Whole thirty or Whole thoroughly?

Several years ago, after reading one of my blogs, a woman I knew said to me,  “I think you like writing about ‘getting healthy’ more than actually doing it.”   That the words came from this person who literally could not gain weight, and was six feet tall and stick thin and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day made the statement even sharper, and the remark more cutting, regardless of its truth.  Earlier this summer when my first friend from 1st grade asked me to start Whole30 with her, I said “yes” before I actually knew what it was, what it wasn’t, what it involved or didn’t, and what I was going to have to give up…to be honest, when I opened the email she sent me  with the “what you can’t have” list, and the first thing I read was that dairy was out, I did not think I was going to be able to participate!  Really.  I really believed that my love of light cream or half&half in my coffee would prevent me from doing this program with her.  Well, ‘wait,’ said my silly brain, of course I would, and could do anything, and obviously ANYbody can pretty much do ANYthing for 30 days, but I thought it would be much harder than it turned out to be.

This past July I was 31 pounds heavier than I was when she had made this statement to me, and more than 50 pounds had grown around me since 2003 when I had happily, excitedly, joyfully, slipped back into my high school sized 501 Levi’s, which I had not been able to wear since I’d found myself pregnant 18 years earlier…It’s embarassing to admit, but it’s true.  No, I was not a yo-yo dieter, and no, I was not stupid, I KNEW what I needed to stop doing to lose that baby weight when my baby was born, and I knew what choices I had to make, the first choice being, “get back into your pants”  but I didn’t.  My life at that time was terrible.  Let’s leave it at that.  I found comfort in cans of Tab and packages of Oreos.  Those behaviors, of comforting yourself with food, stick with you even when your life turns around and you are happy, loved, and fulfilled.

That baby became a toddler, then a pre-schooler, and before I knew it, that baby weight I was still carrying around me was sitting beside a teenager as we drove to the mall!!!  …your brain still associates those ‘bad’ foods with “feeling good” even though it turns out those foods don’t make you feel good at all.  I write “your” brain meaning brains in general, as I am very well aware that many people, MOST probably, have a much healthier relationship with food and with eating than I did, but anyway…

The long story short is this; for 35 days I did not have any half&half in my coffee and learned that black has a totally different flavor and coffee for me is an experience I enjoy thoroughly, no matter what.  I did not buy one Wawa soft Philly pretzel and call it lunch, I did not buy any candy while waiting in line at any grocery store, I did not drink alcohol.  I followed the rules and before the 30 days was up, I felt better…SO much better than I imagined I would, because you see, I did not realize how crappy I guess I was feeling most of the time!!!  I did not feel thinner, but I felt more “right” than I think I have felt in a long time.  My sore leg, what I always called my “bad” leg, which has hurt since an injury when I was just 14, was no longer swollen and no longer ached day in and day out.  I felt more in control of everything, even though all that had changed was that I was making mindful decisions about what to eat or drink.  My work schedule was still what it was, my relationships were exactly what they had been, my finances or worries or stresses were unchanged, all that changed was my choices to eat food that was healthy for me instead of food that was not.

After the 30 days was up I found I had lost 15.2 pounds and gained a lot of self-care feelings.  Since those 30 days I have had many of the things I missed; goat cheese, wine, pizza,  a few shots of vodka, crusty bread with butter one night in NYC, but I am changed.  I want to write that I am forever changed, but I know that is exaggeration.   I read a medical journal article many years ago that asserted that the brain reacts to sugar, and sweets in general, in the exact same way it does on hard drugs…the more we have it, the more we crave it, and then we need even more to get the same feelings…so I have the knowledge, I always have, I just, I don’t know…maybe now I suddenly care more than when I was younger?

