Monday, September 10, 2012

a new path...

So. Earlier this year I started on a new path...and I've been learning meditation...and about Buddhism. Not that I'm going to *become* Buddhist, organized religion is really not my thing...but I find there are many principles to Buddhist teachings that really resonate with me.

This definition of meditation comes from the website of the center where I've been going for classes: "Meditation is a simple yet profound method to improve the quality of our lives and develop inner peace. Through following very simple, practical instructions we can learn to let go of the causes of our pain and dissatisfaction and to gain the inner peace and clarity we seek."  How can *that* be bad?!? 

I started out taking a half-day meditation "how to" workshop at a center in Manhattan...and immediately felt "yep. this is for me." Everything feels nonjudgmental and gentle. Some of the precepts, while I *get* them, are a little tough to *live.* Which is why I'm continuing to take classes, do workshops, and read anything that seems "meditation for dummies-ish." It's a path I think I would like to follow. Sort of. Ha.

The meditation part has become such a good part of my day. I know I'm not "doing it right" quite yet...getting one's mind to really be still and quiet is *such* a challenge...but just the act of the making the attempt, while sitting with my eyes closed, in stillness, really gives a little respite from the day, and leaves me feeling refreshed and better able to deal with whatever is going on around me. The "meditation" part will get better with time. Now I'm learning how to "set intentions," which I think will actually be easier than trying to just focus on the breath (basic meditation).

Tonight was the first class of a new session. The teacher discussed "our precious human life" and procrastination. All good stuff! I'll share more as I go, but remember, I'm just like a kindergardener at this stage. Still, I'm so pleased to be on the journey.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

last days of summer

it's so hard at this time of year to give up the dream of summer...relaxing in the warm sun, feet buried in the cool damp sand...the occasional dip in the ocean to cool one expects anything of you at the beach. it's just total relaxation and escape from real life. nothing else is quite like it.

these last days are a little bittersweet. the usual crowds are absent. everything's a little quieter and slower...only the die-hards still remain, refusing to let go. enjoying every last drop of summer.

i'm not ready to let go.

Friday, September 7, 2012

take a load off...

We all need a break from time to time. Even if you can't go away on a real vacation, there are still ways to step outside the normal box of your life for a little R&R.

My favorite "get-away" is the beach, even if it's just the local beach. Being in the beach air, listening to the crash of the surf, and bobbing and floating in the water are very relaxing to me, and really take me away from everything "real," even if just for a little while.

Some other cheap and easy "mini-vacations" are:

1. Go to a park you've never been to for a little picnic. Sit on the grass. Enjoy some shade. Go for a walk.
2. Turn off your cell phone and/or internet for the afternoon (or whole day if you can stand it!).
3. Soak in the tub w a book, some music and a nice drink. Stay there for a long time. I like to nap in the tub!
4. Pretend you're not home :-) Stay in your jammies all day, close the curtains, don't answer the phone or doorbell.
5. Take a day-trip by car. Find an interesting location within 100 mile radius of where you live...go and check out the main street, the parks, museums, have a little lunch or dinner...enjoy someone else's town for the day before returning to your own.
6. Meditate. This is something I'm just learning and starting to practice now, and even though I haven't really gotten it down yet, it still leaves me feeling like I've had a little "mind vacation."

Just getting outside your normal environment or shutting yourself off from the world, even for an hour or an afternoon or a day, can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to return to real life.

What do *you* do when you need a little break??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Happy Birthday to ME!!!


I *LOVE* my birthday. Always have, always will. From an early age and my parents throwing little backyard parties for friends and my teens and early-twenties when close friends and boyfriends would do things to make it my daughter having surprises ready and waiting for me when I got home from a sort of dry spell...daughter had left for college, I'd moved to a new location, didn't have a "significant other" type person, family all far there were a few "pity party" years...but...I have moved along...made new friends, have some lovely people in my life...a whole gaggle of children from one of the classrooms, herded in by their teachers, brought me a bunch of handmade birthday cards - LOVE them!  Too sweet. I'm feeling the love!

