Relationships

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Choose Hope (a nearly incoherent rambling)

"Once you choose hope, anything's possibl...

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve (Photo credit: Abby Lanes)

We are restrained by our responsibilities on a daily basis. Work. Chores. There seems to be a never-ending list of things that need to be done. There is never enough time and, often, there is a lack of patience. At the height of my frustration, at my wit’s end last year, buried under school work and the pressure of being everything to everyone while still being a good mom, my son’s father pointed out that I never seemed to be in a good mood. I came home from work grumpy, anxious to tackle my homework, and, often times, wouldn’t even have a smile for the little boy so excited to see me.

I was taking life too seriously. You know the old joke “don’t take life too seriously, no one gets out of it alive”? It has rung through my head for months now. It was a turning point in my life, this realization that I make time for all of the “responsibilities” in my life but not for the things I really needed for myself. I needed time with my son. I needed time with my son’s father. I needed time with my friends. And I needed time with myself.  

If we are lucky enough to be touched by a moment that makes us appreciate life more it is important not to let it pass us by. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve experienced a number of life changing moments the last few years. The more I experience, the more I appreciate what I have in my life. Not things. People. Moments.

Our world seems so much scarier than the world I grew up in. News outlets would have you convinced that we’re on the brink of the end. That there is nothing good left to come. I let all of this pass through me and refuse to let it touch me as much as possible. I filter everything I hear and see through a lens of “does this promote happy in my life?”. Anything that fails to meet the standard is dropped like a hot potato.

We struggle. I struggle to balance work, school, and home. My son’s father struggles with pursuing his passion and the work he was born to do with the need to contribute to the household finances. I support him in following his dream and, while it is admittedly rough sometimes, I would much rather he follow his dream than have to watch him wilt and wither in a job he hates so that we could have more money. Money, after all, is not my main concern in life. The world tells me it should be and I tell the world to stuff it where the sun don’t shine. Sure, I complain occasionally about my job. But I appreciate that I have a job that can enable our family to live comfortably while he pursues his dreams and I finish school. Our son wants for nothing. He is a happy, vibrant child who delights in the world around him.

He doesn’t care about money. While it is impossible to, as an adult, not care about money at all, I’ve adopted his belief that it certainly isn’t a majorly important factor in our lives. He moves forward, full steam ahead, and all he cares about is that Mommy or Daddy is there to kiss his boo-boo when he trips over his own feet or runs into a shoe display at a sports store (yes, he moves THAT full steam ahead).

He cares that Daddy is home with him while Mommy is at work and vice versa. He cares that we are happy. He cares that we are together.

As his parents, we care that he be happy and that we make life as fulfilling for him as possible. It can’t always be perfect, obviously, but we try to take it in stride. We have eating issues, potty training issues, sleep issues, but we are a happy family. I see no reason to disrupt that or to allow my son’s father to disrupt it by doubting the path he’s chosen career-wise. It’s one thing to change your mind, it’s another thing to allow a rough patch to change it for you.

What does any of this have to do with anything?

Probably nothing… but as I said, when you have a moment that changes your perspective in life, you need to pay attention to it. Today I had another moment that reaffirmed my Live, Laugh, Love mind set. Life is here to live and borrowing trouble gets us nowhere. Trouble will find you when it needs to, until then, leave it be.

I’ve read a lot of blogs the last few years. Some were funny. Some were sweet. Some were dumb as hell and some were witty. None of them managed to make me laugh, make me feel connected to a child I never knew, or make me cry the way this one did.

http://www.chicagonow.com/mary-tyler-mom/2011/08/gold-is-the-new-pink/

I stumbled across this blog quite by accident. I read the synopsis of Donna’s Cancer Story and wondered if I should even read it. I don’t like to set myself up for tears if I can avoid it but in that moment of hesitation I thought “if that child and her family could live it… if her mother had the strength to blog about it… I can have the fortitude to read it. To absorb it.” In other words, I could have the ability to let it touch me.

The last post in Donna’s story requests that her story be shared. So I am going to do just that.

But first I want to remind my readers, as surprising as it is that I have readers, that you only get this one life. You get to choose. You get to choose between enjoying your life and mourning it. You get to choose to be supportive of your family or negative about it because it impacts you. You get to choose to love and live and dream. You get to choose whether or not you want to be chained by your responsibilities or freed by them.

