Lent, Day 2

I had none of this for the past forty-eight hours:

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But I did have this:

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And plenty of this:

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Two days… not too shabby. Two days is a huge feat for me. I fasted, having two snacks during the day that did not equal a meal (per our priest; not mandatory, mind you), and a modest meal in the evening.

I did get a bit crabby right after lunch but water and/or a piece of fruit took care of that. That mood is understandable considering I am surrounded by kids all day. Perhaps at the end of these forty days my mood will be, “I did get a second wind right after lunch which is understandable considering I am surrounded by kids all day.” Any wagers, anyone?

Lent, Day 1

Whenever I sit down to work on my novels that may never see the light of day, I sometimes find myself stuck.

Writer’s block. Wondering what a particular character might say. Attempting to create a scene that doesn’t want to be created.

Until recently, I thought those moments were sent to challenge me, to test my confidence, to push me into thinking differently.

Now I know that these moments may mean a number of things. The scene just doesn’t work. Maybe I cannot picture the character saying that because he shouldn’t. Press the rewind button and start where it did work.

Just stop thinking. Start doing.

Such was my dilemma this morning when I wanted to go to Starbucks for an hour between dropping off the kids at school and going to work. I should give up Starbucks for Lent. My visits have been pared down significantly since I discovered the wonderful world of white chocolate mocha creamer in a vanilla hazelnut blend. Sweet but not overwhelming.

Then I thought, but having a hour, any hour, alone would be so nice, reading the vampire novel I found for under a buck at Goodwill the other day while sipping a soy white mocha, no whipped.

But that was it.

No more.

I realized that if I was under that much turmoil over something so trivial then yes, it is probably an attachment I don’t need for the next forty days.

I have never fasted before and while I hesitate to because of the long, excrucuating migraine from last week, it will be an exercise in self-control and discipline, both of which I could use more of indefinitely. Don’t worry, any more headaches will be promptly reported to my general practitioner and if I truly feel ill or faint, I will have something to eat. Definitely.

Weightless

For twenty minutes this morning I closed my eyes and felt nothing. I floated in the pool of my gym without three kids to watch over like a hawk, without worrying that some random toddler might pee in my hair, without feeling the weight of the world.

My absolute favorite Zumba instructor in the entire world has been on vacation in Mexico for the last two weeks and won’t return until the end of July. Vanessa is amazing and will push you until you need to be pushed. She plays her music too loud but I prefer it that way. Her class never feels like a class, just fifty dancers listening to good music who happen to be facing the same way. To be honest, if another Zumba instructor even comes close to resembling an aerobics class, I will walk out. Not rudely but Vanessa has raised my expectations of Zumba. I want a workout, I want good music, and I don’t want to mess around with your version of merengue, thank you very much.

When I was let go of my teaching position two years ago (something I have blogged about earlier but I don’t know how to magically make that blue link appear so have fun looking for it; heck, have a glass of wine and relax while you browse), I needed a life change and a hobby. I wasn’t getting any younger and the two pound gain a year is no big deal the first year but holy crap, for the past two decades?! No need for the swear words here. Pretty sure you know them all.

My kids love the gym. Locations all around the area. Huge playland structures, playgrounds that rival their school’s playground, clean and new toys, great staff that the kids have grown up with for the last two years. Also…

They constantly ask, “When are we going to the gym?”

Which means no more excuses for me. Though a six foot tall excuse flies in every few months for a visit and I have to make myself go back again after he leaves. He does not like our gym though. You can’t expect someone who climbed high obstacle courses, carried boats above his head at BUDS training (whatever that acronym means), sat with other guys in the crashing waves as punishment during said training, and even went through a simulated helicopter crash into the ocean complete with a zero-vision helmet (!) to like this shiny, new gym. You just can’t.

Not only that, I have to reevaluate my diet, namely my damn sugar consumption, and make adjustments.

The disgustingly hot weather here in Sacramento fortunately lessens my cravings for heartier fare. We naturally buy more fresh fruit since who can resist all of the tasty mangos from Sam’s Club? Not us because it rarely makes it to the third day in our house.

The pool sounded like a good idea this morning.

If you’ve ever been to a crowded pool and abhored it, you can appreciate my experience this morning: NO KIDS. Maybe two swimmers doing laps way too fast. They must have been related to King Triton.

I didn’t even know what to do with myself when I walked out to the pool area.

Silence.

What do I do with SILENCE?

I looked at the calm water and then closed my eyes. The early morning sun was warm but comfortable. I kicked off my sandals, not caring what I looked like in my Target two piece (longer top, not that bold yet, ask me in twenty pounds) and slowly stepped into the pool.

Looking back it’s kind of funny how in our moments of need, in moments of stress, how life slows down when you become mindful of your surroundings. Not hey-let’s-do-this or get-it-over-with but really reflecting, really meditating so much so that you’re lost in the moment when really, you’re not lost at all.

I didn’t go nuts by cannonballing into the pool. Maybe I’ll do it next time and have someone film it with my cell. I just did whatever I felt like doing at the moment. Backstroke across the pool. Swimming underwater. Dog paddling. I think I may have even made up some strokes too.

Mostly I just floated on my back and closed my eyes.

It’s funny how this weightless feeling is not something I have to strive for but rather something I just have to allow to happen. And really it isn’t just about being weightless in a pool. This week it was sitting in the middle of the movie theater thinking, “Wow! The final movie in the Rowling series and then I’m having sushi with my husband afterward!”. It was also giving our kids a big hug before their first day of school and watching them walk away. Yesterday it was at 2 pm when I knew what lay ahead when the kids realized that Daddy was gone. Again.