Maybe I am worried, was worried, that I needed to get myself back to where I feel best before I turn 50 or I’ll be a lost cause??!!  I have no answers right now I just have a plan.  I felt so good following this program so religiously, that I think I must simply stay on it, or should I say, not stray too far for too long from it?  I am pretty sure that at some point I will have a piece of lemon merengue pie again, and I know I will have some PEEPS at Halloween time, but I guess what I know mostly is that some sort of occasional sugar overload should be for my immediate gratification, and then be over, not a way of life to fall back to…I have since lost two more pounds and feel that, while I am excited to perhaps finally shed for good these pounds that have lived with me, on and off, for almost 32 years, I just simply feel so much more “right” if that makes any sense…maybe instead of calling it Whole30 I will call it Right50!  I am going to be 50 in 46 days.  I’m probably not going to follow my plan very well while I am celebrating on vacation  in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort with my significant other, but I know this, when I get back from that birthday vacation, I’m probably going to need a whole 30 days to recover from the six!  AND now I know that is okay, and it will all be okay, and it is all up to me how I handle my choices.

As summer turns to autumn perhaps I turn into the me I always wanted to be…full disclosure: I probably always will prefer writing about changing more than actually changing, and that is okay too.  Much changed during this 30 day experiment, and most of it was me.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”      –*Maya Angelou*

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Quest /kwest/ noun: a long search for something

I have been trying to find myself for as long as I can remember…while this might sound to your ear, self-absorbed and esoteric, it is the truth.  I suspect that when one is a daughter, then a wife, then a mother, then a divorcee, all before her 20th birthday, it can make a girl/woman a bit “confused” about who, she herself, is…right around the time most young women start to become who they are going to be, I became the carer for another human being and everything I wished to be, or experience, or create, became secondary to my obligation and responsibilities to this somebody else, namely the big fat healthy perfect baby who is now a thin gorgeous woman who is my next door neighbor. 

When my fellow twenty-somethings were jumping in the shower at 8:00 to get ready for a night out, I was reading Where The Wild Things Are for the umpteenth time (full disclosure; I now know it like a beloved poem and can recite, word for word, the whole book, without looking at the pages) and getting ready to shower and go to bed. When they were planning vacations and researching travel details with girlfriends to get the most fun or adventure for the least money, I was researching what day-care or babysitter offered the most hours for the least dollars, and planning my college schedule and work schedule with my family so that somebody was always available to care for this little girl.  When they were having exciting experiences that shaped them into the women they were becoming, I was focused on shaping the mind of a little girl,   when, it turns out, I was not much more than a girl myself. 

It is the truth, my truth, that NOW, eight or so weeks before my 50th birthday, I am not really needed by anybody anymore for anything.  It appears that all those years I thought I was missing out on so much, I was just living a different reality than girls, women, my age, and we all still became who we were to be.  Some of those women are now having to plan for after school programs and summer day camps, or trying to work ballet classes and traveling soccer camp into their household budgets,  or sorting the details of what SAT class is most affordable, and how to find the best college scholarships, but I am done.  My job of mothering is over and  I am no longer “needed,” and my long search for travel and adventure and my quest to find the meaning of my life, can begin…It seems that I might have simply been a late bloomer.

It’s a little bit funny, I don’t even know what I am looking for, or if  I’m “looking” for anything anymore!!!  A long search for what?  my brain asks itself…I have love, I have my house, I have my job, I have my family, I have friends…Whew!  I have so much more than I ever thought I could deserve, and that  baby grew into a woman I am glad to call both my neighbor and my friend…frankly, as I near this birthday of the  “big 5-0” I actually feel more complete and fulfilled than I have ever felt in my entire life.  My adventures are just coming with some gray hairs and hot flashes, instead of highlights and hook-ups.   Maybe I’ll even make mischief of one kind, and another…and the walls will become the world all around…All those years I felt like I was missing out, I come to discover that it just wasn’t my time then, yet, for adventure…“let the wild rumpus start!”

