Saturday, September 19, 2015

On a Four-Heart Day Off

As I was sitting down on my lunch-break earlier today with my oatmeal, Honeycrisp apple, almonds, prunes, cinnamon- almond butter, and walnuts--apple slices spread with cinnamon-almond butter then dipped into crushed walnuts is my latest addition to my lunches:  They're like a taste of healthy apple pie, so good--a bit of almond butter on my napkin appeared in the shape of a heart.  Maybe it is silly how much these found hearts delight me, but how could I not be charmed!  "There are only two ways to live your life," Einstein reminds us.  "One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."  Indeed.  Each heart finds me saying, "Ah!  Hello, God!" and in this case:  "Thank You for the moment, thank You for this food, thank You that I have a job at all, thank You that it's a job that offers work I love and health insurance and good people, and thank You that I'm off the next few days."  It was a draining work-week, and the tiny almond butter heart reminded me to take a deep breath and regroup. 
As I finally reached my apartment building after work:  A heart on the front stoop's cement. 
Another heart, this one a bit of paper resting on the stairs' carpet, seconds later as I climbed the three flights up to my door. 
And then, in my kitchen, a heart-shaped raspberry.    And so began my desperately-needed stretch of days off today.  Truly, how could I not be (grateful and) charmed?!  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within: Strength, courage, dignity. ~ Ruby Lee

We are now two weeks into the start of my favorite four months of the year.  Glorious fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas preparations:  Love!  And today I am looking even farther ahead to May 2017, when--as I mentioned awhile back--the city's annual marathon will be held on my fortieth birthday.  I contacted the marathon officials this weekend to confirm the date, and yes, as I'd expected, 2017's race is slated for May 7th. What better way to mark such a milestone birthday!   Being able to finish the race would be a fine way to celebrate the good health I'm blessed to have and the dedication I'm hoping to have found in myself by then.  I haven't run at all since fall 2011, I think, and I've gained/lost some of/regained/gained even more/lost a good bit of the weight I put on during grad school, so it will be quite a challenge, but I haven't been able to shake the idea since it first occurred to me last year.   

For now, the plan remains to lose the rest of the weight needed to get back to where I was at my healthiest a few years ago--this morning's weigh-in shows I've now lost twenty-two pounds since rededicating myself to this earlier this summer, so I'm on track on that front--then slowly ease myself back into running, and eventually, really train to be able to handle so many miles.  It is still a vague plan, but seeing as how I'm only in the get-back-into-running-shape stage, I think vague is just fine at this point.  My aunt Jodie, Mom's youngest sister, started running in her thirties and is is now an avid marathoner at forty-six.  Obviously, people accomplish these things--and why shouldn't I be one of those people.  :)  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Spotted on the Sidewalk

One of my favorite found hearts, this whatever-it-is-or-used-to-be was spotted smeared into the wet sidewalk while I waited for a bus yesterday.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

View from the Bubbles

The view from the bathtub was too pretty not to capture this morning.  I've been having trouble sleeping lately so have been lounging daily in hot tubfuls of "relaxing lavender"-scented bubbles in the hopes that they will help me at least settle down for a nap.  I've really never liked the scent of lavender, though, and I'm still awake two hours post-bath, but it was worth a shot, and at least I've gotten to enjoy the combination of bubbles and sunshine in my newly-painted bathroom for the first time this past week.  Love, love, love this color. But back to vanilla bubbles for me, and now back to bed to try again for sleep too.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Taste of Summer 2015

This deli-bought penne salad with grape tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella balls has been one of this summer's small pleasures.  I have tried to replicate the taste by looking at the ingredients list on the deli label and at various recipes online, but the store-bought version still beats them all.  So far.  It seems like keeping it simple would be the way to go here, but the dressing and cheese mixture are evidently more complex.  Waistline-wise, it is probably for the best that I'm as yet unable to make up a big batch of this here at home.  This portion was my supper tonight, with a chickpea salad on the side, and my ever-present iced tea with lemon.  Ah!  So good! 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Paintbrush-Extender for the Short Ones

I finally finished painting the bathroom this week.  I kept waiting for cool days that didn't come, so on a day with temperatures in the low nineties, I got out my supplies--and invented this one for the impossible-for-me-to-reach corners--and got it done.  Now, to move everything back into the room and hang the new curtain and shower curtain.  And to finish painting the half-painted bedroom, since I started both rooms the same (July!?) week and am eager to be done with these kinds of projects for awhile.  But what a color!  This is a real improvement, bold and fresh-feeling. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Jolene, Jolene

The last time my mom and I went out to eat while I was home, the restaurant's hostess turned out to be a woman who had graduated a year or so ahead of me in high school.  She recognized my face right away, and I thought "It has to be her!" as soon as I saw my her name badge--she's the only Jolene I've ever known--and we caught up as we headed toward a booth.  After I'd paid the bill awhile later, I waited until Jolene had a free moment and told her something I'd been wanting to tell her since the ninth grade.  

