To Say or Not to Say?

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This post was adapted from How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?, an article I wrote for a local women’s publication in recognition of February 1 as National Wear Red Day.  I have added some questions for you at the end.

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How many times, figuratively or in reality, have you held the hand of a girlfriend, sister or daughter whose heart was broken?  You knew it was coming; you told her long ago this relationship was not going to be good for her.  Now you put all that to the side to help her pick up the pieces and move on.

You do this without thinking when your loved one has an emotionally broken heart.  But do you care as much for the condition of her physical heart?  You would warn her without ceasing if you feared the man in her life was going to kill her.  Do you tell her that her relationship with cigarettes or unhealthy foods or her favorite chair may do the same?

Heart disease is more deadly to us than all forms of cancer combined.  It rips our mothers, sisters, daughters and dearest friends from our lives.  None of us escapes the pain of these losses unscathed.  But we can help stop it and the sooner we begin, the better.

Call your favorite girls together and have what could be the most important heart-to-heart talk ever.  Your agenda?  “Life’s Simple 7”.  Start with: eat better.  Feed your physical heart what it needs.  Knowing you are doing so will feed your emotional heart.  Get moving.  Make being active together what you do when you get together and do it often.  Stop smoking.  Yes, it’s hard, so help each other.  Fight this battle now while you are in control.  Don’t wait until you are in the back of an ambulance or in the cardiac care unit.

If you will make real progress on these first three, the next four will happen so much more easilyControl your cholesterol.  This means having your cholesterol checked by a medical provider, not leaving the office until you understand what the numbers mean and what else you need to do (or help your girlfriends do) to get those numbers where they need to be, and then doing those things.  Manage your blood pressure (BP).  If you are not already managing your BP, then your BP is managing you.  Consistently high blood pressure over time is deadly; it has more than earned its reputation as the silent killer.  Lose weight.  Understand the many benefits of maintaining a healthy body weight and learn what that range is for you.  If you are five feet eight inches tall, what would be a healthy weight range for you is not going to be the same as it is for your best friend who may be five feet, three inches tall.  And this is not about what your backside or thighs look like in a bathing suit, it’s about what the inside of your arteries look like and how much effort your heart has to make to pump blood.  Finally, reduce your blood sugar.  How many of your loved ones or friends have diabetes or pre-diabetes?  Being diagnosed as a diabetic automatically earns you the status of being a cardiac patient as well.  This is not the kind of “two for the price of one” deal you want to redeem.

February 1, 2013 is the 10th Annual National Wear Red Day, part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement.  February is also observed as American Heart Month.  Let these observances be a reminder of how important it is to care for your physical heart and the hearts of the girls and women you love.

How do you mend a broken heart?  By doing everything you can to keep that heart from breaking in the first place.

Now – my question to all of you reading this, female or male:  do you think we should say anything to our loved ones about their habits/behavior that puts their health in peril?  How much should we say?  Or should we mind our own business? 

Thanks for Calling Me Out

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Do you remember the last time you were “the new kid on the block”?  Maybe you started a new job, moved into a new neighborhood or joined a new club or organization.  Even as an adult, you experience that weird combination of feeling like everyone knows who you are because you are NEW, but feeling invisible (and lonely) at the same time.

Starting a blog and joining the blogging community is a little like this.  You create this presence in cyberspace and pour yourself into it, feeling very NEW and awkward at what you are doing; wondering if anyone knows you’re there or cares.

I’ve only been writing here for seven months.  A variety of readers have stopped by and some have been repeat visitors, which is so encouraging!  But I felt like the new girl at school being invited to join a group eating together in the lunchroom when I was recognized by a fellow blogger, Maddie Cochere, of Breezy Books.  Maddie nominated me for one of her blogging awards, The Versatile Blogger.

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I’ve learned a lot about blogging by reading her blog as well as some others.  One of the nicest things about the bloggers I’ve come across on WordPress is that they “call each other out”, but in a complimentary way.  They link to other bloggers, which encourages the reader to go check out that person as well.  They help each other, encourage each other and basically treat each other the way we should treat anyone who is new to our community.

So I want to thank Maddie for “calling me out” on her blog!   It made my day.  Now my job is to share 7 things about myself, so here they are:

I love to laugh and am the first to admit my sense of humor is a little “off”.

I like to sing.  My car is my studio.

