Ode to Gramps

I am afraid to be close to death. I avoid funerals, shiva houses, people who have recently lost loved ones. I try to push myself when I can because I want others to know I love them, that I care, but it’s just really hard for me.

ImageI have been scared ever since my Dad’s dad and grandfather died within eight weeks of each other. Adding that my own dad had a massive coronary of his own that year, but thankfully survived, well I was faced with a heck of a lot of hospitals, funerals and shiva houses for an 8 year old.

My biggest fear about death is not the actual dying part – although that doesn’t seem so great either. It’s the part about the finality of it. Do people remember you? Do they think of you fondly? What kind of person do I want to be remembered as? I often ask myself that question.

Years later, after I grew up and started my own family, it seemed that we had a cluster death thing going on. Right after I bought my first home, my Dad’s mother passed away. She had a form of Alzheimer’s for years so when she passed there was definitely mixed emotions with her death.  Then, as if she had been waiting for her daughter to pass, my great-grandmother died within 12 hours of my grandmother.

This time, I hosted the Shiva house in my home, as both families were closer to where I live. Again, faced with the wrenching heartbreak of death too close for comfort, I had a lot of emotion living inside that fear. Watching my dad go through all of the loss was hard enough, but then a few months later my mom’s father, my Gramps, died too. Now, I was a grandparent orphan.

Today would have been my Gramps’ 100th birthday.

Gramps was an important man in my life. He was actually the most sincere, honest, sweet-natured and loving person you’d ever meet. All these years later people who knew him, friends of mine or my family’s friends still comment how special he was.

Gramps loved art, knitting and all things creative. He was a metrosexual before that even became en vogue. Always smelling like too much Old Spice, Gramps was not a fan of losing his hair. He came up with a classic comb-over so great he had it down to a hairspray science. Even as he got older and it was harder for him to take care of things, he still has someone come spray and brush his 10 little hairs.

Most notable about Gramps was his ability to just share the love. There was something about a hug from Gramps that could just save the day. No matter how sad, bad or angry I was (and he lived with us for a while so he saw the ugly of my teen years) his hug and sweet eyes could brighten me so deeply. I could never be angry around him. I could never be sad around him. He just embodied all this oozing love and acceptance – no matter what.

So many things still remind me of him on a daily basis. The Muppets (our movie), pineapple upside down cake (his favorite), egg cups filled with soft boiled eggs (he had a collection and an obsession with that egg) and so much more. As his wife, Rose, died too young he lived much of his adult life alone. He never complained, never once seemed lonely and always felt content with his life. My mother, his only child, was his source of pride and joy and he spoiled her rotten. I never saw my mother pay for groceries or clothing or anything when he was around – even as a married mother of six. Grandpa would come in and take care of her best he could.

I know that death is freaky and scary. I know that it’s inevitable. But, I am comforted to know that if I am half the human that grandpa was – focusing on the fact that I am still living while I am here. Realizing that there is no time for anger, hatred and loneliness – just love – then people will remember me for many, many years to come.

Miss you Gramps. I know you are up there with Grandma smiling down on me. Hope you have a slice of pineapple upside down cake, on me…

Here’s to Perfect Days

 Not every day is perfect. Many days are extremely difficult or boring or even frustrating but yesterday I had a perfect day. Yes, it was my birthday. But, that was not what made it so special. 39, an imperfect number, suggested the end of an era or rather a decade that leads to the beginning of sagging, wrinkling and a multitude of graying hairs. It is not something I looked forward to and I greeted 39 with hesitation. But, my birthday was a conduit to something better – gratitude.

Gratitude has long lasting powers. A moment of frustration can be fleeting, anger maybe sitting around slightly longer gnawing at you. Gratitude breeds happiness which breeds continual contentment which affects anyone and everyone around you. It is a beautiful and wonderful cycle.

I went to bed, still 38, feeling nervous about what awaits at the other side. I know that typically birthdays for me as a child were built around pent up expectations that ultimately lead to disappointment.  I tried a new attitude a few years back leading into birthdays with little or no expectations and just accept it’s just a day you become a year older. But as my years led to 35, 36, 37 and 38 I felt my uphill trek becoming harder and harder to bear. I do fear getting old. Not because of dying (although I don’t really look forward to that either) but, because worse things seem to happen to older people. Illness, loss, aging, pain and of course the non-forgiving mirror seem to be the fears that live in my head about growing older. I focused much of the back of my mind with these fears for a very long time. But, for some reason yesterday something clicked.

I woke up to a beautiful card from my husband and some very warm wishes all around – a great beginning to any day. My worries from the night before seemed distant and I accepted that I had to grow another year older.

