Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Tidying Up" My Way

Please don't get me wrong. I think that Marie Kondo's method of tidying up works for some people. Maybe even for most people. For me, it was just a little too overwhelming. My messy closet was not as bad as it was two years ago. At that time, my precious, helpful daughter volunteered to come over and help. She did it without knowing just how bad it really was. I knew it looked bad and I knew that I was having trouble  finding anything that I needed in the way of shoes, handbags, clothing, basically it was total chaos and in need of a major overhaul. 

She went about it the same way that I watched Marie Kondo do it with families on her program. She actually took EVERYTHING out of my closet and piled it on the bed. Shoes went over in piles with handbags and belts. She had me sit down and pick up each item one at a time and put it in one of three piles. I had to decide if it still brought me joy. Was there a spark when I looked at it and felt it? If not, I had to say, "So long!" If it was still nice, it went in the pile for donations. If not nice enough to donate, it went in the pile of throw outs. Otherwise, she took it and put it on a hanger neatly and placed it back in the closet. 

Sorting out sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, 3/4 tops and long sleeve tops, to jackets, slacks, skirts and dresses. I might add that she had it arranged by colors also. (Just a touch of OCD, you think?) I thought that we would never finish but actually it was not as bad as I thought. Until I came back and she had all of my shoes out in the Master Bathroom Suite. They literally took up the whole room and not to brag but we have a very large bathroom suite. 

My granddaughter, who was 4 at the time, came back and said to me, "Lola, you have a shoe store! Momma, can I have this many shoes, too?" Okay, so I had a lot of shoes. I admit that. I love shoes and handbags. I was told to sit down and try each pair on if they brought me joy. The extra component here was they had to fit comfortably for them to stay in my closet. Basically, I almost understood what she was saying. If they brought me joy and I could not wear them, then why do I have them? We sorted by sandals, flats, different heel heights, and of course her color fixation was still going strong with the shoes, just as the clothing. 
Yes, you really can!

Now, this same closet has the beginnings of looking like it did when my daughter straightened me out before. I did not have the heart to get her that involved again. I knew what had to be done. EXCEPT, with writing my book, and it being only me and no helper, I am doing it my own way. This does go against how Marie Kondo suggests, but it works for me. I am slowly working my way through the mess. I am actually trying on the piece of clothing if I think it sparks joy within me. Because, sometimes, once it is on my body, the spark fizzles out fast. I had to be honest with myself. Am I really going to wear it? Then it went to the throw away bag or the donation bag. 

Just so you know, I am getting about 5 - 7 outfits tried on each morning as I dress. So far I have 5 bags that have gone to a donation site. There will be more. I have some clothes upstairs also and when I go up, I take a few that I know do not spark joy and I have a bag already upstairs for them. The others, I bring down to try on or hang up as the case may be. This includes drawers of sweaters, tanks, sweatshirts and bathing suits. 

Never, ever did I think that I could fold the Marie Kondo method. One of our sons folds this way and one of our daughters does it the very same way. That was not a learned lesson from me. I am admittingly ashamed of my folding compared to theirs. Then, on one of the 'Tidying Up' programs, Marie showed a mother and a father who said there is no way they or their children could do that. She then brought in her own three year old to prove them all wrong. Her daughter folded a shirt as if it belonged on a shelf in a store. 

That is when I knew that I had to get with the program. My plans are to do the whole house. I can't begin to tell you how it makes me feel. Even in my office, I am working on the bookshelves and decluttering, along with drawers in the kitchen reorganized and it feels so much better. 

In our bedroom, I have decluttered my nightstand, the tops of two chest of drawers and have worked my way through 7 drawers. Of all the things that we have, I believe that we need to declutter our books. I plan on doing this by starting with my books and my books alone. Steve has many 1st edition books that are valuable. Then he has books that bring him joy to re-read. He must be the one to take that on. Actually, if I manage to get as many as I am thinking that will be going to the Library for a donation just from my piles, it will give him more space. 

