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Month: August 2015

Last Chapter: Aging Gracefully

My friend called me this week to tell me she is officially done with menopause — as in scientifically DONE, as in she has lab results with real numbers indicating that that she has completed this phase of her life.

I wanted to say something clever or quote a song lyric. But nothing came to mind as I watched the kaleidoscope of memories flashing like a flipbook in my brain. We’ve shared so many milestones, some in person, some on the phone.

Flash: She’s relaxing poolside and she spots the man she would eventually marry. “Do you know him? Can you introduce me?”

Flash: My phone rings and she’s telling me she had sex for the first time.

Flash: She’s chasing me into the bathroom at a wedding reception, telling me he popped the question.

Flash: We’re at her wedding reception.

Flash: We’re on the phone and she’s telling me the pregnancy test was positive. She’s going to be a mom.

Flash: Another positive pregnancy test. And another. And another.

Now this. Menopause. I’m doing it, too, although I don’t have any lab results to prove it. Not sure I’m on the other side of the fence yet, but those details don’t really matter. What’s important is HOW we’ve decided to do it.

We have both arrived at a milestone, a crossroads  of sorts — our coordinates are not exactly the same. We are in slightly different spots, coming to the crossing from slightly different angles. But our theme song is same. Jeremiah 6:16 says “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Our theme song, our chorus, is that “We are going to walk in it and we are going to OWN this last chapter.”  We are aging gracefully but with panache. That was how we ended the phone call announcing her post-menopausal news.

“Last chapter” sounds macabre. But it’s not. It simply means we are trying to:

Love the skin we’re in, and the bodies with which we have been blessed. We began a Whole30 journey together and we are both really excited about the program. It’s not a diet. It’s not a weight loss program. We are both embracing those aspects and we are both feeling great. For me, it has provided freedom from the scale, something I have not had since I was in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL! That’s 35 years. I didn’t know that I could ever feel good, really good, about myself unless a certain number showed up on the scale. But I do. And my scale is hidden away, collecting dust. I honestly don’t know if I’ve lost a pound. This article explains part of my victory. And this is a beautiful video which explains why I’m done “waiting” — “Our body size, our Weight… Wait. We wait to be fully alive, feeling disallowed from joy, unable to REALLY live… until our size can be something other than “big.” Waiting. weighing.  withdrawing.” — I’m not going to “wait” anymore.

Exercise (but not abuse). For me, this means less pounding. Less running. Less is more. Again, a new concept for me. My friend and I have been meeting to walk and do some strength training. But for once in my life, I’m not worried about achieving the burn. I am simply enjoying the time. Soaking in the early morning hours with the very best woman I know. I am honored to spend the time with her. I put it on my calendar because it nourishes my soul.

Parent and Let Go. We both have daughters who are the same age now as we were when we met. We have teens who are navigating the tricky waters of high school. I have a 7-year-old who is giving me the opportunity to enjoy all of it again but with the wisdom of an older Mom. During this last chapter, we hope to parent with wisdom and serenity, owning the pieces for which we are responsible, and gracefully (or not so gracefully at times) letting go of the pieces that belong to God. My friend reminds me not to arm-wrestle Him. Her skills are better developed in this area than mine.

Wear the Damn Hat (or boots or jeans or . . . ). This is as simple as it sounds. I am leaving the land of “cares what other people think.” I love hats, boots and bell bottom jeans. And in the last seven days, I’ve worn all three (Yes, boots in August. And bell bottom jeans that my son thinks are just awful. And a J-Lo-looking cap with a blinged out cross on it). I also love big earrings, and lots of mascara. And bohemian-flowy tops with macrame. My friend loves frosty orange lipstick and she seriously looks hot when she is wearing it.

Embrace our Strengths/Gifts. Several years ago, my friend attempted a career change and eventually found her way back to her original field. She reflects on the journey as God’s way of showing her that he bestowed her with certain gifts and talents, and today she embraces those gifts, not only in her work life, but in her approach to people and circumstances. I’ve spent the last couple of years floundering in an attempt to build success in a professional arena outside of writing. I abandoned those efforts recently, initially feeling like a failure, unable to move outside my comfort zone in order to make more money and be more successful. Then my friend reminded me of her journey, and encouraged me to embrace my gifts. I am a writer. I like that label. It feels comfortable – because it is my strength and my gift. But I will venture outside my comfort zone because I’m going to finally, finally, finally follow my dream to write fiction. So I’m keeping my work life in writing and communications, and I’m adding fiction to spice things up.

And I just might wear bell-bottoms and a sleeveless flowy top while I’m doing it (sleeveless in case of hot flashes!)


Whole30 Day 15

The Whole30 rocks! I honestly cannot believe how good I feel.

I thought I was a healthy eater prior to this journey. I knew I had sugar issues — a love affair with chocolate defined me, but I also love all candy. I love it like a little kid loves candy.