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
* Alice in Wonderland* by Lewis Carroll

Head Games

I started a new game on Monday.  It’s called, “take better care of yourself because you are almost 50 and you want to have a fun second half of your life” well, it’s  actually called Whole30, but my name for it is what I’m keeping as the mantra in the back of my mind.  I have read a lot on the internet to learn that, to some this eating “plan” is an addiction, or better I should write, a habit, and to others it’s  just another ‘something’ to try in the billion dollar weight loss industry.  It got me thinking last night about what it means to be clean.  I LOVE to clean, really, and I don’t only do it as a job, I do it for pleasure.  I feel so much happiness when I clean and I was thinking about how eating clean ought to bring me just as much happiness and frankly, far more.  My house is so important to me, it’s the best place I’ve ever lived and I love it, for real, but I got to thinking, shouldn’t my body be my most favorite house?  It has to house me til I die…treating it with as much love as I do this stick-built dream with the shiny metal roof and black walnut floors should be a given, but guess what?  for years I treated it like it didn’t really matter to me, and even if I don’t “do” as well on this eating plan, a.k.a. diet, as I hope to, it has, as things so often do in life, shifted my perspective.

Do you remember those commercials with the cast iron skillet, “this is your brain on drugs?”  Well I have read, both in biology classes in college and in countless studies and articles in my adult life, that sugar does to your brain what drugs do.  Really.  Yet, it was not (see how I use “was” rather than “is” here) unusual for me to add a Milky-Way Midnight to my basket almost every time I went to Walgreens for shampoo, or a Twix when I was in line at Home Deopt.  Mindless junk food eating is a bad habit. I was thinking last night that for a food addict or a sugar junky, the aisles filled with point of purchase candy is just as bad for our brains as if drug addicts had to see little bags of heroin or foggy glass crack pipes all lined up in rows each time they bought a magazine at CVS!!  Your brain, when it craves something, really wants it!   EVEN when your brain knows that it is not good for you.  Since Sunday at bedtime, no junk food, sugar, empty carbs, dairy, nor alcohol.  Coffee LOVER that I am, I even started drinking my coffee black, gave up half & half too, just by setting my mind to it.

The success or failure of any goal is all in the games that you play with your own head.  When my friend asked me to start this Whole30 eating program with her, I said “yes” without even a hesitation.  I had no knowledge of it, didn’t research it, knew nothing of the restrictions, but yet I said yes with no thought.  I knew, AND felt, I was very much in need of a drastic change in my eating behaviors and my relationship with food, so I agreed.  THEN I became worried, when I got the email from her, the do and don’t lists, the can and can’t lists, SO many restrictions, “what if I fail?” my brain asked me in my first thought…“that’s a lot of changes to make,” my brain said in its second thought, but then the best part of my brain said, “it’s 30 days, you can do anything for 30 days if you set your mind to it.”  Later that week, my mother, who almost always knows exactly the right thing to say to me said, “why don’t you treat it like a college assignment or project?  You always earned A grades and you never wanted to get anything but the A, in any class you took, look at this as a class you are going to get graded on and you will succeed.”  A+ mom advice right there if ever there was some!!!

I got the text book from the library yesterday after work, ‘It Starts With Food‘ which is written by the husband and wife who developed the Whole30 plan based on their own personal experiment with eating better which lead them to feel better.  Seems so simple, but for an occasional dolt like me, with a sweet tooth, and frankly a tooth for vodka and certainly one for wine too, I kept pushing those thoughts aside…when I quit smoking I knew why I was quitting; it was bad for me, would likely lead to a much earlier death than I’d hope, and I hated how my fingers and hair always stunk.  So to pull the sweet, vodka, and wine teeth, I had to think about it in the same way, what those things do to me, and how if I quit them, even for 30 days at first, I might live longer and feel better, I might NOT get the arthritis I am genetically predisposed to suffering, and I might get into the 11 pair of jeans that have not fit since 2006.

After this experience I might go back to the “bad” but somehow thinking about eating better as “clean” is making THIS new way of thinking so much more appealing to me.  Thinking of healthy whole foods as happy food, rather than the kind of food we label as junk is also feeling useful, even just this early in my experiment.  SO yes,  it might be head games I’m playing, but I’m all in, and face it, we all can do anything for 30 days is we set our minds to it.