 I choose to allow my “struggles” to be minor bumps in the ride, not derailments. I choose to support those that I love. I choose to be happy with my choice to support them, even if it means I have a few “bad” days. I choose to love with all my heart, to hand out extra chances, to always have a smile for the little boy so happy to see me, and to never let a day pass without counting my blessings. I choose to honor those that are in my life as well as those who have passed. I choose to acknowledge that there is always someone out there who is having a harder time than I am. I choose to look with open eyes at the world around me and I choose to see the beauty instead of focusing on the ugliness.

I hope, my dear readers, that Donna’s story will help you gain the perspective to Choose Hope, Live until you die, and see the good in your own life. Focus on the good, dear readers, and the bad truly won’t feel so painful. Do good things for good reason, no reason, or any reason at all.

Be happy and try to make those around you happy. Make time for friends, family, and yourself; because life is more about whom we have around us than what we have around us.

I apologize if this post is more disorganized than usual… tears tend to scatter my brain just a wee bit. I supposed I could have posted just about being happy that my child is healthy. That I appreciate his tantrums more because he is able to have them. But I was already happy about all of that. I am already appreciative of how easy we have it with our son, even when he is being difficult. Donna’s story touched me more deeply than just hugging my child tighter. I have an amazing family. I have a son who is beautiful and bright. I have my son’s father, who is equally beautiful and bright. I have parents and sisters and nieces and nephews and friends whom would support me no matter what I did.

We all get lost in our own struggles from time to time. Because they are our struggles, they will never be trivial to us. We feel the struggle, the pressure, the anxiety, while we are living it. It is real and tangible to us. I would never use someone else’s struggle to minimize or negate a struggle I or someone else was feeling. But, my dears, perspective is the key word for many of my posts. You can learn from the struggles of others. You can gain perspective into your own pressure and anxiety.

I learned from this family’s experiences. I learned that relationships can endure, families can survive the unimaginable, and we can choose hope. You can learn to accept your struggle while it is occurring, is lessened or magnified by the perspective you choose to view it with. It is impacted by the attitude you approach it with and the outlook you apply to it.

In the end, when all is said and done, I hope that I have the ability to say that I approached the majority of my difficult experiences with a positive outlook and a sunny perspective. I hope that all of you can as well.

I hope. And that hope will not end because of a rough patch. That’s about all I can say. I hope that this rambling post did Donna justice in the way it was shared, but I fear that there are no words from me that could ever quite achieve such a lofty goal… and I am humbled in that knowledge.

 

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Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

Women: Our Sisters; Our Enemies. It’ Time for Change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.

I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.

The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself  –  “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”

It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.

She’s prettier than I am: -1pt

Her house is larger -5 pts:

She drives a nicer car: -3pts

 She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt

but

Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts

Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts

Her nose is crooked: +4 pts

Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts

Her ass is sagging: +6pts

If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.

The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:

“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”

And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?

Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.

When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.

How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?

Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.

Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?

The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.

Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.

Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.

Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.

Embrace the crooked noses, the uneven skin tones, or any other physical trait that makes a fellow woman unique.

Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.

To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”

Just my thought of the day.

A Progress Post – To Keep Me Honest

For those of you that don’t know -The happy, shining, optimistic, “totally have a handle on everything” type of people, can lose our focus and perspective too.

In the first quarter of this year I lost 30 pounds due to stress. I had what was, basically, a nervous breakdown. I am the opposite of a stress eater. I suffer from stress induced anorexia, I also tend to not eat when I’m really involved or occupied by something. Obviously no one, not even me, was happy with my weight loss. But when I got a handle on things and was able to drag my happy, optimistic self back up to the gleaming surface of the world again, I decided I was going to seize this moment and turn it in my favor.

It was time to take something that was unhappy and unhealthy and turn it into something beautiful and empowering.

I resolved to eat better. Not healthier, per se, because I already focus on veggies, fruit, and moderated portions. But definitely more often and on a routine schedule – so I started packing a full work days’ worth of meals every day that included snacks and vitamin supplements.  I limited my coffee drinking to before 11:00am and I increased my water intake to nearly a gallon a day. I started tracking my calories again.

I signed up for Warrior Dash, which forced my unmotivated behind to return to the gym (where I hadn’t been for 4 months) where I signed up for two boot camp and one spin class each week.

I’d lost the weight, which was half of what was holding me back. Now it was time to tone and strengthen.

So, to keep myself honest, this is my progress report.

To date: I’ve gained 5 pounds but lost: 4 inches on my hips, 1.5 inches on my waist, and 1 inch on my chest.  I wear a size 6 jean (7 juniors) but I now have to wash and dry them on hot and after wearing them for an hour or so they sag in the thighs and butt. Official sizing charts put me in a size 4 (5’6” – 34, 25, 36) but we’ll see about that.