As Marie says, "I can think of no greater happiness than to be surrounded only by the things I love." I can feel the love already and I have only just begun.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Happy, Happy 17 Years

There are times in my life, as in most other people's lives, that I have ignored red flags waving in my face when making choices for the wrong reasons. Yet, I chose to ignore them. This is not something that I am proud of, just pointing this out because it is coming up on Valentine's Day AND our 17th Wedding Anniversary, all on the same day! And this is how it happened.

This anniversary is so special to me because when I met this man, there were no red flags flying around me, only fireworks going off, whether I was with him or just thinking about him. 

Counting up everything, I was married for one year at an age that I thought that I knew everything. NOT. The only good thing is that I did not quit college and did not have children. Then came a marriage that lasted about 20 years. The best part of that marriage was the fact that I have two very special children and wonderful grandchildren now.

Pretty much, I thought my marrying days were over. I was not one to say that I would never marry again, let's just say that it was not on my radar screen. It actually was the best thing that could have happened to me when this ex walked away from our marriage. 

My now and forever husband had very similar circumstances in his earlier life. A brief marriage at too young of an age with no children. Then a longer marriage with two fabulous children and even though he was like myself in not initiating this action, it was one of the best things that happened to him. 

This gave both of us some time to find ourselves at a time in our lives that we each had some life  experiences to draw upon. We were a bit more seasoned. Yet the question is always out there. How do you know when it is the 'RIGHT' one? There really is no specific check list that works for everyone. For me, I just wanted to be aware of red flags. Another way to word this is that I knew what I did not want. 

The best kind of relationships just happen. You can't go out and look for it - it comes to you at just the right time; the time that you never thought it would have.

For our 19 years of being together and 17 years of this time being married, we continue to grow together more and more just by being ourselves and loving one another unconditionally. We see the whole picture of each other, our strengths and our weaknesses. We tell each other things that we would never tell anyone else because we can trust each other. Trust is there due to the respect that we have for one another. We rarely have arguments because of our respect. We agree to disagree on some subjects and this is healthy. We don't brush each other off because even if we think the other one is wrong, we take each other's opinions seriously.

Laughing a lot with each other is a big factor, even if we are laughing at ourselves. You know everything is going well if you feel as if you can totally be yourself around each other. This even means that it is okay to be quiet. Every moment does not have to be filled with chatter. It should feel comfortable to have some quiet time together, not awkward.

There are times that I know how much of a better person that I have become because of being with him. He brings out the best in me and I know that I do with him because he tells me so. The bottom line is that he just "gets me."

Does anyone know exactly what a good marriage is? I don't believe that it can be written out in specific words. It is a feeling that comes from within yourself. Most definitely, I have learned that a good marriage has to begin with a physical attraction. Chemistry must be an ingredient for the beginning of a healthy relationship. Where one must be careful is thinking that there are not other components. Two people must be willing to always be there for one another through happy and not so happy times, along with being able to talk about it.

 One thing comes to my mind is the fact that I still get butterflies when he holds my hand or see him walk around the car to open the door for me. It is our anniversary plus Valentine's Day so let's just go ahead and get a bit mushy. Something that he says that melts my heart is when he tells me (and quite often) that his favorite time of the day is when he is with me.

There are ways to show each other how much you love one another. Little things add up to big things such as my husband does not even drink coffee yet he makes my coffee daily and even brings it to me. When one of us starts off on a job around the house, the other one comes to help or takes care of another must do around the house. It surely does not hurt to be able to say, "I love you!" I imagine that we each say these special words to one another many times each day. This is not out of habit but a reminder to each other that we are in each other's lives.

The Beatles said it well when they sang," Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you!" 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

My Own Self Awareness

Time after time I must remind myself to not be too busy with my life to live. When I now have to stop and ask myself about how did I actually work a full time plus job outside of my home and still get all things accomplished, then I know that it is time to slow it down and take a breath. LIVE! I am in control of my schedule and what I do and when.

