Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Why I write… January 31, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Life Balance,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 4:29 pm
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Wow… this question has been posed to me by several people recently, so it’s been running around on the hamster wheel in my head for a few weeks now.  I’m slowly recognizing that if an idea is imposing its presence into my subconscious, it’s asking to be let out and run free, so here’s the best I can do in way of explanation at the moment.

I write so I don’t go crazy.  I write so that all those crazy ideas in my head have a place to go instead of whirling around and causing me to forget the really important things, like remembering to pick up Arnold’s bread thins for M’s lunch.  I write to share my opinions and my thoughts with anyone who is interested in taking a break from their own life for a moment.  But mostly, I write so that I can give credence to all the blessings of my life.

I was having trouble sleeping because I was thinking so much.  Anyone else have this happen?  As my kids have gotten older (and in the process, I’ve somehow gotten older too), it’s gotten harder and harder for me to fall asleep at night.  I’ve always been someone who thinks about stuff before I nodded off, but this was getting out of hand.  I’d hear a cough and within minutes I was trying to figure out how I was going to adjust my upcoming morning in case I needed to include a doctor’s appointment.  I’d hear a funky sound as the A/C or heating unit kicked in and suddenly I was trying to justify taking out a loan to purchase a brand new unit.  I couldn’t stop myself from going straight to the worst-case scenarios of anything that popped into my little pea-sized brain.  It was driving me crazy and I knew it.  I got some help from my doctor (yes, a sleeping rx) when the stress just got to be ridiculous but lately my thoughts have been swirling around more ideological pursuits.  Blogging seemed like a logical place to work them out… mull them over and then kick them out to the world… get them out of my head.  So far, it really seems to work for me.  The “hamster wheel” of thoughts isn’t keeping me awake as much as it used to…

I wanted to mull over things that were happening in my life and put them somewhere so I could “let them go”.  Writing, for me, has a cathartic benefit when I send it out into the world.  I may not have many people who are reading what I write, but those who do have given me something truly wonderful…. their feedback.  Hearing that I’m not alone or that others have experienced similar situations allows me to participate in the larger world in a way that simply speaking with individuals can offer.  I believe we all want to know that we’re not the only “freaks on the planet” so to speak…. there is someone else out there who understands and can commiserate or validate our ideas.  Humans are social animals… and I love being social…

As for giving credence to the blessings of my life?  How could I not appreciate all that God has given me in this world?  I have a husband who is my better self…and I try to always be the best partner for him in every way.  He makes me feel cherished and loved, no matter what is going on in our lives.  I have two sons of whom I couldn’t possibly be more proud… they are smart, interesting, fun, and I would rather spend time with them than anyone else in the world (other than their dad).  I could go on and on, but I’ll save that for a “mushier” post.  Suffice it to say that I love my family with abandon and am so grateful that God felt me worthy…

… and that’s why I write…

 

I just wanted to sleep a little later… January 29, 2012

Filed under: Life Balance,Pets,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:23 pm
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I have to start by saying that I love our two cats… honestly. They are funny, sweet, personable, and just great to have in our lives. Dexter is our boy cat and the first cat pictured here – he’s the bully of the two and seems to be opinionated on anything that involves him, which apparently is US. Chelsea is our girl cat in the second picture – she’s got a huge body with a tiny little head (picture bowling ball body with a golf ball head) and cannot “meow” like a normal cat… she makes peep noises, so we call her Peep. The annoying thing about them is that they have no concept of human sleeping. It’s frustrating and annoying and just drives me crazy. Really… I just wanted to sleep in on the last “open” weekend for our fore-see-able future. Sadly, our cats had other ideas this morning.

It started with Dexter pawing at the suitcase near the end of our bed. Flipping my leg at him deterred this for a few minutes, but he was back at it again fairly quickly. Not sure why he does this… he has no claws, so he just looks like he’s digging for gold on the side of the bag. This was around 4AM, so I got up to make him move, which worked for awhile until he decided to jump up on the bed near my head to make sure that I was still alive. Apparently my lack of participation in the leg-flipping game signified to him that I might have died… shoving him onto the floor allowed him to rest easy, knowing that I was indeed alive and well (and now, slightly awake).