A *special friend* took me out for birthday dinner, which was an unexpected but so lovely surprise. Some nice Italian food and red wine over candlelight...a charming and attentive was just the right amount of made me feel special and my *special day* acknowledged.

I took a couple pictures during the day w my cell phone of gifts and cards from work...but realized after I got home last night that I had failed to get "the money shot," which would have been the tiramisu complete w birthday candle. At first I was disappointed, I rarely miss a shot like that, but then I thought...that really shows how good the company was, that my normal "where's the photo opp" mind didn't even *think* of picking up the phone for a picture!

Here's to another year....Happy Birthday to Me. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to Survive...uhm, ENJOY the First Day Back to Work

  • Wake up half-an-hour earlier than normal and take the dog for a morning walk. Tell yourself you'll do this every day because it's good for the both of you. You won't.
  • Wear something that makes you feel pretty.
  • Treat yourself to store-bought coffee and fancy pastry. It's a splurge but you deserve it. It's The First Day Back to Work.
  • Pretend it's The First Day of a New Job. And everything is new and fresh and untainted with past annoyances. Be on your Best Behavior with your "new" boss and colleagues. 
  • Get the h*ll out of the building at lunchtime. Those "new" people are annoying you already (jk, New People!). 
  • Take ten minutes to meditate. Just...close your eyes and focus on your breath...and try to let everything else slip away. If things sneak in (and they will!), "label" them - "planning," "fretting," "expecting the worst," etc. Be aware of what's interrupting *your* time...and then let it go.
  • Spend the afternoon getting excited and happy about The Really Really Good Thing that you've planned for yourself. Yay. 
  • Don't stay there a second longer than you have to. 
  • Hurry home to Really Really Good Thing. Enjoy IMMENSELY. 
  • Have actual dinner, not just ice cream (even with sprinkles, that's not *really* a real meal).
  • Be a little productive. Not too much. Don't want to burn yourself out the first day.
  • Go to bed early, noting before falling asleep, that you survived. Good for you!
(no pictures today, can you believe it?!?))

Monday, September 3, 2012

How to Enjoy the Last Day of Vacation

  • Turn off the alarm. Sleep til you wake up naturally.
  • Shuck your "plans." This is a day to make up as you go.
  • Talk to a best friend. Get a little people-fix.
  • Go out for your favorite doughnuts. Don't be disappointed when u get there and it's closed. Go somewhere else. When in doubt, try something new! 
  • Go to an outdoor cappuccino cafe so your dog can sit nowhere near you and pretend that everyone else is his *real* family. (ps - Caleb has a new favorite cafe!)
  • When thoughts like, "oh, I was supposed to do this thing over vacation" arise, smoosh them down. Way down. There will be time for them tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.
  • Go to a dog park and make new dog and people friends. Don't get upset when your dog rolls in the muddy dirt, cuz it makes him so happy. And it makes you happy to see him happy.
  • Walk around your neighborhood. Look around. Enjoy what there is to see. Take pictures of everything.
  • Don't think about tomorrow. At All.
  • Have a yummy sandwich outdoors. Garlic hummus and avocado. I die.
  • Stay off Facebook all most of the day.
  • Bob your head and drum your fingers on the steering wheel when the rap-blasting Escalade pulls up behind you at a red light. Appreciate the fact that you live in a place where anyone can listen to (or say or read or write or paint) whatever they want.
  • Pick up ice cream on your way home. You're going to need it.
  • Don't go home til late afternoon. Open all the windows. Let the curtains flutter. Be quiet. Read. Nap. Enjoy the solitude. 
  • Don't spend more than on hour TOPS on preparation for tomorrow or the week ahead. You've gone to work and sent your kids off to school a million times. Trust me, you could do it in your sleep. Tomorrow, you probably *will* be doing it in your sleep. This is "Last Day of Vacation," NOT "First Day of Living in the Real World."
  • Have ice cream for dinner. With sprinkles. You deserve it. It's The Last Day of Vacation.
  • Take a nice long warm soak in the tub.
  • Have something Really Really Good to look forward to tomorrow.
  • Turn the alarm back on.
  • Go to sleep early, thinking about above-mentioned Really Really Good Thing, and being grateful for how you much you enjoyed The Last Day of Vacation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

But it's not Fall YET!!!