I am an avid reader – four eyes would be so helpful!

I like to bake sweet things and then share them with others so I don’t eat them all myself.

I enjoy watching college basketball (which I am doing as I write this).

Those terrible commercials with the pets behind bars, unadopted, about to be put down, make me cry.

I love a who-done-it, action packed, murder mystery movie.

In addition, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers for this award.  I have to ask forgiveness on this one because I don’t have enough time to read 15 other bloggers!

I think that will be my goal for this year – work on getting to know 15 new people through their writing and making a point to “call them out” here – doing my part to help build the community.

Delightfully Discombobulating

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Last post I issued an invitation to Mother Nature and someone passed it along, because she visited us this week.  First, two days of cold, yukky rain and then last night – SNOW!

The weather forecasters were on overdrive, predicting when it would start, how much we’d get, possible power outages.  I think they must go to training classes with the same people who talk about the products for sale on QVC.  Who knew so much could be said about so little?!

Because we don’t get a lot of snow around here, we kind of lose our minds.  You have to avoid any place that resembles a grocery store.  We react to snow or ice predictions as if we were facing the Great Depression with money still in the local bank.  Several school systems let out early – though not the first flake had fallen.

No wonder someone shared this on Facebook last night.snow pic fb

It started after dark.  We were in our basement den where you can’t see anything through the windows at night.  I went upstairs for something, looked out the window and was pleasantly surprised to see a white yard.  (We have more than our share of false alarms for snow – I believe it when I see it.)  I turned on the outside lights at the deck and the snow was swirling around in the wind. snow on deck

I picked up my cell phone, took a couple of pictures and went back downstairs.  Without saying anything, I pulled the picture up and handed my husband the phone.  He looked at it a minute and then asked somewhat incredulously, “Is that our deck?”  He got up and turned on an outside light so he could see the snow falling.   There’s just something magical about it.  Then we had some snow thunder, followed by lightening.  The weather folks got it right!

This morning, it was the usual schedule for me.  As the sun began to rise over the lake, I had to take another picture.  This time of the morning is so quiet and calm.  As I drove to work, I soaked up the view as the sun rose and glazed the tree tops, the gray white snow beginning to glow with a combination of pink and orange.  This post began to write itself in my head.

snow next am

Best of all, it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  Coats came off and you could hear the drip, drip, drip of melting snow everywhere.  The dull overcast sky gave way to that beloved Carolina blue. snow blue sky 2

Tonight, the roads are mostly clear.  There will be some ice in the morning and I’ll trek through the grass to get the newspaper.  Our shaded driveway will be an icy slope until Sunday when the temperature will be back in the 50’s.

Then this will all be a memory.

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Either Mother Nature has totally forgotten about us OR she is toying with us, preparing to blow us out with winter weather.  It reached 72 degrees here today and that’s warm even by southern standards.  It is JANUARY for goodness’ sake!

However, there is no reason to waste a weekend in my preferred temperature range, so my wreath-making friend Robin and I took off for the the Farmer’s Market yesterday afternoon.  This is a wonderful regional market and in the summertime, it is packed with farmers and shoppers.  Yesterday, there were only 5 or 6 vendors there, but a steady group of shoppers.  I came home with some locally grown apples, some red sweet potatoes that look like fingerlings and 2 heads of cabbage collards.collards 2

If you don’t prep and cook fresh collards, you need to know it’s a commitment!  I only buy them when I’m willing to give up the couple of hours it takes to clean them, cut them and then get them in the pot for about an hour.  That’s what I did this afternoon and we had them for dinner tonight with grilled steak.  YUM!

If you want to give them a try, I have 2 favorite recipes you could consider.  The quicker to prepare one is from Emeril ; the other is from the Neely’s (Food Network).

Emeril’s recipe (like how I refer to him as if we’re great friends?) calls for them to be cooked about 15 minutes or so, but I usually leave them on for 45 minutes.  That gives me time to have a glass of wine before dinner’s ready.  I also use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

If you need to know you’ll have lots of flavor besides the taste of the greens, try the Neely’s recipe – Boozy Braised Greens.  And if you just don’t like them, drink the bourbon and go out!

If you have a favorite greens recipe, share it.  I like to try new ones and my husband will eat anything.

