Happy Mother’s Day

I originally published this here five years ago, but feel it’s worth a second shot today. Love you Mom!

This is my mom when she was four. She gave me this picture last year on my 55th birthday.

There are so many things I love about the photograph. Mom wasn’t sure, but suspects it was taken by my Great Grandmother Powers. She was a photographer and was the one who colored the picture.

As I look at the photograph now I think of Sandra Cisnero’s story “Eleven”. It is about a young girl just turning eleven, but the day doesn’t go as she hoped. She reflects on how, sometimes, “What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six and five, and four and three, and two, and one.”

I realize that never before have I thought of my mother as any age except the one she was at any given time. Today I know that she, like all of us, has carried all her ages with her through her lifetime.

I wonder how many times in her 80 years she has felt four. How many times has she gone back to that day on the beach when she was alone with her thoughts, listening to the sound of waves and laughter behind her?

I suspect there have been many of those days. Perhaps in July of 1951 when she married my father she was feeling timid and naïve, like a girl younger than she was. Or in May of 1952 when her first child was born and she held him with the same love she’d once felt for her dolls, when she was four. In November of 1963, when her first love passed away suddenly; unexpectedly, she must have wanted to crawl onto her own mother’s lap for reassurance and comfort.

When I look at my four-year old mother on the beach I see the precision she is using to place shells on the sand. It is the same precision she used when she cooked for us or when she created quilts, or rugs, or stained glass. I can see her in her forties kneading bread dough on a Saturday morning with that same concentration, and I can see her in her fifties planning lessons for her students, and in her sixties reading to her grandchildren.

Having lived as my mother’s daughter for more than 55 years I recognize that look on her young face. It is the same as mine and underneath it I know she is thinking deep thoughts, even at four. Thoughts that she may never share with anyone because then they would not be hers alone.

She seemed content to be four years old. And today, she seems content being eighty. I understand now, that when you’re four, or forty, or eighty you are all the ages that came before. You don’t leave them behind, but carry them with you, and sometimes clutch them tightly like a child clutching seashells in her hand.

Thank you Mom, for being there for me, no matter what age I am or what age I’m feeling.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Detox Cleanse Update

Several weeks ago I wrote about trying a detox cleanse for the first time.

To remind you – I did an 18 day cleanse – six days to eliminate alcohol, meat, processed sugars, dairy, wheat, and caffeine; six days of a mono-diet of kitchari; and 6 days of reintroducing foods back in.

It has been about two months since I began and am well past the reintegration phase, but have chosen to continue leaving most of those items from my diet. There are a few reasons I’ve chosen to do that.

First, I feel great. I have energy – more than I had before – and physically I feel really good. I have been staying up at night, on average, an hour longer that I used to.

Second, I am sleeping more soundly than I have in years. In addition, I’m having lots of vivid, interesting dreams (but that could be the full moon!)

Third, I have lost some weight, and that definitely needed to happen.

Fourth, I do not miss any of the things I have eliminated so why would I add them back in?

Fifth, my life seems simpler these days.I don’t feel that I spent a lot of time thinking about food in the past, but I do know that NOW I am definitely spending less time thinking about food. Because I am basically eating less in general it takes me less time in the grocery store. Because I know what I will be eating – salads, vegetables, fruits – then I go directly to those sections of the store and finish more quickly. I have also ordered a few hard to find items online, so that shortens my shopping trips to the grocery store as well. I do spend more time checking labels, but it’s easier than it used to be. In the past I was checking for carbohydrates or calories, and now I’m only checking the ingredients list. Anything I can’t pronounce or the inclusion of things on my ‘don’t eat’ list, and that product is off limits. Easy.

The idea of simplifying goes beyond the mechanics of food preparation and into the psychological realm. We all have various mental connections with food, I believe. Some people eat when stressed, we talk about ‘comfort foods’, we connect social situations to food…
There are many ways that we are emotional about what we eat. In these past weeks I have noticed that some of the less healthy mental patterns I’ve associated with food have disappeared. A classic example is that feeling of guilt I would have whenever I ate something sweet – a piece of chocolate in a friend’s office, a cookie with my advisory group. . .quite often, I would beat myself up over the things I ate. The voice inside my head would remind me that if I wanted to lose weight I was making bad choices. blah, blah, blah. I used to say that I was a sugar addict, and it may be true. Now I suspect that it’s more likely that I was in a vicious cycle of eating too many sugary things so that my body began to crave those things.

With my current eating habits those issues no longer exist because I am not eating any of the foods that lead to those negative thoughts or physical reactions. Every morsel that goes into my body is healthy. I eat three simple meals a day with no snacking in between and I am not craving anything or feeling unsatisfied. Being more mindful has allowed me to recognize when I am hungry, or not hungry and tune into that recognition, adjusting as necessary.

For me it’s been an amazing journey in just a few weeks and I am excited to continue on this path. I encourage others to try it, particularly if you are recognizing unhealthy relationships with food.

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Muscle Memory

About a year and a half ago I learned that the sweet and talented Miss Heidi of Dance Images by Heidi would be retiring from the business of teaching dance.

I was incredible saddened because I had been taking those dance classes for six years and knew I would miss them. Before I’d found Heidi’s class for adult tappers I had been searching for several years for one. Having tap danced in my youth it was a passion – there is something about tapping that just makes you feel good.