Next came the crows. Our back-door neighbors have lovely bird feeders that are invaded by loud black crows every morning at 6AM. This doesn’t bother the neighbors because they’re usually leaving for work about that time, but since we have our windows open, we get to listen to every bird’s sequence of seven caws. It’s as if they’re just yelling, “Hey.. hey.. hey.. hey.. hey.. hey.. HEY!!” Not sure why they have to be so loud, but it’s annoying… and there’s nothing I can do about it, short of a more permanent (and probably illegal) solution. Grrrr…

About an hour after the crows left for “greener pastures” (read: more food elsewhere), the cats decided to pound on the bedroom closet door. Granted, this closet door looks a lot like the bathroom closet door behind which is their food, but this is still annoying. Flipping my leg out from under the covers again can deter them… like I’m about to get out of bed to “get” them and so they head for the hills… only to return a moment or two later to repeat this action. We play this fun “game” for a half hour or so until either M or I decide to give up and feed them. I know this is basically giving them what they wanted in the first place but after a half hour of their ridiculous pounding, it’s the only way to make it stop.

It wasn’t until we got the combination of Dexter jumping on the bed near my head and Peep huff-a-lumping up onto the blanket chest at the end of the bed that we finally gave up. Trying to sleep any later was just not going to happen. I really do love my cats… and their antics are usually pretty funny to watch. I just need to remember not to try and sleep too late around them… they will do whatever it takes to get me out of bed.

But I really did just want to sleep in this morning…

 

The blessings of car travel January 28, 2012

Filed under: Life Balance,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:02 pm
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The past few weekends have been pretty quiet around our house.  That’s not to say that they’ve been boring… just not as crazed as they were , say, this past fall when we were scheduled for something every single weekend. Photographing Navy football games, working at the winery, heading off to Fall lacrosse games, and shooting sporting events for people really kept me hopping through December.  I was stunned when I realized that we had some quiet weekends planned in January… and have been taking stock of how to spend that down time.

Having things to do each weekend can be a blessing.  Spending time in the car with M is one of my favorite things about having plans for weekends.  We talk about everything and nothing… we listen to music… we reminisce about things that pop into our minds… we chat about work (his and mine now)… and we reconnect in a way that I treasure more than anything.  I have friends who dread spending hours on a car ride.  To me, this has always been a great place to talk over plans and get caught up on our lives.  We usually end up laughing so much about the silliest things that I actually relish those drives.   It’s not a curse to be “cooped up in the car”… it’s really a blessing.

I’m always amazed to see those cars or vans that have a DVD player available for their kids.  TV shows or movies, they seem to be played all the time, whether it’s a short trip to the store or a long drive to visit relatives.  When D and E were little, we didn’t have access to this piece of entertainment.  Truth be told, we probably would have considered using it when we had some of our longer car trips (MD to MI for example) but I’m actually glad we didn’t.  Having to fill those hours in the car by playing games, listening to music, or talking allowed us to get to know our children in ways we didn’t expect.  Listening to E screaming out the words to “La Vie Boheme” from RENT from the back of the van was a personal favorite… having to stop at a roadside restaurant because D got car sick… definitely not.

Car travel, for our family, has always been a “given”.  I much prefer it, even with time issues and traffic, to any other mode of transportation.  I like being enclosed, almost encapsulated, with my family and being forced to communicate the hours away.   There’s traffic ahead?  Let’s find another way around it that we might have otherwise by-passed in favor of the more direct route.  We’ve had our share of frustrating and irritating drives, but as long as there’s no deadline to our arrival, the travel time can be seen through a more entertaining lens.  Seeing honest-to-God cotton fields on my trip to ECU with M this fall was certainly entertaining…. having the drive take an extra hour through some sketchy territory was probably less so.

In our first few weeks in Michigan, before GPS and turn-by-turn directions, I would get lost driving the boys around and tell them that we were “going on an adventure”.  We weren’t lost… we were taking a more scenic and circuitous route home.  It certainly made me feel better when it took us a little longer than we’d expected.   I knew the general layout of the area, so when I eventually reached a familiar road, all was fine again.  The boys didn’t get worried… going on an adventure sounded a heck-of-a-lot better to them than just driving straight home… and by putting a positive spin on what could have been an anxious drive made me feel better too.   Traveling in the car was simply a fun way to spend time with my boys.

As the boys have gotten older, car travel has changed but remained a blessing to me.  When they were in middle school, I learned to turn the music up in the back of the van so they would have to speak loudly (and I’d be able to hear) if they wanted to talk with their friends when I drove car pool.  As they learned to drive, spending time in the car had a purpose… a goal-oriented space where each could make mistakes and become confident in their abilities.  Now that they are ones behind the wheel, I try hard not to critique their driving… instead, I count this as a great place in which to listen.  In their own ways, they communicate their personalities to me and allow me to continue to have a place in their lives.  I like that this enclosed space, where I spend time with varying groupings of M, D, and E, is still fun.