Both my parents (perfectly suited for one another) independently shared that Jack Benny was always 39. It was his chosen stopping point as the end of youth. Okay, I hear that. But, if I could choose a stopping age it would probably be 29 not, 39…

I looked in the mirror. Scoured is more the word. Pretending I was an outsider looking in. Crows feet? Sorta, but not really. Frown lines? Hmm. Not too bad. Age spots? Nope! Freshly darkened hair? Yeppers. I decided I did not look 39 and I would be okay. I was grateful.

Later that morning I was thinking that my son (who is in Europe at the moment) would likely be too busy to remember to call or text me on birthday. Just as the words came out of my mouth I heard ‘bing’. My phone had just received a text. “Happy Birthday Mom.” What a wonderful gift. I was now super grateful.

My gift from my family was an afternoon to myself. I was to walk my local outdoor mall and shop till I drop. It was a fun time alone with lots of time to contemplate life (in between a few dressing rooms). I made a vow to myself not to say one negative word about anything I tried on. I could choose not to purchase something, but my gift to myself was I would be kinder to me. I actually found this new attitude wonderfully acceptable and purchased a few ‘out of my comfort zone’ items, like a red skirt.  I was feeling happy.

I came home that afternoon and we had takeout dinner together with the girls. I looked around the table during dinner at the absolute joy my daughters shared in preparing a birthday cake for me. I watched my oldest daughter grab her camera to shoot photos (just like I do for all of their occasions) and felt blissful.

At small intervals during the day I peeked at my phone. I had countless beautiful messages, notes and Facebook posts from friends and family near and far. I felt love.

In the evening, my husband took me to see a play we had both been dying to see. It was a really funny show and we laughed. A lot. The best thing about laughter, true real from the gut laughter, is that it’s infectious. You can’t shake that happy feeling. It sticks with you for hours and hours and creates a high you cannot and do not want to rid yourself.

When I went to bed last night I was full with a feeling of abundance. I have everything I need and want and I am only 39. How amazing. I am so grateful.

Still Stretching My Limits

As business grows so does the to-do list. I have spent many years honing my writing skills to get to the point where I could go out on my own. Now that the clients are in, the work is flowing, I realize just how little I like the business side of things.

Oprah always said “Find what you love to do and go make money doing it.” Well, Oprah I am doing it – but you never said it would be so damn hard!

This week I decided it was time to setup a business website for myself. Having written copy for hundreds of others I thought this would be a piece of cake! What no one told me was it’s really hard to do it for yourself. I asked a client to write a testimonial for me. His response “Sure, go ahead and put something together and I’ll just read through and put my name on it.”

This was so odd, I could barely comprehend. I asked my husband about this concept of reviewing myself. Apparently this is done often. I took the liberty of trying to go outside myself and really critique my own work. I put together a few well-formulated sentences. I re-read. Weird. I sounded so formulaic and cold. It is really difficult to compliment yourself, I soon realized.

Last night a friend sent me the following relevant video:

This video perfectly describes how we all seem to see ourselves in the world. We are so hard on our own bodies and minds. We are much more beautiful than we give ourselves credit for…

It was a strange thought to critique myself. I actually sat and examined the work I had done for this client- an entire website, blog, email campaign and other items. I tried to be the client, looking through his entrepreneurial eyes. I stripped away the barriers best I could and realized I had done great work that deserved to be recognized. I wrote myself an excellent testimonial and sent it on.

No, I will not share which one that is 🙂

Starting your own business is a huge gamble. It can flop on a moments notice. It can be high one moment, leaving you daydream about offices, employees, huge paychecks.  Then poof, you want to throw in the the towel the next as it seems overwhelming and scary.

In each trial and tribulation of my freelance writing career jaunt, I can always say that I am still stretching my limits to their fullest – doing what I love and trying to make money doing it.

Killing Me Softly

 Today’s meeting with my trainer, we’ll call her Annie, was hard. It was a bit of a hectic morning; had an appointment for my son followed by a haircut and then had to drop him off at school.

All that running around meant no time for breakfast, beyond my Starbucks run. By the time I arrived at Annie’s house I was rushed, a few minutes late, but excited to enter the zone…

After the initial warm up exercises we jumped right into medicine ball, arms with weights and a tension band. The tension bands are teeny, weeny rubber bands for the ankles that when stretched make your inner thighs feel like they are literally being burned from the inside out. Somewhat similar to this:

After about three or four side lifts, I felt the room spin. My face got flushed and my head was dizzy. I grappled with not saying something for fear of embarrassment (this was only about 10 minutes into my thirty minutes session- not so sustaining of me…) but I thought passing out would be even more embarrassing, so I caved.

Annie immediately gave me water and had me sit a minute. I felt like a failure, so weak after just 10 minutes. She asked me about my breakfast.