The bikini I purchased for motivation is, because I’m a moron and bought a large, too big on the bottom. So I’m going to have to buy a new bottom prior to our trip to the Dells at the end of the month.

On the exercise front: I can run a mile at a 6 mph pace without stopping or feeling like I’m going to die. My squats go all the way to the floor now and I have actual muscle in the back of my arms, as opposed to old lady pigeon wings. I don’t even complain about the diamond push-ups in boot camp anymore.

I’ve been lazy with my running program. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with school (I just finished another 4.0 semester which brings me to 3.88GPA overall) but the truth is I’ve just been more interested in having a life. I’m going to try to get back on board with the running, but I won’t kick myself too hard if I don’t, since I’m still taking classes during the week.

My food intake has improved, but it’s not perfect. I do great on the days I’m at work, but on Thursday and the weekends I forget to eat, I sneak coffee in the afternoons, I don’t drink enough water, and I completely forget about my vitamins. I’m working on a solution for this… Probably making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so I have no excuses not to eat. But, at least on average, I’m meeting my calorie minimum every day!

All in all, I’m glad I’m back to my shiny, happy self. I’m determined to continue on my path of personal growth and, barring another extremely traumatic series of events, am hoping to avoid any more nervous breakdowns because it’s really not the preferred method of losing weight.

This post is my way of keeping me honest about my progress this far. Pictures might be added at a later date.

Life Lessons – Anything Worth Having

Life Lessons

Anything worth having is worth working for.

My parents may have taught me this lesson a little too well. Because I believe that everything takes work and I’ve reached that point in my life where I want things for myself and my family I have a tendency to take on more than I have time to manage.

I have a two (almost three) year old at home. I work and, even though I’m underemployed, that’s 30 hours of my week not including my commute. I’m a full-time student. I’m training for a 5k obstacle course. I’m looking to buy a house. I’m researching 4 year degree options. I’m trying to have a social life.

It’s exhausting, to be completely honest. But I feel accomplished and proud of myself every day. I have an amazing support network that’s filled with people who cheer me on when I’m struggling, support me when I’m worn out, and encourage me to be my best.

When I hear stories of women who get an advanced degree while working full-time with 2 or more children and little to no support system I am astonished. I honestly don’t know how they manage it. Even with all of the resources at my disposal I struggle to balance work, home, and school. I couldn’t imagine doing it under more difficult circumstances. I applaud every one of those women – they are my inspiration on rough days.

The lesson that you have to work for the things you want seems to be one that isn’t applied well these days. I know too many people, generally younger than me but not always, who seem to feel the world owes them something. The problem with that philosophy is that eventually life smacks you in the fanny and makes you get to work.

Even when you’re willing to work life sometimes smacks you in the fanny to remind you to work harder. The last four years of my life felt like a never-ending struggle. In work, in life, in my relationships. Even though things are evening out for me now, it made me realize that maintaining a good, happy life takes continuous maintenance. I’m good with that. I may come home exhausted, I may look at my studies and desperately want a night off, I may have to bike out to the middle of nowhere and vent my frustrations, but at the end of the day, I can reflect back on every struggle I’ve had and know that it’s worth it.

The next time you feel your shoulders slump in defeat over a setback or something that didn’t work out the way you thought it would ask yourself if you’ve put in the work. Have you earned it yet? Answer yourself honestly. I’m a firm believer that if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to making something happen, you’ll eventually reach your goal.

Keep Calm and Tread On.

Magazines are Ruining Your Relationships! (a meandering and nearly unstructured musing on relationships.)

“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”

“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”

Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.

We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.

Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.

Cosmo Spoof

Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.

Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.

Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.

Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.

1.)    American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.

2.)    Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.

3.)    There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.

4.)    It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:

We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.

Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.

Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:  

Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.

“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”

And you’re right. You don’t.

But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.

The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”

The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?

You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).

In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect. 

I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.

But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.

1.)    They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.

2.)    They feel secure together:  I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.

3.)    They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.

4.)    They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.

5.)    They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.

6.)    They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.

7.)    They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.

8.)    They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.

9.)    The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.

10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.

I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.

The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness.  So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly.  Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)

Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?

You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.

Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.

And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).

Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I Am Woman! (or: I Cry Over the Darnedest Things Sometimes)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with my semester winding down and finals to survive. I had wanted to post this particular topic much earlier in the week, but sadly, just couldn’t find a spare few minutes to sit still and write it out. But, late is still better than never.

