50 about 50: Friends

On Sunday, I returned home from a 60 mile bike ride, tired, but pleased with the beginning of my birthday week. Wedged between the screen and wood doors at the side of my house, was what could only be a present! I could not imagine who had left it. It was a lovely surprise when I discovered it came from friends I would never have guessed. The card brought tears to my eyes which spilled over when I unwrapped the present – a lovely, decorative plate with these words:

“We all let people into our lives, but you will find that really good friends let you into your own.”

These words are among the most true I’ve heard. My life, and the people who have helped me to live in it, are proof. So today’s final 50 About 50 list of ten: the friends who have brought me joy, helped to mold me as a person, shown me through their examples what it means to be generous and kind.

1. First Friends

My parents, Jack and Shirley, believe in being parents, not friends, to their children. Among the milk, manners, and morals they fed me as a child were nuggets that continue to inform my daily choices. They will always be my parents, but they are, finally, also the friends in whom I see myself.

2. Siblings who are Friends

Growing up, my five siblings were my best friends and my arch enemies. No one comes out of a large family unscathed! We fought. We hid things from each other in an attempt to have some measure of privacy in a household of eight people and assorted strange pets. We relied on each other through multiple moves to new neighborhoods and towns. And over the years, these people became my hoarcruxes (to borrow from Harry Potter). Pieces of me reside within them, and would be lost without them.

3. Friends who are siblings

While I would never trade my family of origin for another, I have been blessed to be adopted into a couple of special families. First came deep friendships that have the feel of sibling relationships, then their generous families took me in as well (and I’m not just talking about a Scheckel Brothers group hug, though that was pretty great, too!). These friends make sure that I have family to spend holidays with, to celebrate life’s joys and mourn life’s losses with, to feel connected with as a singleton in a family-oriented city. The Smiths/Kohls and the Dennis’ – they are my family as surely as the Hansons/Finnegans/Browns.

4. Teacher Friends

Some people are put in our lives to teach us how to be human, how to be good, how to push ourselves forward in compassion and truth. In my life, a few of these friends have actually been teachers, while a score of others have, in fact, been students! Some friends have simply demonstrated ways of thinking and being that I strive to emulate. Its been said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The teachers almost invariably show up before this student is ready – hopefully, I am learning to be open and fertile ground. I know I have already learned from these teachers to be a better me.

5. Friends and Colleagues

I came to my current university for a two-year grant-funded position. In 1994. What kept me here, when a decision-point came in 1996, was the strength of relationships with colleagues who share my vocation and my values. My sense of humor, and my vision for what we hope to accomplish. At each decision-point along the way, my colleagues and the genuine sense of respect and love between us is what has kept me rooted to this spot.

6. Children Friends

“Are you my aunt?” You might be surprised how often I’ve been asked this question by small children to whom I am, in fact, unrelated. I LOVE this question! I would have liked to have children of my own, but since I did not, I feel truly blessed to have been so connected to children, be they my actual nephews and nieces or the other wonderful children who aslo bring joy and laughter to my life.

7. Fleeting Friends

We have all had the experience of friends who are part of our lives for varying periods of time, then slip away. The fact that they are not actively part of our days forever does not mean they have not been important, or have not been loved. In fact, it is to some of these individuals that I owe great debts of gratitude for the gifts they’ve brought to me, the lessons I’ve learned from them. I will always think fondly of them, always be glad for good things to enter their lives, as they entered mine.

8. Beloved Friends

I do not fall in love easily or often. This is, therefore, a very small (though important) category. I know people who have begun their relationships with significant others as dating relationships. Not me. Significant feelings have only ever been the outgrowth of what have been significant friendships first. Amazingly, each of these individuals can currently be called, “Friend”, and each may actually read this post. You know who you are. All I can say is this: you have taken up residence in my heart, and there you will always have a home.