“Um, no I didn’t have time.”

I just failed rule #1 – always, always eat something before working out. Bananas, yogurt and granola are all great choices as they provide potassium, carbs and protein, she explained.

Yum, Yum 🙂

After I got my bearings again and a good drink of water, we went back to work. Twenty minutes of arms, legs and glutes galore.  We were then on to the last phase – abs. After showing my much-improved planking (yay me!) we then did a great abdominal exercise that really, really hurt. Passing a large ball between my legs, up to my hands and then over my head while sitting at a 45 degree angle. Like this:

THIS IS HARD!!!

My abdomen felt used for the first time in 16 years – since the birth of my son. I had to stop a few times. Annie was great at encouraging me and slowly I completed them.

I finished my workout and left. In my car I felt defeated. It is so hard to accept that your own body has become so incredibly weak. We think that with children, running around and taking care of things that we somehow, someway work out our bodies enough.

But, the truth of the matter is, many of us are super, super weak. It’s really been fine for us overall, but I want more for myself. At least today I do…we’ll see how I feel after a few more weeks of torture.

I felt sad all the way home.  Maybe, this is just too hard?

Once I ate something (frozen fat free Greek yogurt topped with strawberries, bananas and granola!) I started to feel somewhat better. Again, working on my patience here – I know this is a long, hard road to becoming stronger and healthier. I am just going to focus on my goal of becoming less mushy and more resilient. I have no number, no target zone – I just want to feel good.

Next week I am off for a family trip. Annie gave me some tips to work on while I am away. Hopefully I will forget about today and come back renewed and refreshed! Wish me luck!

Exercise in Patience

We live a world where we get buzzed, jingled and rang at a moment’s notice to let us know of calendar changes, texts with I’ve Arrived in One Piece or even instant ability to check if Mr. Groundhog saw his shadow . This actually happened this morning. Instant Googling had to take place to appease my 9 year old’s curiosity. Mr. Punxsutawney Phil did not…

It is often frustrating for me to exercise, eat healthier and take better care of myself only to not notice a bit of change. I want immediate gratification!

I am like a child, the moment I get off the treadmill. I run to the scale sweating to see how many ounces I’ve lost. Typically the answer is a big fat disappointment and the motivation is gone for the day. I have only been planking and training for two days and of course, I have already checked my scale. Twice. I know this is a major no-no and every rationale in my mind says this is just stupidity – but I am an impatient person.

So, for Day 3 of my Getting Healthy or Die Trying Challenge I am working on patience. I do not typically get mani/pedis and I have lots of friends who go weekly for this spa experience. In the warmer months, occasionally when my feet are just awful, I will treat myself. But, the sitting, waiting and drying…well, I am not good at that. I tend to jump up right after and walk out the door ruining my investment and cursing myself all the way home. So my practice in patience today was to force myself to use a Gift Certificate I had marinating in my wallet for months.

I went to get a manicure.

For me, the worse of the mani/pedi choices, requiring extra sitting time before leaving the store. Then, careful pre-planning of key placement and wearing my coat indoors, so as to not ruin the nails. Followed by a painful ‘beating up’ sort-of massage where I just sit there and take it as a tiny, little Asian-American woman takes out her aggressions on my shoulders.

But, today I needed an exercise in patience. I chose my color, only half caring what it was as I knew I would likely ruin it before I even left the store. I sat and soaked, buffed and cleaned out hangnails I wasn’t even aware I had. I then ran to the bathroom to avoid ruining the nails later (and to get a much needed seating break) to then be polished, shined, polished again and sat. Next was my ‘massage’. As Nancy (certainly not her real name) pounded me like a fresh steak, my mind drifted. Why do I have such an issue with patience? What would life be like if I were just calmer and not so on the go…

I imagined myself on a beach. With a book. This scenario actually happened to me last year. In theory it sounds wonderful. Much like this:

Sadly, after 20 minutes of reading I felt the need to get up and move take over me. My mother would call this “Shpilkes”. Shpilkes is a fun Yiddish word meaning needle. Like sitting on pins and needles. I guess, today it’s called Ants in my Pants.

Anyway, my mind is wandering to these ants in my pants. I start to wonder if having little patience is so bad. I do things quickly, I don’t have a long to-do list (generally) and I expect results fast. None of those sounds terrible, heck if even sounds good! So, maybe I can use this as a learning experience.

Exercise doesn’t give fast results unless you motivate yourself to push harder. So, no in 3 days I will likely not make much of a difference in body. However, exercise is already making a difference in my mental state. I just learned to accept my flaw of impatience as an actual gift that helps me accomplish my goals. Way to turn a negative into a positive. Not too bad for Day 3!

Plus, my nails actually look lovely!

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