I grew up living ‘in the country’ and had no one to play with or pal around with other than my five sisters. We had none of what seemingly passes as today’s have to haves: no cable TV, no cell phones, no internet. The television programs we watched were always in black and white until I was in high school when Dad finally sprung for a color TV. With six girls underfoot and my dad’s hired help to feed Mom had neither the resources nor the inclination to drive us into town to participate in summer or after-school activities. We were pretty much left to our own devices and I don’t recall that we were ever really bored.

The only exception, around the time I was in junior high, was when we talked Mom into buying a season ticket at the swimming pool in town. For just $25 our entire family had access to the pool all summer long. Mom and Dad certainly got their money’s worth. We lived at the pool! In later years Mom confessed that it was as much for her own sanity and a little peace and quiet as it was for our enjoyment. As soon as the dinner dishes were washed and dried Mom drove us in to town when the pool opened at 1:00. How I loved the smell of the chlorine and the way the blue water shimmered in the sun. It was an opportunity to see our friends and make new ones as well.

I have many fond memories of those carefree afternoons: swimming underwater the full length of the pool – and back – all in one breath, jumping in the water to retrieve our locker keys, teasing (and being teased by) the lifeguards, sunbathing and jumping off the diving boards. Now, this last one was a huge accomplishment for me. Mom signed up us six girls for swim lessons at the same time. I was in the seventh grade then and still recall the humiliation of starting out in the baby pool with all the other students. Some of my classmates were lifeguards at the pool and it was embarrassing, to say the least, knowing they were watching me learning to swim with toddlers and elementary school kids. My younger sisters, especially, had a huge advantage. They were fearless and took to the water without hesitation. Before long they were jumping off the diving boards, first the low board and then the high dive. All of them except for me. I wanted to so badly but was terrified.

While I was truly scared of jumping off the boards into that deep section of the pool, if I’m honest, the thing that really held me back was knowing my classmates who were almost always on duty there would be witness to my failure if I had to back down. I don’t know what ultimately compelled me to do so but the day arrived when I finally jumped off the low board and it was exhilarating! I was thrilled and beyond pleased that I was able to do this. Eventually I mastered my fears and jumped from the high dive as well. Now I was a member of that elite club of pool patrons who had the opportunity to find themselves ‘stuck’ on the high dive when they announced the pool check at the top of each hour. Everyone tried to time it just right – often dawdling, taking their sweet time climbing the ladder – so that when ‘Pool Check –Everybody Out’ was called on the loudspeaker you were the lucky one at the top. It was pretty heady stuff and all six of us Clark girls loved it.

When my sisters and I started our own families two of us bought season tickets for our kids so they could spend their summers at the swimming pool just as we had. To our surprise (and disappointment) they became quickly bored and never seemed to enjoy it the way the six of us girls did. No matter. Those summer afternoons we spent splashing and swimming and jumping into those glorious waters at the pool are forever etched in my mind. Thinking back on those days always makes me smile. It’s truly a wonderful memory.

Books

  • Middlesex
  • True Crime
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • The Book Thief

Films

  • The Godfather
  • Oh Brother Where Art Thou
  • Dogma
  • Pulp Fiction

Autumn is my favorite season and I very much enjoy decorating for all the holidays especially Halloween and Christmas.  I love peaches, a good cheeseburger, chai tea, turkey sandwiches and a glass of Cabernet.   If I could eat anything without having to worry about calories or cholesterol it would be potato chips and Crunchy Cheetos.   My favorite vacation destination is Mackinac Island in the fall.

As for music I’m of the stubborn opinion that the only decade that really matters is the 70’s.  Classic rock and blues inhabit my playlists.  Favorite artists include Joe Bonamassa, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Dire Straits and The Eagles.

When it comes to television there can be only one choice:  Breaking Bad.  Survivor, The Amazing Race and 24 also deliver.

How about you?  Are there some books, films, music genres or travel destinations not to be missed?  Tell me.  I love new experiences!

I love days like this.  Reclining in my gravity chair on the patio with the sun on my face enjoying the warm breeze, I close my eyes to listen to the birds singing.  I’m reminded of summers when we were kids when I’d lay in the tall grass next to the old wooden bridge not far from our house.  Day-dreaming, watching the clouds, not a care in the world. 

