Woman@Heart

Musings on Life, Love and Lefovers

Archive for the tag “holiday traditions”

Balancing the Scales

My Deluxe Diet Scale sits on my home office desk. I bought it a dozen or so years ago. It’s one of many tools I’ve collected all promising to help me reach my perfect weight. This ideal number isn’t the same weight I enjoyed in my single days or even the weight I carried on my wedding. No, I’m not that foolish. I know the difference between real and fantasy. My days of weighing less than my bowling score have long passed. I aim toward a sensible weight for my diminutive stature.

food-scaleOn the inside I think God made me short for my weight, but that doesn’t help my cause. So, like many women, I struggle with the number that lights up on my digital scale each morning. Yes, it’s that same 5 pounds I’ve tried to lose through four presidential administrations, only now it has doubled. It seems to be gaining momentum, fighting every step of the way to remain a part of me.

When I was 12, I didn’t think about how much I weighed or how my clothes fit. I never climbed on a scale, unless it was at the doctor’s office. The details that filled my mind as a curly-haired preteen were: Does Steve Newton, the handsomest guy in eighth grade, know I exist? How will I finish my report on Chile? What time does the Partridge Family Show start on TV and does David Cassidy have a girl friend? Never a care about the calorie count in a Strawberry Nirvanna Jamba Juice. Who thought about how much fat there is in movie theatre popcorn? Not me.

The lesson my mother, Florence, wanted me to learn was that the girl I was mattered more than the girl I looked like. Her buzzwords were: try, try again and always be truthful. There weren’t conversations about being over weight or how I looked. Short of combing my hair and making certain that my teeth were brushed, she never harped on these topics. Sure, I recall mom moving a yellow vinyl-covered, chrome-legged kitchen chair in front of our black-and-white TV where she would do her leg lifts guided by Jack LaLanne. To me, her efforts were more in the spirit of exercise than weight loss. Fitness, not foxy, was the motto,.

But times changed and even though it’s not what I learned at home, I have acquired a preoccupation with calories. Was there a time I didn’t know my body mass index? I’m not sure. I think this transformation from happy-go-lucky schoolgirl to appearance-minded career woman happened slowly. It hit somewhere between young bride and seasoned mother.

I marvel at this plastic scale. It’s divided evenly in ounces (and grams) and I realize that I haven’t used it for it’s original purpose in a long time. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that in recent years, this measuring tool has been employed more often for weighing letters not linguini. As the price of postage expanded, so did my hips.

My doctor offers lots of convincing reasons why it’s important to reach my goal weight. Things like a healthy heart and lower blood pressure top the list. But I think it’s more than playing with my granddaughter, Windley, that inspires me skip the extra serving of guacamole and stay away from the  Krispy Kremes. My real motivator, in spite of mom’s insight, is the quest to look young. In this age of face lifts and tummy tucks, who wants to be labeled fat and frumpy? Elastic-waist polyester pants and free-form blouses that aren’t designed to be tucked in, no way. This is the generation of “good-looking, tight-fitting” jeans. I have a waistline and I want to use it.

My mind flips back to when I was that young Girl Scout, outfitted in my mint green uniform and dark green sash, dotted with badges. Alongside girls from my troop, I stood in front of the Market Basket grocery store, selling cookies. I didn’t know about trans fats. Nutrition facts weren’t printed on the side panels of the sandwich cookies we pedaled for 50 cents a box. Being together, having friends and sharing a common goal was our priority — that and hoping that Steve Newton would notice one of us.

I’ll still use my scale to weigh occasional letters and birthday packages before I send them to out-of-town family and friends. When I pull it out, though, now I’m aware of its intended purpose – an aid in reaching my ideal weight. But a scale can never measure the person I am. Only I can assess that. I know that ideal exists only in my own expectations. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on watching my weight. I’m no quitter. Of course, I’ll try, try again, no matter which way the scale tips. I think mom would like that.

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Thinking Thankful

About fifteen years ago I began keeping a gratitude journal. My notebook is nothing fancy; just aa simple, spiral-bound book filled with blank pages. On those lines, I jot down at least three things each morning that delighted me the day before. Spending a few minutes thinking about what I’m grateful for is a great way to begin each day.

The daily demands of being a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and consumer (just to name a few) provide lots of opportunities for disappointment, challenge and frustration. By taking a moment to reflect on what’s went right the day before, I give myself another opportunity — one that adjusts my view to see the glass as half-full instead of half- empty.

shutterstock_435712027Through sleep-rimmed eyes, before my feet hit the floor, I reach for my journal, stationed on my nightstand and start writing. Some entries are simple one-word notes like “sunshine,” “reading,” or “bargains.” Others are short prayers of thanks for my family’s good health, the addition of a grandchild, niece or nephew. I’m reluctant to admit that there seems to be a disproportionate number of entries involving food – lunches with friends, family dinners, new recipes that worked, a nut roll baked just for me by my niece, Maria.

