Monthly Archives: February 2012

Military perks

Today, I dropped off the registration forms for the Base-to-Base run on 17 March. The registration took place at the check-in counter of the gym. As the woman handling the forms started to ask about payment, I mentioned that Dave and I had participated in enough runs to qualify for free registration. Without checking a list or blinking an eye,* she said, “Oh great! That makes it easy.”

Then, she wrote “FREE” in the space marked “Registration Fee.”

And, well, that was that.

As I walked out the door, and walked past the start line of two of the previous races leading up to the Base-to-Base race, I marveled at the energy and dedication the Navy puts into encouraging its members and dependents to exercise.

All bases have a Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) operation who organizes all sorts of activities, including the races I am talking about here. Not only are the races well planned, they are well executed – full of cheerful volunteers, water stations, and a variety of locations and terrain. The cheerful volunteers always blow my mind; I am up and running at 8am on a Saturday morning because I know I will feel cheerful all day AFTER I run…how are they already cheerful?

On top of the excellent quality of the races leading up to the Base-to-Base run, they are offered free of charge! That’s right. You can run up to six different races prior to the Base-to-Base run for free, and as long as you run four of them, you can also run the big run for free, too. To this runner, it is a no-brainer incentive system.

In addition to the cheerful reminder of how much the Navy wants its personnel to stay fit, this was a reminder to me that no matter how many aspects of being a military spouse just don’t “fit” right, landing in a community of active, activity-oriented people was a great fit. Until I had the experience of meeting so many people who were eager to get out and run, zipline, snowshoe, play around, I did not realize what I was missing.

*Note: The MWR records your name at each race that you run, and the gym counter woman knows us from our frequency at the gym. Plus, this is a small base and the MWR coordinator would know if we hadn’t run enough runs to qualify for free registration. On top of that, I am sure they are going to double check the list.*

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Working on my fitness, mental fitness that is.

Cinquecento

Hey y’all,

Do you have a similar work-out rhythm to mine? I get excited, set a few goals and hit the gym to accomplish them. I mix it up so I don’t get bored, set mini-goals, and even take a day off if I’m tired. Things are going along smoothly and then one day – BOOM! I will get knocked off track.

Well, after years and years of reviewing this cycle, I have chalked my own BOOM up to a few specific insecurities:
(1) Wishing I weighed a little less (usually 5-15 pounds),
(2) Wishing I was more carefree and didn’t care about my weight/looks (contradictory much?),
(3) Wishing I was someone else.

There is nothing more liberating than admitting your insecurities to the entire world the people following your blog. Okay, so there are a lot more liberating actions to be taken in life. Yet, I often feel that if I would just get out of my own way, I could accomplish a lot more in life.

For instance, while it is true that I enjoy running for the solitude, the sweat, the cardio/resipratory health benefits, the connection to nature, the goal-setting, the accomplishments and achievements, etc., it is also true that I use running to balance out my enjoyment of rich foods, alcohol, and eating whatever I want. Well, not “whatever I want” – but I let myself indulge more than is probably healthy.

Yet, no matter how much I truly enjoy running and other physical activities, I still find myself wasting time worrying about my physical appearance. I chose my words carefully there, people, it is a huge time suck to do this! I am a healthy person, I choose organic and whole foods as often as possible. I exercise regularly and I reduce my stress in 101 different ways. Yet, as a part of contemporary image obsession, I am caught up in the flat tummy hype.

I feel there is no escaping this image burden, yet so few of us achieve the unrealistic images we hold so dear in our heads. And, thank goodness for that (see: Angelina Jolie at the Oscars, aka She-skeletor, aka Bobble Head megamama). I can recognize some sort of identity crisis when the eating disorder slaps me in the face and I do not want to see that in myself, ever.

So, as I strive to find more time for activities that bring me joy, that feed my spiritual soul, I am working to put more time and energy into those sources of energy, renewal and fuel. That means putting less time into sweating the food choices. Hopefully I will feel more secure, and more fulfilled, and still find my inner beauty shining through my physical representation.

As for #3 – wishing I were someone else. Well, let’s just face it. There will always be moments like that. Really, the best way to deal with that is to laugh (at myself, if possible). That’s where The Oatmeal comes in. Enjoy this comic strip of what we’re all thinking about each other when we’re at the gym…

At The Gym, by The Oatmeal

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Things I never thought I’d see in my driveway

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Three things I never thought I would see…

My neighbors terrace couch in our driveway. The heavy winds blew it off of his terrace, it dropped four floors down to our driveway.