For weeks of what was my freshman year, I and however-many other students rehearsed after classes and on weekends for the school musical tryouts, learning song lyrics and dance steps for Bye Bye Birdie.  I'd been singing in chorus for the past few years, but picking up choreography was new to me.  After hours and hours spent practicing in the school gym and cafeteria surrounded by so many other students, though, I felt as ready as I could be when Audition Day rolled around.  Up on stage, the school musical directors grouped the first group of students into maybe four rows before taking their seats in the auditorium.  I was in the back row as we began, and it all felt just like it had in rehearsals:  People dancing to either side of me and in front of me.  After the students in the front row were judged, they would be dismissed, and the next row's dancers would move up for their official audition.  My row was finally front-and-center, and as soon as the music began and I found myself looking at the judges and the high school auditorium seats for the first time, as opposed to the dancing students I was used to, I realized I didn't know the choreography at all:  I had just had been keeping up with everyone around me before.  I stood frozen as students on either side of me continued to dance, and my choir director called out, "Val!  Just find your place and keep going!  It's okay!" I  nodded and apologized and actually laughed, still thinking that surely, the steps would come back to me, but no, they never did.  I really didn't know the number at all and remained frozen in the otherwise-dancing front row throughout it.  I remember wondering if it would be any less embarrassing just to walk off the stage, but I decided to stay up there instead. 

After what seemed like an hour, the song ended, and my next memory is of standing in the girls' restroom cringing from the almost flesh-eating mortification one can likely only feel as a teenager.  Jolene was in there there too and asked me what was wrong, and although I barely even knew her--it was her brother with whom I would graduate; I only knew Jolene from the bus rides to and from school--I spilled out the whole humiliating story, telling her I felt so stupid, just so stupid.  This kind and wise-beyond-her-high-school-years girl snapped, "Val, don't you ever let yourself feel stupid!  You don't have anything to feel stupid about!  You tried to do something, and it didn't work, that's all.  It's okay!  A bunch of people probably wanted to be in the musical and were too scared even to sign up!  At least you tried!"  She was right, of course.  I still blush when I remember it--I was the only student who froze like that, after all--but my appreciation of Jolene's kindness and wisdom has always outweighed that embarrassment.  And finally, more than twenty years later, I got to tell her how much that has meant to me all this time.  She thanked me for telling her--and admitted that she didn't remember the story at all--then made me and Mom laugh when she gloated, "It's so funny because I tell my kids all the time that it doesn't matter if you win or lose as long as you do your best--And now I can go home today and tell them someone said I was right!"  Dear Jolene.  :)  

Working on Bye Bye Birdie would provide me with some of my happiest high school memories.  I ended up in the chorus as one of the singing-but-decidedly-not-dancing "townspeople," right where I belonged from the start.  The following school year, I knew from the get-go to sign up as a "villager" and not as a potential dancer for Brigadoon.  Both my choir director and Jolene were right when they said it was okay:  This is just how we learn sometimes.  Jolene's generosity that afternoon is one of the best of all my high school memories, and how sweet that I got to tell her. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Childhood Reading Mystery I Thought I'd Solved

One of my clearest and funniest memories from first grade--the 1983-1984 school year for me--is the morning I skipped into class with a book from home in my hands and bragged to my teacher that I'd read it all by myself the night before.  This teacher, Mrs. G, was so sweet and pretty and encouraging--I just loved her--and she oohed and ahhed over my accomplishment and asked me if I'd like to read my book to the class.  Oh, yes!  Pride overcame shyness that morning, I guess, because soon I was sitting in The Teacher Chair with my book with all my classmates fanned out around me as I began to read.  The book had a How-I-Spend-My-Day theme, and its final page showed the narrator settled into bed for the night.  My classmates looked awed by my reading skills--"Wow!  Val can read a whole book!  Just like the teacher!"--and I, who had decided as soon as starting kindergarten the fall before that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, was having a ball.  The last sentence of the book was something like, "As I fall asleep at night, I hear the owl" or "Outside my window sits an owl."  Since I hadn't read the book out loud before, I hadn't known until reaching the final word on the final page that I couldn't pronounce "owl."  I stumbled and stuttered and "oh-orrrr-ahhh-owwwwrrrruhhhlllllll"-ed as I tried to shape the letters into a word with my mouth, but no.  My teacher, looking puzzled, came over and gently whispered, "Owl.  Owl," but I still couldn't pronounce that word.  ("Horse" was another word that took me awhile, for whatever reason.)  My classmates didn't laugh and didn't seem any less impressed, and I remember nothing else about the experience except how baffled I was by what had just happened.  If I was already, at six years old, as hard on myself as I would be decades later, I likely focused more on the one missed word than the fact that I'd just gotten to "play Teacher" and read aloud to my entire class.  :)  In any case, I have been trying for ages to figure out what that book had been, and I thought I'd finally found it last week.  The book above looked so promising:  The koala bear character takes us through his/her day, and the final page even ends with an illustration of the bear in (a darling patchwork) bed.  Alas, though!  The story ends without a mention of the owl that tripped me up, and the search continues.  I know, we're all thinking, wouldn't it be funny if this IS the book and I'm just not remembering its final page accurately after all these years, but I really don't think so.  :)  Maybe one of these days, as I hunt down and research 80s trivia like this for the memoir, I'll solve the mystery--and send a copy to sweet Mrs. G, as well.