I may not like the time it takes to drive somewhere, but I’ll never complain about spending that time with any of my guys.  Where else am I able to have the undivided attention of my family… isn’t that the most wonderful blessing of car travel?

 

Thoughts on the passing of a legend… January 23, 2012

Filed under: Football,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:09 am
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This weekend has been tragic.  Losing an icon such as Coach Joe Paterno was followed with much sadness,  love, and frustration.  News of his early, and unsubstantiated, demise was shocking… reporting his death in the early evening, while he was still alive, was inexcusable.  I can only imagine the frustration and anger his family felt when seeing these statements being toted as fact… commentators all trying to “get a jump on the story” but, instead, creating a need for rebuttals that the Paterno family should never had faced in the first place.  It should have been a time of peace for his family… instead, it’s been something entirely different.

To quote Sue Paterno, “After 61 years, he deserved better”…

When I learned of the scandal at Penn State,  I was as shocked as the next person.   As information was made more fully known, I was even more stunned.  My younger son was the same age as the young man (men, now) who stepped forward.  Remembering E as a 10 year old boy… thinking about what we, as parents, had permitted or done at that time… contemplating how I might have reacted if this were my son involved… and I just couldn’t go there.  You know how Mama Bears react when their cubs are threatened?  I will warn you, dear reader, that I am ten times worse than any stupid bear… I am someone’s worst nightmare when it comes to my boys and their welfare.  NO ONE will get in my way to protect them.

Yet, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn Coach Paterno.  I was not present when he was approached regarding Coach Sandusky.  I was not party to the discussions and questions that followed.  I can look back now and say what should have happened, but I cannot disgrace the legacy of all he built and all he did for the University and the students under his tutelage by second guessing his actions.   I don’t know a single person who was present during any of the situations regarding Sandusky.  Are they absolutely vile and abhorrent to me?  You betcha… but I still cannot condemn Coach Paterno.   The public outcry has been incredibly vocal… calling for the heads of everyone remotely involved to roll.  I totally get that feeling.  While I agree that changes needed to be made, I still believe that allowing Coach Mike McQueary to remain at Penn State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_McQueary)  is a HUGE mistake… one even greater than firing Paterno.

That being said, I will not be party to small-minded people who believe that their opinions are the only valid ones.   I have friends who have had to walk paths that might be morally or ethically repugnant to others, but since I have not walked in their shoes, I refuse to come down on one side or the other.  My friends have good hearts and they made the best decisions they could, under the circumstances.  I will not play judge, jury, or executioner… and neither should anyone else…

May Coach Joe Paterno find his eternal rest…  and may we all remember the best of him.  Amen.

 

Where is “The Golden Rule” today? January 19, 2012

Filed under: Life Balance,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:35 am
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I remember being taught The Golden Rule when I was a child.  You know… “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  The rule that parents brought out any time you did something mean or rotten to someone else?  The rule that teachers hung on the bulletin boards that decorated the classroom?  The one rule that we were all supposed to live by?  Where is The Golden Rule in today’s society?

I know that it seems as if there is a new Golden Rule that has superimposed the old one… the idea that you must “do unto others before they can do it unto you”… but that’s just something I find totally abhorrent.   If we could all live as simply as following the Golden Rule, don’t you think the world would be a nicer place?

Think about it… you see a woman struggling to put her groceries in the car while keeping her infant from trying to escape the cart seat.  Would it be so difficult to take a moment and offer to help put the items in her car so she can concentrate on her child?  What about the man in the line at Starbucks who seems so impatient and frustrated with the two-person wait for his coffee order.  Would it really ruin your day to ask if he wants to go ahead of you?  Is it too hard to wait a moment and hold the door open for another person… pick up a dropped item… ask if they need help… smile at another human being?

I know there will always be those who refuse offers of help… who have been kicked around by the other Golden Rule.  My theory, though not scientific in the least, is that those are the people who will eventually come around to looking for the good in people instead of expecting the bad.  If you kick a dog enough times, he’s going to flinch if you start to make the motion toward him.  People aren’t so different… if they’re treated badly by society, they look for the bad before being able to see the good.  Maybe if we all start trying to show one another the good instead of the bad, we can create a world where The Golden Rule is the norm again and not  the exception.