I saw HALLOWEEN CANDY in the market earlier this week. All around me, blogs are sharing pictures of ways to "cozy up for fall." STOP! It's not fall yet!!! I'm not ready to give up. There WILL BE beach days ahead, still. September can be MAD hot. 

This summer has passed in a blur. I did a lot of fun things - bike rides out east, lots of beach, time spent with my daughter...but there are still things left on my Summer Bucket List - kayaking, uhm...other stuff I can't think of at the moment, but...there's stuff. 

This morning I was looking back through my summer's pictures, and some of the things seem like they happened SO long ago....and they weren't even a month ago. Time, man. It is passing by faster and faster. I'm glad I take pictures to sort of freeze time and help remember things I've done and moments I've had. 

These are some pictures from my summer - both "real" camera and cell phone, "photo shoots" and just casual snapshots. It's sort of a hodge-podge, but it's what my summer looked like.

Promise you won't give up on summer yet, either. PROMISE ME!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

i blog every day..... my mind. 

all through my day i have moments and I think "ooh, this is fun/scary/interesting/unusual/sweet, etc" and in my mind I "write" a blog. but. then life gets in the way. work, commute, friends, dog, reading, learning, etc. all stuff I *want* to do, don't get me wrong. but i want to do this, TOO. my hat is off to those who write's really a big commitment. i won't say I've failed. i just haven't succeeded yet.

the good news is i haven't gotten to the finish line yet. there's still at least one more chance to really dig in and give it a go.

so here i go.

didn't leave the property today. didn't put on a bra or brush my teeth. i was in sorta cleaning sorta organizing mode. put out a couple boxes of free stuff on the sidewalk. cleared out one bookcase. one bookcase. it's not a lot, but it's one bookcase more than none. so i feel good.

and tomorrow's another day.

Friday, June 29, 2012

winding down

vacation started today. at 4:01. pm. not a minute too soon.

i have ten days to do anything. to do everything.

but tonight - the first night - is about doing nothing. just letting myself wind down. quietly. peacefully.

the heat came today. steamy hazy heat. so when we got home the air conditioners went on. the fans. the blinds pulled low blocking the sun. the apartment was dark cool peaceful. the child burrowed into a nest on the sofa and went to sleep.

the only movement and light was in the kitchen. the window with no blind. the lowering evening sun coming through the leaves outside and doing shadow dances on the kitchen cabinets.

tonight is about quiet gentleness. tomorrow we'll start doing everything.

Friday, May 25, 2012

fear of failure.

I'm often accused of being a procrastinator. Like it's a bad thing! I feel like my "procrastination" stems from a desire for perfectionism. I don't want to start things willy-nilly. I want to plan and prepare, think, think again....think some more...make sure I have the best tools and most well-thought-out idea and I'm doing it at the right time in the best possible forum, BLAH BLAH BLAH. Sometimes The Thing never happens cuz I don't *have* the best tools or the idea hasn't been thought through well enough yet. 

Or, you know, I'm scared. Scared of screwing up, being wrong, looking foolish, failing.

Fear of failure. Powerful stuff. 

Procrastinator sounds better.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Part I

Saturday was one of those days where you give yourself permission to stay home and do nothing because the weather was supposed to be bad...and then the weather was beautiful! But I allowed very low expectations of myself and didn't even pretend that I was going to be productive in any way whatsoever. We all need those days once in a while. So I slept late, which always makes the kitties happy...had breakfast for lunch...played on Pinterest most of the afternoon, then late in the day, took the dog to the little beach along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn (which always makes *him* happy!). And had a chocolate milkshake for dinner.

The End.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

happy easter, bunnies.