I also never thought I would see an umbrella ripped right off the patio table…poor Warren! Yes, the umbrella was torn completely off the stand by the wine. I mean, the wind. The wine is more involved in part II of this post.

Lastly, I never thought I would see the tempered glass of the patio table absolutely shattered. As Warren was out of town and I wanted to keep the glass shards from getting in the water drains, I swept up the damage and could not identify the culprit. Perhaps it was the umbrella smashing into the table before the wind set it free?

Three things I never thought I would say about my Oscar party:

1. I read the major winners before I watched the program. Sigh. It’s true…I totally caved once I found out about #3, and I just went ahead and read the results in the news.
2. There were no ballots. The excitement level was severely mitigated by the time delay and I did not print ballots. Seriously, a 10-year tradition just died.
3. I never saw the awards program. Yes, that’s right, we recorded six hours of E! Red Carpet coverage (there was a lot of repetition), when we thought we were recording the Sky TV coverage of the Oscars. I have searched online in vain to find replays or even youtube clips of the show and all I’ve seen so far is Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech, which was great! Now, it is bedtime and my search for more video coverage will have to continue tomorrow.

UPDATE!!! At the last minute we found the replay of the Oscars on Sky TV (how smart of them to replay it in PrimeTime, what an oversight of mine not to look for it there). Sara – you are right, we had a great night!

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Feeling Italiana…

Cinqeucento

Here’s my most Italian image. I was on top of a nice size hill near Mt. Etna. I snow-shoed up the hill and was enjoying the view with my classic shades.

I also felt super Italian the other day when I was sitting at home waiting for the Bombola delivery. A bombola is the term for a propane gas tank that is delivered to homes who are not on “city gas.” Of course, you can also fetch your own bombola tank, but that’s not how we’re rolling right now. Anyway – the important Italian moment arrived when I heard the gate click and walked out onto the balcony to see if it was the delivery man (sigh, this is Sicilian, they ARE all men). Instead of the delivery truck, I saw one of my neighbors. He is a genial old man who farms the orchards alongside the property and who is always happy. Well, he is always willing to smile. We had a lovely exchange, including talk about the current stormy weather, and well wishes for a “buona giornata” (“Have a nice day” – essentially). As my hands rested on the wrought-iron railing of the balcony, I could feel myself leaning forward to hear him better. Instantly, I foresaw myself bent over, leaning on the railing as an Italian nonna.

The view & the gear.

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You’d better be-Liebster it!

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Today’s post is hosted by my favorite blogging buddy, Maki!

 

In a lame move, I have waited over three months to respond to the generous, the gracious, The Liebster Blog award that The Wordy Thirties bestowed upon me late last year. Okay, she awarded me before Thanksgiving and I’m super lame for blaming the holidays and all that, so let’s just skip to the particulars of this blogging award.

Building off of the German “lieb” (not to be confused with Lisa Loeb “You say…Stay”), The Liebster Blogging Award is for bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. It is a peer award, bestowed by a blogger who recognizes worthwhile content when she reads it, or when he follows it. So, amidst my bashful blushing the past three months, I have been feeling incredibly honored by and grateful to The Wordy Thirties, whose writing, honesty and courage I truly admire. Thank you!

To show you how truly honored I am, I am unveiling my husband, Dave. You’d better be-Liebster it! This was our holiday e-card to friends and family (in Dave’s email address book, let me know if you want in on the e-card next season…)

In a self-justifying move, I am going to say that since The Wordy Thirties announced herself in a funk recently, I have been feeling more and more motivated to responding to and paying forward this award.

The Rules of this award are simple:

* Copy and paste the award onto your blog (YES! I’m already done with that part…)

* Thank the person who gave you the award and link to their blog (Done and done, and please click on her link.)

* Choose five other bloggers to give the award to, post them here and let them know via their comments

* By spreading the love, hope that readers/other bloggers will “pay it forward”

Now come the five other bloggers to give the award to…

[Daa daa daa, da da, daa daa daa… a la Jeopardy]

This is tougher than it sounds. I try to follow blogs that inspire me to laugh, love, connect with the truth inside me, and write more. So many blogs hit upon one or two of these aspects, and many already have more than 200 followers.

Go Power Yoga is an infrequent blogger who puts such thoughtfulness and care into her posts that I am always tingling with excitement when I see something from her in my inbox.