“What Would Jesus Do” was really popular a few years ago and was viewed (for lack of a better term) as the “new hotness”.  Bumper stickers, wrist bands, signs, slogans, all asking us to stop and think about what Jesus might do in any given situation… but isn’t that really just the Golden Rule?  Jesus had two main commandments: Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. We’re commanded to love God, but we’re also commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.  That second part?  Isn’t that another way of following The Golden Rule?   As Christians, we can talk WWJD all we want, but doesn’t it all come down to “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

I ask, dear reader, that you think about this over the coming weeks.  Before you just let that door slam in someone’s face… before you laugh at the unfortunate person who just dropped their purchases on the floor… before you ignore that plea of help in someone’s eyes as they’re trying their best to make it through the day.  Not just “What Would Jesus Do”, but what would you want someone to do for you?

You might find that it feels pretty amazing to treat others with the respect and appreciation that you’d want in the same situation.   To compliment someone can brighten their day in ways you’ll never know.  To simply smile at a person can lift their spirits and make their day.

In my humble opinion, The Golden Rule shouldn’t be questioned.  It should be the way we all conduct the business of our lives.   Wouldn’t that just make your day?

 

The idea of “Lifelong Weight Management” January 13, 2012

It’s a Friday afternoon and, as usual, I’ve spent an hour of my morning attending a Weight Watchers meeting with my fellow comrades in the trenches of weight management.  I’m now lunching on my own version of the WW garden vegetable soup (adding and deleting vegetables, depending on what I found at the store after the meeting) and making plans for the dinner I’m going to make.  Such is the life of someone who is part of Weight Watchers.  Planning… cooking… making daily choices that work toward that ultimate goal of “lifetime weight management”.

Let me backtrack a few years… yes, years.  I officially became a WW member in October of 2004.  I reluctantly swapped some of my worst habits for healthier options… I slowly bought into the idea that weight loss could actually be possible for me… I worked out intermittently… and I eventually lost about 30 pounds over a 2 year period and made it to my “Lifetime goal” in October 2006.  I had experienced a successful venture and I thought, as most WW members initially do, I’ve got this…. I can do this on my own.   I had struggled mightily as I got closer to the goal set by WW, as determined by my height and age, and finally got a doctor’s note to allow my goal to be 2 pounds above the highest WW-recommended number, which was lower than I had been in decades.  I was thrilled and envisioned working for WW, encouraging and inspiring others to lifelong weight management.  Alas, that dream was not to happen.  Because my goal was met by using a doctor’s note, I was not eligible for employment with WW.  Reminds me of Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers”:  Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayersRemember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs  That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.  It truly was a blessing that I wasn’t hired to work for WW… it just took me awhile to recognize and appreciate that gift.

Over the next three years, I worked hard to stay within the guidelines set by WW for Lifetime Members.  I was proud to have attained this status but it was oh so difficult for me to maintain.  I would yo-yo up and down, depending on the time of the month, since lifetime members only needed to weigh in once a month and be within 2 pounds of their goal weight to remain “free” and not pay to attend the meetings.  I started slacking off… planning went by the wayside… I’d cook what was easiest instead of what might be nutritionally better… I got arrogant and lazy… and the weight started creeping back on.

Going back to WW was rough.   I swallowed my pride and jumped in with both feet.  Sadly, my heart still wasn’t totally engaged and, while I attended WW meetings, bought the cookbooks, ate the “right” foods, I still had a hard time losing the weight I’d regained.  I wasn’t incorporating exercise as part of my daily/weekly routine and I was still “playing” with the program.   I loved the idea of having foods that I could eat “for free”, so I embraced the Core program… until I realized that MY way of working the Core program was totally wrong.  Poor M actually thanked me when I switched back to the Flex program and counted points for everything again!    I still wasn’t being consistent… tracking has always been the key for me… not just tracking until I run out of points for the day, but tracking everything I eat, regardless of the outcome.

As life changes, so does Weight Watchers.  The Core/Flex program gave way to the Winning Points program, which then became the Points Plus program.  I’ve been slow to embrace new programs, so I always feel as if I am a step or two behind the curve.  I can “talk the talk” with the best of them, but the “walking the walk” has taken a bit longer this time.  Slowly, I’m getting my head around the concept of “move more, eat less” and am actually adding some sort of exercise to my daily activities.  I’ve blamed my weight on everything from my MS to my schedule… but it’s time to take control and make lifelong changes that will serve me well as I glimpse “50”  on the horizon.  I’m still struggling, but I’m starting to see results of some of my positive steps.