9. Friends who “let you into your own life”

Unlike the previous category, this group is big, and has grown exponentially the past couple of years. Lots of self-help and personal growth books will tell you to surround yourself with people who bring forth your best, people who challenge you to be more than you currently are. I can’t say I followed this advice, because I can’t say that the fact I’m surrounded by incredible people was something I did. Instead, each of these precious friends arrived in my life as a gift. They have surrounded me with love, support, generosity and trust. They have tested me, challenged me, called me on my crap. They have knocked at my door when I was hiding out, they have braved snarky comments when they got too close to some truth I was denying. Most importantly, they have loved me. At my best AND at my worst.

10. The friend who is my self

Strange to be so far into one’s life before deciding to befriend, rather than sabotage, oneself. Now that I’m here, its pretty clear that this is how it is supposed to work.

You may wonder why I didn’t mention very many names as I described my list of friends. Most practically, I was afraid of leaving people out. More importantly, most of the people in my life who would make this list cross over from one type of friend to another as circumstances and need require – the categories are not mutually exclusive. The name calling (name dropping? naming?) would have gotten repetitive. Rest assured, though: from my friend Carol, who has been loyal and steadfast since fifth grade, to little Femto Finnegan, who has yet to be born, the names and faces of many loved ones have been before me as I type this entry. Standing on the 50 year line, looking back at the past, forward at the future, I see one thread inextricably connecting the two – the thread of relationship. Friends, you are with me now, and will be as we move forward on this crazy trip of life. For that, I am humbly grateful.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing…
e e cummings

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I had hoped to be in the 100s by this day. One-der-land. But, I’m learning to accept that time and letting go are required in order to reach lofty goals. Its interesting how much we are affected by this instant-gratification culture we swim in daily. Patience and perseverance are not things I have been used to practicing – but I guess they must be lessons I need to learn (life skills I need to develop). Anyway, I was happy  to step on the scale today, and even happier to see that I’m headed in the correct direction!

50 about 50: Books

“This is the way
you have spoken to me, the way – startled –
I find I have heard you. When I need
it, a book or a slip of paper
appears in my hand…
…Your spirits relax, —
now she is looking, you say to each
other, now she begins to see.                                                             
 –Denise Levertov

Reading has been one of the great pleasures of my life – also, one of the most important means for personal growth. The simple truth is, I am who I am today partly because of the books I’ve read. In how they’ve touched me at the right moment, how I’ve been open to them when I needed to learn something, books have enriched my life immeasurably.

I have read widely and constantly. In second grade, I got in trouble for reading (a novel) in class. In junior high, my mother nearly flat-lined when she discovered me reading Jacqueline Susann’s  Once Is Not Enough. In high school, I read every Barbara Cartland regency romance I could find, as well as all of Thomas Hardy. When people comment about the strange, esoteric bits of trivia in my brain, I often secretly laugh – because I know what low-brow piece of literature I gleaned that tidbit from!

It would be impossible to make a list either of my favorite books or of all the authors whose ideas or themes have instructed me. Instead, today’s list is of books which have become integrated into my own psyche in some important way. I’ve cheated (a little) because there are more than ten books in this list. I could easily have expanded the list far beyond these ten items – it makes me sad, for example, that there are no John Irvings, no poetry, none of my beloved “books that became movies starring Shirley Temple” on the list. Someday perhaps I’ll write a definitive list of the best books I’ve read. Today is not that day! (PS – the list is in chronological order)

1. The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

I believe I’ve shared this before, but The Five Little Peppers taught me what reading is for. I learned to read with phonics and the Dick and Jane readers. “Run, Dick, Run.”, does not inspire one to develop a life-long love of reading. Story can, though. And this was the first true, long, emotionally satisfying story I ever read. The rest is, as they say, history!