Not long before Heidi’s announcement I wrote a blog post titled Dreams Do Come True that spoke to my love for dance. Since that last dance recital in May of 2013 I haven’t put my tap shoes on once.

Until last Saturday! 🙂

The dance program at my school was sponsoring a Dance Festival filled with workshops taught by amazingly talent artists from Vermont. (Click the link to read more about it.)

AND I GOT TO TAKE A HIP HOP TAP CLASS with Karen Amirault.

And she was incredible! I had so much fun, and was reminded that my feet, once they put those tap shoes on, did indeed have some muscle memory.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a video of a couple of pros showing you what HIP HOP TAP can look like:

Okay, so we didn’t look quite like that on Saturday. But hey, we had that much fun!

While I was reminded how much I missed Dance Images and my tap classes there, I was also reminded that my tap shoes still fit, and I have this amazing open space with a plywood floor (the attic) that is just begging for me to get noisy in there with my tap shoes.

So here’s to muscle memory, to tap dancing, to great teachers, and to fun!

Fearless Adventures

The other night I grabbed my camera bag and hopped in my car with no clear destination in mind. My goal was to track down a beautiful sunset, and I had several locations in mind, but on this night it was the journey that was important, not the destination.

I headed north and less than three miles from home I took my first second-class road, ending up in places I had never been before.

Thirty years ago I would NEVER have driven off, alone, to unknown territory. I wouldn’t have done that twenty years ago; not even ten years ago.

So I got to ruminating over why that might be.

Some obvious “upgrades” were my first thought: cell phones and GPS being the main ones. More than 10 years ago I didn’t have access to these tools so the fear of getting lost was much greater than it is today.

But there’s more to it than that. I think it has something to do with age – or maybe experience. At least for me. Many years ago I did not have the confidence in myself to go off to unknown places alone for fear of getting lost, or breaking down and having to rely on someone to help me. Or maybe being abducted.

Today I have no qualms about taking off on a road trip for parts yet undiscovered. This week’s venture is a good example. As I headed up the first second-class road, which was familiar to me, I saw several side roads that I’d never been down before. Many of them are marked private, so I avoided those. But from time to time I found myself taking a road not taken before. And I liked the idea of possibly discovering something new.

I did discover two places that my sons have talked about for years. Places they like to go kayaking and fishing. Places I have heard so much about but never been to. I did not stop on this trip, but will go back and explore those places soon.

I watched my car compass closely because I wanted to be in the vicinity of the setting sun, but otherwise I just drove. . .wherever. I turned the radio up loud, sang along, and simply enjoyed the journey.

As I traveled along the back roads I scanned the horizon for possible photo ops and stopped from time to time to capture a shot I thought was worthy.

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Echo Lake road - Copy

Perhaps, after a number of years, I’ve figured out that some things are more important than others. Capturing the beauty of the place I live is far more significant in my life now than worries about the unknown!

So what if I don’t know where I am?

Who Have I Become?

The other day I went on an outing with three good friends. At some point in the day it dawned on me that I had become my grandmother.

There I was, riding along the secondary roads of Vermont looking for a Peony farm, when BOOM, like a lightning strike I remembered my Grandmother telling stories of the day trips she use to take with her friends. Just like this, I thought.

Exactly as we were doing, Gramma must have passed through some of these same towns, talking about what a perfect day it was for traveling, getting out the map to make sure they were going the right way, talking about where they might have lunch.

Mind you, it was 30 to 40 years ago when I listened to Gramma’s stories of her travels with friends and I wasn’t always very enthused to hear them. It all sounded like ‘old lady’ stuff to me, back in the day.

Though I will admit, I also felt a bit of envy at her freedom to go and do those things. She was unencumbered by school, or work, or young children. Her days were hers to do with as she pleased. I felt pride that my Gramma was active – going out and doing new things and staying connected to her women friends. At that time I didn’t know that she was modeling for me something essential to life.

But I see it now. And understand it. And value it.

The four of us on that trip last week are very different women. While we share commonalities – like work, hobbies, or interests – things that brought us together in the first place – our pasts and our day to day lives are unique. Probably the greatest similarity among us is our love for learning. All of my women friends are people who like to experience new things. They are avid readers, and avid observers of the world around them. They will go to a place simply because they haven’t been there before; because they are curious.

One of the adventures I remember Gramma talking about was the Vermont 251 Club. This is an organization encouraging people to visit all 251 towns in the state, and Gramma was a successful member of that group. She often talked about her travels to new places, and I want to follow in those footsteps, not just to travel to the towns of Vermont but to live the life she did.

I am thrilled to do ‘old lady stuff’ these days, and cherish the women friends I do them with. I hope my granddaughters will listen to my stories of trips with my friends and learn from me the value of these deep connections in life. I don’t even care if they think to themselves ‘that’s boring old lady stuff’ – that’s all part of the process I guess. But someday, let them say, “remember when Gram did this? That sounds like fun. Let’s do that too!”

The peonies we saw on this trip were much like the four of us – all the same in some ways, but each unique and beautiful in its own way.

peony 9
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Here’s to ‘old lady adventures’!