This joy makes me thankful. These thanks make me joyful.

Happy New Year, all. I like to look back at the previous year and see what I can see.  I like looking at the full arc of that year’s story, somehow.

summer catLast year was a good year for me. I’m learning to take a breath or two, and to just be. I’m learning to grab joy when I see it. I’ve learned there is joy in the doing of things, and in the not doing of others.

I’m learning to chill out. I’m not always successful, but that’s okay. For finally figuring out that it’s all okay, I am thankful.

foggy mountain tipperary

foggy mountain tipperary

Last year I walked the wild Donegal coast, and fell asleep listening to rain hit the roof of our Inishmore Aran Island cottage. We discovered the Roses of Tralee by happenstance, and had high tea in a castle all to ourselves. Last year we drove – gobsmacked by beauty – through the foggy mountains outside of Tipperary.

Last year I went on a road trip to the Florida Keys with my Stepmother. I love road trips, and that one was special. I explored Quebec City with the man I love, wandered PEI with my daughter, and took great day-trips in my own not-explored-enough Nova Scotia with a dear friend.  For these travels with people I love, I am thankful.

I made that!

I made that!

Last year I discovered weaving. I cannot describe adequately how wonderful it is to learn something new. I am a student at heart, and to find something so rich with lessons is a joy. It is a craft and an art, with sometimes tedious lessons in patience (warping, untangling, threading) that reward me with  beauty and accomplishment.  I’m still a baby on this journey, but I am so thankful I saw something I loved and took steps to embrace it.

Speaking of seeing something I love and embracing it, my dear husband Mr. 761 was home for the holidays and though he’s going back to Kandahar next week, he will soon be home for good – waking up in his own warm bed on 01 February with no need to go back ever again. I think 5 years is long enough, no?

For his return, I am thankful. For my life with him I am so very thankful.

For the continued health and happiness of my astonishingly wonderful children, I am thankful. Both have challenges – being in your 20’s is no picnic, and they each have their fair share of stuff to deal with. Having them both home with us at christmas was so great. They are women I would be happy to know, even if they weren’t my children. If I was their age, I’d want to be friends with them. As it is, I’m very proud to have them in my life, and I am reminded daily of their coolness. They’re funny, smart, and beautiful, both of them. For them, I am so very thankful.

Last year I reconnected in a real, warm, and joyful way with a long lost friend. That has been a real gift. There is nothing like the friends one makes in childhood – even with all the intervening years, we reacquaint ourselves easily. New friends are great, but with old ones there’s such a depth to it. For her, and for all my friends old and new, I am thankful.

The year  had loss too, and while not thankful for that I am nonetheless thankful because, well, it could have been worse. I am sad that people I love are in pain, and I hope that time helps to soothe those hurts. I am thankful that I can have a part in helping. I saw great courage and grace in a friend who died exactly how she wanted. For her, I am thankful. For her caregivers who thoughtfully and lovingly shepherded her though those last years, I am thankful.

For the happiness that is my life in general – I am so very thankful. I know I am very lucky, and I count my blessings on a regular basis. Here’s to a fruitful 2014. Here’s to embracing thankfulness and finding the joy when you can.

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Fear in a box? I don’t think so.

I almost didn’t write this today – I was actually going to write about the paleo diet breakfast quiche I made (good, and good for you). Then I went onto WordPress and saw the stats for my blog. Someone searched Google yesterday for “fear in a box” and got pointed  to my blog. Yikes.

That got me to thinking about fear, and the boxes we put ourselves into.

A few days ago  my svelte yet wiry husband wrote a blog that made me laugh out loud. He titled it “End of an Era”  and in it, he recounts his brief flirtation with Crossfit training. He was not enamored with it, and is considering something a bit more… well, his speed. His crossfit hijinks and fish-out-0f-water pain is pretty damn funny, but what interested me more about the blog was his willingness to admit to his lack of fitness; his ability to just say “gee, I’m not as slim any more and I’m not fit. I should do something about this.”

Just like that. No ego.

For me, it has taken me a few years to even admit that I may have, you know,  gained a bit of weight.  For the past few years I’ve somehow managed to be in my body but not really

even look at it. I clothe it, feed it (yup, I sure do) and deal with my increasingly ahem weighty presence by sort of, you know, ignoring it.

