strides, kicking smoking and losing twenty-five-plus pounds. I work a little towards something every day, but I feel as if I am still in the same place. For a while, we were waiting on the sale of our house with bated breath, and now we are waiting for my husband to find a new job.

Waiting and hoping isn’t something most people excel at; the feeling of hopelessness doesn’t seem to abate, even when I’m doing my best to be optimistic. So what do I do to live in the now? Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “All my life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm?” This describes me perfectly, always thinking ten steps ahead, if I can and when I can’t, I am in agony.

I was reading a book called Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he talks about a term called “mindfulness.” This is a practice of being in the present at all times. An example he gives in the book is the Buddhist monks who drink a hot cup of tea and take an hour to do so. They focus on how the tea engages their senses: the color, taste, smell, temperature, and texture on the tongue.

My husband, Brad, was the first one to introduce “savoring” to me. All of my life I have flitted about, living a life of fun, but not really of depth. My senses were mostly dulled in my attempt to live. One of our first dates Brad took me to a small Greek restaurant here in Boise called the Cazba. Enamored with Brad, I paid attention to his every move: the way he took in the way I smelled and looked, the way he savored every bite of his dinner, how he slowly chewed and took deep resonating breaths to really taste everything fully. Senses heightened, I too enjoyed that meal more than any other meal in my life. I can still picture him looking at me and taking his first bite of lamb. Watching him savor it, I could live within that memory.

That night we sat for what seemed like hours in the car, just talking or sometimes holding hands in silence. It seemed as if touching his skin forced my mind to shut off and only feel, that sense overwhelming the constant chatter of my mind. It was the first time in my life when I have felt that blessing.

Those times are far between now. I struggle for that sort of life-giving focus. I want my body to be overwhelmed by the joy of touch. My mind combats the idea of giving into such frivolous pursuits. As a Midwesterner, I combat my base compulsion to feel useful at all times. I am making a vow to stop that. I need that peace, and so does Brad. I haven’t noticed him enjoying himself mindfully as much anymore.

We need to live in the now, even if it is a smaller scale. Last Friday, Brad surprised me at work and took me on a dinner picnic. He made some roasted chicken, Greek salad, and brought bottled water. We sat on the bench watch the geese frolic, the sun glistening on the lake, and wind flowing through my favorite weeping willow trees. We laughed as the geese squawked at us.

We are trying.

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That is my gorgeous man!