The Blessing Juggler

“Having your hands full is a ludicrous blessing.”  I read this sentence on Instagram recently, written by a woman whose books I have not yet read, and whose blog I have not yet followed, but when I read that sentence all I could think of was, ‘why could I have not written that?!’  It was like the most brilliant string of words I have read in a long while and I wanted to cry out, yes, yes yes!”  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is on my plate, the figurative not the literal, and assessing my life, where I am now, where I once was, where I thought I “ought to be” by now, versus where I actually am…I do that, perhaps too often, but examining your place in the world is not a bad idea now and then.  It’s the dwelling on “where you are not” rather than the embracing of “where you are” that is the killer.

I was thinking, when I read that sentence, what a lonely life it would be to not have your hands full.  Having to cook for someone, having to comfort someone, having to provide for someone, having to care for someone, or many some-bodies, means that you have people…People to love and people who need you.  WHAT an extraordinary gift, to not be lonely or feel alone, or feel empty or bored, or be uninspired or apathetic.  It really is ludicrous how enriched I feel by the fullness of my simple little world.

Sometimes, particularly this time of year, I find myself daunted by how much I have to “clean up” in my own life, when I spend nearly all of my waking hours and energy literally cleaning other people’s vacation houses and yards, and so little time tending my own fire, and I feel like my hands are so full sometimes, with stuff to do that isn’t even my own stuff, that I get to feeling overwhelmed…AND I hate that word.  BUT then I think about where I actually AM in the world, on the planet, and I remember that I get to work in some of the most exquisite homes on the beach!  AT the BEACH!  I can listen to the ocean and have the sand between my toes 7 days a week if I so choose and I can, if I want to, sit on the patio or deck at  any number of waterfront homes, ANY day of ANY week and see sunsets that often take my breath away.  I get to be on an island that some people in the mid-west might dream their whole lives of seeing, and never get there, and here I am, there I am, day in and day out, and I realize, every time I do this, I am so blessed.  Those thoughts wash away the malignant ones that make my heart heavy and my brain over-think, or my worries and woes get the best of me. I think about how my hands are full because I am busy with a job I love, that it allows me to keep a roof over my head, and pay for air conditioning, and food, and my truck to get me where I need to go… AND-AND-AND the abundance…having your hands full means your life is abundant and that is rich, no matter what the balance is in your checkbook.  I needed to rethink what “busy” means, and for that initial opening sentence, I am thankful.  It shifted my perspective.  Eight words can totally modify your way of thinking if you are open to understanding them.

You have to love where you live and you have to love your life or you will spend way too many moments of your time on this planet in a state of unsettled unhappiness.  I don’t know about you, but I feel, the older I get, like I don’t have time for that!  I don’t want to be unsettled and I don’t want to be unhappy, so my brain must keep me thinking about THINGS, PEOPLE, LIFE, in a way that shifts to the upside, every time.  My brain is in charge of my feelings and I must keep practicing good brain health, to keep all my pieces and thoughts heading in the right direction.

When you feel, oh how I loathe the word, “overwhelmed,” I’ve decided it is perhaps better to think of yourself as Juggling, as it’s a happy circus-like word, and it’s true, you are juggling, and that sounds stronger, and certainly like you’re far more talented than the word overwhelmed does.  I associate that word, overwhelmed, with being weak and unable to cope, whereas juggling, well that is an awesome skill! Right??!!   Keeping all those balls in the air, each one being touched at the precise moment necessary so that they are all in the air when they are supposed to be.  When I read that sentence, “having your hands full is a ludicrous blessing” I understood how true it is, and perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, I would not have understood the gorgeousness of those words.  My hands are full, my plate is full, my heart is full and my life is full.  This way of thinking is good practice for contentment, shifting the way your brain thinks about being busy and having your hands full!  Thanks to Instagram, and my reading that one sentence, yet another shift is occurring for me.

 

 

 

Do you see what I see?