2. Trixie Belden Series by  Julie Campbell Tatham et. al. /Madeline L’Engle’s Books

Trixie Belden and Vicky Austen showed me two young women struggling with a variety of difficult issues: annoying brothers, shady characters with nefarious intent, mysteries and logic puzzles, the death of loved ones, crushes on boys. I loved that both girls worked hard and thought hard about what it meant to be her best self. I never minded that Trixie used exclamations such as, “Gleeps!” She and her friends the Bob-Whites of the Glen, as well as L’Engle’s characters, helped me maintain a moral grounding at times when it could easily have crumbled away.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

For many years, this was the only novel I read more than once. And by more than once, I mean 20+ times. Admittedly, on one level it could be read as a longer romance novel, and that is probably why I read it the first few times. Gradually, though, I began to appreciate its finer qualities. It has been many years now that I have considered it one of the finest novels ever written. If you have read it without laughing out loud, you have missed just how clever Jane Austen is as an observer and commenter on personalities and social mores. She is witty and on point, without straying into mean and snarky (most of the time) – definitely qualities I aspire to in myself.

4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein

A word that is currently so overused as to make it practically meaningless – EPIC – is the best word to describe both these books and their impact on the trajectory of my reading life. For one, I have remained a true fan of the fantasy genre. In addition:  history, linguistics, folklore, metaphor – my appreciation for each has grown significantly as a result of these books. More importantly, the idea that even the humblest of hobbits has a role to play in the great and dramatic events of the world, has informed my worldview and cemented my temperament as idealist.

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The structure of this novel hooked me: the Joads’ story interspersed with chapters describing the injustices (such as produce being allowed to rot rather than feed people) occurring in that turbulent time. My parents were politically involved and aware in the 60’s and 70’s, and while I soaked up that ambience during my childhood, until I read The Grapes of Wrath, I hadn’t understood how powerfully the written word could move me in service to a just cause.

6. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Viktor Frankl

The first time I read this memoir, I was young and more inspired by the fact of his survival in the death camps than I was by how Frankl survived. As I have matured, I have worked hard to remember the truth quoted above. Unhappy at work? Bored with your life? Feel like someone is oppressing you? Use your freedom to choose – beginning with how you respond to the person(s) or events involved. I gravitate toward people in my life who intuitively understand and model how to do this.

7. Earthrise: A Personal Responsibility by David Thatcher

I was spending a leisurely morning in the 1990s browsing at my favorite shops on the pedestrian mall in Iowa City. At The Vortex, I lingered in the books section, flipping through whatever caught my eye. Underneath a pile of New Age magazines, I spied a thin, quite worn-looking little book. It appeared to have been read by many, though this was not a used book store. It was so strange, nestled among the many shiny new items – and we all know I cannot resist something strange or unusual. So I sat down to read it on the padded little bench in the store. And literally felt my mind and my worldview expanding as I read. I’ve never met anyone else who has read this book. For a long time, I almost believed only my copy existed, I almost believed it was magically produced just for me to find at that exact moment in my life when I would be most open to it. Basic premise: the human capacity for affecting our world is exponentially greater at the individual level than any of us typically realize, and it is time for us to take responsibility for what we create.

8. Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris/Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

I read these two novels back-to-back. They were both beautiful and powerful stories, widely different from one another in subject and tone. What struck me, though, was a similar central concept: that perception is reality. In Yellow Raft, the story is told through the perspectives of several generations of women in the same family. Each perceives the events through her own lens, and each responds accordingly. The reader develops a very full picture of what happened, while each character must make choices based on her own, limited, knowledge. In Animal Dreams, a woman returns to her childhood community, having left in late adolescence feeling outcast and incapable of being accepted by those around her. Returning, she discovers that children don’t see or understand very much – in part, because their parents and the other adults around them provide shelter from the more difficult to comprehend things in life. The view she constructed of her family, community, and self was based on this incomplete understanding – and incredibly flawed. Together, these two novels have helped me develop a more sanguine approach to familial relationships – yes, we shared experiences, but there are sound reasons for our differing responses and/or feelings about them. What an eye-opening thought – someone else’s perception of reality, while different than mine, can be equally valid.

