My Father Said “I Love You” Once

There is a country song I like to sing at karaoke sometimes because it reminds me of my father, deceased now for 30 years.  It’s called “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn.  “Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand, there was always love in Daddy’s hands.”

My Dad was a gruff and gritty child of the Depression.  Born in 1931, he grew up on a farm in the hills of southern Missouri in the upper Ozark Mountains.  After serving in the Army, in Korea, he studied Agriculture at the University of Missouri.  He met my mother there, a Steven’s College girl from a well-to-do, high society, Indianapolis family.  Much to her father’s dismay, they married.

I was born slightly less than 9 months later, followed by my next sister 11-1/2 months after that, another girl a year and half later, and then my brother 10 years in.  For all intents and purposes, we appeared to be the classic American family.  Dad was a General Contractor and Real Estate Broker and my Mom was a housewife.  That’s the way it was done in the sixties, for the most part.

But, there were dark corners in that perfect family. Times, when we all had to cover our bruises before facing the world and the statement “What goes on in this family, stays in this family” was drilled in at an early age.  I knew what the word ‘discretion’ meant when I was 3.  I’ve seen things I try not to remember now. I watched my Dad beat my mother mercilessly on too many occasions.  My mother was a wonderful, loving spirit, which made it even harder to witness.  None of us was spared.  “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” God forbid, any of us be spoiled.

It was a tense childhood. We were often clueless as to what we had done to deserve the punishment he wrought.  I walked on eggshells, tried to remain invisible, and spent a great deal of time hiding in the closet, where I would read whatever was available.  Usually the dictionary, the phone book, and later on, a very old set of encyclopedias. I remember being a nervous and insecure child. I started secretly smoking cigarettes at 14. No one knew.  It helped me to relax.

We learned later on that Dad suffered from something called Manic Depression.  A person suffering from this affliction experiences periods of great highs, high energy, high clarity, motivation and drive followed by periods of deep, dark, debilitating depression.  As you can imagine, having a parent with this affliction can be extremely confusing and traumatizing for a child.  One day, your father is a lovable, fun person and the next, he’s yelling and beating the crap out of everyone in the family.

Learning of his ailment was a relief, for me anyway. It was proof that he wasn’t a horrible person.  He simply suffered from a horrible condition.  It showed me that I wasn’t crazy for loving the man.

The doctor put him on a drug called Lithium which transformed him.  I’m not saying he never yelled after that, but the extremes were leveled out greatly.  I believe the beatings stopped then, too, although I was about 16 at the time and had a car, so I was, understandably, rarely home.

A few years after graduating from high school, I took a job on the other side of the country.  One day, my co-worker answered the telephone, got a strange look on her face, blushed, and then handed me the phone.  It was my Dad.  I asked him what he had said to my co-worker to make her blush.  He said he thought it was me and so he had said “I love you.”  That was the first and only time he ever said that to me.

A few months after that, he died in a scuba diving accident.

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Juice Fast Complete: What’s Next?

I survived my 5-day juice fast, for the most part, losing a total of 6 pounds! Three of them came back, however, at the precise moment that I put solid food in my mouth.  Just the same, it’s clear that I’ve lost some inches that I didn’t want anyway. I forgot to measure before I started, so can’t say how many inches took a hike.  I can just tell from looking at my nude form in the mirror that they’re gone. 

Now there’s a test for you… look at your 50-something year old, matronly nude form in the mirror, sigh (for just a second), and then say “You have served me and my family well, body. Sure, you’re a little bit worse for the wear, but I love you and am going to treat you with more respect from now on!”

Sorry, I digressed for a moment.  Okay, the fast wasn’t all that painful, I guess, and I do feel healthier, am sleeping very well, and have plenty of energy.  I did hurt my knee though, which sidelined my tennis and completely trashed my plan to exercise every day of my vacation.  I reckon that when the body wants to rest, it will damn sure find a way to do it!  Perhaps it really doesn’t seem all that odd, that it chose to do it in the middle of a cleansing juice fast.  The knee appears to be healing up quickly though and so I’m hoping to get back to my manically active lifestyle within another week or so. Fingers crossed. 

I’m following the fast with a simple, common sense eating plan, comprised of eating 5 times a day.  Two of those times will be green juice, at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This means I will not be able to work through lunch anymore since I will have to run home to, not only eat a small, nutritious, healthy lunch, but also, to juice a pile of veggies to take back to work with me for mid-afternoon.  I don’t make poor food choices, as a rule, as long as I don’t allow myself to get overly hungry.  This plan makes sense for me and I’ve heard that eating 5 small meals a day helps to keep your blood sugar at a steady level throughout the day putting the kibosh on cravings.

The problem I have always had with dieting/eating healthy is how much time, attention, and focus it requires. Well, that and the fact that I have to give up beer and pasta!!  I know I just have to keep my eye on the ball.  The results will, indeed, be worth it, if I can just stick it out long enough to realize them.

Vacation over…back to work tomorrow. Image

Do We Get Crazier As We Age Or Just Braver?

