Finals, Vacation and Chicken Enchiladas…

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It’s the week that forces collide…we are down to the last days of school and my vacation starts after work on Friday.

The boy child is a little blue – he likes school better than summer vacation. I, on the other hand, am chomping at the bit for the sound of the Hallelujah chorus blasting from a PA system, and a reprieve from monitoring progress on schoolwork.  But I am a single mom, so I will be at work when freedom rings at 10:30 tomorrow morning, and the heavenly chorus will only sound in my head and heart. Still, I look forward to the perpetual stress of projects, exams and unfinished homework going on hiatus, and doing some things I enjoy doing for a few weeks, or months, without fear that Aspie Boy will blow off his work and his grades will suffer if I do.

As of now, the night before school lets out, we don’t know how long that break will be because everything on his list this week – exams, assignments and papers – are make-or-break, and he’s still working on a major Spanish project that was due last week. The assignment is to create a four to six-minute cooking show in Spanish using vocabulary from the last chapter they studied – La Comida (Food). If he doesn’t finish it well, he will fail. If he fails, he needs to make it up this summer, if that’s possible. If it isn’t possible…well, I can’t go there, yet.

Everyone else in the class did the project with a partner, but the assignment was presented and the teams were picked on the one day of school Andy missed this semester, so he’s on his own. He was also rubric-less until yesterday, so he decided to fix Schnitzel, but did not get to that, either. It may have been a good thing, in a way, because as it turns out he needs to demonstrate making a food originating in a Spanish speaking country.
I am not going to say I told him so, but I did.

I also told him he was making chicken enchiladas, so he did. Sort of.  The video is shot and edited, so it’s only the dialog that’s missing. He decided to do a voice over, but as of 9:10 of the last school night of the year no Spanish has been uttered.  It’s tempting to wish we had another week , but last week we did and he is still dangling off the edge, so I am not sure it would make a difference, or that either of us would survive two last weeks of school. So I am hiding, to avoid freaking out.

This week is finals for me, too. The deadlines for goals I set in January are hitting one after another, mostly because at New Year’s my goal was to be a “new me” for this vacation. My whole family – parents, brothers, and all of our “kids” are gathering for the first time in 17+ years to honor my mom’s 80th and my brother’s 60th birthdays. It’s a big deal.

Today marked the end of a weight loss challenge.  I was one of six on our team for the competition that ran from January 11 through June 5.  When we started, I was determined to change my body so I could feel good hiking, riding my bike, playing tennis and  having once-in-this-lifetime family portraits taken. I was ready to start living a healthy lifestyle.  I think that lasted about a day.

This morning, I dashed out of the house 35 minutes earlier than normal to complete the final weigh in on my way to work. In the almost five months of the challenge, I gained 7.8 pounds. As terrible as that sounds, it is 5 pounds less than the May weigh-in on Friday, so I am actually a bit relieved, but the reality is, I failed. Completely.

So for now, Andy is one up on me and I can still hope it stays that way.

Chicken enchiladas, anyone?

Fish Burps

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I have fish burps.

I’ve had them for about an hour, now, and have been trying to think of them as friendly reminders that I am being good to myself…and taking care of myself, by taking my Fish Oil. But I can only think of them as fish burps, so am choosing to be grateful that they are only little ones, and to be satisfied with that, for now.

Which brings me to my theme for the next week, or three, if that’s what it takes…

I eradicated some big demons while I was gone, so am going to focus on appreciating moments, now. I used to be good at it, but left untended, the practice has faded. This is not a helpful trend when one is striving to change behavior to improve quality of life.

So I am adding it, and blogging regularly, to My List for the rest of September. Whether it will go on the October List will be determined, when the time comes.

You can see how I do with the blogging by checking up on me each Monday. I will tell you how it goes, and about My List later. Right now, I have a fish burp to relish.

Happy Monday.

I Need a Plan

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I need a plan. For weeks, I have intended to engage in daily exercise and writing time. I haven’t, unless Facebook  comments count as writing and climbing the steps to the 3rdfloor of my work building a few times a day counts as exercise. It could, I suppose, since I have been blathering  too much on Facebook, and climbing the steps increases my heart rate AND winds me, but these are  too lame to consider, if not admit.