There are chores to be done, for sure. We’ll get to them yet.  However, we don’t get many days like this and after all enjoying life and relaxing — this is why we work.  This is what it’s all about or should be. 

Repeatedly and consistently I make that solemn vow every woman living on this planet has probably uttered at one time or another:  This is it.  NOW is the moment.  Because this time I’m really serious.  No excuses.  I’m finally ready to start eating better.  Exercising  more.  Getting in shape.  I stock up on healthy foods, read about nutrition, dutifully walk every day, run through my stretches and congratulate myself for the effort.  It feels good.  It feels right.  Eye of the tiger baby!

Until.

You know there’s always an ‘until’.  Until you’re just too tired so you tell yourself you’ll take a little break tonight.  Or until you have a (cough cough) bit of a sore throat and didn’t you read somewhere how you shouldn’t exercise if you’re sick.  Or the new guy at work brings in bagels or maybe your favorite dessert and you don’t want to offend.   Or you drive by your favorite burger joint and man it just smells so delicious!  And you’ve been such a good girl.  Just.  This.  Once.  It won’t hurt because you’ll jump back into Healthy Living Mode tomorrow.

Except tomorrow never comes.  There’s always another ‘until’.  (Hint:  It’s called Life).

I’m built fairly small and truth be known I don’t have that much of a weight problem.  I do, however, for the first time in my adult life have to start eating better and exercising to lower my cholesterol.  When I learned my numbers were a little high I was embarrassed.  Ashamed.  And I resolved to do what it took to turn things around.  And within seven or eight months I did just that.  Until.

Until I start to let up (just a bit) and allow the occasional pizza or cheeseburger and indulge once again in my daily Starbucks habit.  One thing leads to another and when it comes time for my annual cholesterol screening I begin to feel uneasy.  When the results come in I just know it’s not going to be good.

And so it begins again.  This time is different.  NOW is the time I’m going to start living healthily because, you know.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Forward momentum, right?  Yep, this time I’m really going to do it!

How do you stay motivated?  Are you winning the battle and keeping ‘until’ at bay?  What works for you?   I’d love to hear your recommendations for healthy living!

 

In many ways I have always been late to the party: Slow to pick up on fashion trends and clueless when it came to knowing how to style my hair or apply makeup. For several years I wore the same pair of earrings everyday. I can recall observing the popular girls in my class as early as the 6th grade and making mental notes of what they were wearing; however, I had no idea how to replicate that look for myself. None whatsoever. Coming from a family of limited means with six girls meant we shopped for clothing and shoes at second-hand stores. Occasionally we were allowed to purchase something new but even then being small and skinny I just wasn’t able to pull it off. When it came to how I presented myself to the world I always fell short. Now that I’ve got the means my clothes closet runneth over. And while I’m still relatively small and petite I’m better able now to pull together a look that tends to flatter rather than detract.

While all my friends were excitedly waiting to get their learner’s permits and driver’s licenses I was reticent and fearful.

During my junior and senior year of high school I was surprised to hear my classmates discussing college. College? They may as well have been talking in excruciating detail about the lunar orbit or analyzing Greek mythology or explaining the social structure of the ancient Mayans. I dutifully registered for classes at the local community college but chickened out and cancelled prior to the fall semester. At the age of 34 years I decided to quit my job and go to college. It was the best decision of my life. Being a non-traditional student attending the state university with my soon-to-be husband (who I met at college) was an amazing experience.

When it came to drinking and carousing I was also a late bloomer. I was stunned to learn of my classmates (and even — horrors! — my younger sisters) drinking in high school. Pregnant, married and divorced by the time I was 21 I managed to make up for lost time. But I was woefully naïve and stupid about the whole thing.

As a child I was a very picky eater. Sweet corn. I’ll pass. Strawberries? Yuck. Those seeds! Onions? Are you kidding me? Stuffing at Thanksgiving? No way. I didn’t eat cheese until I was in my early 20’s (it was a great accompaniment to the Malt Duck my girlfriends and I liked to drink).

Before I met my husband I dated a guy who detested my reluctance to eat certain foods. So shortly after I met Bill he offered to run and get us burgers. I was hesitant to tell him I wanted mine plain with NOTHING on it. I cringed a little, waiting for the backlash. To my utter surprise I learned that he was just as picky an eater as I was. (I knew then it was meant to be).

