Thursday, November 29, 2018

Seasonal Thoughts and Thanksgivings

The seasons collide in the fall.
Halloween gives way to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving bumps up against Christmas.
I’m not done with you yet.
I need to hang on the last vestiges of 
fall and the Thanksgiving season
 before I am hurled into the rush and bustle 
of December and Christmas.
My son called early in October and asked us to come out and spend Thanksgiving with them in Utah. I took him up on the offer.  They have a new home we had not yet seen, so we were excited to spend the inaugural Thanksgiving with them making new memories in their new home.  
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jim and I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah, and my son Ryan picked us up at the airport.  We ran around town with him while he did Thanksgiving preparation errands, and he gave us a grand tour of his new neighborhood.  I so seldom get to spend alone time with my son, that I couldn’t help but comment how wonderful it was just to be driving around town with him while we chatted.  He always makes the best of times even better.

Fall is the perfect season to capture the beauty of my son and daughter-in-law’s new home.  A branch adorned with golden leaves formed a perfect frame for this classic craftsman style home. 

I love the neighborhood where my son and his wife now live.  On a small porch at the corner house down the street from them, two college age guys dressed in wool coats and wool caps were sitting in lawn chairs listening to classical music and smoking cigars as they played chess.  I said to my son, “I love where you live.  It seems so civilized.”

Jim and Ryan led the way as we walked past houses still adorned with fall decor and headed to our home away from home to spend a quiet evening together.  

Our airbnb, which was just a block and a half from my son’s home, was so nice.  We really enjoyed the experience of staying in this home and in this neighborhood.  I kept telling my husband I was ready to move.  I loved the area around Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City.  

This was just one of the cool houses between our house (home away from home) and son Ryan’s.  

The next morning Jim and I walked back to Ryan and Sheridan's house and the four of us and Sheridan’s two boys headed out for the mile and a half walk to get breakfast at the best bakery ever.  I had their steel cut oats with fruit.  Seldom does one rave about steel cut oats, but I raved about theirs.  Oh, and I had part of an orange cinnamon roll too.  I wasn’t going to pass that up.  I fear we would visit this place on  daily walks if we lived nearby.

There are shops all around the bakery.  Across the street is a wonderful bookstore called The King’s English.  We visited it on the day after Thanksgiving.  All of this makes the neighborhood a desired location for living a life where shopping, and restaurants, and grocery stores are just a short walk or bike ride away.
The door to our apartment...

leaves on the ground, they all became subjects for me to photograph.  On this beautiful fall day, I so loved the experience of walking around taking in the sights found in a neighborhood filled with architectural delights.  It was just what my soul needed.  
At home, fall had left us during a blistery and wet storm weeks before Thanksgiving.  I had not been able to revel in the glory of fall and give her a proper farewell at home, so these last days of November in Utah were a special blessing to me.

Thanksgiving Eve, Jim and I walked over to my son’s house to participate in food preparation (ok, I watched while they worked) and to await the arrival of Amy and Jewett whom were driving from Colorado, and the arrival of grandson Bridger whom was coming down from Logan, Utah, where he attends Utah State.  

The beauty of the day continued.  I wish I could have captured the full effect of the moon at dusk, but this photo does give you an idea of how beautiful the evening was as we headed into my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving.
We were worried about the travelers as a huge wreck had closed down the highway, but daughter and her love arrived safe and sound at a much later time than anticipated.  Thank heavens for cell phones and Google maps.  Bridger also arrived safe and sound from his drive down from Logan.  I was struck by how thrilled we were when Bridger arrived.  Does everyone always shout with joy when he enters a room?  I think so.  He is such a special kid.
The bounty for the planned feast was plentiful. I was struck by the beauty of the preparation of the meal itself.  Part of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of what is about to transpire as family comes together.  There is so much work in preparing the feast for a family the size of ours.  I so appreciate all that Ryan and Sheridan did to make the occasion perfect.  Thank you, Ryan and Sheridan!

While my family is large, the gathering itself was a bit smaller this year.  Ryan’s two older children, Regan and Parker, are living and working in Montana where they will be attending college, so they did not come home for Thanksgiving.  Amy and Jewett came from Colorado, but Amy’s two children stayed home with their father and had Thanksgiving with their other grandmother, and Samantha and Jonathan and their two children had been in Paris, France, the week before Thanksgiving and they were flying home to Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  As with most large families, we are scattered all over.  That is why being together whenever possible is so special.
Thanksgiving morning, the house had been transformed in order to accommodate the expected guests.  (Don’t you love Ryan and Sheridan’s home???)