Logy Express challenges me to think more carefully about the job I rushed into for stability and security, and makes me laugh out loud more than any other blogger I follow regularly. She just got the award herself (er, which ALSO tugged on my conscience knowing this award was in my inbox…), so I’ll grant her a pass for passing it forward if she wants to take it, not that she’d wait for me to say so…

Amanda Rudd at Amanada Rudd’s Blog frequently helps me surprise myself with her deep insights that I didn’t think applied to me, her fantasy book reviews that interest me (who knew?) and her ability to take on the most ambitious reading goals that I have ever imagined – on top of working hard for her PhD! She stirs my soul when she writes about her deep passion for writing, how she knew she wanted to be a writer, and all the writing she does day in and day out. Truly inspirational!

With that, my friends, I will call it a day. This lovely award has inspired me to cast my blogging net a bit wider, to take on new writing challenges (which I used to think were cheesy, but which I love reading on others’ blogs), and keep pursuing the passion in my soul, the inner voice directing me on my path, and continue making friends along the way.

Maki says he approves.

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Tag, You’re It!

Cinquecento

Ciao tutti, today’s post is playing my part in a blogging game. Many of my regular readers are friends and family who want to check in on Sicilian living, others are along for the adventure, the excitement, or to see me finally admit that job stability and financial security got nothing on living out your dreams in an uncertain world. Along the way, I have also befriended fellow bloggers, like Betty from San Diego who found me while she was researching a trip she had planned to Sicily. Another blogger friend, Jennifer Avventura, blogger at My Sardinian Life, tagged me in my comments for the game I’m playing today.

Blogger Tag!

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

TAG!

The Questions from La Mia Vita Sarda:

1. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
Definitely in Eritrea.

2. Why did the chicken cross the road?
To escape the CAFO it was born into…

3. Who inspires you?
My Grandma Smith, my mother, my friends – ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things.

4. Color or colour; favorite or favourite?
I’m ‘merican, colors and favorites!

5. Black, white or read all over?
Rainbows on the internets.

6. Past, present or future?
I try to live as fully in the moment as I can, taking in as much information as my senses allow. However, I always wanted to grow up as a Native American, or a similar culture, that lives off the land and focuses on honoring the environment.

7. You have one day to live, are given a million dollars, you must donate the money. Which charity do you choose?
Women for Women International, a charity I have been donating to for the past two years.

8. Planes, trains or time machines?
Planes…sigh, though I wish trains were more prevalent in the U.S.

9. What is the meaning of life?
To search for the meaning of life and never find it, because your search is always evolving with your spirit.

10. Blogs or books?
Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?

11. Your favourite space?
The end of my Grandma’s dock at dusk on a summer evening…watching a winter sun rise over windscaped snowdrifts dressed in purples, blues, and pinks…falling into bed after a long day of intense activity (long run, big kayak, snow shoeing, etc)… Essentially, I like space that is still, dynamically lit, and allows me to exist at my most vulnerable state of being.

The Eleven Blogs:
1. The Big Hard Sun
2. Real Fun Food
3. Withywindle
4. A Brand New Day
5. Raising My Rainbow
6. Logy Express
7. Classy Gallie
8. Betty at Sicily 2012
9. Stride and Joy
10. Cartoons and Creative Writing
11. The Wordy Thirties

Congratulations you awesome bloggers!

If you don`t have the time, nor desire to tag back, no worries, I will still follow you!

My 11 Questions for 11 Other Bloggers:
1. How old were you when you had your first kiss?
2. Do you have a preference in how your toilet paper rolls? If so, over or under?
3. How long have you been blogging?
4. Who made the biggest influence on your decision to blog?
5. What is the most compassionate act you made today?
6. Where is the next place you would visit, if you could take a trip anywhere?
7. Is altruism real or are we all fulfilling selfish desires when we help others?
8. When was the time when you felt the most brave?
9. Do you donate money, time, both or neither to charity/your community?
10. What did you do last Saturday?
11. If you could choose a job that everyone should have at least once, what would it be and why?

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“Make new friends, but keep the old…”

Cinquecento

Buon Giorno Principessa!

Say Hello to my new blogger friend Betty!