Even though I am retired from that full time job of 10 hour days when I was lucky (several times a month it was closer to 13) I am aware of going overboard on certain aspects in my life. That is the good news because it means that I am somewhat self aware.

The most important goal that I have is to finish my novel to the point of getting it to an editor. Then, there is my weekly blog to continue to work on. This is very important to find my creative "voice" in writing. There are times that my blog is read by over a hundred people a day and other times that I get two readers. I suppose that some blogs are more interesting to more people than others. That is okay. I am writing and that is the important thing. 

Throwing that out there takes me to the fact that in order to write in my voice, I must have authenticity and to do that I must be self-aware. This fact has been proven to make one grow much faster than others in their productivity. Having a clear understanding of my own personality, including my beliefs, emotions, motivations, strengths and weaknesses will take me, I have discovered, further toward my goal. YET, still give me the time along the way to enjoy living my life; thus the picture and saying at the top of my blog. Be busy in a good way. 

Sometimes, I have learned that one can't put a time limit on long term goals. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, and asking myself why can't I get it all done, I need to take a step back and allow myself to see what is causing this problem. Almost always is putting too much on my plate at one time instead of delegating out specific times to get things done.

My days run much more smoothly when I am to bed early enough to get up by 7:30, dress and have breakfast. Fact! Then use 30 minutes to have a quiet time to meditate and reflect, find my positive mantra of the day which I post on FaceBook.  Read my e mail and check local, national and international news, then disengage from the internet. 

Time to get busy writing and revising through my storyboard or on line with my chapters. So that I am not sitting still all day, it is fine to get up, move over a load of laundry, take dishes in, refill coffee or water and even take the dog out. My dear sweet husband usually does this. I must admit though, I did get more writing done when I left my study and went to an offsite location to write using my laptop. I may have to start that again just to jump start my writing.

Then once the time is put in for writing what I feel is a reasonable amount in my novel, or the ideas need to marinate for a bit before beginning again, it is time to work on the project that I have given myself, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. She has gotten to me. I know myself and it would be way too overwhelming to just dump it all out. I must do a section of a closet or a couple of drawers at a time so  that I am taking my time. Already, I have taken three bags to a donation site. 

Another project that I have not been able to get into, due to nobody's fault but my own is to paint. I really want to paint some guitars for decorations. The best place for me to paint is in our inside out room (screened in porch) so this is best done in weather that is not frigid nor so overwhelmingly hot and humid that breathing is difficult. For now it will be another goal that is on my plate and that is to read more. I am happy to say that I am off to a good start this year.

One must know their limitations and there is no way that I or the two of us in this house can clean it in the way that we like for it to be cleaned. We do have someone near and dear to us come in on a weekly basis to take that off of our shoulders. When our cleaner underwent knee surgery, we hired out someone ever other week and we took care of the in between week. The house was not the same. Lucky for us that we can afford this and make it work in our budget.

The same with grocery shopping. We were spending way too much time weekly grocery shopping. Plus, we bought things on impulse and things that we already had because neither of us could remember seeing and it was not on the shopping list. What the heck, just pick it up and add it in the cart. Now the grocery does that for you on line and then loads it in your car. The amount of time and money that this has saved us is tremendous. 

It has been proven that those with high self awareness live happier and more fulfilling lives. The scientific reason for this is that they become more confident in finding and expressing their authentic selves, they are proactive instead of reactive, they have deeper thoughts and this reveals their true purpose. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote: "If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me." This is exactly how I feel if I don't remain self aware. There are several techniques that I continue to use to help me stay away from losing my confidence and work on my awareness. Each day a brief meditation with a positive mantra and journal writing to reflect on how I felt in what was accomplished for the day. Also, if you have family members and close friends who can give you feedback concerning your actions, beliefs and motivations, I have found this to be essential. Some will be positive and hopefully they will know how to share with you a bit of constructive criticism; just a simple question of how is your book coming along can get me back on the right track.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Food Journeys

There are certain things that I have been working on these past two weeks to get off of my weight plateau. As I continued to think about it, I had to let thoughts just marinate to help me overcome this bit of a let down. I came to the conclusion that it was not selfish of me to do what brings me joy so I need to go into this new lifestyle wholeheartedly. This, as it turns out, is a good thing for people like me. Full steam ahead or else drop it. Since I am not prepared to give it up and let it go, the answer is to go for what I want without a doubt.