That moment was commemorated with three squares of Cadbury milk chocolate. The kids were downstairs getting restless. I was reading the newest Entertainment Weekly upstairs in our bed with the fan pointed in my direction.

Here’s to more weightless moments and sugar-free ones at that.


MY FAVORITE WEIGHTLESS MOMENTS
1. Zumba and aqua aerobics
2. Blogging (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend starting one; FREE THERAPY!)
3. Cadbury (that one has got to stop to be monthly)
4. Watching the kids get lost in swimming or gymnastics or just getting along
5. Waiting all week to get Starbucks and finally having that first sip of a soy tuxedo, no whipped
6. Playing with my pets (OMG! I’ve completely morphed into PET OWNER!)
7. Reading
8. Deciding to finally clean and AFTER a big clean-up (notice I did not say “actual cleaning”)
9. Renting a DVD with my husband, putting the kids to bed, and one of us sneaking out to get ice cream to really enjoy the movie
10. Napping when you need one
11. Deciding not to get nails done for a bit and getting a new bottle of nail polish

Have you found how to get your “weightless” moments? Please share so that I might add them to my queue.

The Balance of Me

This afternoon a friend of mine called to ask if our twenty-year high school reunion was this month. As I backed our SUV full of kids and wholesale groceries into the garage, I replied, “No way! It’s next summer. I have another fifteen pounds to go. Don’t scare me!”

After we had a good laugh about who ACTUALLY needed to lose fifteen pounds (I do, she doesn’t), she told me she was going to pick up her husband from the airport tonight who’d been in Germany for the past couple of weeks on business.

“Thank goodness!” she said. “I don’t know how you do it!”

“I don’t know how I do it either,” I said. “But if I think about it too much, I eat chocolate.”

Isn’t that the way of the world though? We don’t know what we’re capable of until we actually do it. My friend G, for instance, doesn’t give herself enough credit. She is a stay-at-home mom and takes care of her mother who has been in and out of the hospital for the past year. If you had told her at the beginning what she’d go through, she wouldn’t have believed you.

But she did it. She even fulfilled her dream of creating a tween-friendly website all the while supporting her husband who just finished graduate school.

If you had told me a decade ago that saying by yes to a marriage proposal from a sailor, I would eventually find myself teaching full-time on the other side of the country with two small children in preschool AND while pregnant AND while this sailor had back-to-back deployments? I might have had a heart attack. Or ran the other way. Or ran the other way while having a heart attack.

Amazingly enough, I did it. But so do thousands of other military spouses in thousands of different ways.

While that albeit stressful time in my life is behind me, I don’t know how I did it but I do know that I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the HOW as much as the DO. The moment I obsess over something is the moment I’ve lost my balance.

I spent the early part of 2010 regrouping myself. I was laid off from a teaching job simply because being a single mother and taking time off to take care of sick children is not condusive to good evaluations. I took it very personally.

I knew I needed to change things that I were in my control. I ate better and less. I found that Zumba is the closest thing to reliving my twenties but without the hangovers and inappropriate clothing. The kids found activities they loved like gymnastics and Girl Scouts.

Then the accident happened. And I wonder if this regrouping was supposed to happen when it did. Those months before the accident put me in the best shape I had been in a decade. The kids and I were stronger, mentally and physically.

But in spite of all of this, there is still a constant struggle to find how I work best. We are bombarded with messages to live life to the fullest and that we deserve a break today. But when I follow those words of advice, laundry never gets folded like right now don’t look at my bed and my pants get smaller.

So what is my balance? Where do the points of Frankie-Goes-To-Hollywood-Relax-Don’t-Do-It and of actually-getting-stuff-done meet? What is the balance of me?

I can honestly say: I DON’T KNOW. It’s different everyday, probably different every minute of every day. Sometimes I feel like all I want to do is go back into the classroom, smelling of pencil shavings and stained with magic markers. Other times, I sigh with relief not having to do the breakfast rush out the door, hoping the kids have their homework packed. Today I just want to have a margarita.

Maybe finding that balance is like having contractions during a natural labor where epidurals don’t exist. (As someone who’s had three epidurals, I am shuddering right now. Really.) Fighting it just makes it worse; breathing through it makes it easier but doesn’t make it go away.

It never does.

So from me to you, deep breath, shall we?

What’s your sign, baby?

Lately I’ve been feeling like I need have must do more. I feel grateful for the life I live and know in my heart that there is something missing. The obvious answer is the longing for our family to be together again permanently and not a string of visits from my husband. But I felt compelled to attend a St. Vincent de Paul meeting at our church. Named after the saint who selflessly devoted his entire life to helping the poor, this charity continues his work in his name. I look forward to having our children go through their toys and clothes to donate and realize on their own that this isn’t something we should do but something we MUST do.

At the end of the meeting, we were led in a quiet meditation that brought me to tears but instead of allowing this moment to wash over me I abruptly stopped it.

I don’t know why. Perhaps I felt like I would be perceived as a poser for crying at the first meeting. Or maybe I was embarassed for shedding tears in front strangers.

Most likely, I was in denial that I could be so moved over something so small. Since when is the power of prayer and meditation small? Minimal maybe, but never small.

I needed that moment right there and then. I needed to know that it was possible. If that wasn’t a sign for something I was compelled to do, I don’t know what is.