I’m currently doing a 5 day juice fast.  It is Day 3 and I’m seriously questioning my sanity.  My goals for this are 1) to cleanse, since that’s always a good thing to do once in a while,  2) to get some relief from my constantly inflamed sinuses, and 3) to, hopefully, jump start my metabolism and get me headed in the right direction for getting some weight off. 

Not eating, for me, is torture – sheer torture.  I have lost 2.4 lbs over two days, but I’m not yet feeling all the extra energy and euphoria promised by those who tout doing this sort of thing. 

My daughter says I haven’t given it enough time. Okay, I’ll give her that, but how easy is it to say for the one NOT starving to death?! (When, by the way, do our kids become our parents? Strange phenomenon and fodder for a post all it’s own!)

Drinking freshly juiced organic fruits and vegetables is a good thing. I firmly believe that! And, in theory, the idea of a juice fast is a great one, but what do I do about these hunger pains? 

And I’m crabby… really, really crabby.  Good thing I live alone! All I have to do is stay off the phone and no one will get hurt.

Sigh… okay, I’m going to persevere here, because that’s just what I do.  I told myself that I’m doing a 5 day juice fast, and I even took the week off work so that I’d have no excuses, so I’m doing it- come hell or high water, as my Dad used to say.  Come to think of it, he also used to say I was stubborn and hard-headed, so there is that.

I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

Check out http://www.fitlife.tv for juicing inspiration!

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How do you reconcile the untimely death of someone who was an important part of your life?  My daughter is dealing with that now.  A friend, since her pre-teen years, was killed yesterday on his motorcycle.  The driver of an SUV, apparently, didn’t see him and made a turn right in front of him. No time to react.  He’s just gone.

We seem to feel differently about a death, depending on the circumstances of that death.  Someone who dies at a young age and in a random manner feels different to us than someone who dies of old age, for example.  In this case, he was young (in his 20s) and completely innocent of any wrong doing.  We feel outraged indignation that someone (an SUV driver) could be so careless with our friend’s life.

Ironically, I had just posted to Facebook a few days ago, a reminder to look out for motorcycles on the roadways.  I wonder, if because the majority of the vehicles on the road are car-sized and larger, our brains cause us to simply not “see” the bike?  But if this were the case, then would we also not see a bicycle sharing the road, or a person walking along the side of the road? I’m sure that, sometimes, they are also not seen, and hit as a result, but the sheer numbers of incidents of motorcycles not being seen is absurdly disproportionate in my opinion.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2007, motorcycle fatalities had been climbing for 11 years, reaching 5,312 in 2008, the highest level since the Department of Transportation began collecting data in 1975. I’m sure it’s much, much higher now.  Yes, some of this can be blamed on alcohol and/or excessive speed, but a good number of motorcycle deaths, especially in Florida it seems, are due to the bike not being seen by the other driver.

We all have to be more aware on the roadways.  I’m just as guilty as the next person. We’re thinking about something while we’re driving, or worse, messing with our phones or radios, not fully present in some way. This has to stop.  It’s so wrong to lose a young man, in the prime of his life, with a baby on the way.  It’s just wrong.

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Tennis Rocks and So Does Abe!

I just got reprimanded.  Really sternly, reprimanded.  Like when you’re 5 and you’ve accidentally left the store with a piece of candy folded in your hand and your mother sees it and gives you some serious what-for about “stealing.”  Enough of a what-for, in fact, that you’ll never, ever make that mistake again.  I think that was Abe’s motivation behind his reprimand of me.  He just doesn’t want me to do that again.

What did I do?  I forgot to call and reserve the four courts for my Monday night tennis group.  He could only give me 3, because the rest were all taken.  This was upsetting to him and I truly felt bad.  It actually worked out in the end, because someone finished up with their court about 20 minutes later and we were able to have it.  But when I walked into the pro shop tonight, he felt the need to sternly remind me of my responsibility to reserve ahead of time. “Next time,” he said, “I’m not going to give you any courts!”  I get it, Abe, and I’m sorry.  It will not happen again.

Abe is about 94 years old and an ex-tennis player.  He takes really good care of us tennis freaks, because, I think, he understands our obsession.  He’s been there.  Abe still drives himself to work every day, which, truth be told, scares the bejesus out of me, but he makes it, unscathed, everyday, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of piss and vinegar.

I believe that Abe’s health and longevity is a testament to a lifetime spent playing tennis.  Tennis is that good for you… physically, mentally, socially, and yes, even spiritually.  The courts are like a church to most of us… a place where we go to worship the game, spend time with our tennis friends, and feel closer to God through our shared love of the sport.

I think that tennis actually may have saved my life.  I was a nearly middle-aged, long time smoker who was overweight and out of shape. I couldn’t even walk up one flight of stairs without hyperventilating.  I was stressed out, not sleeping well, and probably hell-bent on an early death; when one day, I’d simply had enough.  I threw out the cigarettes and every ashtray I could find. I scrubbed the inside of my car and picked up a somewhat annoying sunflower seed habit for while.  I gave fair warning to my family and gave myself permission to be cranky and to eat whatever I wanted for 30 days until I got past the cravings.  It worked, although I gained 25 pounds!  So then, I got a really good pair of tennis shoes, a fancy new racquet, and hit the courts. 