9. Desert Pilgrim by Mary Swander

I shared the story of the powerful retreat experience that helped change the course of my life previously in this blog, here. This book was the basis for the retreat, written by the author who served as our retreat leader. One of the many things I loved about Desert Pilgrim, was the strange synchronicity between Swander’s life and mine – the people, communities, places we both know and love. Other than the retreat, our paths had never crossed. But our lives share some quirky people and experiences. As a result of the book, the retreat, and a few other connections in my life, I have adopted San Rafael as my patron saint (along with St. Cecilia, whose name I took at confirmation). While I won’t attempt to articulate what this has meant to me (because it would make this post unbelievably long), suffice it to say that I take hope and comfort from this.

10. Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

This book was rain on my parched soul, and came to me at a moment of great need. If you are ever at a crisis point regarding your vocation or life purpose, this book is a wonderful companion – especially (though not only) if you have been working in higher education.

Well. It turns out that I am incapable of “short and pithy” when sharing books I love. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and learning about some of the books that have shaped me. I am particularly interested in hearing about those that have touched you – please share!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I don’t know what to say about this weight. I have never burned this many calories before. Each two hour bike ride burns more than a thousand. I am still going to workout class and, on days I don’t bike, to the gym for cardio. And I watch what I’m eating. I track my food intake and calories daily. And still.

I am so much more comfortable in my own skin this summer, thanks in large measure to all the biking. I am physically stronger than I’ve ever been. And I am really happy with these changes. But it is difficult not to be disappointed with the slow progress on weight loss. I just want to push through to One-derland. Is that so wrong?!

50 About 50: Caring Less and Caring More

Today is a good day to post two of the 50 About 50 lists I started last week. As you will recall, these posts are leading up to my 50th birthday on Thursday, July 28. Because of the double list, today’s post runs a bit long. I hope you enjoy it anyway. As always, please feel free to respond with comments or your own items for the lists!

10 Things I Find Myself Caring Less About

1. What Others Think

Its a little strange to immediately contradict myself, but I DO care what others think. I will always be interested in how people think, why they’ve reached the conclusions they have. I am happy to reflect on the ways their thinking might illuminate mine. That said, in my younger years I tended to be unduly influenced by others. My own thoughts were like feathers easily blown in a new direction by another’s, more forcefully, declaimed idea. Now, I find I am able to continue in my own direction while remaining open to course corrections based on new information.

2. What Others Think About Me

Finally, I have reached the point in life where I am no longer incapacitated by concerns about what others think about me. Do I care? Yes, sometimes about some things. Mostly, though, I am happy to be the person I am.

3. So-called “Rules”

For most of my life, I have been an inveterate rule-follower. Breaking a rule, even one which might arguably exist only inside my own head,  just felt wrong. Often, even contemplating breaking the rule would induce hyperventilation. Social conventions and mores (such as waiting for an explicit invitation, saying the polite if untrue thing, etc.) still have a certain hold on me. More and more, though, I find that part of living and maturing is learning when to break out – and break a few rules.

4. Weeds, among other “unsightly” things

People say not to compare apples to oranges, because they are two different things.  Well, I was listening to a scientist on NPR one day, who said we needed to change that idiom. At the cellular level, he said, apples and oranges are the same thing! Weeds, flowers, hostas…at the cellular level aren’t they really all the same? I put my energy into the things that matter to me. I don’t waste a lot of energy on the “weeds” in life (or my flower beds) anymore.

5. Cognitive Structure

Things need to make sense, have order, structure, be inherently fair. Or so I once thought. I’m (mostly) through with trying to tidy up all of my beliefs, my thoughts, my emotions into a neat package. The world is wide and full of wondrous things. Its not my brain’s job to rearrange the furniture of the universe. See, accept, wonder, be in awe –  this may be enough responsibility for one human brain.

6. Being in Fashion

Fashions come and go. What looks good on me mostly remains the same.

7. Noise

Dear Mom: on this point, as on so many others, I concede that you were right all along. Sometimes I go whole days without voluntarily creating extra noise (radio, Pandora, television, etc.) in my house. Sometimes, silence is too precious to squander.

8. Television

Like most of America, I enjoyed The Voice when it began airing this spring. But I could miss it if something better – a social event, a good book, a workout, or a quiet summer evening – came along. I refuse to miss more life because “my show” is on television.