Why? I am doing this for my health. It is a journey that will have ups and downs and that requires me to stick with it no matter what. The more that I focus on why I want to do this, the easier it becomes for me. The voices inside my head quiet down when I am head strong about not having that pizza, potato, wheat, rice or sweet. Just as in the cartoons, I can imagine an angel on one side of my head and the devil on the other side fighting it out over what I will or won't eat. That just will not work. I must be the one to make that call!

One of the easiest ways for me to accomplish what I want to do is to share and get support from friends and family. By telling others what I am going through, they give me encouragement and sometimes even connect me to media sites that can help with ideas and recipes. Instead of focusing on what I can't have, they help me look at our meals together and just see all of the good things that I can have and share with them. Just because I am watching what it is that I eat, does not mean they have to chose the same.

This puts a positive spin on what we all desire...time to be together without anyone feeling guilty for what they choose to eat or not eat. 

When you have fun doing what you are doing, in my case cooking, I want to share it and try to have a little something special for everyone, especially on family celebrations.

Instead of the negative side, which is the fear that this is not going to work for me, I think of this quote: needs to be turned around so that I KNOW I am working towards something that is so very worth it. Even though I know of my fears, keeping in mind that they are there to let me know a celebration is coming soon. That is the positive side.

Even with this plateau, the numbers on the scales may not reflect much except the up and down between a few numbers. I have been focusing on celebrating success as I am moving in inches on to a sizes down in clothes and even jewelry. 

As a side note, to help celebrate this success, I have been on a kick with Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up" show. She has inspired me to take things out of my closet, hold them to me and ask myself if it brings me joy. I try it on if it does bring me joy and if it is something that I have not worn in a while, especially if it is because it was too tight. I have had to start a pile of what is too big. I have been stuck on wearing the same stuff over and over, fearful that other things would not fit. (Of course, they didn't). Slowly but surely a new wardrobe is appearing and it feels so good. This is how I know the plateau will get a kick start soon on the scales.

On that day when I step on the scales, I know that I will feel

when they have moved to a lower number. I will try my best to not allow that to be the only reason for my joyfulness.  This is why marinating why you are choosing to do whatever it is that you are debating in your head. Use your head but also use your heart because this is where the passion comes from. 

As for now, I believe that I am headed to our kitchen to make a beautiful salad that will have everything delicious that I can have in my salad including real Bleu Cheese salad dressing. 

Pick your journey and hopefully these words of how I am coping with mine may help you. The biggest take away from my marination is that I always need to ask why before how because intention is required to create my compass. Instead of north, south, east or west my compass shows my intentions will be either low carbs or high carbs. I know what my intention and passion will be.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dog Language

Dogs do have their own language, just as we do. I suspect that dogs understand our language more than we understand their language. I did a bit of research on this and now I feel even stronger about this theory. 

For example, it has been proven that dogs understand about 165 human words, depending on the dog it may be more or less. Both my husband and I have had dogs that definitely did not know that many. This did not make us love them any less. Now we have a dog that we actually spell out some words because he will just get too excited if he hears certain words such as, "Go, out, frappuccino, tinkle bells, potty, walk, etc." Of course, he knows his name, as well as all of the usual family members. I am aware that he is not the only genius of dogs out there, however, he is most definitely up at the top.

We, on the other hand, knew some of his language. Some things do not require a rocket scientist to figure out. Let's start at the beginning; like when you go and pick out your puppy. 