Please send Mother Nature our way if she’s tormenting your section of the world right now.  Last winter’s mild weather turned into a “hot as the hinges of hell summer,” with sauna-like humidity and way too many snakes.  We need some cold weather and at least one snowfall would be lovely.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Living Vicariously

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Mt. EverestStraddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet.

Today’s Post a Day Challenge – start a post with the first line of your favorite book – is a perfect example of me living vicariously.  Isn’t that one of the qualities of a really good book?  Family and friends know that I am not a cold weather person and have never been to China, Nepal or Tibet.  What they may not know is this is the first line of one of my favorite books:  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.   It is an account of a multi-team climb on Mt. Everest that included a crew filming for an IMAX production.  I  knew the ill-fated outcome of the climb before I read the first word.  That made no difference.  I was captivated from the start and could hardly tear the book from my hands when the plane landed.  I’m sure I was up reading into the wee hours of the morning.

The first time I read the book, I was flying to Chicago to spend a couple of days with my college roommate.  As the pilot announced the cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, I remember looking out the window and imagining I could see the crest of Mt. Everest, about 1000 feet down.  I had one of those hair-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck shivers.

When the IMAX production came to Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC, my husband and I went to see it.  What I had read in the book collided with the incredible footage on the screen.  Awe and agony; I knew what was coming but couldn’t force myself to look away.

I have no desire to climb Mt. Everest, but I was fascinated with the process one goes through to prepare for and climb it.  I read and re-read the sections on what happens internally when our bodies are in that kind of altitude and under that type of stress.  I felt the anxiety of the family members waiting at home.  I felt anger with the stupidity/narcissism of some climbers that endangered the lives of others.  I felt like I was there.

It was a great book and definitely worth a look if you haven’t read it.

Resolved

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Last month it seemed as if every press release, article and Facebook post I wrote in my work as a health educator had to do with making New Year’s resolutions.  We love a new start in life, don’t we?  And we like making that new start at the beginning of some unit of time – the beginning of the week, the month or the year.

As I began 2012, I promised myself (swore to myself) that I was going to change my work life.  I spent more time than any sane person should just contemplating what I wanted in a typical day.  Then I spent more time thinking about and listing what I really enjoyed doing in my current profession, what I could possibly carry over into my new life that could earn money and new skills I’d be willing to learn to make money.  I do want to continue eating, among other things, in this new life.

The upshot of all that reflection was the understanding that I don’t want a typical day.  Now, I am a firm believer in the value of routine, especially when another area of life is in total chaos.  But for awhile at least, I’d like each day to be very different.  Some days starting with a workout, others with work responsibilities, still others with several cups of coffee, conversation with a good friend or the newspaper.

Writing this blog was step one in my makeover.  Step two was coming up with some other possible ways to make money (that are not illegal or immoral, even though that could be really fun).  A friend and I have some ideas we are working on now and the possibility of success is looking good!  Another friend/former colleague and I are talking about some things we can do together as well.  Two totally different options that will get me closer to the “no typical day” work life I want.  And I fully intend to try to do both, since I will be in control of my time.

Next up is doing the paperwork to take advantage of an early retirement package.  This offer (may also be read as:  push to get more of us to leave) is only good until June of this year.  My husband and I have crunched the numbers for months, refinanced our home and done a few other things to make it possible for me to make this change.  I will be signing the papers next week.  I’ve been alternating between thrilled and terrified, but the needle on the emotional gauge is slowly and surely leaning toward thrilled.

So, while my resolution from last year has not been completed, I’m well on my way and for the first time in a long time, I am EXCITED about my professional future.  My inspiration, when this process seemed to be crawling backward and progress was nowhere to be seen, came from a little collection of 365 daily sayings that sits on my kitchen table.  Several years ago I was in a car wreck.  It’s a good story on its own.  Some (insert your own descriptive term or use mine) knucklehead made an appointment to test drive a used car, got in the car with the owner, then forced the owner out and took off in his newly stolen vehicle.  While making haste on one of our city streets, he decided to go through a red light at the same time I was going through the green light.  The result:  two demolished vehicles, me to the hospital and he to jail.  Fortunately my injuries were not major and my family and friends showered me with love.  One of my sisters sent this inspirational calendar and I read the day’s quote/saying aloud at dinner almost every night.  I call it “today’s word.”  calendar

The entry for January 1 is in the picture.  It reads:  “People will be more impressed by what you finish than by what you start.”  It’s a great way to remind myself that while the starting point of any new venture may be exciting, it’s the finish that really matters.

