blogging, learning, memories, Wisdom, Writing

A Smile and a Puff of Smoke

“You just never know,” is something I find myself thinking lately.  I’m only 53, but have lost several high school classmates within the past few years.  This has led me to a relatively morbid new hobby of reading the online obituaries from my old hometown’s newspaper.  After all, when death comes creeping closer to those that you’ve spent time with from the sandbox to algebra class, you begin getting curious.

My most recent read was about a guy I hardly knew named Jake.  He was a nice enough fellow and managed to do very well, something that I never could–blend in.  In the late 70’s I remember him with long wavy hair and an attempted beard, a flannel shirt and a cigarette hanging from his mouth, as he talked with his similar friends at the “smoke hole,” an allotted space for high schoolers 16 and older to light up between classes.  I remember he was a general studies kind of guy, as were most of the 112 people that I graduated with.  There were only six of us that went on to college. I was sure there, among friends, they were talking about how drunk they’d gotten the past weekend or how far they’d gotten with some girl.  I remember Jake’s ready smile and the way he tossed his hair as he laughed with his friends. They all seemed so at ease and so in their right place in life.  It was pretty hard for a girl like me, who had to hold my breath as I passed the “smoke hole” to avoid an asthma attack, to understand how to feel so in place or at ease in my small town.

At that time in my life I was secretly envious of people like Jake.  They seemed so simple and unencumbered by the daily chore of being liked. While I was doing what all not-so-cool kids were doing, listening to show tunes in the respite of my bedroom, or going out  in public with my face painted like Peter Criss of KISS, I pictured that guys like Jake were having fabulous times down by the river  hanging with their friends.  Turns out, I imagined mostly wrong.

Jake’s obituary was obviously written by someone who knew him very well and loved him very much, because through the eloquent detail of it, I came to better know the guy I shared so many spaces with.  Jake’s life was a hard one.  His mother left shortly after he was born.  He was the youngest of eight children.  When Jake was 10, his father collapsed and died of a heart attack in his arms.  He and his siblings were placed in foster care with a relative and managed to forge on.  Did I mention that I don’t remember Jake ever missing school?  After graduation, he went on to become a Marine and served his country for 20 years before retiring to work as a mechanic.  He had two marriages, three children, and was preceded in death by four of his elder siblings.  He fought cancer for 12 years before finally succumbing a few weeks ago at 53.

So often, the things we imagine about people are simply figments of what we think life would be like if we were living on the greener side of it.  So often we’re wrong. So often we don’t know the true path of those we share a space with and we make judgements based on a smile or a puff of smoke.



Appreciation, love, marriage, memories, Writing

Why the Disappearing Woman Disappeared

My father-in-law’s sudden passing has caused us to be temporarily situated in a golf and beach community in South Carolina.  I’d love to share that we’ve been gallivanting about, via  golf cart, wearing funny pants, and attempting to be under par, but we’ve not. I’d, also, like to tell you about sand between my toes and shells in my beach pail, but I can’t write about that either.  We’ve been doing the sad task that many 50-somethings must do after their last parent passes; settling an estate.

My husband is the only surviving sibling, so the two of us have been handling all arrangements, attending to all legal matters, and sorting through the home that is proving to be a time machine into my husband’s past. I’ve seen has birth announcement, hand written by my mother-in-law 58 years ago.  I’ve read a letter from his sixth grade teacher, telling of his kindness and brilliance.  I’ve held the picture that won him a beautiful baby contest; a story my mother-in-law often referenced when bragging about how good looking her son was–and still is!

Though this task is in its beginning stages, I’ve sorted through what feels like a million papers and boxed up a plethora of things for donations, sale, and haul away.  In spite of the sadness, there’s been a measure of  joy in getting to know another side of my in-laws.  I’ve read ancient letters from friends, throughout the years, who complimented their ability to laugh and find fun in nearly every situation.  I’ve viewed photos of them in their late teens through their early 80s, taken at the various homes they lived in and  places all around the world that they visited. No matter the scenery, their smile and their loving gaze was a constant. I’ve shuffled through business plans and product prototypes to discover that they were brave risk-takers.  I’ve held my mother-in-law’s wild costume jewelry earrings from the sixties up to my own ears and tried to imagine the crazy parties that she may have wore them to in her younger years.

Oddly, there is a healing in this unavoidable process and a deeper wisdom. In the end, there are things that remain that will tell our stories; most are simple pieces of paper with words or pictures marking milestones, successes, failures, events and memories.  There are other things, silly things, like favorite sweaters and worn-out slippers, or eye glasses near a favorite book, or even half eaten bags of potato chips that remind us that we’re all so damned human and habitual.

