Wtf?

Watch the following. Wow, you thought it was going to be a very ugly post, didn’t you?  No, no, no.  I can do this on my time, but not on VN’s nickel.  Ahem.

How much have you changed?  Think about that for a moment.  1….2….3…. and so on.  How different do you feel today from, let’s say, five years ago?  10?  25?

We change.  Yeah, that’s the good news and the bad.  Women change.  And sometimes we don’t want it to happen.  Who deals with change well?  The human condition says you don’t do it.  Well.  Yet, it is the one constant in life.  That changes will happen.

So you’ve changed.  Do you feel less maternal?  Less willing to give until you drop?  I do.  This will be my last Thanksgiving cooked at my house.  Everyone is welcome to come again next year and the year after and the years after that.  I hope to be living somewhere else next year.  That is part of my change.  I have been in the same house for 26 – YEAH – 26  years.  I want new living arrangements.  I want a downtown condo without two huge german shepherds.  I don’t exactly know what to do about that, but it suddenly occurs to me that this is not where I want to be now.  I don’t want to be and do and act like others think I should.  I want to live in my skin without the care taking of previous years.  I’m not in charge of anyone else nor do I want to be.

So here’s the deal.  (One of my most hated statements.)  I want to choose for a change.  I want to be me in such a real way that others may hate it.  Sons may wonder where their mother went.  Perhaps when I’m 70, I will want some of this back.  I rather doubt it.  I want to pursue my path and my direction without the endless demands of a mother and, quite frankly, a wife.   I finally just want to be me.

I have recently begun HRT.  Pellets.  I feel very good now.  Energy is popping out all over.  Check your research, and see if you need the benefits of estrogen.  testosterone.  progesterone.  Check out Milleniumwellnessusa.org.  Its worth considering.

Where are you in your life changes?  Do you have less need to be the care-taking woman who you’ve been?  Man, have I been that.  If you still want it, tell me.  I would love to hear from all of you whether your body is changing your life or you are choosing the path you chose.  I need to know.

 

Happy Birthday to me, and other great books

Today I am 56 years old.  I feel it, yet I don’t.  I feel older, yet I don’t.  I feel younger, ummmmm, no I don’t.  I do feel that I’ve been here this long, sometimes longer, and I’m not terribly unhappy with where I am and who I am.  Sometimes the comments of others stand out so loudly from the crowd.  A few which I received (via Facebook) were eye-opening and rather delightful.  Those may be from people who don’t know me very well.

I have found THE book.  Yes, I do mean THE book.  So often, many tell us they have THE book.  Oprah tells us that on a regular basis.  My problem with Oprah’s books is that the are often too froo-froo for my taste.  Yes, I like to know that I can think positive thoughts and change my reality, but sometimes I want feet-on-the-floor advice.  Look-in-the-mirror-see-life suggestions.  I can meditate, and should do it more often, but on occasion I want the great understanding from writers who can help me.  I have found it in this book.

If you do not yet have it, RUN don’t walk to your nearest book store, Amazon connection, Kindle download.  The book is The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.  This book has offered me a birdseye view of me.  I walked into the Local B&N store on Saturday afternoon, after dropping off the last of our Thanksgiving visitors at the airport.  It was time for some serious “me” time, so browsing through the books and having a cup of tea sounded perfect.  I, of course, cannot browse through books without becoming enamored with several.  Also, one of my gifts to myself this year is a trip to the beach for three nights alone to do some thinking, walking, and re-energizing.  I need books to help with that.  Again, RUN don’t walk.

I opened the book, which lay on a table of buy-2-get-1-free books, and begin to glance at the pages.  Reading the contents page, I quickly flipped to “The Mature Brain” (not to be confused with grownup.  Mature=50+).  The first paragraph was one of those strange “she must have interviewed me” reporting that made me know immediately I had found what I had come to find.

I know I’m preaching to the choir now, but this book will open your eyes on your whole life’s brain in a way that you never considered possible.  According to Brizendine, research on women’s brains did not begin until 1990.  Prior to that, we were considered to have the brain of small men.  Because our brains are actually smaller.  Denser with as many neurons as a man’s, but physically smaller.