I am not a religious person...but on Easter I am prompted to think of rebirths, new beginnings, peace and joy and love. 

I think I had my Easter yesterday. I spent a perfect day with my (almost 21 years old!) baby. We had lunch at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg - it was opening day and packed, but I had The Best Grilled Cheese EVER from The Milk Truck. I had the "all day breakfast" sandwich, which is aged wisconsin gruyere, fried egg and caramelized onions on Balthazar rye batard bread. So often I have something good somewhere and think I can duplicate it at home...and usually I'm correct - but this perfectly pressed sandwich? I would not attempt it at home. It was too perfect. And we each got a doughnut from Dough. Katie had Hibiscus, which was so pretty w a magenta glaze and dried? candied? hibiscus blossoms scattered on top. I had passion fruit with cocoa nibs (hee hee, nibs is such a funny word, I always need to say it a couple times. nibs nibs nibs. yes, I'm 12). The flavor was good, and they were large and yeasty, which I prefer to heart still lies with Dunwell Doughnuts. I am definitely a doughnut girl in a cupcake/muffin world.

We wandered around Artists & Fleas for a bit...I love the flea markets for handcrafted earrings...and was delighted when the somewhat eccentric vintage clothing seller right inside the front door told me I looked beautiful (I was looking at some bakelite bracelets and I think he thought I was checking myself out in the mirror behind them - but hey, I'll take any compliment I can get these days!). 

Then my search for the perfect-but-cheap bedroom dresser continued at Meeker Avenue Furniture. I won't say they're overpriced, but anything I saw I liked was priced higher than I want to spend. For the almost-two-years that I've lived in this apartment, I've felt I little transient, like I shouldn't really put down roots and settle in because I'll be leaving soon (i *love* my apartment, but the neighborhood leaves a lot to be desired)...but just recently I made the mental commitment to stay another year, so I'm feeling motivated to finally furnish it appropriately and finish UNPACKING!!! This is def one thing I miss about living on Long Island, Land of People Who Throw Out Perfectly Good Furniture. Most of my house was furnished with curb treasures. I never see anything good here.

After eating shopping walking, we headed to Brooklyn Botanic Garden to check out the cherry blossoms. It was such a beautiful day that the place was *packed* and you had to practically wait in line to get a photo under a tree! But we found a little daffodil meadow on a slope under some high shade...and I took some pictures of my beautiful daughter there. 

All in all, it was a wonderful girl was sweet and cooperative, I got to do all things I loved, the weather was ideal...and my car *didn't* get towed (we just lost it for a bit)!!!

I wish everyone a peaceful, loving Easter...with much thought to thankfulness, appreciation, and new beginnings.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

i used to be.

I used to be a horse person. That was like a lifetime ago. I think it started when I was young and shy and lived in a rural suburb in Delaware and right up the road from my house was a horse farm of some sort. In hindsight it was probably some sort of lay-up farm for old, retired, or injured horses, as I never saw any real activity going on there - no riding or lessons or training of any sort. I remember the horses had their names on signs on their large paddocks. I used to lean on Speedy's fence for hours and just watch him graze...his gentle dark eyes focusing my way occasionally to see if I might be holding out a carrot or strand of "better" grass. 

The horses were quiet and accepting of me, they didn't need me to talk or be funny or smart or popular. I could just stand by the fence quietly and eventually they would meander over to me for some petting or head scratching. I think that was the hook for me - the acceptance. The unconditional acceptance, expecting really nothing in return. 

Those days started a long phase of my life where all I thought of was horseshorseshorses. After YEARS of begging, my parents finally gave in, and so began the years of riding lessons and horse shows, then horse college, FINALLY a horse of my own, and then a 10-year career as a riding instructor. 

I loved teaching riding. I was, quite honestly, a better instructor than I was a rider. I had an eye for what was really going on in both a rider's and a horse's body and carriage. There's a lot more theory to riding than the average person realizes, and I could explain it well in a way my student's understood. 