My wish for you?  That no matter how many times you start or restart an effort this year, you will find yourself at the end of this year having finished it.

 

 

Simple and Beautiful

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There are many great things about the Christmas holiday (food is a big one), but I think my favorite is the use of lights to decorate.  Take a rough little home in an otherwise unattractive area…add white or colored lights…and suddenly there’s something of beauty to behold.  Of course, some folks go over the top and then some this time of year.  While I wonder how they pay the electric bill, I do love their enthusiasm!

There’s a neighborhood in a city close by that has become well known for its Christmas balls.  There’s not much to see during the day, but at night – it’s magical!  cmas balls 4

Imagine brightly colored bubbles, suspended and stationary in the air around you.  They float anywhere from five feet off the ground to about 30 feet in the air.  You can see them from the main road before you move into the neighborhood.  Make that first turn and it’s as if you have entered another world.

It’s become such a popular Christmas activity that the neighbors set up two locations for anyone driving through to leave canned food items for the local food pantry.  This year, one of the homeowners organized a Christmas Ball Run.  Several hundred people entered and ran through the area with the proceeds going to that same local food pantry.  Now that’s a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday and provide help to people in need.

You can make your own Christmas balls without too much trouble.  You need gloves, some chicken wire, strings of lights and extension cords.  Cut the chicken wire into rectangles.  Roll it into a cylinder and fasten the seam together.  Then fold in the ends to make it more of a circle.  You may need to “massage” it a bit to get the rounded shape you want.  Then wrap your string of lights all over the ball, leaving the plug end hanging a little.  Plug that end into your extension cord.  Then, using a ladder or an extension pole, put the ball up in the tree as high as you can.  cmas balls day 1

The more you put up, the prettier the scene will be in the dark.  cmas balls 3

What is your favorite part of the holiday?  Do you make or do something special?

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas.  Thanks for reading The Sunny Side!  I hope you’ll stick with me into 2013.

Your Hiding Place

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I have wrestled with words this week after last Friday’s horrible shooting.  I’ve had no desire to write anything simply because my thoughts have been with the families of the Newtown community.  Tuesday night I was a volunteer at a local Christmas concert.  After working the “will call” ticket table, I was seated immediately before the music began.  Walking down the aisle right behind me were a young father and his daughter who were seated next to me.  The little girl was probably 5 years old and adorable in her pink outfit and pink shoes.  She had long hair and a very sweet smile.  I really just wanted to put her in my lap and wrap my arms around her.  In that moment, she was the embodiment of all that is precious about children and life.

I take the same route to work almost every day .  My favorite stretch of road is about two miles long with plenty of things on both sides of the road for me to observe.  There are two farms and I enjoy watching the fields change as they are worked each season.  What I have pronounced as “the most perfect tree” is on this route as well.  Right now all the leaves are gone and I’m waiting for it to be covered in ice on a sunny winter day.  The whole tree will sparkle like a crystal statue.  My favorite sight, however, is the little wooden chapel.

Roadside Chapel

Roadside Chapel

This roadside log and cement sanctuary is less than two car lengths off the road, so you need to pull up at an angle.  The door with its “Welcome Home” sign is usually left open when no one is there.  It’s rough on the inside.  The walls and floor are unfinished.  There is a small table against the wall immediately to your left as you enter.   Directly in front of the doorway against the back wall is a plain altar with a picture of Jesus hanging above it.  In the middle open area, there are a couple of short benches.  In the back right corner is a broom.  There is no electricity, but some hooks have been added in the ceiling for anyone who wants to bring and hang a lantern.

Above the small table is a typed history of sorts.  It’s been framed and is still readable.  That’s where you discover that the chapel was placed in this spot by Kathryn Smithey who has since passed away.  There’s a simple composition notebook and pencils on the table for comments along with a Bible.

Over the years, I’ve seen groups of four to five teenagers gathered inside; they looked as if they were having a Bible study.  One morning a guy had parked his motorcycle in front and was leaning on it while he played a guitar.  On another afternoon, an earnest looking young man had set up four short rows of chairs outside to the left of the chapel and was standing behind a simple podium.  He was facing the road and waiting for someone, anyone, to stop and listen to his message.