I hadn’t picked up a racquet in nearly 20 years and I was horrible… truly, truly awful. I could barely get through one set.  I stuck it out, though, with dogged determination. I spent hours smacking a ball against the wall, because I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to play with me until I could, at least, keep the darn thing inside the fence.  I hung around the courts begging people to play with me, and, thankfully, some did.  I took vacation time and went to the courts every day.  I laid down the law at home about Mommy’s tennis time.  I wasn’t about to let anyone steal away this one thing I did for myself.  Subconsciously, I think I knew how important it was for me to get healthy.  Little by little, I got better.  I joined a couple of private groups, then I joined a USTA team, and then I managed to win a couple of small events.  I was thoroughly hooked.  I altered my diet and am healthier now than I’ve been since my early 20s.  Tennis did that.

Now, I spend an average of about 12 hours on the court each week and can’t imagine ever giving that up.  Guess I better remember to reserve those courts, so that Abe doesn’t ban me.

Where In The World Do I Go From Here?

I would never, in a million years, have imagined that at 53 years of age I’d be confused, baffled, stymied even, about what I want to do with my life.  I find myself at a crossroads that I didn’t expect and even though I wouldn’t admit it to myself before now, I’ve been swimming around in this sea of indecision and self-doubt for several years.  All I really know, for sure, is that I’m not happy with where my life is right now.  I’m dissatisfied in my career, in my love life or lack thereof, and even in my spiritual life to some degree.  I fully expected to be having a blast in my 50s! What the hell?

What would you do if money was not a factor?  What would touch your soul, make your heart smile, feel like accomplishment, help you to feel useful?  I want to feel like I’m serving humanity in some small way.  I also want to nourish my soul.  Yes, it’s unrealistic to consider a career change without taking into account how you’re going to eat; but, really, should we all be going through the motions, working in jobs we hate, forgoing who we are, for the sole purpose of bringing home a paycheck? Or worse yet, to meet someone else’s expectations of us?

There has got to be a way to nourish my soul, be useful to the world, enjoy what I’m doing and still be able to pay for a roof and eat.  There simply has to be a way.

So, first things first.  I need to pin down my passions.  What do I truly love to do?

Well, writing, for starters.  I’ve been a self-proclaimed “wordsmith” since I was very small.  My mom taught me to read well before I traipsed off to kindergarten and that served me well all those years I hid in the closet from a tumultuous family life, reading the dictionary, the phone book, some old encyclopedias, whatever I could get my hands on.  Words for me then were an escape and a lifeline.  Perhaps they still are.  But could they also provide me with a new career?

In college, I majored in English with an eye toward using that for writing; but life, taking care of a family, and doing everything for everyone else in my world like we women do, kept me from pursuing my writing.  At least, I let it keep me from it.  I have no one to blame but myself.  Is it too late to try for that now? Can I work toward that goal without having to live under a bridge in a cardboard box to get there?

I’ve wondered lately why I never got the writing thing off the ground, even though I was forever talking about doing it.  Over the years, I have really enjoyed editing, proofreading, and rewriting other people’s work.  I suspect that allowed me to dabble in my love of words without actually having to come up with any ideas of my own.  Was that laziness, a really long bout of writer’s block, or was it something more sinister?  It does seem like whenever I made the attempt to write, I’d come up with some reason to shut it down before I got anywhere.  It has occurred to me that perhaps I did not feel worthy of writing, like I was not good enough to be a writer, and not just not-good-enough-AT-writing, but just simply not-good-enough.  I like to think of myself now as a self-assured, confident woman.  I say “now,” because I did suffer from nearly crippling self-esteem issues as a child and young-adult that I hid, quite convincingly I think, from family, friends, and acquaintances. Once into adulthood, I worked very hard for many, many years to fix those issues by reading every self-help book ever published, by relentlessly self-counseling, and by delving into all things spiritual. Does some part of me, buried deep somewhere, still feel unworthy? I hope not, but maybe actually writing something is the only way to know for sure.

I think these unexpected crossroads in life force us to take a good, hard look at where we’re going, where we’ve been, what works and what doesn’t and then we get to decide where to go next.  I think it’s important to pay attention, because the Universe is always showing us which way to go.  It’s about trusting what we sense, what we hear, what we see, and where we’re led. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but I think it can probably be the most rewarding.

I think that’s the key for me, now, in this time of uncertainty, at this crossroad where I stand.  I have to pay attention and trust and maybe push like hell past the self-doubt to get to the good stuff.  Here I go.

Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition

I don’t know if my blog is the proper place for this, but I feel so strongly about it that it deserves to be here.  The following is making its rounds through Cyberspace and for good reason, I believe.  It’s time to make this change.  Let’s do it!

Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high
gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods —
merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This
year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine
concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes
there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates
from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some
health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned
detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a
book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down
the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift
receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or
driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift
certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about
a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this
isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town
Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a
local cleaning lady for a day. Or a gift certificate to a local day spa.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is
struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin
their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery
and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave
your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at
your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing

local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about
fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to
burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that
China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about
US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow
their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our
communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion
groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in
your city — send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations,
and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other,
and isn’t that what Christmas is about?

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