The guests arrived, photos were taken,and soon we were ready to eat the scrumptious meal provided by our hosts.  Really, they out did themselves.  Everything was perfect!
Photos were taken,

Daughter Keicha with her daughter Gillian

Amy & Jewett

My girls on either side of me
Keicha, Sally, Amy

the turkey was taken from the oven and carved,

the lentil loaf prepared for and by Sheridan for the vegetarians in the group was also taken from the oven,

the food was placed on the beautiful tables, 

Holidays bring with them memories both happy and sad.  Often, we are reminded of those no longer with us.  Sheridan was my daughter Julie's dear friend, and it was at Julie's memorial service where my son Ryan met our lovely Sheridan.  Blessings come from loss.  I'm so grateful for the family that was created because of a lasting and long friendship between Julie and Sheridan.  Julie's ashes are on the mantle and the empty chair reminds us of the one we miss and wish were with us to share in this joyous day.  

The empty chair reminds me that Julie would not be in it even if she were with us.  She had way too much energy for that.  She would be cooking and cleaning and arranging, and laughing, and joking, and loving on her nieces and nephews.  I miss her arm on my shoulder as she would have stood beside me in a photo of me and my daughters, but her spirit is with us.  I rejoice that we as a family remain strong and together and so appreciative of fall days at the end of November when we gather together to give thanks for all of our many blessings.  
There was more!  
In the evening we followed the tradition started long ago by Sheridan's wonderful dad by playing a spirited and competitive game of bingo.  The prizes were both great and not so great.  That is part of the fun.  Bingo and Thanksgiving pie now go together in my mind. 

 I love this tradition of more guests arriving in the evening with pies and gifts.  Sheridan's sister and her family and her mom and dad and another couple whom are good friends came to the house to play bingo after their own Thanksgiving dinners.  There was barely room to move around.  Jim was schooled on how to be the Bingo game caller, and we ended the day by playing Bingo which led to much fun and a lot of laughter.  

The memories of Thanksgiving 2018 are stored away in that place were all that is wonderful about this holiday live.  I am so very blessed with such a dear and wonderful family.  My children are so supportive of me and of each other.  I do not take that gift of family unity lightly.  Our bonds are strong and our devotion to each other is firm.  That is one hope I have always had for myself and and my children:  that we would celebrate and embrace the uniqueness that each of us bring to our family bond and they would seek to always build and affirm that bond and devotion to each other.  I'm so very grateful that again I witnessed and partook in the fellowship of a family devoted to each other.    My heart is full.
Perhaps, Thanksgiving comes at the perfect time of year because just as fall leaves us, we are given the chance to embrace her beauty one last time as we gather to spend a day giving thanks while eating delicious food with those we love best.  

Thanksgiving 2018, I needed you to be just as you were.  Now, I can let November days give way to the hustle and bustle that comes in December.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Do You Need A Body Reset?

Imagine getting the following text from one of your friends:

How do you reset your body back to its original factory settings?

Is it kale?

It’s kale isn’t it?

Please don’t say it is kale.

As you read the text, you can almost feel the writer’s desperation.  She wants four things:
1.   She wants to reset her body.
2.   She does not want to eat kale.
3.   She doesn’t want to eat (or do) what she doesn’t like.
4.   She wants a simple fix that involves just one ingredient.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  I know I have.  Tell me I’m not alone.  There have been times in my life when I desperately needed something that would reset my body so that I could feel like my body was being sent in for an overhaul. 

At those times, if kale were the answer to “reset my body back to its factory settings,” I’d eat kale for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Or would I? I might for a few days; then, I’d become bored with eating all that kale and probably be on to next magic bullet. 

In truth, there have been times in my life, when I could have written such a text because my body was so out of balance that my mind and spirit followed the same downward spiral to the point where I probably would have tried any crazy fix just to feel better.

For instance, in February of this year, my husband and I traveled to Sedona, Arizona, to celebrate my birthday.  As we left home, I knew I should probably cancel the trip because of the pain I was experiencing in my gastrointestinal tract that came on with a vengeance seemingly out of nowhere.  This was not a new phenomenon for me, as I suffer from chronic IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  When the symptoms hit last February, I decided to ignore them as I was determined to make the long planned trip. So off we went from our home in Colorado and headed south to New Mexico.  We planned to spend our first night in Albuquerque, New Mexico which was the halfway point to our destination.  

When in New Mexico, what does one eat?  One eats spicy Mexican food of course.  That was not a good plan for me, but I threw caution to the wind and ate yummy, fatty, and very spicy food.  As I ate, I tried to convince myself that it really would not matter what I ate.   (I was wrong about that!)

The next day was my birthday.  We arrived at our destination and found a nice restaurant for dinner.  My birthday was duly celebrated with some rich entrĂ©e, wine, and a decadent dessert. Just what I needed to make my poor tummy all the more upset.  It was my birthday, and the stubborn self was going to celebrate it in style.  

