Monday, December 29, 2014

A Change of Face

Lately I have been in "powering through" mode. Some might call it, "Soldiering On" mode.

I'm made of tough stock. The pioneer spirit is still alive and well in my family. I have years of training in "soldiering on." Never give up, never call a truce, never admit defeat; just lace up your boots, set your jaw and power through.

This isn't the most productive or joyful way to live but by golly, it gets the job done. With the new year streaking toward me like a comet, fast and and inevitably, it's a good time for a change of pace. Or perhaps I might say, a change of "face."

It's time to put on a new face, to relax my jaw, and to breathe deeply. It's time to make real and faithful choices about how I want to live my life day-to-day.  It's time to un-wind the metronome and create the life I want in 2015.

My first step in doing this has been to re-create my schedule for the coming months.  Instead of letting time run me, I will be thoughtful about how to have the time for what matters most. There are finite hours in each day and I am away from home for 9 of them. Having a schedule doesn't mean I am tied rigidly to what's on a piece of paper, but instead helps me keep in mind the things I've chosen as valuable. 

My second step is to have a physical reminder to check my jaw. I've set a chime on my phone to remind me at regular intervals to check in with myself and see if I'm awake and making choices or slipped back to "soldiering on." 

My third step is setting aside time every day for meditation, reflection and processing the events of the previous day. Making conscientious choices moment by moment is the goal, but I find that hard to achieve without time each day to reflect and course-correct.

Lastly, I will actively work to restore a support system. I had an aborted attempt at starting a new support relationship earlier this fall. I will go, hat-in-hand, to that person and ask for a do-over. If that can't or won't work, I will come up with a new plan. I am happiest in my life when I have someone present in my life to help me remember who I am and what I'm about when I temporarily forget.  

What about you? Is this a good time for a change of face?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Face of Fifty-Five

I'm 55. It sounds foreign to my ears; I still feel like I'm in my 30s. Fifty-five. Wow.

When I was in my thirties, I couldn't imagine why women colored their hair, bleached their teeth, and got face lifts. Honestly, I was pretty judgmental about it. I also held some pretty strong judgments about people who claimed to be on a diet but never seemed to get thinner. Let's just say I've been humbled. We get our lessons one way or another! I don't do those things, but I am very tempted to "stop the clock." And yet, for me at least, I think other people who look their age are lovely. Why cover up those hard-earned signs of survival.

At New Year's I set out to be the best me I could be. I resolved to love with passion and live with forgiveness. One of the people I decided to love a lot more was me. As a result, I have been conscious of not using my mirror to be critical of myself but to see deeply. I have surprised myself at my willingness to accept my 55 year old face. Here it is, unmade up for your inspection:

One of my friends recently suggested that if I colored my hair, people would not guess my true age.  Anyway, she was truly being complementary so I decided not to mix it up with her about self-acceptance, why I've chosen this route, etc. She was just being sweet so I took it in and let the rest float away.

Wrinkles. Well, the beginnings of them anyway, on the edges of my face and around my eyes. There are lots of deep ones on my neck and chest.

Gray hair, as it turns out, is a little translucent. My hair is a lot thinner now too.

I'm more than 2 years shampoo-free now and will never go back to all the chemicals on my hair. While my skin allergy is still in evidence, it is leagues better since giving up shampoo. It also really simplifies travel.

The next close up shows both the allergy and the spritely gray eyebrows.
 I've discovered my allergy is sugar-related, no matter what my dermatologist says. I've cut way back on refined carbs to try to affect a cure.

I first got glasses and bi-focals in my forties. "No-line" tri-focals are my secret to stress-free seeing now. I like myself better in glasses now. It brings my deepset eyes forward.

So this is it. The face of 55. My dear daughter took these pictures and I think looking so closely at middle-age gave her a bit of discomfort.

So she applied my make-up and took an "after" picture.

If I'm in middle age now, I guess I have another 5 decades of changes to record. Let's see if I stay brave!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Sound of Morning

When I was a youngster, I woke to the smell of coffee wafting through the house and when I went downstairs, I would hear the percolator doing it's work. This, to me, is the sound and smell of home. It is the sound and smell of love.

I am not sure how my children will one day describe the sound of "home," but I know our "morning songs" will be a part of it. I have shared previously about our "morning soundtrack." When I put the soundtrack together, I had no idea how much a part of our life it would become. Back then, in the hot summer, it was just fun.

Now 7 months into the school year, this playlist is a pivotal part of our life. When it's time for the kids to wake up, I make my latte, turn on the lights and start the music. Slowly, the kids emerge. Everyone has their favorite song and our list has grown from 15 to 27 pieces. Occasionally, one of the kids will say, "you need to add that song to our morning" and so on it grows. Tinker requested "I Can See Clearly Now" when I was jamming out to 70s tunes on a Throwback Thursday. The Blitz was humming "You've Got a Friend in Me" (Toy Story) and said, "put that on the list, Mommy!"