Love the people you’re blessed to have in your life and reach out to those around you.

We may be down here for another week or so, tying up loose ends before we head back to the cold weather of West Virginia.  One of the many silver linings of this entire trip has been enjoying weather in the 70s in February.  I wish I could ship some of the sunshine to my northeastern blogging buddies!

As for my disappearance from WP lately, please don’t give up on me!  I plan to reappear as things settle down.  Hope everyone is doing well. 🙂




Bipolar II, blogging, emotional eating, enjoying family, losing weight, love, marriage, Medical Weight Loss Program, memories, mental illness, optifast, Self-Soothing, setting goals, weight loss journal, Wisdom, Writing

To Dispel the Shininess of the Aha Moment

Years ago, Oprah Winfrey popularized a nearly century-old phrase first coined in a 1939 psychology text-book; the “aha moment.” By 2012, this locution had became so popular that it was officially entered into Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as:

 “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

I somehow pictured the great epiphany of the aha moment to occur in a flash of terrific fanfare and deep connection with the Universe.  Little did I realize that my aha moment would occur in the small hours of the morning, in the pitch-dark of my bedroom.

It was November 12, 2013, and I couldn’t sleep, though I certainly didn’t lack the general feeling of exhaustion. Every joint in my body ached and the only thing more pronounced than the rapid pounding of my heart in my ears, was my labored breathing.  At nearly 230 pounds, I was the heaviest I’d ever been.

The past decade had brought a barrage of changes and strife that began with appearance of my youngest daughter’s bipolar symptoms; psychosis, depression, hypo-mania.  Because she was too ill to attend school and had to be constantly supervised, I took leave from my job of 16 years to care for her. For six months, other than for medical appointments, I only left my home, once every two weeks, go to the grocery store.  There, I would fill up my cart with an oxymoronic combination of extremely healthy foods for our meals, mixed with a plethora of high calorie sugary snacks for me. In those horrible days, food was my replacement for all of the pleasures that it felt like life had taken away; sanity, personal freedom, healthy relationships, and general happiness.  In truth, my youngest daughter seemed like a stranger and my oldest was acting out. She’d shaved her head, pierced her tongue, and even threatened to quit high school.  My husband, who, at that time, had limited understanding and experience with mental illness, was constantly out of sorts.  Add the financial burden from me no longer working, my unexpected isolation as an extrovert, and a family history of addiction into the mix and it’s no surprise that I reached for food as my drug of choice to numb chaos of my situation.

Eventually, our tribulations passed.  My daughter was properly diagnosed and medicated.  Within two years she was back to her old, sweet self. Looking back it seemed that in the blink of an eye she finished high school, then college, and found the perfect job.  She also found a terrific guy.   My oldest, thankfully, decided to stick out high school, then college, and finally medical school; in five months she’ll graduate to be a family doctor. Last year, she married her high school sweetheart.  My husband and I joined NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness) and attended their support groups. The hub became much better educated about mental illness and its effect on the family.  He’s not only one of my daughter’s biggest cheerleaders, he’s my complete partner in our happy marriage.

With the deviation of my tale passed, I return to the night of my epiphany with the thought that perhaps the old adage is wrong.  Perhaps things don’t feel brighter after the storm has passed.  Maybe the storm tosses us about a bit too long and makes us confused about who we are, and what we want, because on the night of my aha moment, I was certainly at rock bottom.  I tried one last time to finagle the mound of pillows behind my head, only to find myself unable to breathe from my suffocating neck fat.

“I hate myself. I can’t live like this anymore!” I mouthed in the dark, as hot tears exited the corners of my eyes and pooled in my ears. I covered my face with my hands to stifle my sobs. I wiped my eyes with the sheet and grabbed my tablet from the bedside table to type this:


  1. Lose 95 pounds
  2. Regain my health
  3. Find something I love to do

The next morning I called the bariatric center to register for an informational session about Optifast on December 12, 2013.  After that session, I took their first available appointment.

January 16, 2014,  my very first day on Optifast, was the beginning of my new life.   The days, weeks, and months that followed were full of work, discovery, and living.  Nearly a year later, my days are exponentially as filled with happiness, harmony, and health.

My aha moment didn’t occur on the day that I’d won a great prize, or made a deep connection with the Universe, as I’d once suspected it would.  It happened under the shroud of night, on a pile of tear-stained pillows and twisted covers. In spite of my lofty visions of enlightenment, crushingly uncomfortable neck fat was my tipping point, my catalyst, and my spur.   I realize now that aha moments aren’t often those that sparkle.  They’re messy, dirty, gritty, painful, and even, fat. It’s that split second directly after an epiphany that life begins to twinkle, and once you set your change into motion it begins to shine.