Content titles run from “What Makes Us Women”, to “Love and Trust”, and “The Future of the Female Brain”.  Because of the differing hormonal styles of women’s bodies and brains, there are such tremendous differences between how a man reacts, responds, chooses, and lives.  Interestingly, as I read portions to my husband, he kept asking about what this meant for men.  I stated calmly, then firmly, then with some agitation that this was a book about women.


Dr. Brizendine begins the book with her hormonal cast of characters, in which she defines the important hormones in both women and men.  She includes a chart which explains what is happening hormonally to women at each stage of life, from fetal to postmenopause.  The book reads easily, with personal stories to explain and compare the many stages and their characteristics.  If you have children, both boys and girls, this will allow you insight into them that you could have used many years earlier.  This is not an  anti-feminist book.  She states, that “females perform all the cognitive functions males perform — they just do so by using different brain circuits” (5).

Treat yourself for your birthday – whether it is today, or sometime in the next 364 days.  You will be so glad that you did.

Just watch the sidewalk right in front of you

I have a new bike.  It is fabulous.  I think it is one of the greatest bikes every created.  Did I mention its fabulous?  A Trek – lightweight, responsive, pads on the handlebars on which to rest the pads of my hands.  I’m in love with this gorgeous bike.  When I ride, I feel like all the cobwebs of burdens, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are blown from my mind away in the wind as I sail down a hill.  Pumping my legs up the hill is another thing entirely, but the focus remains so intense that I have a feeling of bike-induced meditation.  It is a wonderful experience.

In Greenville, SC, we have a new “rails to trails” bike path, named the Swamp Rabbit Trail, in honor of the former Swamp Rabbit train that cruised the same path.  This is a 14-mile-long path that has slight inclines and gorgeous sites as the trip takes you from Cleveland Street (on the south side of downtown) back through the breath-taking Falls Park in downtown, meandering through an older section of town, winding among trees and along a small river, along the backside of Furman University, and then onward and slightly upward to Travelers Rest, SC.  On warm evenings, and Saturday mornings, the trail is filled with bikers, runners and walkers, strollers, dogs walking their owners, and families.  People that appear to have never ridden a bike before are precariously teetering on pedals that push their knees to their chins.  Finding a bicycle that fits can be a challenge in itself.  I love the whole scene.

logo

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were riding the trail, but we decided to take a detour.  Hundreds of runners were participating in a local marathon.  26+ miles.  I’m not a runner.  I like my bike.  The runners deserved their space and dodging bikes can be difficult on the 20th mile of a marathon, so we headed off the trail and up Hunts Bridge Road.  Sometimes, when you ride, you encounter mean-little-hills.  These are not the lengthy heart palpitating inclines that will make your legs burn with pumping, but a simple mean-little-hill that will lure you with its short length, but bite you as your breath comes in ragged wheezes and you realize that the hill might win.  Mean-little-hills are almost always a surprise, even if you’ve ridden them before.   I’m not crazy about riding on 4-lane highways, as this one is, so I got off on the cracked and gravel-covered sidewalk.  Not a good place for a lightweight trek.  A new lightweight beloved trek bike.  On a mean-little-hill.

I noticed immediately, however, if I shifted my attention to the sidewalk right in front of my bike, I didn’t fear the hill so much.  I could stare at the two feet or so that was directly in front of my tire, and the “idea” of the hill went away. (was Plato speaking directly to me?)  This was not about beating a little hill, but it became the process of peddling through the two – three feet that were right in front of me.  And I also noticed that with that kind of focus, I didn’t notice the hill part.  All I saw was that short amount of cracked sidewalk that, with this kind of focus, would allow me to miss the particularly deep cracks and huge rocks.  Hmmm.

This felt like an analogy to life.  If, on a day-to-day basis, I focus on what I need to do that day, and not what the longterm scary goal is, I don’t notice that the goal has not been reached that day.  I only notice that I’m doing what needs to be done.  On that day.  In that hour.  In that moment.

This is referred to as mindful living.  I haven’t actually looked it up, so I can’t see that is what anyone else calls it.  But it is what I call it.  It is paying attention to the person to whom you are speaking at that moment.  Sincere undistracted attention.  It is finishing the creation of one quiz for my history class.  It is writing the next 2000 words of my book for today.  It is making that appointment that I wrote in my daybook that I will make today.  It is being present in my mind while I hold my grandchild, talk to my son, or read a book.