The problem is that I have made plans. Plans to walk on lunch or in the evening after dinner, plans to go or do yoga morning or noon or night,  plans to play WiiFit with Andy…if we can find the balance board, and have batteries retaining a charge. Plans to go skiing and partake in trial memberships at gyms on days off.  But life has been full of changes, lately, and I am having a hard time sticking to the plans or figuring out any that can work.

Just wait, I said, at first. See how things work out. (Things, not me, you notice.)

The few mornings I woke early enough to walk it was bitterly cold avec ski jacket, hat, scarf and gloves. The need to arrive at my place of employment  45 minutes to an hour before the work day begins, because significant portions of the almost adequate amount of parking normally available are reserved for the seasonal workers  the first few months of the year encroaches on morning yoga class.  When I get home at night  it is too late, too dark, and I am too tired to get my juices flowing through my body or my brain, but not tired enough to sleep, so I can awaken earlier  and have more time in the morning.

Now it’s late January, and the reality of  my life, I have realized, is that the only constant is constant change.

Weeks turned into a month, while I figured this out, and I turned into a blob.  Blobs don’t exercise or write clever repartee. They do their work, go home, see who likes them on Facebook, and spend the rest of their time sleeping…or trying to sleep. Blobs look like they slid into their clothes, jumped into their cars with wet hair and put their makeup in the time of red lights on the way to work. Blobs have a horrid sense of time but a knack for timing. so they don’t  stop at traffic lights as much as need to, to do their makeup well in the dark, wee hours of the morning. Blobs eat cookies and chocolate because they won’t go to the grocery store or make the time to pack healthy meals with the food they have. Blobs use energy complaining about what they can’t get done, instead of gaining energy from accomplishment.

I don’t like blobs, and I REALLY don’t like being one…

So, I need a plan – a plan that provides one hour each day for exercise, and another hour to write or do other things I need to do myself. – a plan that can become a schedule capable of weathering change.

Or maybe, I need a miracle.

 

Forty Days to Fifty

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My Birthday Dress

My Birthday Dress

I am grouchy today. Surly. Bearish. I don’t know why, and I  probably won’t, because I am not here to explore possibilities by verbally vomiting all that was wrong and right with my world today, and once I hit publish, my day will be done. I used to search for answers on days like this. Parse, review, analyze. Now I know it will pass, so I don’t waste my energy on it. Why? Because I have bigger concerns.

In forty days I will be fifty.

My concern is not with turning 50 itself, I am actually liking getting older and wiser, for now. My concern is my birthday dress. Yes, for the first time since I turned five (if ever, really) I have a birthday dress. To wear for what, I do not know.

It happened last week. I was on a mission to find a sweater that would replace the ones buried in bins at the very back and very bottom of the storage packed in April that I was sure would be emptied by October 15. I thought I was being clever then, putting the fall and winter clothes in the deepest depths, so they would go on the truck last, and come off the truck first, when unpacking is still fresh enough for me to act like it can really be a manageable process. The storage is still packed, and clever started feeling cold weeks ago, so I concluded a new sweater was the perfect use of the money my parents sent for my Christmas gift. So I shopped my way home from work on December 27th, in hopes of finding a screaming deal on the perfect integration of wool and knitting amongst the much-hyped “week after” sales.

I didn’t.

So at Ross, my 3rd and final stop of that dark, dreary night, I decided to look at the dresses, too. I don;t know why. I hardly ever look at dresses because they rarely fit me. They did not fit “before” because my shoulders were two sizes wider than my hips, and my waist sat too low to have anything hit right. Dresses don’t fit now because I still have those issues, and the shape of a snowman as well.

Yet there I was, flicking hangers and sliding frocks down the pole faster than screaming people on ziplines. I don’t think I was even looking when it drew me in. It was matched-plaids, fully-lined lust at first sight. “Don’t,” I told myself, to quell the hope rising and diminish the despair sure to result from ingesting the price.

$13,99!!! WOO HOO! The price was right!

The problem? The size was wrong. The tag had the size I wear (on a good day) boldly printed on it, and the dress is a smaller size. Really. the label inside said so. The only one like it was the same size.

So, I did what I vowed I would never do again the dozens of times I donated clothes that were like new, because they were a better deal than fit, and I never shrank into them as planned. I bought the dress.