9. Body Hair

I don’t understand the current obsession with hairlessness. Yes, I pluck the stray black wires that periodically grow out of my chin. I have my hair stylist wax both my eyebrows and upper lip. But if I forget these things, I don’t run screaming from the mirror yelling words like, “Gross!”  Body hair is just body hair – it IS nature, not an affront to nature.

10. What Ifs/Fear-Based Scenarios

I’d like to say I’m over these completely, but that would be a lie. However, I no longer frighten myself at night wondering what I would do if a rapist crashed through my window in the wee hours. I don’t tell myself a lot of scary stories that begin with the words, “What if…”, just as I am about to embark on a new activity or adventure. What I’ve discovered is that these thoughts act like a prophylactic, preventing a life pregnant with possibilities. In order to live fully, I’ve needed to cut way back on scaring myself with stories of doom.

10 Things I Find Myself Caring More About

1. Beauty

The experience of beauty opens the heart: to perception, clarity, healing. The human heart craves beauty, though we don’t often credit it as a need. In a poem published in 1911, James Oppenheim wrote of women seeking justice, crying out for bread but also for roses – and it is such an appropriate juxtaposition. The staff of life (bread) and the stuff of life (beauty=roses).

2. Health and Vigor

Things you take for granted in your youth, for $200, Alex!

3. Other People’s Children

My nephews, neices, godchildren and the many other children who feel like my neices and nephews. But also, the young adults I have had the pleasure to know and work with in my career in Student Affairs. When I was a young adult myself, I thought I would be “the fun aunt”, that I would have a lot of good advice to impart to my students. Time has shown that the reverse is true – other people’s children have enriched my life, have taught me so many lessons about life, love, and the importance of not taking the teachable moment too far. Thank you to the parents for sharing their children’s lives with me. And to the OPCs themselves: each of you remains in my heart.

4. Animals (and other species)

I am not a pet person. But I am learning to love and appreciate what animals and other species bring to the world around us, and I am learning to care deeply about their continued existence on our planet.

5. Wisdom

I used to pray for wisdom, as a teen. I always felt so stupid, I thought that if I was gifted with wisdom, I would suddenly feel more confident. What I am discovering as I age is that wisdom isn’t about feeling self-confident. It is about caring enough to self-reflect as a means of continuing to develop and grow into the person I was meant to be.

6. Trying New Things

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, that’s only true if the dog doesn’t want to do anything new. And I DO!

7. Honesty/Truth

Its probably not a good thing to admit, in writing, that I am a really good liar. Further, if I am being truly honest, I must admit that I have lied purposefully and often, and not only to myself. But here’s the rub: every time I deny the truth, or “pretty it up” in some way, I deny my own self. This cuts to the heart of why honesty is a virtue and so closely aligned with the concept of integrity. No integrated whole can wantonly deny its own parts. The older I get, the more life experience I accummulate, the more important honesty becomes as a personal value.

8. Compassion/Mercy

I am, and have always been, a really good reader. I can put myself square into a character’s psyche and emotional make-up with little effort. I used to think this was a sign that I excelled at compassion and empathy. Really, that was just fiction. True compassion, true mercy, requires a willingness to enter fully, as myself, into another person’s messy life.  I am just learning the depth of character true compassion requires. I hope, someday, to embody it myself.

9. Unconditional Love

“Human beings, like plants, grow in the soil of acceptance, not in the atmosphere of rejection” said John Powell, in his book titled Unconditional Love. I read the book my freshman year of college, as did many of my friends, and we bandied around the concept quite a lot. I can remember saying to people (wince), “I love you. Unconditionally.”  What a crock! At 19, I hadn’t the vaguest clue what that meant, and no pop-psych book was going to enlighten me. I had to learn what it means the old fashioned way – by torturing myself and others, by saying hurtful things and tearfully rescinding them, by seeing the worst in myself or another and then – joyfully – discovering that I still felt love. This loving unconditionally is no easy thing. I believe it is worth the effort to practice, though, in the hope of someday being really and truly good at it.

