Never Say Never, a Perspective in Moderate Living

My 8 year old Chihuahua, Shorty, taught me to never say never. He came into our lives several years ago when Paris Hilton was in the social spotlight. When I would see her walking around carrying her little purse dog I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever seen. I swore I would never have a small dog, let alone one that was dressed to match my outfits and carried around in a purse. Then Shorty walked (more like wobbled) into our lives. At barely 4 pounds he looked like something that had just escaped a Chihuahua concentration camp. He was full of illness, allergy, and infection. A real mess. A heartbreaking mess. There were signs of severe neglect and we suspected he had been abused as well.

My heart felt something it had never experienced before and I still find it difficult to articulate. In short, Shorty not only healed my heart but opened my mind and spirit to receive unexpected gifts from the universe. He changed me forever. All these years later, I have circled around the idea of applying these lessons to my life in different ways.

And so it began in February of 2014 after I had cervical spinal surgery to correct several disc herniation’s and repair a couple more protrusions that were flattening my spinal cord. OUCH. My road to recovery has been long and difficult and I have accepted that my body will never be the same. Having all this time off however has given me the time and space to really evaluate my life and my quality of living. I have to admit, it was a very depressing evaluation. Each day I was driving 100 miles door to door for my job on the peninsula and spending upwards of 5 hours a day behind the wheel, on top of the 8-12 hours I spent in the office. When I wasn’t tired I was exhausted. My body felt old and tired and I hurt all the time. The weight kept piling on and I was not treating my body very kindly.

I do NOT believe in diets or pills that claim to change our lives forever. The diet industry on whole is nothing more than a bunch of greedy, thieving bastards making money on our insecurities and ignorance. This is not something I wanted any part of, as I truly believe that there is not one diet pill or diet method out there that has any interest in helping me do anything but part with my hard-earned cash. So I decided to apply my never say never attitude to my diet with a very strong intention of making changes in small but meaningful ways. I also made a commitment to making better choices to improve my overall health and well-being. It began with very small changes, or what I have come to call trade-offs.

Trade-off number one was important to me for many reasons. It was relatively easy to accomplish and I felt it had the greatest benefit. It all started with one glass of water. Coffee sustained me and I typically drank a full 12-cup pot of coffee each and every day. You do not have to be a doctor or a nutritionist to realize how unhealthy this behavior is, common sense dictates right? I began to trade one cup of coffee for one glass or bottle of water and kept trading until I had successfully weaned myself down to a moderate amount of coffee consumption. Two cups per day now, more or less. Sometimes I have more and sometimes I have less. That is the beauty of my trade-off experiment; I really do not ever feel like I am sacrificing anything.

The same holds with other areas of my life. All things are okay in moderation by making responsible and reasonable choices with full self-awareness of those choices. Except for my smoking, this really has to come to an end. But I have made trade-offs there as well. Once a two pack per day smoker I am now down to about 3 to 5 cigarettes per day. How? Trade-offs. The key to my trade-offs is that they must be a healthier alternative to my current behavior. So, I began trading cigarettes for something else: a glass of water, a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, maybe a few minutes of stretching or deep breathing on my yoga mat. No choice or activity should take longer than 10 minutes. Slowly, I have made these changes with very encouraging results.

I feel so much better, stronger in mind, body, and spirit. Not only have I decreased my weight by 18 pounds but more importantly, I have lessened my appetite for sugar and caffeine. Once a chocolate addict that could eat a pound of See’s truffles in one sitting I find one or two pieces are more than enough to satisfy my cravings. And the less bad I put into my body the less bad my body craves. The reverse is also true, if I add bad to my body I feel bad physically. A true carb hangover is enough to make me say “That did not feel good and I won’t be eating that again.” My desire is to achieve a more natural state of being, to return my body to its natural state by fueling myself with more natural food sources. For me, the key was to not apply any expectations at all or expect any immediate results, but to focus on changing my routine. Several years ago, my mother in law was telling me that she planned on losing 20 pounds, wanted to start an exercise regimen, and she was going to quit smoking. I thought to myself, that sounds like a lot to do all at once and if she fails she is going to feel even worse, like a true failure. Instead of grand plans and New Year’s resolutions I believed the key to success was starting small, managing realistic expectations, and measuring success beyond my dress size.

Here are some examples of my typical trade-offs:

Craving a yummy lemon bar – eat an apple first with a glass of water. If I am still craving a lemon bar I have one, but most of the time I did not want the sweet any more.

Cereal for breakfast – no thank you. A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit provide better, longer-lasting fuel. Being satisfied nutritionally eventually curbs those carb cravings.

After lunch slump, craving sweets – a nice cup of tea, Good Earth Sweet and Spicy is my favorite and a yogurt. I love Brown Cow’s Maple or Chocolate with yummy cream on top.

I should also note that there are certain things I simply do not consume, like anything with a sugar substitute such as diet soda and there are other things I am especially mindful about. Because I am not a nutritionist or a chemist and I really want to know what I am putting into my body I do read labels and tend to not indulge in many preprocessed or prepackaged meals.

So, if you are really interested in making healthier choices remember to never say never to anything that you really want. Limiting ourselves is the quickest path to failure I can think of. Instead, make one small change today and see how it FEELS, how it makes you feel. If you are feeling frustrated or deprived it will lead to poor choices like binge eating the very thing you promised yourself to never have again. This leads to guilt and self-loathing, which serves no other purpose than making you feel even worse, and on and on it goes.