Blogging about this struggle is one of those positive steps.   Feedback from readers helps me feel less alone, no matter the fact that I’m surrounded by the like-minded in our weekly meetings.   I’ve tried embracing other food plans but Weight Watchers is still the one that covers all the bases for me.  The act of tracking on my iPhone, using WW e-tools, and following recipes has to be included in my daily activities.  Planning has always been my strong suit… now I need to make sure that I’m actually making me a priority in that planning.

Who wants to join me on this next stage of my journey?  I am GOING to get back to my goal weight… with no pressure of an ending date.  After all… this is “Lifelong Weight Management”… right?

 

Thoughts of the past on a quiet morning… January 10, 2012

Filed under: Life Balance,Navy Life,Parenting,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:58 pm
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It’s still early…. well, early for my guys.  I’ve been up since M left for work and, since I don’t work today, Christmas FicusI’ve been going slowly about my day.  Making coffee, catching up on emails, planning out errands, and generally enjoying the peace that rests in this house when no one else is up or around.  I’ve cheated and kept a string of white lights on a fake ficus tree in the corner of the living room so those are the only lights on.  They’re like having a little piece of Christmas around throughout the year.

The hard part for me will be when both boys leave again for college on Sunday.  I have them home for a few short days and then the chaos of school, classes, and sports will take over again.  I’m not worried any longer about having them leave…. they always come back.  It’s just the small readjustments that need to happen to take up the gap between being a daily family of four in this household and a daily family of two.  Cooking for Two?  I thought that was a joke… something that only “old” people did… certainly not something that my dearest and I would be doing in the middle of our life together.  I love having the boys around.  Love that they feel comfortable bringing friends to come over any time.  I’ve always wanted that sort of home… and have been “training” for it before we had completed our family…. really!

I’m known to be a planner and I can be extremely focused when planning things that are really important.  Take being a parent.  If you read my “About” section, you know that I planned to be a parent long before I ever was one.  It was the same with how I envisioned our home and family life.

When M and I first married, he was a Navy pilot, stationed at NAS Pax River, MD.  I learned a great deal about being a good mom and an involved spouse/parent during that duty station.  Wives were left for long periods of time while (primarily) husbands deployed and flew missions.  During those times we did a lot of bonding…learning how to be a “wife”, raising children, talking, venting, and generally using one another as sounding boards for our lives.  The wives club, since we lived on base, was my life and my social circle.  I saw, by example, visions of marriage that I did and did not want.  I realized this was a choice… I could create any sort of home for my husband and my children that I felt fit us best.  When our next duty station was assigned, I knew I had my opportunity.

Our second (and final) duty station was at the Naval Academy.  M was stationed in the sailing department and would teach as needed.  We were offered base housing just outside Gate 8 at USNA and were thrilled.  With our move scheduled for June/July, I proactively called in April about becoming Midshipman Sponsors.  The gentleman who answered was a bit taken aback by my request.  Being firm, I asked to have three plebes (freshman) assigned to us.

“Three??” he asked. “Why three??”  My response was this, “If you assign us one plebe, we’ll sit and stare at him all day.  If you assign us two, it’ll be our luck that they won’t get along.  If you assign us three plebes, we’ve got a chance in hell that two of them getting along”.  We were, thankfully, assigned three plebes that summer.    He also asked if we preferred male or female midshipmen.  I explained that I already had a son and planned to have another child soon after we arrived (though I wasn’t pregnant yet) and felt that this was my opportunity to learn how to be a mom of boys…. girls would inevitably come over, but the boys would be part of our home.   As it so happened, we were assigned three male midshipmen and then ended up with a few more that seemed to gravitate to our apartment, for one reason or another.

Through this experience I learned some valuable lessons.   I believe I was made to be a “boy mom”.  I can tie a gorgeous bow and play Barbies with the best of them, but I much prefer sports to playing dress up.  My house will probably always be cluttered, a little dusty, and comfortable.   My boys know that they can bring anyone over at any time of the day or night.  I’m never without the ability to make some sort of sweet (cookies, brownies, etc) to feed hungry boys and their friends.  While the Navy was teaching my husband a myriad of useful skills, that same Navy was teaching me how to live.  I learned that it’s never going to be about how clean you keep your house… it’s about taking the time to show those in your life just how much they mean to you.   I try to live that way each day… personal connections are what sustain people on whatever path they are traveling.   A kind word… eye contact… a smile…. each one can go a long way to making someone else’s day just a little bit brighter.

Sometimes, looking at the past can allow us to recognize the most precious blessings of our lives…

 

 
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