Do you ever do that?  Or better yet, the question should be asked, WHO does that?

The next day, we visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. 

 I was in terrible shape.  Pain from a full-blown IBS attack and exhaustion from the pain were making me miserable, but I kept on going.  

As we visited the rim of the Grand Canyon, we visited a visitor’s center to learn more about this marvel of nature.   The explanation of how that vast canyon was created rang true to me as I felt that I too was on the verge of collapse.

The layered rocks of the Grand Canyon include hard resistant layers and soft crumbly layers.  Softer layers erode faster, undercutting the harder layers above them.  The hard layers become unstable overhangs that eventually collapse.  

Hard resistant layers?  That would be me at that moment.  I was not wanting to admit that:
a.   I was ill.
b.   It probably would be best to rest and not follow the previously determined schedule.  
c.   I should make wise food choices when I know that my system can’t handle some of the food I really like to eat.
d.   I was in denial.
e.   All would not be well if I just carried on as usual.

Soft crumbly layers? 
a.   That would be the body where I now live. 
b.   My sensitive gastrointestinal system is fragile, and no amount of hard exterior is going to change its sensitivities.

While the crumbling layers of rock that formed the Grand Canyon created a natural wonder, after the third day of this trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona area, I knew that if some changes in my thinking and in my choices were not made, the consequences of the crumbling going on inside would me would not create a beautiful natural wonder to behold.  Instead, I would most likely create a disaster. 

Finally, on that third day, I told my husband that our plans would have to change.  We would have to take a day off from touring so I could get some medical help and so I could rest.  My husband fully supported me in that decision.  In fact, he’d been suggesting a change in plans since we had left home.

Not wanting to admit that something is wrong is a big problem.  For me, it meant that I would have to admit to my husband that I was foolish when I insisted on carrying on with plans when clearly, I was not well.  It also meant that I had been foolish to think I could eat what I wanted when I knew I really couldn’t without paying the price.  Denial is a very stubborn and resistant layer.

Those soft layers inside of my gut were crumbling, the hard layer of my stubborn nature was quite unstable.  Let’s just say I truly was on the verge of collapse.

Kale was not the answer to resetting my body in the scenario that I just recounted, but a sensible diet that include the types of foods I knew my GI tract could handle was.  I began to make wise food choices.  Just because I was on vacation, it did not mean that I could indulge in those foods I knew I could not eat.

I listened to my body.  I rested when I was tired. Together my husband and I restructured our plans so that we had activity that included walking and taking in the sights but did not include hiking that might have been more than my current condition could handle.

There was so much beauty to be enjoyed in Sedona. I often wonder if I would have even enjoyed any of it if I had not taken the time to have a serious talk with myself about practicing self-care whether I was not vacation or not.  Do others of you ever let self-care go out the window when you are on vacation?  

In the end, I learned some valuable lessons about resetting my body.  No, I did not set my back to its factory settings while we were on this vacation because that would mean I would have to come up with a way to wipe away decades of living. Original factory settings are no longer possible. My body has changed.  New rules apply as I learn to live in a body which is different than the one I had in my forties, my fifties, or even in my sixties; however, small changes can do wonders when it comes to resetting a body that is begging for restoration to optimum health.  

·      I began to listen to my body.  
·      I made positive dietary choices.  (Those choices did not include kale!)  
·      I rested when I need to do so.  
·      I made sure I continued to exercise by walking and exploring the beautiful area where we were visiting.   
·      I didn’t waste the experience by giving in to illness, but I let the illness instruct me on how to heal.

On our last day of the trip, I found these words written on a Coconino Forest Service sign in:

       Can you hear the stream?

      Feel a soft leaf or a sycamore.

Look closely
      Discover who lives here.


Answers to the questions such as the one asked by the sender of the text which I wrote about at the beginning of this post seldom have one answer.  Kale, while it is a healthy food, and a food most of us wish to avoid, is not the answer to gaining a healthier lifestyle.   Instead, I think we have to slow down and do these last three things which I found printed on a forest service sign.

We must listen to nature around us and to our bodies.  We need to touch the positive and beautiful things in our lives.  Yes, it is so important when things are out of balance to take time to get in touch with those things which are beautiful and positive in our lives.  That means we must change our focus.  We can't look on what ails us.  We must look to what heals us.  And finally, when we look closely, we can discover who it is that inhabits the body we now have.  

Life is about change.  Nothing stays the same.  We will never live in the body that we were given when we left the factory. We must accept that and treat our bodies and minds and spirits with respect by giving all three what nourishes the body even if it sometimes includes, but is not limited to, kale.