This is a very important time. My husband and I are firm believers that the puppy/dog chooses you. We know that Davis chose us. There were others in the liter that our breeder brought in to the kitchen with us on the floor for them to come to us. A few could have cared less if we were there or not, some came in and nudged their way to us, sometimes even aggressively pushing another pup out of the way. One little puppy continued to try to get to us and we noticed that one little sister kept stopping him. Once we got him alone, he climbed up on Steve's leg and just cuddled with him and then with me. He melted our hearts right then and there. Not to mention that his tail was a perfect question mark shape and his hair was so soft and wavy. Love at first sight for all three of us. 

Our wonderful breeder gave us all of the details that we, as new puppy parents needed, even a new red blanket to wrap him in for his ride home. Naturally, he was a bit afraid, however, he cuddled into me and it seemed that he felt he was protected. 

Since that day we have learned so much about dog language and I will be sharing what we have learned through our experiences with Davis, as well as in my research on things we did not know.

We all know the 'puppy dog eye' look. Most of us feel like they are begging or trying to look so cute that you will feel guilted into giving them a treat. Some of that may be true but they also are sometimes innocent and just basically looking at you to show you that they love and adore you. 

There are other puppy dog eyes such as the two below:
One is I am so sorry. I did not mean to do it.

The one on the right is totally guilty. Yes, I know that I should not have done it but I did it anyway. Look at those eyes. How can anyone be too angry. It is a teaching time, never a yelling time. Dogs have feeling, believe it or not. I don't know about you, but I never want my dog to be afraid of me. Use it as a teaching moment. Have patience.

If your dog wants to sleep with you rather than on his bed, that means you are the number one person in your dog's life, even while you are sleeping. This fact is something that my husband and I talk about often. Our dog has been crate trained from the very beginning. He loves his crate and even goes in it on his own throughout the day with the door open. It is as if he feels that is his home. When he does come in our bedroom with us, he never tries to jump up on the bed. First of all, even though he is a tall dog, he is a 'scaredy-cat' when it comes to heights. Our bed is a very tall bed. At Doggie DayCare, he does not go on the climbing tall play equipment. So being in bed with us is something that does not seem to interest him. 

 Whenever you come home from work or just being out running errands, you may feel that getting tackled by your dog is something that you need to curb. It is simply that your dog is wanting to show you how much they've missed you and that they are happy that you are home. They are not trying to be annoying, however, when you have a large dog, you need to be aware of their strength. They certainly don't mean to knock you over, just be ready. Because we do not have young children in our home on a regular basis, we must be prepared when our granddaughters come over. He loves them dearly, but has knocked them down by accident in his happy state. The oldest of the granddaughters tells him like it is. Even she knows that patience and love will teach him the right way to behave.

Every time that someone comes into the room where he is for the first time of the day, he will look around the room frantically trying to search for a toy to take to them. I used to think that it meant that he wanted to give it to me to throw and him fetch, when I read and learned that it can also mean he wants us to play with it to. He likes you and wants to share, so if you instinctively throw it, you may hurt their feelings. Davis, brings it to me but doesn't let go of it so easily like he does when it is a throw and fetch game. I have learned the difference.

Yet another greeting from your dog that means they are excited to see you and you may be reading their language incorrectly, is they stretch out as if they just need to get their muscles moving from napping. They may have been napping, however, it is a sign of affection and love toward you when you come through the door, not just because they were sleeping.

Have you ever had your dog lean on you? As if they are tired and need something to lean against? And if they are a big dog, this is definitely noticeable. It is not that they are being lazy, they are actually hugging you so be sure to reach down and pet them to show them love in return.

Yawning is very common in dogs. I used to think that it meant Davis was tired but it is a little more than that in dog language. It means they are comfortable and feel safe. In the wild, a yawn is considered to be a sign of submission, so when you do see your dog yawn a lot, it means that they are completely relaxed with you.

