Thursday, November 27, 2008

Xmas is a comin' & the goose is gettin' fat ...................

Christmas is upon us! As soon as Canadian thanksgiving is over (mid October), I begin to think Christmas - it's my favorite holiday. And once we've passed Remembrance Day, I begin to put thoughts in action. Some people scoff when I put the wreath on the door Nov 12th. But really! There isn't a lot of time to accomplish what I want to do between Nov 11th and Dec 25th. And I derive so much joy from the preparations and the sharing. For me, being a Christian is not just about going to church on Sunday, and celebrating Christmas is not just about Dec 25th!

It's my feeling that Christmas traditions are extremely important to ones family. They add richness and depth; they not only build memories, but more importantly, they give roots to ones life and create connections that span the miles and the years. You can be set apart by your differences from the family next door and yet joined together by your sameness. You can be unique and yet still fit in. It's another part of what defines us as "Our Family".

Over the holidays, I often ask people, "What are your family traditions during Christmas?" And I love hearing the answers. As I age ... and the children grow and mature and leave the nest ... and I open up my house to share Christmas with those who don't have close family ... I not only share our traditions but will sometimes incorporate their traditions into the festivities. I'm constantly looking for ways to add to what is called "the season of joy and peace".

It doesn't matter to me that this season came out of a pagan festival. Nor does it matter that Dec 25th isn't really the birth day of Jesus Christ. My God was first. He is the origin - the source - the creator; and everything else was taken from His creation and is a reproduction. Just like my faith, the birth of Jesus is personal for me and deserves to be celebrated every bit as much as my own or my childrens' birth days. Jesus came to reconcile us to each other. And what better way for reconciliation to happen than doing things like sharing cookies with a non-Christian neighbour, or eating rugelach with a Jewish friend, or carolling with your church family - joining in with other during this season!

Over the next 27 days of preparations, let me share some of our traditions with you. In this time of personal "flux", I'm curious to see what my aging body and mind will permit me to bring to the Xmas table this year. I may not be able to climb to put the exterior Xmas lights up anymore; and yes, I know that when I eat that other piece of pie, it will stay with me. But those things are becoming more and more irrelevant in my life.

As Christmas approaches, I'm so full of thoughts and plans and excitement! So ...... think of my mind as a goose ... and it's a gettin fat!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The courtship of Autumn!

I've been 3 weeks into not exercising and BOY! Do I feel it. I'm not sleeping as well, my finger joints are beginning to ache, my pants are tighter, my mood is sometimes sour. Oh dear! I'm realizing that I need to do something as long as I can do something. So, it's goodbye once again to carefree days and evenings. I really enjoyed not having to go work-out! Maybe some yoga in the family room with the occasional turbo-kick will do the trick.

One thing I'm definately enjoying lately is the weather. It's cool and crisp and the trees are full of gold and red and orange hues -- it's like being surrounded by all this warmth amidst the coolness of autumn. The apples are so sweet and crunchy, and we're eating lots of fragrant stews and soups with dense, crusty breads. Everyone's wearing their slippers, and throw blankets are on every chair.

When I walk, I love the air on my cheeks and the feeling that everything's clean and fresh. I love the smell of the woodfire from my neighbours house, the feel of my soft, fleece gloves on my hands and the way my "cushiony" Clarks hug my feet without sufficating them. I like the way my aching limbs slowly warm and loosen up, the swing of my arms, the different sounds all around me (dogs, trucks, children, leaves being raked, wood being chopped) -- and the fact that amongst all the sounds, my mind dwells on the beauty that God has created and how wonderfully and fearfully we are made. And I praise Him as I walk.

This is the first year I've ever knowingly enjoyed fall. I'm a spring person! But my eyes, ears and senses are opening to the beauties of autumn. It's no longer just a passage-way to Christmas, my favorite holiday. I feel it calling me to embrace it's changes in color and it's slower pace; to listen and be aware of the call to thanksgiving for the season just past - a season of sunshine and seashores, warmth and growth and bountiful harvest. And as the evenings get longer and I slow down and rest more, wrapped in my favorite sweater, my hands cupped around a mug of dark, hot chocolate, the candlelight flickering and soft worship music playing, I have a feeling of security and love and well-being and joy. The simple things in life are far more valuable than gold and silver. And then I come to the recognition that autumn is wooing me -- both with the season and with my aging process. And it's okay!

God's in His house and all's right with the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Giving up and admitting defeat!

When did it all start -- the downward spiral into "senior-ity"? When I turned 50 (4 years ago), I still felt wonderful! I still looked pretty good, and I had my usual optimistic, "I can take on the world and come out smelling like a rose" attitude. Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" was still my theme song. But somewhere in the last 4 years, things have changed. I've changed!