On all previous attempts to change my eating habits, (I will not say or type the D word because this is not a “diet”) I continued to feed my sugar dragon, not realizing how that was sabotaging my efforts. I’d use sugar-free sweetener in my coffee, eat “light” yogurt, make “healthy” desserts at night with fruit, drink diet soda. And I couldn’t sustain the eating plan. I’d always go back to my bad habits.

The book, It Starts with Food, helped me understand why. For the past 15 days, I haven’t had any food with added sugar or artificial sweetener. And you know what? I’m not craving sugar. And guess what else? When I eat fruit with my meal twice a day, it taste AMAZING, but, I don’t feel the need AFTER that meal to open the pantry and dig for something sweet.

I haven’t stepped on the scale and I don’t even know if I’ve lost weight. And I don’t care. I am eating more than I’ve eaten in ages, and I feel great. And my clothes are looking better. And I’m in a good mood. And I don’t feel the need to nap in the afternoon. And best of all, my little girl has noticed how much more I am eating and what I’m eating and what I’m saying “no” to — more on this important revelation later.

I feel like I’m really achieving food  and scale and body image freedom.

Whole30 Day 6

It’s day 6 of my first Whole30. I’m sick of vegetables, but I feel great otherwise. So far the sugar cravings have been manageable.

I really believe this program might be the answer to freedom from the scale and obsessions about dieting, calorie counting, etc., for me. That makes me smile.

Now, to go force myself to eat (I’m actually not hungry this morning at all.)

When Summer is Enough

I took my oldest, Gretchen, back to Louisville this week so she could begin what will be her senior year in college. For me, the day was ripe with nostalgia. The summer heat and humidity, and the empty, quiet campus, combined to transport me back to my move-in days at Mizzou and to send me swimming in a pool of reflection.

As we loaded our arms full of Gretchen’s belongings and walked from our cars to her dorm room and back, I commented to her about how I loved returning to campus when it was all but deserted. There was something fun and magical and empowering and exclusive about being there ahead of the whole student body. It was a feeling of new beginnings and possibilities. Something that made me feel like an insider.

What I remembered but didn’t share was that there was also something lonely about it — a sense of longing or loss. Of something ending or something that never actually took place.

Maybe that’s why I always have this feeling of anxiety or regret at the end of each summer. Each year, I would return to college with a feeling that another season had passed and I hadn’t filled that hole in my heart; didn’t find that peace; didn’t mend/end the turmoil with my parents.

As I helped Gretchen move in, I felt happy and sad at the same time. I was truly excited that she is joining the residential life staff at Bellarmine. I see this as a perfect fit for her and I hope I’m right. I hope it’s not just me projecting onto her what was a perfect fit for me. My job as an RA was one of the highlights of my college career. The experiences, training, responsibility and relationships were transforming. It’s where I met my best friends.

Gretchen, however, doesn’t see returning to her college campus each year as a sanity-saving escape from a discontented home life. That fact warms my heart. Unlike the younger me, she doesn’t come home for the summer with the hopes of mending familial relationships or with nervousness about how she will at least sustain them in a peaceable way. Instead, she returns to us with the happy anticipation of spending time with people she enjoys and loves.

Somehow, along with a full time job, an LSAT prep course, six hours of college credit hours and a serious boyfriend, my 20-year-old daughter gave plenty of her time to us this summer. We had a few shopping trips, several movies, some meals at Panera and Qdoba, lots of dinners around our kitchen table, a float trip, a week in Mexico, a few trips for ice cream, several nights in our family room watching Real Housewives and the new Unreal show, and a couple of workouts together.

It is not unusual for me to end the summer with some regret — regret for the things I didn’t get done or accomplish. Despite all the outings and fun activities I participate in with my kids, I still regret the time I didn’t spend at the pool or the zoo or the park or the City Museum.

I often experience a sense of sadness bordering on depression as summer vacation ends and the school year starts. I have to make a concerted effort to remind myself of the good things that September, and then October, November and December, bring to our lives — new friends, fall clothes (boots, yes, my beloved boots) and the excitement of the holiday season.

That sadness is approaching, and that sense of regret is upon me like an old, worn-out blanket. I’ve found myself waking the last few nights, mentally racing through the list of things I still want to cram into the calendar before the school buses begin running their routes again. I feel summer’s end pressing in on me as it always does, but this year it’s a little better.

Having that time with my daughter — taking her back to school — I think that’s what relieved some of my regret. I’m sorry to see her go and we both wish she didn’t’ have to return to school so early in August, but as we unpacked her belongings and began the process of setting up her dorm room, I felt contentment.

Watching her, I understand that she doesn’t share my sense of things unaccomplished. She said she had a good summer. She’s just as melancholy about summer coming to a close, but it’s because she enjoyed herself and she will miss her loved ones — not because she is living with a feeling of not having done enough, achieved enough, been enough.

That’s the crux of the matter, really. Being enough. Letting the summer be enough. Letting the moment be enough. Believing that I am enough of a mom, wife, friend, sister, writer. Enough of a daughter of the King, who tells me that His Grace is enough.

On my way home, I texted my daughter to tell her how much she means to me. My text was long and wordy because that’s what I do. Her reply: “I love you so much.”

That was definitely enough.