What I love about it is that it brings a smile to our faces. Our mornings seem to go smoother with the music. From time to time we all stop what we're doing to dance or sing to a song. Yes, it's as sappy and sickly sweet as it sounds. These songs stand for togetherness; they are a uniting force in our lives. It's not all roses. There a couple of songs on there that Pepper can't stand but tolerates. There was one Lionel Richie song that over time became so creepy to both Pepper and me that we had to take it off!

This morning, school was postponed for two hours so I didn't start the music. The Blitz sat across from me at the table bobbing his head around.

"Whatcha doing, Buddy?" I finally asked.

"I'm singing "You are my Sunshine" in my brain, Mommy! Can you turn it on please? Because you are my sunshine."

Heart: Melted. Soundtrack: On.

What is the soundtrack of your morning?

PS - If you care to know, here is our list today:

Good Morning (LP Version) Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor & Gene Kelly
Good Morning - (feat. TobyMac) Mandisa & tobyMac
First Day of My Life Bright Eyes
Good Morning Beautiful Steve Holy
Good Morning - The Kiboomers
Good Morning Good Morning The Beatles
Holy As a Day Is Spent - Carrie Newcomer
Good Morning (Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium) Aaron Zigman & Alexandre Desplat A
New Day Corey Smith
Let Your Light Shine - Joe McDermott
Brand New Day - Joshua Radin
Good Day Sunshine The Beatles
You Are the Sunshine of My Life - Stevie Wonder
You Are My Sunshine Gene Autry
New Day River Valley Church
Day By Day Anna Maria Perez de Taglé & Godspell Ensemble
Zip a Dee Doo Dah- Bing Crosby
Oh Sweet Lorraine - Jacob Colgan and Fred Staubaugh
A Beautiful Morning - The Rascals
I Can See Clearly Now - Jimmy Cliff
Sunshine - G Love
Morning Has Broken - Cat Stevens
Happy Together - The Turtles
Beautiful - Gordon Lightfoot
Bleecker Street - Simon and Garfunkel
You've Got a Friend in Me - Toy Story
La Vie En Rose - Cristin Milotti

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Resolution Reality Check

Today we are already more than 5 weeks into our new year. How are your resolutions coming along?

Every year about this time, I do a resolution reality check. What is working? What isn't? What is getting in my way?

I want to use the same excuse each year: I don't have enough time. It's not true, of course, it's an excuse. Our true priorities do show in the way we use our time. What is true is this:

There are 168 hours in each week. I spend a modest 52 of those hours asleep How I spend the remaining 116 hours demonstrates what matters most to me. If you were sitting beside me right now, you would know that putting away the Christmas decorations did not make the list!

For this year's reality check, I sat down a made a list of the things I do each week that matter the absolute most to me. My list would look a lot different than yours, but I included 1.5 hours a day for cooking the healthy meals we all love, 6 hours a week for exercise and 7 hours a week for spiritual growth and blog writing. I included 4 hours a week for hubby and and an hour a day for the 5 kids in heart-to-heart time.  Everything else that is necessary was then included, such as laundry, bathing kids, driving people places, paperwork, computer work and so on. Then I added in a modest amount of service; only the things I am already doing that matter the most to me. When I added up only the essential (to me) things, I realized why some of my efforts have not succeeded. These things that are essential to our happy-home-happy-hearts maintenance take 162 hours a week.

The fact that I have only 6 "discretionary" hours a week came as quite a shock to me; more so when I looked at the very modest amount of time I allotted to actual housework and driving the kids around, both huge time drains.  Don't misunderstand. I'm not whining about it. Quite the opposite: I'm relieved. I was calling myself "lazy" and "a slacker" because I was finding it so challenging to keep my resolutions. In reality, I was just up against the clock and hadn't acknowledged it!

There is no immediate solution for me. I am not willing to give up the modest amount of service I perform at church and school, nor am I going to stop doing laundry! Since I can't manufacture more time in the week, the true "solution" is this: I will be aware of the actual limit on my time and choose carefully how I spend that 6 hour gift each week. You can bet it won't be watching Downton Abbey, unless ironing or exercising are also happening.

Now this is me. It's fair to assume that people with fewer than 5 children at home might fare a bit better, time-wise. Yet you might be astonished at how heavily committed you actually are!  Try this exercise if you find you are lacking resolve around your resolutions. And don't forget to include time for fun, relaxtion and re-fueling in your "important" list - take time for those people and activities that are life-giving to you. Let me know how you fare!