Longer passages are a bit more reflective, perhaps chronicling a tough time, lamenting a difficult decision or struggling with the pain of losing someone close to my heart. The journal is also a place for me to boast about the successes of my children, record my feelings about a recently published article or pat myself on the back for achieving small goal – cleaning out a closet.

These pages are my paper sanctuary – a place to preserve the positive. They are a way to slow down my mind and reflect on the good news in my life. It’s what I call Thinking Thankful. Focusing on the good stuff that happened the day before lessens my usual spinning about things that normally make headlines in my mind — the computer crashing, the mess in the family room, a window screen chewed by Bandit, our dog or a rejection slip from an ill-informed editor.

Even though I start with three, there is no limit to the number of entries that find their way into my gratitude journal. Some days I take the time to write more, but knowing that I only have to come up with three makes it easy to fit this appreciation review into my morning routine.

Some items that show up with regularity are ways to simplify life. Great ideas from friends like the ideal construction of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My recipe was two slices of bread, one slice slathered in peanut butter, the other in jelly. It wasn’t until lunching with my friend, Rik, that I learned the faultiness of my formula. As he ate his lunch, I noticed that his sandwich didn’t have that “grape-jelly seepage” mine are famous for. Rik covers both slices of bread with a thin layer of peanut butter and then jellies in between. Perfect PB&J every time.

My journal let documents the goodness that I might otherwise take for granted. It’s is a record of how quickly life changes. That’s why ever so often, I read what I’ve written weeks, months even years before.

In 2004, I noted how hatha yoga brought flexibility to my hips. A few entries recorded my time spent helping my son, Jake, fill out college applications and the joy of Sunday morning visits with my mom. Today I still keep up my gentle yoga practice. Jake, an ASU graduate, is engaged to the beautiful Rachel. But those magic times when seeing my mother’s angelic smile was a mere five-mute drive ended that September. The page turned.

Because of my early morning writing practice, I’m actively paying attention to the good stuff that life sneaks in when I’m not looking. I stop to think about what went right during the last 24 hours. Little things like my husband, Nick, starting a load of laundry; my sister Sue, having my hard-to-find coffee creamer in her fridge on a recent visit; a friend dotting my desk with ladybugs stones the size of dimes, just because she knows I like ladybugs.

None of these things are life changing. They’re not life-altering events like winning the lotto, paying off your mortgage or finding the perfect job. Fortunately, though, they are life enhancing. Taken together they comprise the best parts of living. These are moments I might miss. I might take them for granted if I wasn’t writing them down.

Today’s technology lets us accomplish more in less time. That should be a good thing, but instead, we’re moving at the speed of life, going faster and doing more. Sandwiched between laundry, homework and grocery shopping, there’s little space left to ponder and contemplate. Time for these important reflections doesn’t just happen. It has to be scheduled. By taking a couple of minutes each day to write about what you’re thankful for you’ll enjoy the journey more. It doesn’t matter what your destination.

Writing on Eggshells

This week, I’m planning to dye my fingers a new shade of purple, a color not found in any box of crayons. It falls somewhere between eggplant and magenta, and pretty much clashes with my Easter outfit. Hopefully the stain will fade before I go to a concert with my neighbors next week. Guess I can always wear gloves. All of this in the name of coloring Easter eggs with my family .

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These days, though, it’s tough gathering the egg-colorers. There was a time when I would be surrounded by a quartet of boys happily decorating oval orbs in a rainbow of hues. Once the decorators left, I’d stand alone near a plastic bowl holding four dozen hard-boiled eggs, surveying the damage once known as the surface of my kitchen table. I had thought I’d learned my lesson from last year’s Easter egg coloring fiasco. That’s why I had painstakingly blanketed the table with layers of yesterday’s newspaper, but somehow a pinkish-green dye managed to find the one triangle that went unprotected. The oak grain now possessing a colorful, confetti-like stain. This botched job was not a commentary on my table-covering abilities; it’s directly related to the five people vying for space around six coloring cups.

Mess or not, the Coloring of the Easter Eggs has been a key element in our family’s springtime traditions that include new clothes, egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies.

Mess or not, the Coloring of the Easter Eggs has been a key element in our family’s springtime traditions that include new clothes, egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies. It’s these customs that I count on year after year to replenish my little-girl-at-heart spirit and keep me on track as mother, and now a grandmother. As a child, Easter meant a frilly bonnet, new patent leather shoes and the promise of a basket to be filled and hidden by the Bunny. My family has their own ideas about how to welcome Spring.

Years ago, I would watch my sons, Shawn, Jake and Seth, balance hard-boiled eggs on the rim of a flimsy wire holder only to plop them with great care into the pools of color. Each allocated 12, while my husband, Nick, and I share a dozen. Often this process yielded a cracked egg or two.

What a sight to behold: the five of us huddled around the kitchen table without a pepperoni pizza in the middle. For this group to sit in the same place at the same time, the enticement had to be huge. Normally my team of three sons/one husband was off doing their own thing: soccer practice, mowing the lawn, playing video games, away at college. But for theoe few minutes, we gathered as a family with a common goal – to create the best, most bizarre-colored Easter egg.