But like any job in any industry, there are downsides and politics, etc...and when I was pregnant with my daughter I left teaching...and when we moved from our first house that had a little four-stall barn, I let the last of my horses go  :-( 

I miss the horses very much. They were such a part of my life and my heart for so long. But now...some of my nieces are riders...and yesterday I had the opportunity to watch one of them try out two horses at a good friend's barn. I felt very comfortable stepping back into the role of teacher, and I was *really* happy to get to shoot one of my favorite subjects while I was there.

I guess everyone "used to be" something that they aren't anymore. What did *you* used to be? 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

i'm declaring this "hug your loved ones" day

While we should all be doing this *every* day, as I mentioned recently in my Valentine's post, sometimes we are busy, annoyed, distracted, forgetful...and we don't always make the time or effort to let loved ones know that we *truly* care for and value them. Sometimes it takes a little shake to wake us up and remind us to appreciate what is most important in our lives. 

A dear friend got a shake yesterday, a big scare with an overall fortunate ending. But his scare reminded *me* and so I wanted to remind *you.* Make a point today of telling someone what they mean to you, giving someone a hug, expressing gratitude, showing appreciation...or just simply (which is really not that simple at all) saying "i love you." 

Picture by me of my kid and dog. My kid and I had a little tiff a week ago and haven't been speaking...I think I need to tell her I love her.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

down the rabbit hole

I've been pretty mopey lately. I admit it. Life has not gone in *any* direction I intended. I'm not sure when I was younger that I really gave that much thought to *what* I intended - I think I just thought life was...upper middle class in a nice neighborhood with big houses, no financial worries, and family and friends always around. I missed that day in school or that parental lecture that said "no, you fool - you have to WORK for that. you have to make SMART decisions and not do stupid things and strive to stay on a path towards what you want...otherwise you wind up in the ghetto and alone." Instead, I just sort of went along, blahdy-blah, and now here I am. Not Where I Would Like To Be. And feeling so far down the rabbit hole that I could not imagine *ever* getting out. 

But I've noticed an interesting phenomenon over the past 10 years - since I started having some minor, but *very* painful, medical issues. Each bout has lasted about 6 weeks and during that time, pain is pretty much all-consuming. Pain, do I have pain, can I get rid of pain, when will the pain come back, rating the pain, naming the levels of pain, can I make plans for the weekend or will I be in pain...for those 6 weeks it becomes All. About. The. Pain. (and just a side note, these issues are not like life-threatening or anything - just PAINFUL) 

The phenomenon is the "banging your head against the wall" rule. And that is feels so good when you stop. And I'm noticing now, as I'm just coming out of my third 6-week All-consuming Pain Phase in 10 years, that AFTERWARDS, it's like a great FOG has lifted - The Pain Fog - and I feel all newly energized and motivated and ready to go. Caveat - this "you go girl-ness" is in my HEAD. My body sometimes has a hard time keeping up. But at least my brain is churning with ideas about How to Get Out of the Rabbit Hole. Financially, mentally, emotionally, socially. 

So. I'm happy to be on The Other Side of the Pain once again. And I'm grateful that my brain is clicking back in and attempting to come up with A Goal and A Plan for getting out of this mess I have created for myself. I'll keep you posted. I'd love to hear your stories - have you ever felt so low you thought you might never get up again? Were you able to get to a better place?

Photo by me. I thought I deserved a little something, so I got these pink tulips at Trader Joe's today. I should have gotten chocolate, too. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

under the weather

I was back in my old neighborhood this morning to take Caleb to the vet, and afterwards I didn't feel up yet to making the long drive back to Brooklyn. So we spent some time down at the little Islip town beach.

The vet visit was inconclusive...they gave me some meds for him for an upset tummy...doing x-rays was cost-prohibitive at this point...and he seems a little better than he did when I first realized he was not right.