I have, as they say, let myself go. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m fat. As I wrote that line, it ended with “all of a sudden” in my mind, but really it isn’t all of a sudden. It’s the result of a multitude of things – stress was a biggie, and I quit smoking (two years next month woot!), and I got older and my hormones are all out of whack…

Oh yeah, and I ate a lot and didn’t exercise. That’s what happens, people.

Weren't the 70's grand?

Like my husband, I was for most of my life able to eat anything I wanted and not see the deleterious effects of it on my body. I am now fairly sure that while genetics played some part in that, I can also say that smoking (sometimes two packs a day) and excessive coffee intake was the “magic” behind my skinny frame. I also had a healthy childhood.  Sure, we ate our fair share of Devil Dogs and candy bars, but I was always running around, riding my bike, and not eating half as much crap as I do now. I don’t think there was as much of the processing in food back then, either. Less high-fructose corn syrup, less sugar.

I was active. Occasionally, I was even in really good shape. I would go through phases of  enthusiastic gym membership, and even with the hampering effect of smoking, I was fit and my body would do what I told it to do. I was able to coast along for years, doing nothing, because I’d started with a healthy and fit body.

Now? Not so much.

I love and admire that my husband is so willing to be open about it, and it made me think about the shame that I have been carrying around about my own body. I’ve managed to engage in all sorts of magical thinking, but I’m fairly sure that the only solution is to just stop eating as much, stop eating bad stuff, and start moving more.

Sigh.

For me, being fat has generated a kind of apathy. It has coincided with aging – there’s a big difference between, say, 36 and 46 – the last decade has not been easy, nor has it been kind… I’ve aged, right? Between 26 and 36 you can sort of pretend that you haven’t changed, but that next decade is a doozy. I’m invisible in a way that I never used to be – in a way that my husband probably can’t even identify with, because it’s bound up in ego.

I’m not invisible to him, of course, but to the world at large I’m – all of a sudden – an invisible silver-haired fat lady. WEIRD.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my weight here. It’s a process, though – this getting to know my new self and accepting that something needs to be done. Hell, it took me more than one try to quit smoking…. the tools I used to effect that change will come in handy as I struggle with my sugar cravings. I’m becoming more and more convinced that processed sugar and carbs are akin to nicotine, and that I should treat it as such – something I need to avoid.

I’ve tried a bunch of things and the only thing that seems to work is to eat properly and to exercise more. It’s not a quick fix (drag!) but I think it will work. Every time I eat natural whole food that’s good for me and take a walk or move my body, I am rewarded by having more energy, and clearer thinking. That positive reinforcement isn’t always enough to stop myself from having french fries (last night) but it does have a cumulative effect. Eventually, I’ll get it.

I’m tired of being tired. Tired of not having a waist.

Tired of being an invisible fat lady. And hell, if my husband can admit it and work on it, I can. I mentioned earlier that I’d let myself go…. I am letting myself go, but not in the way we normally conceive of that.

I’ve been working so very hard to get my brain/emotions straight that I forgot that my body is me. Ego has been holding me back. I’ve worried about being fat, of being unattractive, of admitting to myself that I’m aging (duh). It’s hard to admit your ass is no longer cute, and harder to admit that it was important to you that it was…. Ego is a bitch. Ego is a child, and it’s not always good to just let that little dictator tell you what to do.

So I’m letting that go… it’s a good lesson to learn; surrendering the ego is the only way, really. What I’m looking for can only happen with the humility that this sort of surrender generates: Harmony. Lightness. Room to breathe.

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And, oh hell. Here’s the quiche recipe.

easy peasy

Preheat oven to 350 F

for each quiche, use one egg. Whisk eggs together with a splash of water. Divide the eggs evenly into the muffin cups.

Chop a selection of veg and meat. I used fennel sausage, red pepper, baby spinach, cilantro and delicious cherry tomatoes from Den Haan’s.

Plop it all into the egg mixture and push in a bit. Crack some black pepper over it all.

Pop in oven for 15-20 minutes.