The first time that I ever saw Davis stop dead in his tracks, put his nose in the air, one front paw picked up and his tail pointing, I thought, "Dude, you are a goldendoodle, not a pointer!" It seems that even though it looks unnatural for some dogs that are not pointers, it is a physical reaction that has them playing like a detective in trying to figure out what has caught their attention. As I read in one of my research finds, "Dogs holding one paw up is like Sherlock Holmes lighting his pipe."

Dogs that don't point with their tail and with one front paw up, may still stop and be very still with their nose in the air or flicking their ears, trying to figure out the sight, sound or smell that is unfamiliar to them.

Now let's move to a dog's tongue. It seems as if our dog, as well as others, always seem to have their tongues out. This can mean a few different things. First of all, I did not know until reading about it, that after a dog knows that they've done something wrong and they want to apologize, they will approach their human and flick their tongues out as a sign of apology. They try to look as innocent as possible because they know how to look adorable and who can resist such a cute face? Then again, it is a way that they breathe, by panting. Panting relentlessly means they are overheating and they are trying to regulate themselves and probably need some water to help. 

Chewing on furniture is something that I can relate to with our furball. Luckily, it did not get as bad as some cases that I have heard about, it still is not a good thing. Whether they are a puppy or not it is a sign that they need more exercise and other things to keep them busy and occupied. Once we got Davis on a regular routine of physical activity and chewy toys that would not harm him (because he can tear through most toys in a New York minute) we have not had chewing of furniture.

How about when you are talking to your dog and you change your voice to the doggie voice, only if a little bit and they are aware of that and twist and turn their heads as is to say, "I am trying to understand what you are saying to me."

The same goes for when they are talking, and yes dogs do try to talk. When Davis gets close to his Doggie Day Care, he knows and his tail starts wagging, and he starts this kind of low moaning and talking to us as if to say, "Hurry up, let's go. Are we there yet?"

The other way that they communicate is by short barks of happiness or loudly and rapidly barking so they can alert us to what they see as danger. In our case, it is usually a delivery person coming to the front door. One other method that our dog has displayed is that when he had to spend the night with our daughter and her family she asked me why did I not tell her that he howls? I was shocked actually. He had never howled with us. She said that they put him in his home and told him goodnight and he howled one time as they got to their bedroom door. She and her husband turned around and asked each other what that sound was. It was Davis, they concluded. Maybe he was telling them goodnight. Luckily, he only did it once so that made us feel good that he was not in distress or too anxious.

The time to be concerned is if they are barking and the dog wrinkles their muzzle and shows their teeth and even snarls. This is a sign of aggression. Luckily for us, our dogs have not shown this type of behavior. We are well aware of it because we have one that lives next door to us. There have been times that I am afraid to go out to my own mailbox if he is out growling, barking and snarling showing his teeth and acting as if he would jump the fence. I have witnessed an Amazon delivery man come up the walkway, see and hear the dog next door and throw our package to the front porch, turn and run for his life to his van. The poor dog is left out and not socialized. Not his fault, however, we stay on our toes when in our front yard.

A dog bowing by keeping the back of his body up and lowering his head and almost going down on his knees (do dogs have knees?) means they are in a playful mood. Our dog does this when he is in his 'zoomie' stage when outside. Inside, he may bow and go down when given a new toy. That question mark tail is high in the air and wagging back and forth.

The last type of communication that dogs use with humans is with their tails. One researcher stated that you can actually know more about what a dog is telling you by their tails than their eyes.

These three tail examples will be how this blog will end. The top dog is running free and happy as can be. The middle dog is not happy, could be sad, anxious, hurting? It is time for the owner to investigate. Since this is my blog, I have decided to end on a happy note. Davis with his happy tail playing in the snow, one of his favorite things to do, even though he does not get to see it often here in Memphis. 

Just remember, dogs are talking to you in everything they do around you. Are you listening?