Have you had an aha moment that’s changed your life for the better?  If you’ve lost weight, what was the catalyst that set your loss into motion?  Tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂 




Appreciation, blogging, Building self-confidence, enjoying family, Exercise, fitness, food and family celebrations, Having fun, learning, losing weight, love, Maintaining Weight Loss, Medical Weight Loss Program, memories, optifast, Thankfulness, weight loss journal, Writing

I’d Fight a Zombie for You


Last year, on December 16th, I attended an informational meeting about Optifast at our hospital’s bariatric center.  I was nearly 230 pounds and physically miserable.  My health was on a downward spiral of pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, depression, and limited mobility.   My spirit was in even worse shape.  In fact, shortly before my first bariatric visit, a silly family conversation about the Zombie Apocalypse* turned pretty serious as each family member was discussing their special skill in defeating the undead.  My husband’s years in the Army have given him amazing survival skills, coupled with a sniper-like aim with any weapon available.  My younger daughter is super fast, fearless, and strong. Her fiancé is resourceful and also an expert in survival and weaponry.  My oldest daughter is cunning, has expert medical skills, and extremely resilient, and her husband is wily, quick and strong.  After talking out a few scenarios that slayed more than a slew of zombies, my family turned to me,

“What would you do Mom?” my oldest asked.

“I’m fat,”  I replied, “I’d be your diversion.”

With that, their happy conversation ceased and I spent the next hour, promising them that I would get healthy.

Fast forward to yesterday.  My oldest I were happily dancing around the kitchen to holiday music with a few twerking songs thrown in, when she reminded me of last year’s Zombie Apocalypse conversation.

“What would you do now, Mom?” she questioned **

I answered with a high, karate-style kick that finished just inches from her head.

“I’d kick their asses!,” I replied with a smile.

With just one year of extremely hard work, I’ve gone from a Zombie’s holiday meal, to the undead’s worst enemy.  I’m nearly 100 pounds lighter, am no longer pre-diabetic, no longer have sleep apnea, depression, or high blood pressure.  My asthma medication has been cut in half, and I’m physically fit. I’ve met new, wonderful people through my gym and this blog.  I don’t fear life anymore, and I’m certainly not afraid of a few zombies!

I feel so immensely blessed this wonderful holiday season. I’m thankful for the love of my friends and family, for my health, and for all of the caring, sweet people that I’ve met here on WordPress.  I feel like I know all of you as friends and wish you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays! ❤ ❤ ❤


*Something that people who have years of advanced education tend to do, along with lengthy discussions of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other various super cool subjects!

**Once again, her extreme coolness coming out.


Appreciation, Friendship, Having fun, love, memories, Thankfulness, weight loss journal, Writing

A Day of Gifts

I was given a  series of sweet gifts this past Friday. I’d gladly show you a picture, but it’s absolutely impossible for an amateur like me to  photograph the collection of intangible, heart-brimming experiences that I had. I can only paint a picture with my words, and even they may not be bright enough to express my feelings.

Friday afternoon, I went shoe shopping.   Now, before you roll your eyes and think that this flat-footed fifty-year-old is going to share with you a shallow tale of Manolo Blahnik’s or Louboutin’s ripe for the picking, think again.  It wasn’t what I found in the store that made my heart sing and my eyes well with tears, it was who I was with and the circumstances of our shopping.   I helped my best friend take her elderly mother shopping for winter shoes. While that may sound tedious to some, it was a new experience for me and I held it with an elevated wonder.

I’ve known my best friend’s mom, “Carole*,” since I was 18.  She was once a very independent widow who raised five children on her own while serving tirelessly in her profession as an obstetric nurse. She’s now in her late 70s and suffers from dementia.  Though this dysfunction  has robbed her of her short term memory, and causes her to be easily confused, it hasn’t taken away the essence of her personality.  Her keen sense of humor is boldly intact, as is her kind and grateful nature.

I was a bit anxious taking the both of them.  Between my best friend’s traumatic brain injury,  her mom’s dementia, and my  terrible sense of direction when it comes to navigating in the city, things could have easily gotten chaotic.  I called the shoe store ahead of time to inquire about parking (I didn’t want Carole to have to walk far in the cold) and restrooms (essential for young and old). I also consulted Siri to guide me on the best route.  My fears were quickly put to rest, as our drive was smooth, with even the serendipitous occasion of a truck blocking oncoming traffic as I helped Carole out of the car and onto a safe sidewalk.  A dear associate named Dana carefully measured Carole’s feet and patiently guided her in finding everyday leather shoes, sneakers, snow boots and slippers.  All the while it was evident by her wide smile and glistening eyes that Carole was thoroughly enjoying being pampered and fussed over.   Repeatedly she told us all, “You all are really spoiling me!”