Now, it is motivational art. Thanks to the idea inspired by my brilliant friend Zelda, it is hanging on my wall. It is the first thing I see in the morning, the last thing I see at night, and a constant reminder that I want to be the person who can wear it (unless the shoulders are too tight or the waist is too high) more than I want to eat garbage or chocolate.

I honestly don’t know if I can become that person in 40 days or not, but I like that it is helping me try.

A Beginning from an End

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With less than an hour left in December, and 2012, it seems I should write a blog post to conclude this month of “work”. I did not blog daily, or even come close in December, but that is OK, because I began, which is exactly what I needed to do.

As it turns out, I did a lot of things I needed to do this year, to end how things were and pave the way for what I want my life to be. This year Andy and I packed up and sold our house; donated, hawked and pitched things that made our house a home, and moved half way across the country and back. I submitted a hundred job applications, worked two part-time jobs and two full-time jobs.

Tonight, nothing is the same as it was one year ago.   I have a full-time job with insurance, Andy is in a school he loves, and I am sharing my writing with the universe.

In 2012, everything changed. So tonight, as the moon light glitters patches of snow, and 2012 gasps its last breaths of icy air, I am cherishing this year, and its opportunity to forge a beginning from an end.

Happy New Year!

Put Another Word on the Fire

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For the past two years, a rite of the holiday season was attending a solstice fire on the farm of a friend of a friend. It is an occasion when people, meaning and setting converge to create a memorable experience. To the observer, (at least me, as the observer) there is a movie-esque surreal quality to the event. The farm is an organic farm,  nestled in the foothills that form the east boundary of the Treasure Valley. It is situated in a way that makes it seem you could walk up the hill and step onto the moon, when it rises. On the grounds, 30-50 bundled-up, handsome, intelligent, healthy, mostly organic people cheerfully mill about or chat with hands wrapped around steaming drinks. Then, they circle a large fire holding pieces of paper or wood bearing words until they are ready to send their aspirations for the coming year out into the universe by giving them to the flames. Most people share their words, many explain them, a few step forward, toss, and step back in silence, and one or two will tell stories about their words. Then, when all the hopes are in the sky,  someone tries to start singing, and laughing ensues. It is an utterly fantastic night in a low-key and profoundly meaningful way.

This year I wanted to share the experience with Andy, but He-Who-Bawks-New-Experiences rejected my proposal of attendance. When I believe it’s genuinely important he does something, I override him, and pull out the Because-I-Said-So card if his protests persist; but I didn’t this time, because in the big picture perspective, it seemed better for us to stay home.

So, last night, in honor of the winter solstice, I dragged the fire pit from its winter home to its place on the patio and built a fire. Then, Andy and I wrote the thing we most want to manifest in the upcoming year and fed them to the small, struggling flames.  Andy threw his aspiration on the fire first. I suspected he intended to keep it to himself, or hoped it would theatrically reveal itself as it burned, but once it was ash, he was compelled to divulge it. I won’t tell you Andy’s word because it is not mine to share, but I am proud of his choice and the consideration he showed in choosing it.

In 2010, my aspiration was “Trust”, in 2011, “Focus”. This year, my word was BALANCE. Our small patio fire pit flame and gathering of two was not the grand gathering and blaze of the farm, but was just right for us. On Solstice, I created the balance I am choosing to seek this year. A rather good start, I think.

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Struggling to keep my balance

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A persistent challenge for me has been keeping my balance, literally and figuratively. Things have been going quite smoothly for the past few months, so I almost forgot how hard this can be, but I have been reminded of it a number of times, in a plethora of ways, this week.

To me, it seems everything is about balance. In yoga, the fix for my problem is easy. I park my mat near a wall, so I can use it when I need to stabilize myself, or I keep both feet on the ground. In life, the answer is not so simple, because there are so many things to balance…when to try things and when to pass on them. When to talk and when to listen. When to hold my ground and when to relinquish my agenda. When to keep going, and when to stop. When to speak out and when to let things go.

I haven’t been writing this week, because I haven’t know what to say. It didn’t seem anything I could say here could mean anything, in the context of life of past seven days. Tonight I got a call that had me thinking I was going to have to change my plans, start over again, and couldn’t write now. But then, I realized I was wrong.