10. This Moment

I not only care more about this one, I am in love with this one! I used to live in the past or the future, anywhere but the here and now. When and how that changed is the story I’ve been telling in this blog. One of the best things about my life now is that I am living it right here, in this moment – and I am so grateful for the present.

50 about 50: On Food

If you have been reading this blog, or following me on Facebook, you have to know that I will be turning 50 at the end of this month. While I have made it a point to celebrate and enjoy my birthdays the past few years, I am not typically one to navel-gaze about each passing year (oh, I navel-gaze with the best of them, just not about that, generally speaking!). However, 50 feels different, in many ways. I can’t help thinking it is still too young to be the gateway to old age, but there is no denying that it is likely to be the metaphorical entrance into the second act of my life. In plays, the first act is usually longer than the second, and youth seems endless. Act I is followed by an intermission, kind of a rest period, which might be an apt description for your late 40s. Not quite your youth, but also not quite your elder years. Then: curtains up, Act II.

As I approach my birthday, I am taking-stock, thinking carefully about my life thus far and about the life I hope to live in the coming years. As a result, each Thursday blog post in July will be part of my “50 about 50” list. It won’t be a continuous list, but several lists. I have given thought as to how to organize these lists, how to share the discoveries I have made along the way, the seredipitous moments and the surprises that have contributed to who I am and what I value today. There are only 4 Thursdays in July, so one post will include a bonus list! To get started:

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Food

1.  Your tastes change over the course of a lifetime.

Ok, I’ve never been a picky eater, ask anyone. However, for many years of my life I lived without the joy of avocados. I tried them as a youngster, and did not care for them. By the time I got around to trying them again, they tasted like ambrosia. And that’s just the tip of the asparagus spear – there are many other foods that I have come to enjoy over time that I did not care for earlier in my life. It pays to be open to trying again. And sometimes again.

2.  What we know about foods and their nutritional value and physiological effects changes periodically.

So don’t completely give up anything you enjoy based on a current news report. Moderation in everything, as my former roommate Michelle Fouts was fond of saying.

3.  Food is a social justice issue.

For most of my life, I never thought about this. But even a few statistics can change your view on this if you really take them in. For example, in the U.S. in 2009, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (21.3 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.6 percent) or single men (27.8 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (24.9 percent) and Hispanic households (26.9 percent). In 2009, 7.8 percent of seniors living alone (884,000 households) were food insecure. (Statistics courtesy of Feeding America) And it goes deeper than the number of people who experience hunger. The social justice issues surrounding food also include issues related to obesity, alarming increases in diabetes, the unequal access to healthy, fresh food experienced by those in economically disadvantaged communities.

4. “Food addiction” as a term is an oxymoron.

We are all addicted to food. Can’t live without it. Figuring out how to live WITH it is the important thing!

5. Oatmeal is my delicious friend.

My folks weren’t oatmeal eaters. The first time I was served oatmeal was at Camp Little Cloud when I was approximately 9. It was a gelatinous pile of what tasted like salty paste. No way! This morning, I had instant oatmeal, maple flavored, with one tablespoon of creamy, all natural peanut butter. The first spoonful elicited an audible sound of delight from deep in my throat. Almost a purr really. In the past four years, I’ve made up for the dearth of oatmeal in my early life by eating it multiple times each week. It never lets me down. When Starbucks started selling oatmeal, and fittingly named theirs “Perfect Oatmeal”, it was a happy day in Jen-land.

5. Food is a sustainability concern.

Locavore. Organic. Community Supported Agriculture. Slow Food Movement. We’ve all heard these words. It is impossible to maintain a laissez-faire stance once one begins to educate oneself about the issues. Read Michael Pollan, watch a couple of the excellent documentary films that have been produced, attend your local farmer’s market. It isn’t even difficult anymore (for those of us lucky enough to have the resources) to become aware of and begin to change our choices in accordance with a more loving stance toward our earth. I have only taken a few tentative steps, but hope to continue further down this path.