As a woman I often feel like the very things that set me apart from the opposite sex are the things I get crucified for. If I cry I’m too emotional. If I’m quiet when I need to think I’m cold or angry. If I’m strong then I don’t need a partner. If I’m weak then I’m needy. All of this leads to an extreme amount of confusion and guilt that I try very hard not to cave in to. I am me and I’m good with that.

But every once in a while, my own emotions catch me by surprise and confuse me even more. I’ll start with the most recent time (there are two that I want to cover here).

On Wednesday, I arrived home from work to find my little one sick with a fever. He was lethargic and generally miserable, with no apparent cause. I cuddled him, kept on him to drink water, and finally gave him some Tylenol to bring down his temperature. I don’t panic over these things but I don’t feel guilty for that, because I have such a large number of kids in my family that I know when to panic and when not to worry. But as 5:00pm rolled around, I started worrying. See, I have a spin class on Wednesdays. I paid for it. I didn’t want to miss it but at the same time, I felt like a bad mother for abandoning my little one when he was sick.

It’s not like I was going to leave him in the care of a stranger or someone incapable of cuddling him with the same amount of love I give him. He was staying with his Nana (my mother) and I would be home in an hour. But as I was settling him in and taking care of the last-minute details I suddenly felt like a horrible mother. Despite the fact that I knew he would be okay and well taken care of, despite knowing that he didn’t have anything serious, I felt terrible.

This ties back in to my habit of feeling guilty whenever I take time to myself but it was obviously amplified by the fact that my son wasn’t feeling well. A brief discussion with my mother reassured me that he would be fine, that she would call me if anything happened – no matter how small, and I left for class. Class is a whole three minutes away from home (five if I get caught at a red light) but I cringed the whole way there, because there was a small part of me that was really happy to not be missing it.

I fell into my usual groove at class and for a good half an hour I actually forgot about work, money, relationship problems, and … my sick little man, cuddling at home with his Nana, waiting for me to come back. As I walked back to my car my shoulders slumped and my drive home was a study in guilt and anxiety. But when I got home, my little one was passed out comfortably on the couch in his little diaper, his Nana diligently standing guard and rubbing his little back. His fever was coming down and he was just tuckered out now.

My heart lightened as I gathered him in my arms and he touched my face for a moment and whispered “Mommy… Hi Mommy” before sleepily burying his face in my shoulder and returning to a restorative slumber. The guilt washed out of me as I realized that part of being a mommy is being able to pick responsible caregivers for my child. I trust his father. I trust my mother. I trust my sister. These are the people who care for my little one the most often and I know that they have me covered if I have to work, study for school, or even just attend a fitness class I paid for in advance.

That night I read a news story about a woman who killed her 22 month old son for interrupting her Farmville game. I was horrified and saddened, but instantly glad that I’m the kind of mommy who feels guilty for leaving her ill son with a loving caregiver for a fitness class.

**As an aside for those of you wondering, my little one was back to his perfectly happy adorable self by the next morning.**

The other event I wanted to write about occurred a week ago. Having noticed that none of my workout pants were fitting properly anymore (and therefore no longer suited to working out in because they kept trying to fall off me when I run) I took my mother and the little one with me for a quick run to JC Penney last Thursday during our usually weekly errand run. I grabbed three new pairs of running pants, a couple new shirts,  checked out and we left. My mother has mobility issues, so we had “rock star” (read:  Handicapped) parking.

As we were walking to the car an elderly gentleman approached me from his van and asked me in a thickly accented voice “could you please give me a boost?” It took my brain a moment to process the scene… Me, my little one in my arms, my mother, this elderly gentleman standing next to a van with out-of-state license plates in the handicapped parking place next to us… Well, to put it simply, where I live I’m more accustomed to being approached by someone panhandling. Also, “boost” isn’t the commonly used term in my region.

Of course, once my brain (a little slow because Thursdays are my day off and I’m usually rushing around without thought) finally caught up I replied “Absolutely, of course!”

This elderly gentleman looked unbelievably appreciative as I got my mother and son settled in the car. He looked a little anxious as I backed my car out, but then relieved as I simply pulled in closer to his van so the cables would reach easily.

We fumbled for the hood release on my car – in my defense I’m not unversed in general vehicle maintenance, but my car is brand new and I’ve never had to pop the hood yet – got the jumper cables hooked up and his van started with very little fuss.