Most often I will see a car parked in front and the door will be closed.  I imagine a person with a need has stopped in for a few moments of prayer or solace or simply to be alone in the quiet.

We all have those times.  When it’s your turn, where is your hiding place?

Bits and Pieces

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I was reading the paper yesterday morning and decided to glance at something called the “Legislative Roundup” – a look at some of the votes of our local congressional representatives.  One entry was titled “Amending language in federal law.”  I’m afraid to think about how much time might have been spent on this item.  According to the report, the House cleared a bill from the Senate that would remove the word “lunatic” from the U.S. Code.  Who knew that word was a part of the Code?  Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas was the only person who voted against removal.  His argument was that the word should be retained since his fellow members of Congress were living, breathing examples of it.

On the way home last night, I was listening to a news broadcast on the radio.  The Pope launched his personal twitter account yesterday and sent out seven tweets.  Hmmm…I immediately began to think about a name for this social media effort.  Papal Peeps?

Sandwiched between these bits of news, I found something in an online Scientific American article that adds a little science to The Sunny Side philosophy!  Dacher Keltner, Director of Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, was discussing his new book, Born to be Good:  The Science of a Meaningful Life.  Based on his research of the human body and emotions, he notes that “meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.”  He goes on to highlight that “talking about areas of gratitude…boosts happiness and social well-being and health.”

I found this article on a site I had never heard of, but can totally support:  Random Acts of Kindness.

If you needed a reason to look on the sunny side of life, you can be reassured that it is in the best interest of your health to think compassionately, be empathetic, and verbalize gratitude.  Here’s to a kind and grateful end to your week!

 

Cut First; Apologize if Needed

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Two of the best days of the year are the first Saturday in December – wreath making day- and the day before – greenery cutting day.

For the past twenty years, my dear friend and I have jumped in a car with an assortment of clippers and bags and headed out of town to the woods.  Since neither of us owns any woods, we borrow other people’s woods.  Vacant lots, abandoned homesteads, old graveyards not “attached” to a church; we spend the year looking for the best spots possible.  We cut first, prepared to apologize to an owner if needed.  And we have had to apologize a couple of times.  At least we haven’t been shot for trespassing, yet.

For the past few years, we’ve hit the jackpot in a 150 acre spot close to my house that’s up for sale.  Road cut thru 1

Pine and overgrown English boxwood are right there for the cutting.  This year we also stopped by a local business that has closed, leaving some very nice cedar and juniper in need of one of our trims.

We cut greenery, pick up pine cones and discuss all the important issues of the day (which could be as deep as what we will eat the next day at lunch).  We jam the car with filled bags until it looks like the Grinch’s sled leaving Whoville.  I love to breathe in the fragrance of cedar and pine as we head back to her house.  Then everything is unloaded and laid out in an unorganized fashion on her patio awaiting Saturday.  Prep on the patio 1

When I arrive the next morning, I unload boxes and bags of “stuff” – forms, wire, clippers and all kinds of things to add to the greenery.  My supply goes next to her supply in the family room. There are natural additions, like dried hydrangea.  Last year I had dried okra pods and cotton I had picked on the way home from the beach.  There are also fake additions, sparkly and colorful items that add a little glitz.  We have a tendency to go over the top.  Maybe that’s a southern thing, like big hair.

Fresh coffee is poured and the creativity begins to flow.  We have two requirements:  share advice and materials freely and praise all efforts.  We are very big on admiring our own work.

My friend is a Pinterest addict, so we now have her Ipad close at hand, in case we need inspiration.  This year, the wreath I made for my office was a “use what I had on hand” version of something she found and emailed to me.  office wreath

Hours later, as the sun begins to go down, we clean up the incredible mess we’ve made.  No matter how hard we try to clean as we go, that approach is usually abandoned early on.  We talk about our fabulous creative skills and praise ourselves for another successful start to the Christmas season.  We split up what’s left to be used in the coming days.

I carry those same bags and boxes back to my car.  Then I carefully load my completed projects and head for home.

The first thing I do when I get there is hang the wreath on the front door.  wreath w bronze and silver

My husband knows to give his full attention to this process and then GUSH about great it looks.  (This is what 20 years of training has accomplished.)  Then he suggests we go out to eat or at least get take out because he knows I am way too tired to cook.

What a great two days!  I can’t imagine starting the holiday season any other way.

What do you do to jump start your holidays and with whom do you do it?