It’s Time for Change

On July 3rd, I posted some disgusting pictures of myself on Instagram under a pseudonym as part of a preparation for a  28-day challenge.  They weren’t pretty.  I couldn’t believe I did it.  (I still can’t believe it. )I crammed my body into some bright orange workout clothes that I swear (you’re welcome) to never leave the house wearing and took pictures in front of our foggy bathroom mirror. And I hit post. No filters. Just me.  ACK!

We left for vacation that evening. I wasn’t ready to start the actual eating part of my challenge at all.  We were venturing out to Kansas City, and I did not want to give up KC’s finest barbecue. I also didn’t want to give up my diet soda…yet.  Somewhere in my mind I couldn’t think of a road trip without a diet soda.  This only reveals my skewed thinking about food and drink in general.  Also if I had started changing my habits, I would not have allowed myself to partake in that glorious cookie thing my brother-in-law made for dessert on our visit.  (It was out-of-this-world delicious and about a gazillion calories).  We returned from our trip on Sunday, and on Monday, I made my changes.

I decided no artificial sweeteners and no sugar.  I would limit my carbs to a handful and avoid anything too “starchy.”  I would also stick to 1200 calories/day. (I would likely not have made it this far without the discovery of Refrigerator Oatmeal.  It’s the best!  Seriously.  I’m not even hungry at lunch because this magic breakfast is so filling.)

As I was mentally preparing myself to make this changes, I started to evaluate other parts of my life that I wanted to makeover. I decided that I move less than I should.  This is generally only a problem in the summer as most days I hit my 10,000 steps during a regular teaching day; however, during the summer, I find my corner of our beige sofa a little too comfortable.  If I plop down on the couch particularly in my own little corner, I will get sucked into social media, Netflix, or other sedentary activities.  I pledged to myself to move 30 minutes per day.  Yesterday it was swimming with my kids for an hour along with walks to and from the pool. Monday, it was 30 minutes of Just Dance with Madeleine. (I’m awful but I don’t care).

But eating and movement weren’t the only aspects of my life that I wanted to change.  My outlook and attitude had become rotten. I started to think of myself in comparison to other people and their success. I honestly felt like no one wanted to read my posts on social media.  They weren’t interesting, and frankly, I was bored by my own life.

I also felt like I didn’t have strong relationships with others.  I felt like my relationships with people were shallow.  If I only know about your life because you posted on social media and I call us friends, what does that say?  I should know what’s going on with my friends because we had a conversation about it.  I should see their vacation photos because they showed them to me and I showed them mine….not by posting them on a site.  That’s not a relationship.  It’s lazy communication, and it doesn’t value each other.  It says, “Here’s my life for the world to see,” but it doesn’t create the intimacy that real friendships need.  It replaces the phone calls and personal text messages with forced “Happy Birthdays” from people with whom you have not had a real conversation in 15-20 years.  Sometimes I feel like FB is the gift cards of the gift-giving world.  Gift cards are cool, but they don’t suggest that you know a person well enough to select a personalized option.  We are often lazy gift givers and lazy maintainers of relationships.

So here it is.  My commitment to 28-days of change.  Changes in eating, fitness, and social media. In another week, I will shoot another photo in the same neon orange sports bra and shorts, but I’m hoping the change is less visible on the outside.  #wholebodymakeover #progressnotperfection

(Check out the recipe page for my favorite new breakfast.)

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Warning: Spontaneous Emotions May Overflow

 

Today my dad would have been 75.  I didn’t realize it right away.  As every morning, I became caught up in my routine.  I woke, showered, ate, drove to school–the same as every weekday morning.

It wasn’t until a student came to me for a pass to work on Shakespeare scenes during homeroom when it hit me.

“Today is April…” I hesitated trying to remember what yesterday had been.

“The 25th,” she said.

I paused and jotted the number down as the realization came and my eyes burned with the holding back of preliminary tears.

“Here ya go,” I said quickly and handed her the small green paper.

I held my breath as she left and then released it slowly.

My morning went on as usual.  During my planning time, I checked my phone including a quick review of Facebook.  There it was again.  The reminder.  It’s his birthday.  I quickly tucked my phone away.  I wasn’t ready to deal with the full range of emotions such a realization brings.