When I was in college one of my pre-law professors did an experiment, which we the students did not know was an experiment at the time…in which a student came into the class during a lecture and was rude, loud, and verbally abusive to another student and threw a pencil at the professor when she demanded he leave her classroom at once.  When she gathered her thoughts, and our heart rates seemed to fall back to normal, she asked us to write down what we saw and what we heard…I assume you know where I am going with this?  Nearly every single one of us wrote down some details that were different.  Some completely different than the person sitting directly beside us!  Sure, we all noted the color of his hoodie and the color of his skin, but the words he said, the tone in which he said them, his manner, the incident itself was different for almost all of us in the room.  HOW is it that a group of twenty young adults could be in the same place at the same time during the same event, and all see, hear, and experience something different?  To say that, decades later, we as a nation are in a version of that classroom experiment right now, is perhaps not stretching the truth too far.  I am baffled and confused, almost daily, indeed weekly, as to how it is that I can watch a speech, hear an interview, read an excerpt or a transcript, and come away with a COMPLETELY different assessment of the person speaking and the subject matter and the content synopsis, and come to a conclusion that is the opposite of yours.

The English language is filled with words that have multiple meanings and subtle uses that certainly can make some of use one adjective or another to describe a person, place, or thing, but to hear a person speak in real time, and to then read the speech, and come away with a totally different conclusion about both the speaker and the subject, than the person sitting next to me, is causing me great unease.  Am I not understanding the words coming from the speaker’s mouth?  Am I not comprehending the sentences?  Am I not well read, or educated or erudite enough to find a person to be a vulgar buffoon, with little mastery of language, and indeed an inelegance for public speaking that I find to be horrendously unpleasant to my ears, but yet you think this speaker and the speech is terrific?  HOW can that be?  It seems that this college experiment I was part of in my twenties is a real-world-scenario in the year I’m turning 50!!!  Every day I watch some news on television, every day I read some of the newspapers on the internet, every day I listen to NPR, and yet every night I go to bed with different thoughts than most of the people to whom I am related and many of the people who I care about.  The same hours in the day, the same things happening in those hours of the day, and not one common thought about what transpired.  Totally different conclusions about the exact same things.

I understand that we all color our world with the thoughts we already have.  We might never agree on anything in my own family, my town, and this country.  We might always be divided, nearly down the middle, about everything.  There are many men and women far more brave than I, who are voicing their opinions, loudly these last months, about the climate and the country, about insurance and injustice, about civil rights and Russian wrongs, and are writing and saying words that I often think but do not express.  I have many loved ones and many friends who think nothing like I do about these subjects.  I have many loved ones and many friends who have totally different views, opinions, beliefs, and visions of a future than I do.  So I have had much on my mind these last many months, really the last year, and I have just tried to let things play out, let things unfold, and see where it goes.  I have heard smart loving people say to me, “people are not giving him a chance” and I have had to simply agree to disagree.  I choose to not add to the divisiveness in my family and my community and so I remain quiet most of the time about most things.  But, I see what I see, and I hear what I hear, and I read what I read, and I am horrified most days that anyone can think anything but what I do, but they do.  I may not be brave enough to speak out against the madness, and I may not be brave enough to take action, but I have come to the conclusion that when I hear words that cut through to the very core of what I think is right, decent, and just, it’s okay to loathe those words and the mouth from which they came, even if everyone around me thinks I am wrong.

On The Turning Away

If I told you how many times I listened to my record of ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ in my childhood, you would think I was joking, but I’m not.  Even as a little girl, I found that song so sorrowful, how Jackie Paper grows out of his love of Puff and turns away from childish things as he grows from a boy into a man.  I loved the song and still do, despite how sad it made me.  I’m thinking about Puff this morning, as I think about my granddaughter, who in the early morning hours of today turned 12, and how just like that, it feels like it’s over…other people and other joys occupy her world, like Jackie Paper, she is growing out of what was, into what will be…