Betty is blogging about her Sicily trip, which ended late last week. She came to visit a family member in the area and came across my blog while she was researching Sicily. Betty grew up in Wisconsin, too, though she has lived in the Dairy-copycat-state (California) for many years now. We tried several different ideas for meeting up while she was here and finally squeezed in a quickie caffe and cornetto one morning before I went to work. I arrived a few minutes after the appointed meeting time to find Betty on the roadside waiting to hop in my car so we could avoid the morning rush hour traffic. I immediately attributed her practical maneuver to the Midwestern sensibility that runs through all of us who grew up in or spent significant time in the Midwest. Why bother with formalities when we have a mutual goal to achieve?

On top of Betty’s gracious traffic mitigating move, she was warm and friendly and I felt like we were longtime friends by the time she buckled her seatbelt. We easily chatted and laughed as I zoomed us over to Motta to find a bar.

Make New Friends, but Keep the Old…

My easy experience with Betty reminded me of the childhood rhyme about making new friends. Friendships have always felt difficult to me, and I do not feel particularly unique in this respect. For many of us introverts, or mixed extro-introverts, making friends feels odd and peculiar because putting all of your energy into a conversation with someone else can be SO draining. For others, it is just difficult to find someone who accepts you and can laugh with you. On top of that, we are all constantly changing as we age and mature, so friendships can be fleeting.

Of course, all the effort that goes into seeking, finding and building friendships pays off in huge health dividends. Intuitively we know this, we see friendships’ effects all around us, and recently the New York Times reiterated it with this coverage, which is a follow-up to a 2009 article about the health benefits of friendship.

The article zeroes in on the teachings of Jeff Zaslow, the author of “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship.” Mr. Zaslow recommends never leaving important words unsaid, saying “I love you” repeatedly to your most treasured friends and family, and emphasizing the importance of long-term friendships in your life. In reverse order, these three aspects of love and friendship bounce around my mind.

First, the importance of long-term friendships cannot be overstated. This is the reason that making friends with your siblings can be the greatest gift you give yourself. Now, not everyone is as lucky to have wonderful siblings, like I do (Love you Jenni and Jim!), so I understand how it sometimes happens that your siblings aren’t your friends. But just as love is an act as much as it is an emotional response, creating friendship with your siblings is a willful act as much as it is natural. Sharing a history with someone who loves you is invaluable. The ability to have an entire conversation with gestures and glances, the laughter that can come from a single-word quip timed perfectly, and the unconditional love that comes with these long-term friendships eases stress, provides comfort and adds invaluable joy to our lives. Thus, such friendships deserve nurture and care, be they among siblings, cousins, or friends.

Among the many friendships I am grateful for, my most recent circle of law school friends is unique to me. I never had such a diverse group of kind-hearted, thoughtful and caring friends as I do in these women. Opinionated as all get-out, strong, intelligent, and witty, every last one of them. And, the most amazing part of all – they like me!

Thus, I tell them “I love you” all the time and I end emails with “Love, Jill” even when I know I won’t necessarily get it written back, or when I’m a little too mushy for another’s taste. If I love you, I love you and I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. To me, there are 1,001 different kinds of love and I intend to relish and revel in all the love I can squeeze into this life. This lesson was drilled into me in my late teenage years.

As my sixteen year old self got geared up for my driver’s license, worked my part-time summer job, and dreamed about a life outside of Northwestern Wisconsin, a close friend of mine was contemplating the end of his life. Unbeknownst to me, he was struggling with depression of some sort, and finally he took the devastating step of committing suicide. With this drastic act, he forever change innumerable lives in innumerable ways. To my family, one of the most lasting changes was the way Dad communicated to us.

It is hard for me to think back to the time before Dad said “I love you” at the end of every day, every phone call, every time I walked out the door. Yet, my journal accounts and my memories of being a growing teenager confirm that he was not always so verbal about his affections. That isn’t to say I didn’t know he loved me, because I did. Yet, there is something so powerful in professing your love, and hearing another’s love professed to you.

When my dad kept offering his love, oftentimes saying “I love you SO MUCH” before the knot caught in his throat, he was also acknowledging his pain and giving me the chance to grieve our family friend with him. It was a million and one small openings for a moment of shared emotion that wove our family tighter together. Professing his love didn’t slow the teenage angst I often felt, it didn’t lessen our conflicts and arguments, but it softened them in inexplicable ways. It started to shed light on new pathways for a friendship to emerge where a fairly strict father-daughter relationship had once been. Knowing my father chose to present himself so vulnerably to me deepened my respect for him, and encouraged me to soften myself and be more vulnerable to him.