And I went on with my day.  I talked about totalitarian governments.  A student brought up her father’s own involvement with air force intelligence during a brief discussion on spies.  There it was again.  I remembered you had done that too.  I answered her questions and moved on.

I taught Shakespeare.  Miranda proposed to Ferdinand, and Prospero expressed his happiness.  Students eagerly asked me about my proposal, and I told the story of how Jedidiah asked my father’s permission.  Jedidiah had asked, and he said, “Are you sure?”  It’s one of my favorite stories to tell.  And there it was again.

Once my day was over, I came home and looked at the calendar.  There it was.  Your picture and no longer just a birthdate and year…there was the death year.  There was such a finality to it.  Then I finally cried.  All of it, out like a flood.  I sobbed.  My through burned and felt tight.  It hurt to swallow.  There it was again…finally.

And even though it’s your birthday, Dad, it’s there every day.  That reminder that you were, and then suddenly you were not.

I think of you every day.  Some days are just harder than others.  Today is always one of those days.

Shakespeare on Joy: A Week of Joy #4

It’s no secret that I love my job.  I especially love teaching Shakespeare.  Most of my teaching career, I have only taught Shakespeare once per year and in most cases Romeo and Juliet.  However working at a performing arts school affords me with plenty of opportunity to promote the Bard.  This year I have been given a Shakespeare class.  I also coordinate our efforts and involvement in the Parker Shakespeare Festival.  Last year I had my doubts about middle schoolers loving my man Will, but I was wrong.  We increased student interest in studying more of Shakespeare’s work after our successes in the festival.

Joy Choice #4: There’s always time for Shakespeare and more Shakespeare and more Shakespeare.

I had so much work and so many projects to spend time on today.  I needed my plan time to send emails, but instead, I worked on Shakespeare scenes with students.  We worked on scenes from Antony and Cleopatra, Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   When it came time to return to class, I was so centered and in high spirits. It made me so happy, and the projects and work I had to do—they kept.  Sometimes you just have to take a moment to do what you love and share it with a few others.

“I wish you all the joy that you can wish” (The Merchant of Venice)

 

What joy did you share with others today?

Bubbles and Joy: A Week of Joy

When I went to Children’s Church, we used to sing a song…”It’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’ in my soul.” I loved it.  There’s just something about bubbles.  I like blowing bubbles with my kids in the pool, blowing giant bubbles at the science museum, drinking my bubbles in either champagne or Diet Coke, eating the bubbly part of the pizza crust.  I love bubbles.

I especially love bubble baths. (Joy Choice #4)  I took a long one tonight.  #ichoosejoy

The Joy in Stories: A Week of Joy #3

I have a busy schedule for the next few months.  I could document it here, but I will spare you the details.  This is common practice for me.  I like to be busy.  A good friend of mine often reminds me, “Busy people do.”  And I certainly do.

I rarely take time to actually watch a television show in real time.  The year before Madeleine was born, my husband gifted me with TIVO, and we have never stopped storing an exorbitant amount of television in its cache. (Seriously, we will never be able to watch it all.)  Lately I’ve been catching up on shows using subscription services like Netflix and Hulu, but tonight I watched a show while it was on–commercials and all.

Joy Choice #3:  I stopped to watch This Is Us.  I never do this.  I catch up on weekends and ball my eyes out while my husband occupies himself with football.  Not tonight.  Tonight I made time, set aside my work, and watched the entire program through bleary eyes while it was broadcast.  (Oh Big Three, why do you do this to me?!?).  Bleary eyes?  How does this connect with joy?  It’s this simple:

Stories bring me joy.

Stories are exactly why I spend my days doing what I do. It’s why I read.  It’s why I teach Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Harper Lee.  It’s why I passionately share these stories with my students. It’s why I spend ten minutes a day listening to my students share some of theirs. It’s why I ask my children to recount their days over dinner, and it’s why I’m writing this tonight before turning in, snuggled under cotton sheets  with my Kindle in my hands.  I love stories.  It brings me such happiness to watch/listen/read stories.  There’s such joy in every one.