Maybe “over” is too harsh, but things have changed and shifted, as I knew and expected they would, but I’m left with a strange ache that I did not anticipate.  It came so suddenly, at least it feels sudden, or maybe I was not noticing the shift.  She hardly calls me anymore, and her texts are less frequent with every passing day, and she seldom wanders over here just to talk like she once did, and the last few months of her school year, when I got her off the bus, she sometimes had no more than a sentence or two to say to me.  As she grows, her time is spent more and more with less and less of me.  I understand, and I realize it’s the way of things, it’s simply natural progression, and I’m happy she is growing out of the adolescent and child stages, and coming into the young lady and woman she will be one day, but still…

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar

The child who I used to speak to or see every day, now goes for days, even more than a week with nothing more intimate or personal than a wave if we pass in the driveway.  I was going to buy a new cordless phone for the house a few weeks ago, until I realized that the old answering machine messages asking, “Hi Nana are you there?”  still stored an eight year-long history of her voice, as it grew from the four-year-old next door, into the girl with her own iPhone, who texted instead, would be lost.  AND I admit that once in a while if I am feeling low in some way, I press Play> on that answering machine, just to hear her little voice.   I fully accept the loss of what once was, I guess I just didn’t expect it to feel like it has come so quickly…suddenly it is her birthday and this is the last year before the numbers end in the word ‘teen.’

You won’t believe me until it happens to you, but the love you feel for the child of your child is profoundly different from what you ever felt as a parent.  It is better and richer and more fulfilling than any love you have ever known before.  That is a universal truth.  Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but it might just be my truth.  And it could very well be that it feels different for me because of how close I am to the girls in my life; having bonded with them like I did for those first weeks and months of their lives, and in real proximity as we have been next door neighbors for eight years now.  It is one of the most deeply felt bonds I’ve had the good fortune to know. I am grateful for this girl in my life, even though the girl has begun to slip and drift away, as a young woman slowly emerges.

She is still one of my favorite humans, no matter how many times she mutters under her breath or rolls her eyes at the adults in her life.  I hope that she will always know she can turn to me, and my arms and mind will be open towards her, no matter how far she might turn away from me and leave childhood behind.  I will be forever thankful to her, for unlocking my spirit and breaking open my heart to accept a love like that on the day she took her first breath.  She might be moving on to other people and other joys but I won’t stay sorrowful, I won’t go back inside my woeful cave like Puff the magic dragon, I will celebrate her growing, and wish for her as she matures, to find and connect with people who are joyful and creative and interesting and talented, just like she is, and I will hope her friendships are fulfilling and fun, and I hope she finds people to share her time with who make her feel positive, and who keep her honest, and I will be happy, and lucky, that I had all those years of being one of her favorite humans too.

 

appreciation formulation

If any man on this earth has a daughter, and that daughter grows up to think of him with the appreciation, love, and respect I feel for my dad, he would be blessed beyond measure.  I know of no  formulaic equation for appreciation, love, or respect.  We grow to love some people, or find ourselves growing to dislike others, and while that seems simple enough, the “either we love that person/ or we don’t” of relationships, it isn’t simple at all.  Today is Father’s Day but I am grateful every day for the man who fell in love with my mother, wished to make her his wife, and shared with her every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true.

I have known many women in my life who have had dads who were, let’s just say,  ‘not great,’ and whose frequent bad decisions and perpetual poor choices provided these girls with a childhood that often seemed uncertain, and I imagine that is not an easy way to grow up.  I’ve read enough memoirs and have had enough friends to know too that many girls grow up with a list of questions that go through their minds when their dad is expected home… “will dad be mad, will dad be late, will dad be drunk, will dad be mean, will dad make enough money for mom to pay the bills…”  My life was never this way, not even a little bit…My dad was never mad, late, drunk, or mean, and he never missed work.  I know to some this example might make my dad seem kind of boring, but I assure you, he is one of the most interesting men you would ever have the good fortune to know, and what he was in my life was stability, consistency, and reliability, and I know this, it is in great part what has made me crave these simple pleasures in adulthood.  There is nothing wrong with a stable, consistent, reliable way of life.  The fact that my  fatherless daughter got to have my dad step up and fill those same needs in her life is something for which I am forever thankful.  The fact that my father has never stopped loving my mother is another thing about him that I appreciate, love, and respect.  There is no way to measure that level of gratitude, for the stable, consistent, and reliable life his presence allowed me to give my daughter too…If there are really 50 Inuit words for snow, then if I could, I would imagine a language where there are 51 words for thanks.