I guess the first thing to happen was the hypo-throid condition I discovered I had at 51. Even with the medication, I still didn't regain anywhere near the energy level I had previously. It was (is) hard to remember to adjust the amount of work/play that I do, because if I overdo it, it takes me a week to recover! On those days when I want to clean and organize, I forget that I can't do it all anymore and need to take frequent pauses. Hell! I'm only 54. This sucks!

Then there's the holidays -- I used to be able to over-indulge at Xmas (doesn't everyone?) and cut out sweets after the holidays to bounce back to my pre-Xmas weight. Well, suddenly it didn't work like that anymore; the weight wouldn't come off after a month or two of just healthy eating and moderate exercise. And I found it almost impossible to maintain a rigid routine because of something called "life".



Ah yes, life! You see, 4 years ago, I was a hard-working but low-income, single mom of 3 girls living in an old house with a run down car. Life quite frequently caved in around me -- kids, work, house and/or car repairs! Life was soooo stressful for soooo long! And stress causes ones body to go into panic mode and hang on to those extra fat stores. Plus it depletes your energy and can cause bouts of depression! And I was raised in a family where you dealt with heartache and/or victory in one way -- food! There's a lot of comfort to be found in food, especially when there isn't a set of loving, manly arms to surround you!

My life now? Well, 4 years later things have changed a lot. I have a couple of great bosses, a good car, a smaller and newer home; only one child left at home (although you never give up raising them do you?). Life certainly has been less stressful this past year than it used to be. And I've been trying to respond to this "better life" by attempting to lead what I consider to be a "better lifestyle". I've continued to go to the gym and eat lots of fruits and veg and get my calcium. I get up in the morning and do my hair and make-up and put on my pretty office clothes. I pray and worship; and I laugh as often as I can. I try to be the best me that I can be. But here's what I've found lately.

Life still has it's stresses -- naturally! But I'm not able to handle the same amount of stress as I could even 4 years ago. And I'm oh so tired of fighting this endless fight ! I long for - my body and my mind and my soul long for comfort, peace and simplicity. These are all good things to aspire to, right? So, my question is, when and where do I draw the line?

I'm aging! The deterioration and destruction of my human shell is inevitable. How I look and feel today is probably the best it's ever going to be! And yes, there's a certain amount of vanity in me, so I don't like the new wrinkles, the dark circles under my eyes, the sagging and the paunch! I'd like to stave off looking like a senior as long as possible. But do I have it in me to keep trying? And is there even any purpose to it anymore?

No. 1. I have to diet and workout like the dickens for months and months just to lose a few ounces a week! I'm in there with those 20, 30 & 40 yr olds doing Turbo-kick, sweating like a pig barely able to lift my feet off the floor while their knees are hitting their chins. It's very humbling! The exercise makes me feel better, but the weight still hangs on!

No. 2. I love to eat healthy - salads and yogurt and whole grains. (I need those things as well -- along with the occasional bran muffin or glass of prune juice!) But I also love the comfort to be found in such things as a homecooked "meat and potatoes" meal or a piece of homemade pie or a bar of good quality chocolate. And I love the simple joy of a good book with an equally good glass of wine; or a cold beer after working hard in the garden all afternoon. But these are things that sabotage my so-called "diet"; any weight loss is quickly cancelled out.

I've spent countless dollars on Weight Watchers and exercise programs. I've got the work-out gear and a cupboard full of videos and DVD's to help me. I try to eat healthy; I make sure I take time for myself. When I'm feeling down, I try to rally myself -- like a personal cheerleading team inside my little head -- "Think positively! Remember how good this all is for your body! Eat the right foods, get lots of sleep; de-stress! You go girl! Rah, rah, rah!".
But you know what? It's all such hard work, and there's no room these days for back-sliding. Life is hard and back-sliding is easy! So, if I'm going to back-slide (and quite frankly, that's a given for me and my track record!), then I should do it in areas where it isn't illegal, won't harm me or the people I love, and it doesn't displease God.
So, today I'm thinking that other than perhaps a little gentle yoga or a walk on the beach, exercise is probably out! And although I do still believe in moderation in all things, I will not give up my chocolate or my wine as long as I'm eating my salad and bran. I will try to embrace and [dare I say] learn to love my aging self.
There are things I must do -- work for a living, persue God, pay my taxes and go to the bathroom! But I must also attempt to achieve the quality of life that I long for -- one of comfort, peace and simplicity. At 54, I believe that I have to accept that the way to do that is by giving up some things that most of society (and all of Hollywood) say are necessary for this aging population -- fighting the steady march of time and its affects on me!
So, that's what I'm trying to come to grips with. My energies will go to the positives I find, and I will find my acceptance in what God says I am and in the way that He has made me.