#ichoosejoy

Joy in the Morning…a Monday Morning: A Week of Joy

Joy Choice # 2: Today was our first day back at school after a restful and relaxing break. None of us were wanting to lift our heavy feet into the car to make the trip to school. My mind was filled with all the “I have to’s” that needed completion before the first bell. Max and Madeleine were still sleepy. Their heads resting on their chests and bobbing slightly when we hit a slight bump. It was going to be a hard day, and it was Monday. I knew that my “joy choice” would set the tone for the entire day. So what was it?
 
I turned up the radio. It woke the kids up. Sirius XM was playing a Jimmy Eat World song. It was “Sweetness,” and while I am not a Jimmy Eat World fan, I have loved this song since it debuted in 2001. (Jedidiah and I were engaged). I couldn’t tell you the words really. I just know the “Are you listening? Whoaoaoaoao” part….and my kids do too. (Apparently we listen to this song more than I am aware?) So instead of dwelling on the “have to’s” I decided to make the choice to play air guitar at the red light. Max started giggling. Madeleine raised her hands up and started strumming as hard as she could. Max soon followed nodding his head up and down, laughing all the while. We sang all the “whoas” at the top of our lungs and played our most glorious air guitar. Immediately our mood changed. The day suddenly felt lighter and brighter just after some emo-rock and some righteous air guitar.
So grab your air guitar and sing those “Whoa’s” as loud as possible….”Are you listening?”

I Choose Joy: A Week of Joy

In early December, my children and I were driving home from a late night rehearsal in Littleton. When I say Littleton, I mean as-far-away-as-one-can-get-from-Parker-Littleton. We were all in horrid moods. Madeleine and Max were fighting, and I was tired of listening to whiny children after a day of teaching.
“Stop!” I yelled. Their voices quieted immediately. “Guys, we’re being ridiculous. We all need to stop. Let’s choose joy instead.”
Max, who was particularly tired from late night tech week rehearsals, continued to whine, so I asked Madeleine, “What did you do to choose joy today?”
She talked of playing her cello in orchestra and dancing in musical theatre. Immediately her stern face gave way to a bright, beaming smile.
“What about you, Max?” He paused. “Well, today…”
Frankly, I don’t remember what he said, but that’s not what is important. Every day since then, I have asked my children, “How did you choose joy today?”  The love telling me about what makes them truly happy, and it brings me so much pleasure to hear them share their joy.
This is a challenge for myself too. I tend to get wrapped up in what needs to be done and what hangs looming over my head. Instead, I need to stop and choose to do or focus on what gives me joy.  I’m tired of not living the joy-filled life that I want.
 
This is a really long introduction to say that every day this week, I will be posting what I have done to choose joy.
 
Joy Choice #1: Today I finished the first sock of a pretty pair.  Knitting brings me happiness.  I love the feel of fine sock yarn between my fingers.  I like the way the loops join row-by-row interlocking around each other like mini fingers. I love a finished project–when all those minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. of work finally come together into something that I hope will bring someone else happiness.  The same kind of happiness is brought me to make it.
 
How did you choose joy today?

Music Monday Returns: Youth

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday.  He’s younger than I am, but only by a few months.  Despite the small distance in our age, he regularly reminds me that I am older than he is.  This week as I celebrate his finally turning the same age as me, here’s the songs on my current playlist.

  1. “Suit and Jacket”, Judah and the Lion:  There is no other band right now like Judah and the Lion.  Their goal is to produce the music they grew up listening to with the folk instruments–banjo, mandolin–that they play.  “Suit and Jacket” is my favorite.  It is an anthem for slowing down and figuring out what you really want not what society forces.   My favorite line–“I’m not trading this fire for a cold, cold heart.”
  2. “I Need Never Get Old,”  Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nigthsweats: I’ve written about this song before, so I’ll spare you the repeat.  I’m still enjoying this lighthearted love song.
  3. “Fountains of Youth,” Local Natives: As a teacher, I am hopeful that our future generations will upend the mess we’ve made of it.  I suppose that’s how it’s always been.
  4. “Good Morning,” Grouplove:  I go to bed at 10:00 p.m. every night if not earlier.  My schedule demands I be an early riser. And while I have always been a morning person, a still harbor illusions of staying up late and having a good time.  An old girl like me can dream, can’t she?

Listen to my Spotify playlist here.