6. Not enough poetry has been written about kale.

Or really, about any of the lesser greens, root vegetables, or legumes that middle-America gave up on in favor of Chef Boyardee and Hot Pockets. Discovering these oldies but goodies has totally enriched my diet. They may not be the most beautiful, but they are arguably some of the most soulful foods going.

8. Food can, and in my opinion should, be a total sensual experience.

Mike and I made dinner one night over the Memorial Day weekend. He asked me how I managed, with such delicious leftovers in the house, to avoid bingeing on them until they were gone. I took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh scents of ginger,thyme, hand-grated nutmeg and toasted coconut flakes. I looked at the profusion of bright colors in the salad bowl and on our plates. I thought about the variety of textures in the food we were about to eat. And the answer was easy – when your food satisfies all your senses, it also satifies your hunger at a very deep level. Whenever possible, meals should be sensually fulfilling experiences. There’s no need to overeat or binge when every sense is replete.

9. Cooking for (or with) and feeding loved ones is one of life’s greatest joys.

Unless you have to do it every day. In which case it is a drudgery. I discovered the joy part back in the late 80s when I first learned to bake bread. My two roommates, the Michelles, would come home and immediately devour the first loaf while I enjoyed their delight. It continues to be one of my favorite ways to express my love for others. The drudgery part, I’ve heard from nearly every mother/wife I know.

10. I like food. Food’s my favorite.

Enough said.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holding my own is fine, considering vacation and the amazing food set out for consumption at both Thursday’s potluck for Tricia and Monday at the family reunion at the Hull’s! But I’ve been burning a huge number of calories, and would like to start seeing some weight loss – rather than burning just to keep up with consumption!

Discovery and Rediscovery: Notes on the Best 4th of July Ever!

Here is a partial list of my activities over the 4th of July weekend, 2011:

  • Reunions with high school and college friends and their families.
  • Airshow, fireworks, and sparklers with various combinations of children and adults from the above.
  • 64 miles of bikeriding on unpaved trails.
  • A family reunion in rural Maquoketa, IA.

And here are some of the things I discovered or rediscovered over the three day weekend:

Discovery: Any place, including an apartment in an assisted-living retirement facility, can feel like home if the right people are assembled there.

Rediscovery: The joy of singing. Most especially songs originally written and/or performed by John Denver. With friends and guitar accompaniment. When no one cares whether you can carry the tune, hit the notes, find your range.

Discovery: That the happiness of reunions can be enhanced by including people who weren’t part of the original group. Betts, Mary’s partner; Ruth, Sheila’s 88 year old fireball of a mother; my dear friend Sue, who brought Lori whom none of us knew…not to mention the children of those we remember as (almost) children themselves!

Rediscovery: Dubuque’s Eagle Point Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve spent time. It would hold up by comparison to many much more famous spots. Some very special memories, from early childhood through Saturday’s air show and picnic, reside there.

Discovery: Turning 50 doesn’t feel that strange when the friends surrounding you are that old, too!

Rediscovery:  A group of cousins may be able to laugh harder and have more fun than just about any other grouping of people.

Discovery: A family reunion full of people you are completely unrelated to can be very fun – especially when the family that invited you is uniformly warm and welcoming, whether they’re meeting you for the first time or the first time in 30 years.

It all started with a vague plan that a bunch of us would get together for parts of the weekend. Then, as the date approached, and plans became more concrete, I spent a moment or two wondering just how the groups and various events would work – would the people gel or would there be uncomfortable silences and people making every effort to maintain distance from those they didn’t know? I needn’t have spent one moment worrying. After all, at the core of the plan: friendships which have endured in spite of years and distance. Branching out from that core, were some of the people these friends love best in the world. Each event and permutation of the group worked. How could it have gone otherwise?!

Surprisingly, it was one of the teenage boys (initially dragged along against his will, I’m told) who declared, late on Monday night, that this was the “best 4th of July EVER!” And it was.