The willingness to be vulnerable with another person, to entrust your vulnerable self to another person’s judgments, is a true sign of friendship. When we instinctively start to put up walls, to withhold that vulnerability, or to see someone withhold it from us, it is safe to say the friendship is weakening or ending. Although I have struggled with initiating friendships over the years, the thing that troubles me most is the time when friendships come to an end.

It is this theme that resonates with me when I read lessons about never leaving important things unsaid. No matter how difficult to say, it is important to be upfront with our friends. Another New York Times article explores this difficult area of first identifying a weakening friendship, and then deciding what to do about it.

The article points out that, “Even though research shows that it is natural, and perhaps inevitable, for people to prune the weeds from their social groups as they move through adulthood, those who actually attempt to defriend in real life find that it often plays out like a divorce in miniature — a tangle of awkward exchanges, made-up excuses, hurt feelings and lingering ill will.

In my life, I experienced the loss of two significant friends – friends who I still think back to who shaped the woman I am today. I hope that I always said the important things to these friends. One is a high school friend who pushed me away, who distanced herself from me, who used the “I’m too busy” excuse until it led to “We’re not going to be friends in college” command when I pushed harder for an explanation. I like to think we handled the fall-out maturely, with some difficult conversations, and plenty of hurt feelings on my part, but an overall positive attitude about the other person. In recent years, we have reconnected through Facebook.

What about the time when you are the one who decides to end the friendship? “The first step before you end a friendship is to consider, very carefully and seriously, if you want to end a particular friendship or if you just want to wind it down,” said Jan Yager, a friendship coach and author of “When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You” (Simon & Schuster, 2002). “It will usually be a lot more pleasant to just pull away, and stop sharing as much privileged information.”

This classic move of withholding your true feelings is one that can preserve many a friendship that needs time to mature and change in response to life changes. Most people recognize the symbolic gesture represented when a friend starts withholding, yet it can also be a sign of pending connections. One of my best friends who has always known my heart has been leaps and bounds ahead of me in maturity for our entire friendship. She developed a solid career, made career advancements and married all before I got the sudsy beer hops of college flushed from my system. She started having houses and building children (or is it the other way around) and on many levels, I just cannot connect with her on a day-to-day level. Yet, we seem to find a way to share private thoughts with each other when we do connect in person, and sometimes in emails. On the other hand, some friends who I tracked more closely with in daily lifestyle have become more distant and less divulging as we progressed.

The other ended friendship that lingers in my mind was a friend from my middling years (between undergrad and now) who pushed for displays of trust and vulnerability from me, only to deeply betray the confidence I had entrusted in him. After toiling for months over how to proceed, I finally realized I could choose myself. I knew it would hurt his feelings to cut off contact, not to mention the awkwardness of explaining it to mutual friends (the ripples of that puddle still send waves through my life), but I have never felt more sure of a decision than I did the day I told him that I wished him well in life, but that I did not want to put more time and energy into a friendship with him.

This is similar to another friendship the article features: ““My main point was that life is very short and fleeting, and I value my happiness enough to eradicate the negative energy,” Ms. Johnson recalled. For months, the ex-friend continued to try to contact her. Ms. Johnson felt terrible, especially as mutual friends would tell her about the pain she had caused the woman.

Eventually, however, the reports from the mutual friends started to change in tenor. The old friend had been doing a lot of soul-searching after the breakup, they said. The mutual pain might have been worth it, Ms. Johnson concluded — to the point where she might consider another attempt at friendship with her.

Which raises this question: is a friendship ever really over?””

For me, if I ran into any of my former friends in a new social circle, or even on the street corner, I would gladly greet them and hope for a renewed connection. The positive effects of standing up for myself greatly outweighed any marginal hurt I surely inflicted on my one-time friend. The lesson I learned from that experience was to continue to stay open to making friends in interesting places, but to be more selective about exposing my truly vulnerable self until I had established a baseline amount of trust with another.

Which leads me back to Betty. She seemed to know this rule. We enjoyed chatting with each other non-stop, asking questions, getting lost in tangents and coming back to each other in a delightful conversation. We both asked the other some probing questions and got and gave honest responses. Yet, there was always a fence of sorts, marking boundaries known only to Betty and myself; an unspoken need to protect the most vulnerable parts of ourselves as we stepped into the tenuous first moments of friendship.

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