I smiled to his equally elderly wife, who remained seated in the van, as I closed the hood of my car. But as I tried to walk away I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Please,” he said as he stopped me, “For your time and trouble” as he tried to hand me four dollars that his wife had apparently fished out of her purse.

I was mortified. A kind deed should be its own reward. This couple was likely someone’s grandparents, I thought, as my mother and her grandson sat in my car.

“No, really, it was nothing. I’m glad I could help. Please, have a safe trip” I said as I held my hand up in a gesture of refusal.

It took a few minutes of assuring him that I wouldn’t accept his money, and then my mother refusing to take the money for my son through the window when he tried another angle, for him to realize that we really wouldn’t accept his money.

He said “thank you” one more time as we pulled out of the parking space, a look of gratitude on his face. I’m pretty sure it was that look that was my undoing because as we drove away I started crying. I simply couldn’t help it. The tears came out of nowhere and I’m still not quite sure of the cause. Was it that if that had been my grandmother (rest her soul) or even my mother, I would hope they would find someone to help that would refuse the little cash they had available? Was it simply tears of being glad I could help someone out? Was it the example I was setting for my child who, still too young to understand, that the deed is its own reward? Or was it that I suddenly thought “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t insult him by not taking his offer of compensation for my time!”

So there you have it. Women are emotional creatures. It is part of what makes us such appealing creatures. We’re emotional yet strong enough to endure almost anything. We’re loving but sometimes need time to process without being thought of as cold. We laugh when we should be crying and sometimes cry when we should smile. We have tough exteriors but are easily wounded. We’ll forgive easily but not trust without time and proof. And whether you realize it or not, we tend to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, which is why we do it so rarely… Love us for these qualities and we’ll never fail you. But please, please, don’t say things like “you’re so emotional” like it’s a bad thing, because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us when really, it’s perfectly natural for us to be that way.

If it’s good enough for me it’s good enough.

Smiley head happy

Smiley head happy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are our own worst enemies and, too often, nothing is ever enough. I’m five foot six inches and I weigh 140 lbs. On my medium frame this equates to a solid size six. I’m happy with that. But, to be honest, when I was a size 12, I was happy with that too. Sure, I wanted to improve my appearance and be healthy and fit, but I didn’t tear myself down over it. Now I’m active and I enjoy working out more. I want to be fit. I’m focusing on toning and eating well but not to the exclusion of everything else. Some people eat and breathe a certain obsession… I’ll never be one of those people. I don’t want to call them superficial because many of them are perfectly good, kind people in every other way. They’ve just been brainwashed to believe that looks are everything and that noone is good enough without airbrushing. I can forgive them for that.

That kind of mono-focused, zealot like obsession frustrates me. But that’s a topic for a different post. What I’d like to know is why is it that every person on the planet feels they have the right to weigh in (forgive the pun) on the subject of someone elses body?

My ex thought I was too heavy, another guy I dated just a little while ago thought I was too thin. My mother complains that I don’t eat enough, my co-workers say I’m wasting away to nothing, and still other people feel I have plenty of room for improvement. I didn’t solicit ANY of this information and, when I say I’m happy the way I am (when I was heavy, now that I’m not, etc) I get the oddest looks from people.

It’s taboo almost, in todays society, to be (oh my god!!) happy with yourself and your looks. My teeth are a little yellow, my thighs and rump have plenty of post baby saggage, there’s a little loose skin on my belly, my arms still jiggle a bit and my nose, as cute and upturned as it is, is started to show my age. How can I not want to get all of this corrected… either through some (supposed) miracle cream or plastic surgery?

The answer is simple. I love myself. Just the way I am. It’s like when you’re in love, truly in love. The person you’re in love with is the most attractive person in the world to you. If they put on a few extra pounds you don’t love them less. That’s how I feel about myself.

I have the confidence, despite my cellulite ridden thighs and saddle bags, to wear a bikini and show off my post baby body in all of it’s jiggly greatness. I know that at the resort there will be women who are horrified that I would wear a bikini,  because I’m not slender enough. I know there will be women there who look at me and think “I’d be happy to look like that”.

Someone will always have an opinion and that’s fine with me. But they can feel free to keep it to themselves. The way I see it is so many people are so unhappy with their own body image that theyhaveto project their own unhappiness by criticizing others. I feel nothing but pity for those people… because they’ll never know how truly free you feel once you’ve accepted yourself exactly as you are.

Strive for more, work for your goals, but in the meantime accept yourself for the you you are right now. And for goodness sakes, keep your misery to yourself because, honestly, if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough.