After shoe shopping, there was lunch.  An offer was made for a fancy Italian place, but Carole insisted that she wanted a chicken sandwich from a fast food establishment.  Fortunately, there were healthy salads for my friend and I. After lunch, we drove back to my friend’s house for some cozy fire-side viewing of old episodes of “Murder She Wrote.”  When it was evident that Carole was getting sleepy, we headed back to her house.  My friend prepared her dinner and we sat with her as she ate and waited for her evening caregiver to arrive.

As I drove back to my house in the early twilight, tears welled in my eyes as I mentally listed all of the little blessings that  I’d encountered. while shoe shopping.

  • The store we visited was where my own mother and I had  shopped throughout my childhood, Everything from my first pair of baby shoes to the Bass penny loafers that I went off to college in, were purchased there.
  • The gift of the truck that held up traffic long enough for me to get Carole out of the car safely.
  • A dog named Molly who  greeted me as we exited the shoe store (Molly was the name of the last dog we had when I still lived at home.)
  •  My best friend’s face bright with love and contentment as she cared for her mother.
  • Carole enjoying being “spoiled” and listening to her gratefully praise my best friend throughout the day.
  • The sleepy warmth of the fireplace and the nostalgia of an old TV show that I’d long ago watched with my own mother.
  • My best friend sharing her mother with me for the day; giving me a glimpse of the  pleasure associated with caring for the person who had once so tirelessly cared for her.
  • Feeling the glow of my own mom’s spirit so near to mine.

All in all it was a perfect day; a shoe shopping trip that was a little less about the fabulous finds on the store shelves and a lot more about the awesome discoveries in my heart.

When  have you found unexpected joy in a simple event?  Tell me about it! 🙂

* Names have been changed.

Appreciation, blogging, Crafting to lose weight, memories, Thankfulness, Writing

The Crowded House

There’s an old Yiddish folktale about a man who goes to his Rabbi for advice about the crowded condition of his small home.  Instead of encouraging him to reorganize, the Rabbi insists that he brings several groups of farm animals inside to live with his already bustling family.  When the man can no longer take the chaos brought on by his home’s new occupants, the Rabbi instructs him to remove the animals. Predictably, the man and his family realize just how much space they have in their home, and begin to better appreciate what they have.

For nearly two years, my home has been joyfully crowded; stuffed to the shutters with the people I love and their plethora of possessions.  This weekend, my wonderful daughter and son-in-law will be moving into their own home.  While I will certainly miss their daily presence, it makes my heart smile that they’ve found a beautiful house, less than two miles away from mine. It’s a win-win situation for all of us. We’ll still be close by to one another, but we’ll all have more space.

This new space will allow my younger daughter  to finally move into her sister’s room.  She and her fiancé are planning to move into their own place in the Spring.  She’s been accumulating quite a bit of household things for her future home and claiming her sister’s room will solve her storage woes.

Happily, this leaves my younger daughter’s room for me to finally create a craft room of my very own.  Currently, my crafting storage takes up a bit of space in several rooms of our house.  It’s going to be fabulous to finally see everything have its own space.  It’s also going to take some work.

Fourteen years ago, after a visit to Monticello, my daughter had the bright idea that a built-in bed, similar to the one in Thomas Jefferson’s home, would be the solution to having the world’s smallest bedroom.

This bedroom at Thomas Jefferson's Charlottesville, VA home was inspiration for my youngest daughter's childhood bedroom.  Picture this with only 8 ft. ceilings and much less floor space!  (Photo courtesy of
This bedroom at Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville, VA home was inspiration for my youngest daughter’s childhood bedroom. Picture this with only 8 ft. ceilings and much less floor space! (Photo courtesy of

My husband took on the challenge and after several days of work, and a trip to the emergency room for nearly cutting off a finger with the circular saw, he completed something similar by converting her ample closet into a cove for a platform bed with drawers. (Unfortunately, her room is too messy right now to take a pic of it–I’ll take some good ones before we demo)  To create my craft room, we’re going to have to remove the platform bed, amend the floor underneath it and do some drywall repair, trim replacement, and painting.  Hopefully, no ER visits will be required!

I found an adorably colorful rag rug for the floor for only $12 at Kohl’s (Hooray for Kohl’s cash and a 30% off coupon).  I’ve also found a fantastic 72″x 20″ unfinished workbench at Home Depot for $69.  I plan to sand and paint it a sunny yellow, which should look lovely with the light teal walls.  Fortunately, there’s already tons of shelving in the room that my husband installed when he built the bed.  Hopefully here in the next few weeks, I’ll have pictures to post, providing that I still have fingers to post with!