In the twenty-three years we’ve been together we’ve both become bolder and more adventurous with our appetites. Strawberries, onions (caramelized even!), stuffing, cheese (glorious cheese!), sweet corn on the cob slathered with butter and coated with salt & pepper — yes, yes, yes — and more! While I draw the line at tomatoes — yes, some things never change — I’m more willing now to experiment with a larger and larger variety of foods.

The upside to all of this of course is while others have had many more years enjoying all of these things, for me it’s relatively new and therefore exciting and awesome and delicious. Late to the party? Perhaps. But it’s still a party nonetheless and I welcome it all with open arms.

Popcorn please!!!

Spring Storms

With our wide open view to the west we’re the fortunate recipients of some beautiful sunsets. On the flip side of that are the incredible storm clouds, wind and rain that we’ve been privy to witness over the years.

I’m one of those folks who loves thunderstorms. Driving rain, gale force winds, lightning and the sheer delight and theater of hearing those angels in the skies overhead bowling with a vengeance. I love it all!

Rainy, stormy weather is perfect for curling up with a good book or playing a game of cribbage or cooking up a pot of chicken & wild rice or even getting caught up with the ironing if that’s your thing which actually for me it is — I think ironing is sort of relaxing. Go figure.

I know there are some who are terrified of storms and perhaps rightly so. Common sense is important — safety first! But firmly ensconced in the comfort of my own home while the tornado sirens gather cobwebs, all is well in my little world while I watch Mother Nature acting out in her magnificent fashion!

There are six girls in our family of which I happen to be the eldest. (Cue the snare drum — I also like to joke that while I’m the shortest of the bunch I also happen to be the cutest, smartest and most modest but I digress).

To say that we’ve been close would be a bit of an stretch. Our familial ties have been strained over the years due to the usual sibling rivalries, petty fighting and misunderstandings. Add to the mix that each of us is so incredibly different from the others and it’s no wonder tension is sometimes in the air at holiday and other family gatherings. For many years I felt jealousy, resentment and not a little confusion whenever I observed sisters from other families who were close knit or who proclaimed to be ‘best friends’. What on earth was wrong with US I’ve often wondered.

Over the last several years I’ve come to understand why the tension and distrust is there. And while I won’t delve into the reasons for our discord (let’s just call it family dynamics and leave it at that!) I am happy to report that our relationships have steadily gotten better over time. Not ideal but definitely improved.

Two of my sisters and I spent a pleasant afternoon at a local winery today, joined by one of my sister’s friends. As we discussed some of our family history and the evolution of our sisterly bonds it was fascinating to learn that this woman’s family (and its underlying dynamics) weren’t all that different from ours. I recently chatted with another friend who reported similar disharmony between her and her sister. While it is sad to consider siblings not being each other’s greatest champions and defenders it’s also somewhat reassuring to know that my family — our family — is not so different from many others. Perhaps those Hallmark moments I’ve observed outside my own family circle that I yearned for all these years don’t tell the whole story. Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

It’s gratifying now to reestablish our relationships with each other discovering mutual interests while respectfully acknowledging those areas where we otherwise part ways. We have that joint history together — rainbows, laughter, warts and all — good times and bad — that only us girls gets or understands. And in the process I like to think we’re making some new Hallmark moments to hold on to and cherish that will sustain us going forward.

To describe something as ferocious conjures up a jungle image of a lion, doesn’t it?  Perhaps a tiger.  Maybe even a bear.  It’s a word you might use in discussing one’s appetite, sexual desire, ambition, a bad case of chiggers or the Santa Ana winds.

It’s often associated with the young.  As in those for whom youth is wasted.  Or a brave soldier in battle surviving against all odds.  Cancer that ravages a body is said to be ferocious in its assault.  It is lean.  It is strong.  It is determined.

Ferocity is a characteristic that’s hard to maintain but when its how I live my life in regard to the love I feel for my husband and my son (and truth be told the loving care that I should apply toward myself as well) it is these moments when I feel incredible, heady, alive.  To observe a robin angling for a worm in the grass or the breeze playing through the leaves or the laughter of children or the awe-inspiring human achievement of lift off at Cape Canaveral or the indescribable taste of a perfect peach — these are the moments for me that speak:  ferocious.  No holds barred.  Bam!  Life is amazing and good and delicious.

I want me some more of that!