So tonight, I am writing despite that I am struggling to find words and thoughts, just so I do it, because to keep doing things that are important to me is something I need to work on as much as stopping things that get in the way of being my best self. I am fighting to keep my balance.

When Bad Things Happen – Part 2

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I wrote this post after the previous one. There is some redundancy between the two, because the first was a comment in response to a friend’s posting, and this was what I wrote to share on my wall. I don’t talk about mental health much, because I spent so much time writing about it for letters to Legislators Tuesday night, and in the other post, that I felt like I talked about it already.

It’s past 3 a.m. and I take The Big Exam later this morning. I should be sleeping. I need to start reviewing my resources at 6, so if I don’t know answers I know where to find them, but I can’t care that I’m not sleeping. My mind is full of thoughts of how incredibly fortunate I have been throughout my life, and am tonight, to cover my son with a blanket and kiss him good night, as he sleeps on the couch. I think of those who were deprived of that gift forever, today and find myself thinking any worries I can have for myself now, and any problems I may have later this morning are trite, because I could hug Andy tonight,  and hear him mumble, “I love you, too” .

And, I am angry with myself, because I have had very strong feelings about mental health care and gun laws for many years, and shared them on Facebook for the past three years as if that counted for something in someway. I did research on gun violence, accidents and the effectiveness of guns for personal security/protection. I explored other perspectives on gun ownership, tried to make arrangements with several people to go shooting, and learned what it takes to carry concealed in Idaho. I read hundreds of studies, journal articles, insurance benefit descriptions and worked in mental health with real people living in the actual world.  Yet, I waited until Tuesday night to start drafting letters to those who can actually create and enact laws to diminish the problems, the law makers that represent me at State and Federal levels. It took the mall shooting in Portland to push me to that.Bad things happen everywhere, but I am not convinced tragedy needs to be of the intensity or frequency we are experiencing in the U.S. The bombing and mass shooting claiming 77 lives in Norway last year was the worst tragedy there since World War II.There was an incident in a school in China today, too. A mentally unstable man injured an elderly women and twenty-two children with a knife. There weren’t accounts for the number of children who were able to run away from the assailant in the report I read, but since the incident apparently took place on a school ground, it seems reasonable to assume there were at least some others there.

I am bringing this up not to suggest the U.S. should be more like China, but to present the differences between being attacked with a knife and facing a perpetrator with a gun. A person with a knife can only attack one person at a time. It takes intense physical effort, and allows more opportunity for victims to flee. The notable point of the story about China, for me, is that no one died. All twenty-two of those children and that woman in China were alive tonight, with a chance to recover. That is what a knife offers readily, that a gun offers sparingly. A chance to live, even if you don’t get away. The parents of 22 children are fortunate tonight, to hear their children crying.

But here mass killers use guns (if you doubt this, Google “Mass stabbings U.S. and see what results you get, then remember “mass” is 4 or more deaths other than the killer’s in a single incident), and once again, the world saw how that plays out in the U.S. today. Only one woman escaped with injuries. Twenty children and seven adults died, and according to news reports, were still in the school tonight. I keep thinking of them, on the cold, hard floor of the school.

I also keep thinking about the parents, families and community facing the silence of lost daughters, sons, mothers, sisters, friends and co-workers tonight, and keep feeling I helped allow it with my silence for the past several years.

I am done being silent. I have lived, learned and thought about the issues enough. I have reached my conclusion. People with guns kill people. I can’t, with my silence, facilitate people getting guns to kill people any longer.

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This is my opinion, my take on Friday morning’s tragedy based on my knowledge, experience and understanding of life’s issues. I do not expect it to be yours, nor am I suggesting it should be.

When Bad Things Happen – Part 1

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I was up all night last night. Thinking, reading and writing. If you read  my reaction to the Portland mall shooting Tuesday, I am guessing you can figure out why.

One of the things I wrote was a comment responding to a post on Facebook by my friend, “Buddy” (not his real name). I thought I would share it here…

In our posts, we refer to an article about mass stabbings in China yesterday.