With my crew, best isn’t defined like it might be by the judges who award Nobel Prizes or Oscars. You won’t find these guys producing a Faberge egg look-a-like. Best usually ended up being the funniest, stupidest or oddest egg. I always wondered that if I had daughters instead of sons, the winning egg might have a more artistic tilt. Maybe in a few years, when my granddaughter Windley is old enough to participate, I’ll find out for sure.

Alas, as a boys-only mother, I’ve learned to look at things from a different viewpoint. I stayed competitive by marking my eggs with corny sayings or kooky nicknames, but I never won. This contest was fixed. The brothers voted for each other’s entries and I ended up looking for a recipe that calls for 48 hardboiled eggs, give or take a cracked few.

Teasing, pestering and bestowing nicknames on their loved ones is one way the male species shows they care. Nick was renamed Scoop, after the boys found out he worked scooping ice cream as a teenager. I was pegged Pebbles a la the Flintstones’ daughter, because of the ponytail I pull to the top of my head when I do my morning workout. During the two years he wore braces, Seth was called Sid (after the mean brace-faced kid in Toy Story). All these names and more would float to the top during this creative free-for-all, only to find themselves written on eggshell surfaces with a wax pencil the size of a golf tee.

I didn’t ponder the absurdity of it all, because if I did, I’d be tempted to trade the bags of jellybeans in for green bean seeds and spend the time planting in my garden. Why dye dozens of eggs, put cellophane grass in the bottom of a long- handled basket or buy yellow marshmallow-shaped peeps? Because those things, along with a new dress to wear to church, singing Here Comes Peter Cottontail and tulips decorating the center of my dinner table make my Easter.

This year, blessedly, our family has grown. After inventorying the selection of pastel eggs nestled in our refrigerator, the Bunny will place one in each of the eight baskets ready to be hidden. On Easter Sunday morning, it will be easy for me to find mine. I’ll look for an egg that says “Pebbles Rocks” scrawled unevenly across a purplish tint. That’s when I know, ridiculous or not, these are the moments that mean the most. Maybe not to my kids, but definitely to a bonnet-wearing little girl who years later became a mother and a Sitie.

 

Tilting the Tree (and other slanted celebrations)

Christmas season starts at my house when the tip of our just-cut pine tree points to the corner of our living room ceiling. Every year, my three sons and I would stand in amazement as their father once again put up our Christmas tree at an angle. We’re not sure how Nick manages this feat, because the tree always stands perfectly straight when they drill it at the Christmas tree lot. Somehow, during the 10-minute drive to our house, the tree transforms into a diagonal demon.

We fought this laid-back appearance. None of us went along willingly, wanting to accept a leaning tree. Year after year, we denied reality, until finally Seth stated the obvious: “no matter what tree we picked, it leans, a lot like that tower in Italy.”

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In Decembers past we’d meet the tilted-tree challenge with renewed vigor, each of us committed to making the tree stand straight. We wanted it pointing skyward, gracefully framed by our picture window — reminiscent of that tower in Paris. The five of us circled the tree, each with our own viewpoint. And not until we each declared that the tree was standing erect would Nick give the go-ahead to the tree lot attendant to drill. Each year this collection of pine needles, branches and sap outsmarted us.

Finally we conceded defeat. “So what if the tree is a bit off center,” Shawn said. “It’s not the tree’s fault. Maybe the living room floor is uneven,” Jake added, handing me a pile of holiday books. “Let’s just prop it up.” The good news is the tree stands straighter, but bad news is that can’t read Polar Express or Olive the Other Reindeer until after January 1.

Tree-tilting isn’t the only Fadden-specific tradition that manages to amaze, confound and delight our holidays. My top five include:

  1. sending Christmas cards to people who don’t send ones to us;
  2. receiving cards from everyone I didn’t send a greeting to;
  3. being one egg short for that last batch of sugar cookies;
  4. a size 10 shoe stepping on my most treasured and breakable ornament
  5. and the never-untangling string of lights.I dread the thought that Nick might put the tree up straight one year. Then I’d be forced to search for a new family favorite — perhaps burning the sugar cookies or hanging advent calendars that don’t have chocolate in them.But it’s the traditions my family embraces without realizing it that mean the most ­– the ones that burrow their way in without any masterminding. Tree-tilting is an annual event we hadn’t planned on, but now it’s as much a part of our holidays as leaving cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.           

This holiday season as you gather your family to celebrate your traditions, be on the lookout for those hidden moments — the ones that aren’t planned or arranged. Those are the ones supplying the most giggles, hugs and happiness, the stuff of happy childhoods.  

When you hang mistletoe, pour another cup of egg-nog or put the star on the treetop, remember that somewhere in southern California, the annual “tilting of the Christmas tree” is taking place. Maybe this year I’ll use a few back issues of Writer’s Digest to help straighten things out.

 

 

 

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