So this weekend, my small, crowded house will become a bit more spacious, as my eldest departs the nest for a second time.  The closeness of her new home quells my sadness.  I’m excited for her to enjoy the fun of setting up her own household with her own unique style, and I know we’ll still be in daily contact.  With no weepy eyes on board, I’m thrilled to reorganize my newly acquired space.  Unlike the man in the Yiddish fable, I’ve been quite happy having a crowded bustling household; I’ve appreciated the craziness all along.  The extra space that my daughter will leave behind is just a little bonus to an already joyful life.

Do you live in a crowded house?  If you’re an empty-nester, how did you feel when your adult “birdies” flew the coop?  Do you enjoy organizing and remodeling like I do?  What’s the niftiest home improvement project you’ve completed?



blogging, Crafting to lose weight, Daily Prompt, enjoying family, Exercise, Having fun, love, memories, Uncategorized

Longer Days Mean More Fun

Today’s Summer Solstice marks the advent of my favorite season, and I greedily bask in the extra hours of daylight offered by Mother Nature this time of year.  I assure you it’s not just my sixteen year stint as a teacher, with glorious plans for three months off, that makes me love this time of year. It’s a complex plethora of sun-glassed, Coppertone scented, watermelon stained, wet-bathing suited, grill smoked, play-till-you’re- exhausted reasons that summer is my favorite season.

In childhood longer summer days meant:

  • Bare feet or sandals:  As soon as winter withdrew its hideous head, I would begin my long stretch of annoying my mother for the supreme privilege of releasing my confined piggies from their prison of Stride Rites.  Nothing, and I really truly mean nothing felt better than that first moment of cool grass tickling my winter worn feet.
  • Babysitter torture: My brother and I are both blessed with ADHD, which makes us energetic, intelligent, creative, and slightly noisy.  We were your typical babysitter’s nightmare.  However, after going through quite a few summer sitters, my working mom, finally hired Cindy.  She taught us every card game known to man and seemed to find us equally entertaining.
  • Best friends: Summer was the time of weekend sleepovers, day trips to museums, zoos, and other attractions.  Most often, my brother and I were allow to bring a friend or two.
  • Swimming: I spent hours upon hours in the deep end, until the purple dusk enveloped me and mosquitos swarmed.

When my children were young the longer days were:

  • Sleeping in until at least 8 am: No 5:45 am alarm,  No little girls fighting to sleep a little longer.  No force hair brushings or messy ponytails.  No “take one more bite of oatmeal.”  Just sweet, sweet, wonderful uninterrupted morning slumber.
  • Daily visits to the park: With no yard at our apartment complex part of our summer day routine was the park.  Friends to play with; monkey bars to climb; swings inviting us to reach the treetops; other moms to chat with; these were all found within the wrought iron gates of our tree-lined park.
  • Crafting: Money was tight, but we were creative.  Fabric paint and buttons made old t-shirts new fashion statements.  Everything from embroidery, to painting, to making bouncy rubber band balls filled rainy summer afternoons, or days too hot for little girls.
  • Reading:  My fondest memories are those of two freshly washed, sleepy faces beside of mine as we read together Heidi, Pippi Longstocking, Harry Potter, Mrs. Pigglewiggle and so many more beloved stories.  There was no set bedtime, but by sunset, I always  carried two sleepy, worn-out girls to their own beds.

Now, longer summer days:

  • Never seem long enough: Perhaps I over plan, but I seem to be happily busy with something from dawn to dusk. I always settle into my bed at night wishing for a few more hours to enjoy the glory of being awake and alive.
  • Are filled with extra love: From the morning snuggles to the goodbye kiss from my husband, to the time spent with my daughters, and friends.  I feel so completely encapsulated in the good people around me that it’s hard not to be joyful.
  • Still mean crafting: I always seem to find something new to get into; needle felting, painting, jewelry making, glass cutting and resin projects fill my time.  Today I plan to cut some glass rings (from bottles) for my window hanging projects.
  • Healthy living and more exercise: From fresh summer fruit and vegetables , to long swims and walks.  My summer days keep me healthy and active.
  • Mean more fun, happiness, and splendor: Because I’m pretty sure that’s what summer was designed for! 🙂

Does my love of summer days make me dread the inevitable setting sun?   Nope, who could ever be disappointed in this:

Sunset over Currituck Sound (Photo by me)
Sunset over Currituck Sound (Photo by me)



What’s your favorite season?  What’s your favorite summer activity?