Just watch the sidewalk in front of you.  The rest of the hill does not have to be conquered at the same time.  You won’t even notice it is a hill.  Because your daily bites and successes can come two – three feet at a time.

Here, Turkeyturkeyturkey

My god.  Thanksgiving is shortly here.  I blinked somewhere.  Mindfulness, practice mindfulness.  Be fully alive in the day and the moment.  Do that, and Thanksgiving will creep up on you like a persistent salesperson.  Always lingering in the background, waving a slight hand, smiling inappropriately.

Okay, that was my attempt at literary writing.  I actually like Thanksgiving.  I used to say love.  I wonder when that changed. I think it may have been when I realized Christmas was on the heels of Thanksgiving.  Not my favorite holiday, although I fear I have become Grinch year round.  I don’t decorate much anymore for any of the holidays – mostly because the more you put out, the more you have to pick up after the fact.  My god, I have become a Grinch.  I will have to work on that.

Thanksgiving became the traditional meal at our home years ago.  I confess I am the one who did the marketing.  One year we actually went out for dinner, but when I looked in the fridge, and found no leftovers, I knew that could not continue.  

I told everyone within my personal circle that they could do whatever they want for Christmas, but Thanksgiving was mine.  So now it is.  And now, I’m not sure that I continue to want the efforts that come along with it.  I do enjoy the company, and the camaraderie, but the work.  The expense.  I don’t know how to do Thanksgiving cheaply, and not sure I would if I did know.  So much of what I do as an adult is to counter what was done for me as a child.  Our Thanksgiving celebration was never much more than a regular Sunday meal, and it always felt lonely immediately after the meal, so I suppose it is quite normal that I have created a group to be here for that day.

The day itself counteracts the loneliness I felt as a child.  Surround myself with my children, their significant others, their single friends, and any additional friends that would like to spend the day with us; my sis-in-law and her man of the season, a nephew, sometimes a sister and crew.  It truly is a wonderful day.  Wow, I’ve written myself back into loving Thanksgiving.

I do require that every person who comes must prepare a dish on their own.  That allows for the dish that means Thanksgiving to that person to have it with them.  There is always at least one.  We provide a special and specific stuffing, so if you require dressing, bring it.  If you need a sweet potato dish that only your grandmother ever made, bring it.  My spouse stuffs the turkey with a pre-cooked stuffing (loosely packed inside the turkey) and almost everyone who has attended our dinners in the last 12-15 years wants this recipe if they aren’t at our house for the celebration.  That is a great compliment to our home, and we delight in sharing the recipe (even if we leave one ingredient out purposely. Ahem.)

I hope that your Thanksgiving will bring you great pleasure.  It is the gathering without the pressure of gifts.  It is a day to remember with deep thanks all that you have, all the love in your life, the friends and family who surround you, and to remember those who aren’t so fortunate.

And, just because, below is a version of the recipe for the stuffing.  I hope you will enjoy it – and take a bite in celebration of joining us in this small way.  Happy Thanksgiving!  I think I love it again.

Stuffing (if you leave the eggs out, you can stuff the turkey with the below recipe)

Sage, Sausage and Apple Dressing

Recipe courtesy Food Network Kitchens

Prep Time: 20 min – 30 min
Cook Time : 1 hr 0 min (for stuffing in a pan, OR however long it takes your turkey to cook if you stuff it)
Level: Easy
Serves:  8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 16-ounce bag stuffing cubes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan and topping
  • 1 pound fresh sage sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cooking apples, such as Gravenstein, Rome, or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 to 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted (See Note)
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the stuffing cubes in a large bowl and set aside. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until it loses most of its pink color, but not so much that it’s dry, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and pan drippings to the stuffing cubes. Melt the remaining butter in the pan. Add the onion, apple, celery, and salt. Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and parsley and bring to a boil.

Pour the vegetable mixture over the stuffing cubes and toss until evenly moistened. Mix in the walnuts and eggs. Loosely pack the dressing in the prepared pan and cook uncovered until the top forms acrust, about 40 minutes. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or melted butter over the top. Cook until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes more. Set immediately or warm.

Tips: Put the dressing in the oven during the last hour of cooking the turkey

Note: To toast nuts, spread them out on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree F oven until golden, about 7 minutes.