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Where Have the Holidays Gone?

When I was a kid Thanksgiving was a day of family, food, and board games. People were home with their families and if you ran out of milk you might be lucky enough to find some at the gas station. Otherwise you were out of luck.

Today, I can shop shop shop and shop some more. Wal-Mart has paved the way to the destruction of the American holiday, in my opinion. And now, companies are open everywhere. If needed, I could even get my prescription filled today. Starbucks, Radio Shack, Rite Aid, all open, business as usual.

It’s wrong. Wrong to take people away from their homes and families. Wrong to encourage our society to sacrifice family to get the best deal. Wrong that we do not get one day to really be grateful without it being used as an opportunity to boost sales and increase profits.

It makes me mad. And sad. This is not how I want this world to be. For anyone.

Can’t we just take this day back from those greedy retailers and take a breath?

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High School English

High school was not an easy time for me. Years of awkward insecurity tangled with grief and depression made for not a happy school girl.

My one salvation was writing. It felt that is was the one thing I was able to do just a little better than everyone else. There were two amazing English teachers that helped me develop my tool and inspire a lifetime love of words.

Sadly, I cannot recall my first English teachers name and my yearbooks were all destroyed in a flood in the early 1990’s – losing the messages from my teachers was a crushing loss. But, I digress.

My first high school English teacher. I remember patience and nurturing but also tough fairness, challenging me to do better, think deeper, express more richly. I wrote a poem about my Grandmothers battle with cancer and another poem about a book we were reading in class (cannot remember the title now). In the poem about the book I used the word “Damn” to describe a flower that mocked a child with its beauty. When she read the poem (remember this was the 80’s) to the class there were lots of shocked stares and even a few “she is in SOOO much trouble” comments made. The teacher let the shock flow through the room and them complimented my writing, explaining that even curse words can have a valuable effect when used artistically and not just placed for shock value. She ended up submitting that work to an English journal for publication and it was selected. My first and only published work. One of my most proud memories.

Afterward, fellow class-mates began to solicit me to write love letters, poems, even song lyrics. I’d found my niche’. In that moment in her class, behind the glowing red embarrassment, a passion was born inside me that has never stopped. And I doubt it ever will. For that I am grateful beyond words. Even the wordiest of us know that sometimes you just have to keep it simple and say Thank You!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Never Too Late.”

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Phone a Friend?

Life can be littered with difficult situations of varying degrees of overall impact. What I have come to understand about myself and others is that asking for help can be difficult for both parties. Particularly when a difficult situation is created by ones own poor choices.

As a single parent and the only income earner in the house managing my finances was always a challenge. There never seemed to be enough money. Even though I earned a decent living wage my money management skills were (and still are) not my strong suite. Eventually, the financial dysfunction created many difficult situations for me. Utilities would be shut off. Cars would be repossessed. Luckily I had the support of my friends and family to help me through.

Looking back, I realize that many of the difficult financial situations I found myself in were really just created out of need to be saved. I was the one creating these hardships and placing the consequences at the feet of those around me. In a twisted way I was extracting a sense of self-value through these dramatics instead of building self-value and confidence by simply taking care of my finances on my own.

It took a toll on my relationships. But the greatest impact was within once my self-awareness grew and I had greater insight into my own behavior and choices. Today, I would not repeat those choices and am thankful for the love and support I received despite my inability to manage my own life in a responsible way.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Calling Uncle Bob.”

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Fear is a Powerful Motivater

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Envelope Pushers.”

Fear, healthy and unhealthy, has been a topic of interest for me over the past year. What causes fear, what drives it, and the risks or rewards we experience in the face of fear.

My greatest fear is heights and/or falling to my untimely death. The fear was so paralyzing that I was not able to drive over bridges, stand on a ladder (or chair), or look outside when in tall buildings. My vision would begin to tunnel, my balance would be affected, my heart rate would increase, and my breathing would be rapid and shallow. All signs of impending death.

So, I decided to tackle this fear head on. First, for our anniversary I booked a sea plane tour over the Golden Gate Bridge. And I lived to tell the tale. Next, I booked us a Zip Line tour of the Sonoma County redwoods. Scariest day of my life, letting go and throwing myself towards the next landing. And I lived.

Now, I can ride roller coasters and drive over bridges with the best of them. I also know that there is no fear that cannot be overcome. For me, the key was not simply diving in head first but dipping my toe into the pond little by little until my confidence was greater than my fear.

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A Good Read

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Spinning Yarns.”

When I get into a good book there is no walking away. Seriously, when I read The Red Tent I called in sick to finish the book after staying up all night reading. A good story teller transports the reader with content and context that is rich with description into the story, creating an invested relationship between the story teller and the reader. Finding the right combination of words and circumstances that creates this relationship with the reader is what makes a truly great story teller.

As a writer there is a desire to capture the emotional experience in such a way that it helps others either relate to or expand their own experiences or perceptions. When someone reads something that I have written and is saying “Yes, exactly” while they absorb the content of the message I know that I have created something compelling. And that is a GREAT feeling.

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Oh, the Shame

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grateful and Guilty.”

Dear Secret Shame,

Thank you for never-failing to make me feel both guilty and grateful.

Grateful for the reprieve from marketing and commercials. Indulgent guilt at enjoying back to back to back episodes of tv shows I have never had the patience to watch lest I endure the loud, intrusive commercial breaks and the constant recaps of what just happen five minutes earlier.

Netflix, I love you.

Your ever faithful couch potato.