I've also been under the weather (such an odd expression! aren't we *always*, in fact "under" the weather??) lately. Nothing that serious, but *very* painful and depressing...and I have started to schedule my life around pain, not a good way to live. So I finally put my big girl panties on and went to see a doctor...and then another doctor...and while nothing they've given me so far has made a lick of difference (though it *has* COST several hundred dollars!), I do have a little procedure scheduled for Monday afternoon and HOPEFULLY that will take care of this. Because, in case you didn't know....PAIN SUCKS.

So, Monday while I'm white-knuckling through the procedure...I'll be pretending to be this seagull I saw today...just effortlessly floating "above" the weather....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a reminder....

Valentine's Day. I always hear people saying, "oh, Valentine's Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy by the greeting card companies (florists, candy manufacturers, etc) to sell product." Many people don't "believe" in the day.

I think Valentine's Day, like many holidays, is a a reminder. To remember something...or someone. A reminder to let those we love, like, care about, *know* that we love, like, care for them. Should we be doing that *every* day? Sure. Do we? Mmmm....maybe not as much as we could. Life gets in the way, we get busy, distracted, annoyed. So this is a day to say HEY! YOU! You love someone?? Let them know. Today. A small gift or gesture, a heartfelt letter or card, a shared some way, take a little time to make sure they KNOW you care about them, value them, appreciate them. Love them. 

It's not too late. If you haven't done it it NOW. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

when worlds collide

Sometimes I feel like I have two different lives. There's the "real" life - work, apartment, family, activities, things I do day-to-day out in the "real world." Then there's my "online" life - facebook and ebay and blogging and pinterest, twitter, etc. Some Most of the "real world" people just don't "get" the internet part of my life. They don't understand the time spent online, they can't appreciate the interactions and activities. And because they don't *understand* it, they often consider it a waste of time.

This makes me sad.

I feel the internet has added such a dimension to my life. I'm not *shy,* exactly, but let's say I'm "socially anxious." Is that actually a *thing*?? I don't know. But it's how I feel. A lot of my life has been sort of solitary - I've always had a handful of good friends, but never a lot of...people to just hang out with, if that makes sense. Even in my 8-year marriage, I spent a lot of time alone. THEN I was *really* lonely. And since the divorce, and especially now with my daughter away at college, and I've moved (geographically) away from friends and work...I'm once again leading a pretty solitary life. 

But I don't feel *lonely* (most of the time) because I have online friends and activities. And I feel online I can be The Real Me. Not the "in person" me who always feels sort of socially awkward and tongue-tied. Without the social anxiety present in the real world, I feel relaxed and like...the best part of me comes out. A more outgoing, witty, sociable me. *Me* unfiltered by "what if I say or do the wrong thing/what did she say/why am I always two steps behind/crap, why didn't i say THAT." I like this me much better.

And the great thing people coming to know me online, as this "better me," I've formed friendships in the real world! Part of it was like...being able to sort of...practice being comfortably social, while still behind the mask of the internet. Another part was other people, "real world" people, being able to see a different side of me than they'd known before...and liking that person, we became friendly in real life. Now, it doesn't *always* translate. There are some online friends I've met in person, that...let's just say we'll always be better online friends. And that's fine! They're my friends when I'm home alone. But other friendships *have* made the leap from online to real world, and that's great, too! 

This is a lot of confession here. Maybe too much? I dunno. Opening my mouth when I shouldn't is my special gift  :-)

BUT, this week something really exciting happened. My amazing talented cousin and her long-time friend started a charming blog. GAH! A FAMILY MEMBER who is actually embarking on an online life?! Aside for being thrilled for them on their new venture, I also feel so....pleased to have, in some small way, my two worlds intertwining. Maybe not yet, but eventually they will "get it." How you can develop relationships and friendships with people online, that are every bit as real and significant to you as your friendships with neighbors and coworkers and buddies in Real Life! Whee!

All that said, I would *love* to introduce you to their beautiful blog, Two Chums, which is all about what they know and do best - gracious living, hospitality, making people feeling welcomed in their homes, lives, and hearts. Please pay them a visit.

~ Bettye (ducking back behind the curtain)