I will try to post the link, if I can figure out how to do it quickly enough, but you can also find it here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/12/14/china-knife-attack-school.html

 

BUDDY:  What happened today is so very tragic as were the past shootings. As much as I would like to see gun laws reformed, it would not have prevented this from happening. Just today in China a similar attack happened, instead of guns being used knives were used. We could put metal detectors and security at every entrance of every school library or public building, shopping mall and theater. We could outright ban guns entirely and not change anything. What we need to do as humankind, as a society, is to address the underlying problems that pushes us as countries, groups or individuals to the point that we feel the only way to achieve results is through fear,violence or someones death. Somehow we as a society have to stop these tragedies from happening.

 

ELYSE:  I agree with you almost completely Buddy, but also think it is noteworthy that the children and woman in China were injured, and have chances to recover. In the U.S. similar perpetrators have semi-automatic guns with high-capacity clips that significantly diminish the opportunity to escape and survive. Bad things are going to happen, but I believe our nation’s tragedies are made profoundly worse by the ease of acquisition of guns. If it is harder to buy “assault” weapons and high-capacity clips, less people own them, and it will be more difficult for potential perpetrators to get them by buying them or stealing them from people they know (as was the case in Portland). Nothing is going to prevent tragedies from EVER happening, but I think there are ways of diminishing the frequency and degree of devastation one person can wreak on those at a school, in a mall, or swimming in a river, in the single or small number of opportunities they tend to get to act.

I believe we need a system that allows those dedicated to being responsible gun owners/users the opportunity to do so, but weed out those acting on more situational or impulsive motivators. It seems to me this could be done by making gun ownership/use of any gun capable of holding more than 10 bullets (or other capacities/firing rates beyond those of hunting rifles, shotguns, or small handguns) require: (1) a prolonged, concerted effort and (2) acceptance of responsibility associated with the power of owning a gun. This could be done by requiring background checks, courses and competency requirements for licensing, public service protection/militia training and registration commensurate with the 2nd amendment right allowing citizens to have said gun, AND requiring potential buyers to pay for and complete background checks, classes, certifications, etc. to get a license allowing them to legally purchase a gun.

Yes, people would still sell guns illegally, which means people could still buy guns illegally, but that does not make anything any different than it is now, or was when the ban on assault weapons was in effect. But those who break laws are criminals, subject to punishment by law. Fees for licensing could include enforcement funding, which could help reduce incentive for generally legitimate gun sellers to circumvent the system. Owning an illegal firearm one can’t justify having simply because they “can” would also be more likely to raise big red flag to those who know a person, and their behavioral propensities.

Since mental health problems tend to “cycle” in intensity, it is not unreasonable to think that the potential side effect of a prolonged process for gun ownership could take the time someone needs to cycle out of a highly violent episode of mental illness, or to register on someone’s radar, and get the help they need. This is just my opinion…or the Facebook part of it, at least.

A Night When Blogging Won’t Do

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I had three ideas for blog postings tonight. I even have outlines, actually scribbled words and arrows on memo paper (SWAMPs?), for two of them, so I could express my thoughts in an orderly, coherent fashion that may actually be meaningful and entertaining. But, my plans changed when I heard the news, while driving home from work.

A gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon opened fire in a mall in Portland this afternoon. According to the article I read in The Oregonian, three people (two victims and the shooter) are dead and another is critically injured.

Suddenly, there is nothing I can say here, because everything I had to say seems trite.  I perceive the word “people” as  multiple number of breathing, feeling, thinking, caring human beings. I don’t understand why people should be able to own semi-automatic assault-style weapons or high-capacity clips, and why The People aren’t demanding measures be put in place to reduce the opportunity for this to happen. So tonight I am going to start looking for answers.

AND I am drafting a letter to send to my state’s representatives in D.C.. I’m sick of hearing about people’s mothers and brothers and children and friends getting shot while watching movies, shopping at the mall, driving down freeways, going to school, or swimming in a river. I am tired of feeling bad, moving on with life, and then having it happen again.  So, this time I am doing something about it. I am expressing my concerns with the state (the lack of it) of effective Mental Health care and the ease of access to lethal weapons and munitions in the U.S.

Yes, I do know that I am probably wasting my time, but when it comes down to it, SOMEONE in a Congressional office somewhere will browse my letter, or at least part of it, because they MUST…which will put it one reader up on this, AND give me the comfort of knowing I actually DID something, this time.