I wonder sometimes, when my brain goes off on these delightful journeys, if there could be some brilliant, measurable formula, that we simply have not figured out, for what makes us love and why?   What happened for my mother and my father never happened for me and that is simply a truth in my life.  I  have never loved a man who was enough like my father to compare them, and if my father was the standard to which I compared all men, I wonder why I never was able to find one who fell in love with me, wished to make me his wife, shared with me every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true…

My father never taught me to bait a hook, surf, swing a golf club, cast a line, play poker, or catch a crab, but the man I am currently dating has taught my granddaughters and his own daughter to do all of these things.  My father has never, not once ever, sat inside on the sofa or in his chair during the day and watched a game of any sport on television, but the man I am currently dating would, if given the chance, sit on the sofa for hours, watching any sport in which the moving of a ball is involved, on any day of any week, regardless of the weather any time of year.  It’s true that when I ask my dad to do something for me I only have to ask once, and let’s just say that when I ask the man I am currently dating to do something, I often have to ask much more than once.  This at times makes me curious, how I can love two men so much who are so different in so many ways.

I suppose the appreciation formulation comes to me from the ways in which these two men are more similar.  I always loved about my father that he would vacuum if the house needed vacuuming, or cook when dinner needed to be cooked, or do laundry when clothes needed to be washed, the same kinds of so-called “women’s work” that the man I am currently dating does whenever it needs to be done.  I appreciate, very much that it’s what I have always known in my father, and presently have in the man with whom I am sharing my life.  I know some women who never had that kind of man in their lives, ones who just expected the women to do the ‘women things’ and if she did not have the time or the energy, then those things did not get done.

My gratitude was sparked this past autumn by a memory of my mother when she twisted out her back when I was a young child, and the care that my father showed her, as she cried out in agony, as he tenderly got her into the bedroom and how he did all the chores and all the parenting, for days that I recall.  I thought about this time in my past after I had surgery in November that did not go as smoothly as anticipated, and how the man I am currently dating tended to my health and my comfort, my needs and my wellness, and cared for me as if he were the doctor, the nurse, the housekeeper, and the chef.  It turns out, those things really matter when you are sharing your life with somebody.  His tenderness towards me reminded me so much of that memory I have of my father.

I have many memories of getting hurt or banged up as a little kid, and my dad never losing his cool, and just always calmly doing whatever needed to be done, and I have watched, many times, as the man I am currently dating has scooped up his own daughter, as well as each of my granddaughters, from the driveway after a fall, or pulled them from waves and currents that grew too strong too fast, or wiped their tears, and cleaned & bandaged their knees and elbows, and stroked their heads and held them and put ice packs on their wounds, never losing his cool and always calmly doing whatever needed to be done…Tenderness is something that goes unnoticed sometimes in this busy life we all live, but showing tenderness is another way to show love without saying one word.

This man I am currently dating, well the fact is that we met too late to create together, even a little bit, the life we could have imagined.  The choices we both made before we knew each other puts our chances of shared dreams ever coming to fruition at slim to none.  So my dreams remain mine and his remain his, and if we find one or more that we can possibly pull off and make happen as a couple, I will consider it a success.  If I could dream of one thing coming true for him,  it is for when his own daughter is a woman, nearing her 50th year on earth, that she might think of him with even half of the appreciation, love, and respect that I think of for my dad…if that happens for him, this man I am currently dating, it would be a dream come true.  There might not be any formula to measure appreciation, but I do know that no matter how you organize the equation, it always equals thanks.