Confession: The Source of My Ambition

I’ve heard a few times this month, “I don’t know how you do it all.”  Admittedly I do a lot. I work hard to balance the demands of my numerous roles–mother, teacher, department leader, grad student, web designer (I didn’t actually ask for that one), mentor, friend…Lots of women do these things, and lots of women do it better than I.  I wasn’t always this driven.  In fact, until about sixteen years ago, ambition was a foreign concept.

Throughout middle and high school, I heard that I wasn’t living up to my potential.  If I would only stop being to apathetic toward, well, everything, then I would absolutely be successful.  When I went off to school, it didn’t change all that much.  It mildly helped that I was paying for class, but I didn’t work  hard.  I wasn’t a diligent student or a devoted worker.  I just plain didn’t care.

Then it all changed.

Sixteen years ago, I met ambition.  He was tall, dark, and incredibly handsome. He was a hard worker and oh-so-smart.   At first, he was soft spoken and shy.  He was awkward, and frankly, I was thankful that he didn’t sound like a girl. He knew music, literature, and jazz. He was good at math.  I wasn’t, but I knew that I wanted to solve x when the equation was him + me.  If I wanted to impress this gentleman, I was going to have to turn it up. What did I do?

“Dear Reader, I married him.”

The truth is that I don’t do it all on my own.  Not at all. Not even a bit. I wouldn’t be able to juggle all that life throws at me without him. He’s calm and rational while I’m utterly emotional and a raging storm. He’s funny so I don’t take myself too seriously, and he reminds me that I can be rather selfish.  Above all, he pushes me to be my best self because all I really want in the world…my only true ambition is to make this man proud of me.

Happy birthday, H.B.

photo-11

This is likely my husband’s face every day when he hangs up the phone with me. It’s my favorite picture.

 

Music Monday: Rainy Days and Mondays

I loved that song growing up.  My mom listened to The Carpenters quite a bit, and it always seemed to pop up on the easy listening radio stations my parents would listen to when I was a child.  Karen Carpenter’s voice is the perfect conduit for melancholy days, and this song is the absolute soundtrack for April’s wet weather.

After the 70 degree days we’ve had in Colorado, snow and rain have crawled back into the weather forecast as if to say that winter is not quite ready to die.  It reminds me of a formulaic horror movie.  Remember the hand that comes up out of the ground in Carrie? That’s winter right now in Colorado.

Despite my readiness for the warmth and rays of spring and summer, the gray skies and infinite drizzle seems to pull out the most pensive me, and April, well, April makes me think of two of my favorite guys–my dad and my brother.  Both gone now with birthdays in April.

Sometimes you need the catharsis of sadness and a rainy day.  This is my cathartic soundtrack for rainy days and Mondays and cold, wet Aprils.

  1. “To Be Without You”(Ryan Adams, Prisoner).   This song was written not to long after Ryan Adams lost his own grandmother and faced his divorce from Mandy Moore.  It reminds me of old Ryan Adams–the Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown and “La Cienega” (Heartbreaker).
  2. “Funeral” (Band of Horses, Everything All the Time)  The voices and the harmonies in this song haunt me long after it stops playing.  Ben Bridwell says the song is about how birthdays and family gatherings felt like a funeral for him, but for me the meaning is closer to home than that.  For me, it’s about wondering if someone will be there the next time you see them.  If the “Mom, tell Sissy I love her” might be the last.
  3. “Boulder to Birmingham” (Emmylou Harris) This song was written by Emmylou Harris after the death of her friend Graham Nash. I remember my dad listening to this song when I was younger.   He loved her and often said, “she can eat crackers in my bed anytime.”  I had no idea what he meant until I was much older.  I also didn’t understand this song until I was an adult–until I lost my dad. I would walk from Denver to Lubbock in this wet, rainy weather to see him again.
  4. “And” (Waterdeep, Sink or Swim) This song is beautiful.  It was the single song I listened to on repeat when I lost my brother.  The poetry and layers of meaning speaks volumes to me.  I’ve spend hours trying to analyze and decipher it’s meaning. For me it explains how often we can feel lost but Jesus is the one path to link us to our Creator: “And is the juice of the joints of the motion of life/ And is the love that is between God and his beautiful wife/ And has two hands and two feet and a long, lovely side/ And rose three days after he was crucified.”So if it’s cold and rainy—if you’re feeling pensive or melancholy, have listen.