The most authentic version of me

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Aging is a funny thing.  When we are young, we think we have the world by the balls.  We are confident to the point of being cocky.  To some extent, we feel (or felt) like the world owed us something.  But as we watched the calendar pages keep turning, we realized that life is merely leading us to the place where we were meant to be.

If I were to be honest, I would tell you that, deep down, I always knew I was meant to be the person I am today but somewhere along the path I took to get here, my direction was circumvented by my distorted illusion of reality.  I let others opinions weigh far too heavily on the perception of who I thought I was and it altered my trajectory for a number of years.  Those outside voices did more to define me than the voices I should have listened to that were coming from deep within myself.  I always knew who I was, I just wasn’t confident enough to give her a chance.

Today is a different story.  Perhaps is it different because I am two years away from being fifty.  Maybe it is different because I have finally created a sense of self that is directly related to the person I see in the mirror.  And conceivably, it is different because I have quelled those outside voices and listen only to the voice in my head.  Regardless of how I got here, I have arrived at the place where I feel most comfortable being the person I know I was meant to be.  I make no excuses, I apologize to nobody…..I am simply me.

 

 

 

Finding your strength

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“It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on, it takes a lot of strength to let go.” ~ J.C. Watts

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I was born a “fixer” and, until a few years ago, I had spent a great deal of my time taking on other people’s burdens as my own.  But something shifted in the paradigm of my reality when I got divorced in 2012.  I realized I was spending too much of my time trying to change a life that was not mine to change.  I was hanging on to problems that irrevocably had impact on my life but I had no power to solve.  I needed to let go.  But I was so stuck in the pattern of my life that I didn’t know how to let go.  I wanted so desperately for things to work out in my life that I honestly thought that this was the syllabus of my future.

It takes a monumental amount of courage to walk away from a relationship that you have put your heart and soul into but a relationship has to give you what you need for it to be successful.  By its very definition, a relationship is a form of communication.  Wants and needs are expressed and, in a healthy relationship, are reciprocated without condition.  Such was not the case for me and I knew it.  I felt it deep within myself but it took me a long time to admit it because to do that would have made me feel like I had failed.  But I had only failed myself by not seeing the signs sooner and listening to that nagging inner voice.

I finally found the nerve to put my needs first and, in finally letting go, I gave myself permission to define myself according to my needs and not the needs of anyone else.  The strength to hang on was easy, it was my comfort zone, but finding the strength to let go made me feel eviscerated, vulnerable and it was not something I was accustomed to.

I wanted to write this post because I have friends now in the situation in which I found myself years ago.  I want them to know that letting go is not always the easy choice, but it may be the right choice, for them.   It may be hard to listen to that petulant voice in your head, but that voice is the most sincerely honest advice you will ever get.

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Don’t give up easily.  If it is worth the fight, than fight, fight like your life depends on it.  But if you know in your heart that nothing will ever change, let go, let go like your life depends on it.

It’s just my allergies….

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I have suffered with allergies since I was a child.  My sensitivities are mostly environmental so they are certainly manageable.  As a child I used to break out in hives when I ate strawberries but, I was as stubborn then as I am now so, I ate them anyway and eventually outgrew my reaction.

As I have matured into the person I am today, I am finding an increase in my hypersensitivity to certain things.  The environmental allergies still plague me year-round but I have discovered lately that a broad spectrum of human emotion, compassion and empathy is having a strange effect on my eyes.

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When I hear stories that touch my heart, the redness in my eyes is immediately evident.  There is a small bit of swelling in the upper and lower eyelids and I am guessing my body creates tears to cleanse my eyes of the allergens.  This “allergy” is becoming more and more prevalent.  What was once just a susceptibility to dust, mold, grass and trees now encompasses impassioned stories, movies, television shows and even commercials.  Seeing another human being cry is definitely the biggest trigger for this new onslaught of “allergic reactions” and once the tears are formed the next symptom of these “allergies” is a stuffed up nose.

I have battled allergies for years and these are the only ones I can say I actually don’t mind having.  I have given up wishing I could control these allergic reactions in public.  I’m sure seeing a few tears is easier for others to witness rather than a contorted face that looks uncomfortable and painful.

So, if you see me and it looks like I’ve been crying…..it’s just my allergies.

 

Finding light in the darkness

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“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today.” ~ William Glasser

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Looking back at my past, I can almost see the lines in the distance of the paths that I have chosen.  They are faint in the waning light but the traces are still visible.  Those lines, those roads I chose to follow, helped to carve the figure of the person I am now.

Along that road not everything was painful but I can say that those arduous moments gave me more definition as a person than the happier, less stressful times.  Those darker moments made me a stronger version of myself.  Those difficult stages during my life gave me the tenacity and the persistence to overcome obstacles that I may not have been able to cope with had my life been easier.

It is how we carry ourselves through the difficult moments that gives us our strength.  It is how we persevere through misfortune that builds our character.  I am who I am because of what I have experienced.  I am a better version of the me I could have been because I endured pain and suffering.  I made a point to learn from it and now my inner light far outweighs any of the darkness from my past.

I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

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In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

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If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank.  We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food.  The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes.   It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.

After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well.  We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations.  The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to  help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.

I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.

After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals.  Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry.  I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.

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I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college.  Before I went to college I worked in restaurants.  And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage.  Hospitality staff are trained in food safety.  From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines.   Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves.  This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.

Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on.  One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down.  I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.