A Dream That Lingers Like the Scent of Fresh Baked Bread

dreams and wishes. 62/365

dreams and wishes. 62/365 (Photo credit: nicole.pierce.photography ♥)

“I have a dream” … such simple words that are rarely voiced out loud anymore. I wonder if dreaming is a dying art form in a world filled with instant gratification. Does anyone truly dream anymore? Or am I the only one? I have no fear of sharing my dream with the world, I’d shout it from the Sears tower if I thought anyone cared. It’s been the same for quite a while now.

I dream of a house – cottage like in its charm – in an almost rural town. In this town I know my neighbors, I’m on the PTA, and I volunteer often at my children’s school. In my cottage home there is a sense of organized chaos and a feeling of love. In my yellow kitchen I stand after a day of work, cooking dinner while my son and daughter play in the large back yard. The sounds of laughter and dogs barking gleefully drift in the window to blend with the happy smell of supper. Behind me a pair of arms slip around my waist and a gentle kiss is planted on my neck from the man who holds the other half of my soul. Dinner is a time where the whole family gathers around the table and discusses their day, where my son is admonished for sharing scraps with the dogs and my daughter giggles gleefully over the adoring attention from her daddy.

I’ve had this dream called “boring”, ‘cliché”, “unimaginative”, and, my personal favorite “an affront to women’s rights”. But it’s still the same dream and I honestly couldn’t care less what others think of it.

My dream focuses around family, always has. It doesn’t matter my career, or his career, or our combined annual gross income. What matters is that home and family are the haven within which true happiness lies.

I want my children to have the childhood I had. One where they could play safely around the neighborhood until the street lights came on. Where you knew your neighbors and if your kids misbehaved it was relayed to you before your kids even made it back to the front door. Where the teachers in the schools know and care about each student individually. Where recreation time doesn’t consist of sitting down in front of the TV, Wii, or computer for hours on end! I want a community that’s close to the water (river, creek, ocean, lake, whatever!) so I can teach my kids to fish and row a boat.

Most of all I want my kids to be kids. Exercise should still be play for them (and me!) instead of work. They should be able to explore and get dirty without me worrying about something horrifying happening to them. They should be able to test (and, subsequently, learn) their boundaries so that they can become smart, respectful, and well-rounded adults someday.  They should be allowed to challenge authority in a safe environment, because they’re going to do it regardless.

This is my dream. A safe, secure, loving home where I can let my kids enjoy being kids. A home where they can spend their entire lives, where I can retire and finish out my years on this planet…

… and it should always smell like fresh baked bread.

Why women (I) crush on their (my) instructors.

020301-N-3995K-011 U.S. Navy Recruit Training ...

020301-N-3995K-011 U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL (Mar. 1, 2002) -- Chief Gunner’s Mate Shaune Thorton uses “Instructional Training” (IT) exercises as one of the tools available to him as a Recruit Division Commander. The sole purpose of IT for a Navy recruit is to correct substandard performance within a division. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres. (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I crush on my boot camp instructor. It’s not because he’s attractive (which he  is) or well built (again, he is) or charming (yeah, you know already), it’s because this is what women tend to do.  I’ve learned that each woman has her own belief as to why this is. I’ve quizzed friends about it and was very happy to learn that I’m not a freak, this is very common!. Among them are:

“It makes it easier to take being told what to do.”

“It gives me a reason to show up to every class.”

“I respect that he challenges me.”

“I know this person is helping to make me a better person.”

And on and on it goes. In the end my belief of why this happens goes something like this…

A woman’s (or man’s, I guess) instructor, whether fitness, educational, or other, is by any other definition, a relationship. It’s not an intimate (read: sexual) relationship in most cases but it is still a relationship. As with any other relationship, when it’s a healthy relationship a person will feel challenged, comfortable, secure, and supported. This is how my boot camp instructor makes me feel. He challenges me to do better, but in a way that makes me feel comfortable with my own level of progress. I feel secure in the instructions and feedback I receive and I feel supported in my progress and effort.

Over the years I’ve had professors, instructors, and friends who made me feel this exact combination and I’ve loved them all to a certain degree. I have no desire to flirt with, date, or sleep with my boot camp instructor. But I’d love to take his class more often, so that I get that exciting balance of comfort, reassurance, and challenge more often.

Makes me wonder if this is something that’s missing in my personal relationships, a need that I’m trying to fill, or if I just really need to be challenged more? I don’t have an answer to that yet…

Just a random thought for the day.

~LDd

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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