Tuesday, July 09, 2019

How's the No Drinking Thing?

I was overwhelmed with the responses I got from my post about my sober curious journey. Thanks to everyone who reached out! I received a lot of texts, messages, phone calls and so forth.

I heard things like, "I've never liked the taste of alcohol so I've never taken up drinking. Because of that I am excluded from invitations to happy hour from co-workers. Ouch."

Ouch indeed. Just because someone doesn't drink alcohol doesn't mean they don't enjoy getting together socially.

Some people told me about their own journeys into and out of sobriety, and how drinking (or not drinking) has changed their lives. These stories were so educational to hear, sometimes tragic, other times hopeful. From this I've learned that alcohol truly affects the lives of so many people in this country, whether you drink or not.

The weekend after that post I hosted a happy hour at my home. I was so grateful for those friends who brought interesting sparkling lemonades and water and had recommendations for concoctions to mix with sparkling water to make it tasty. And I found a local restaurant has a "mocktail" menu with many delicious options for alcohol-free beverages. Yum!!

Am I still alcohol-free? No. I was sober for a month, which was a great experiment. During that time I had happy hours with friends, experienced a P!nk concert and had nary a drop, enjoyed better sleep most nights, and woke up more energized earlier in the morning than I typically do. Did I enjoy these things any less because I wasn't drinking? Not at all. Did I enjoy them more? Not really, to be honest.

The one thing that did NOT happen during that month is I didn't lose a single pound. I would like to lose a little weight, and I was wondering if the calories from alcohol were impeding my ability to lose weight. The good news is that I apparently don't drink so much that just cutting out drinking would make me drop 10 pounds. (That would have been concerning.) The bad news is...I didn't lose any weight after not ingesting any calories from alcohol for 30 days.

I celebrated my 30 days of sobriety with a glass of red with a grilled steak at our house. Mmmm....steak....can't have a bite without a glass of cabernet!

And since that experiment I find myself drinking less, primarily just on weekends and in lesser amounts. I do enjoy a refreshing glass of white wine on my patio in the late afternoon, and it seemed ridiculous to deny myself that pleasure when there was no reason.

This little experiment has led to my next experiment, which is that I have begun using the weight loss app Noom. If drinking less did not help me lose weight, then I needed some real guidance to help me trim the pounds that I want to drop. More on that in another post, for those who are interested!

Thanks again to everyone for your support through this journey. I feel like 2019 has become a year of discovery and growth for me, and I'm excited for what's to come!

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Ideal Independence Day

In my morning pages recently I described my "ideal day." One was an ideal day in your current reality, and another was your ideal day in an ideal world, meaning if money and resources were no object. My ideal day would start by waking up in the Italian countryside...in my ideal world, that is.

I had the most ideal Independence Day this past week and it kept me smiling all day.

Laurie has been staying with us and she is just the loveliest house guest. We had the best time sitting around drinking coffee in the morning on the patio.
Laurie and a tired Beauty and Wayne after a run.
Laurie and a tired Beauty and Wayne after a run.
But my day began before then, with a 10-mile skate around the chain of lakes. I haven't skated 10 miles yet this year, I had such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. It was so quiet around the lakes at 7 a.m., not the usual bike commuters or early-morning walkers.

Map of skating route around 3 lakes

I had to drop Lindsey off at Turnstyle for work by 9, then back to the house for the aforesaid coffee and chatter on the patio, this time with niece Chelsea as well who had stayed the night at her brother's house. She and Laurie made plans to go shopping with Marissa, while I walked down to the 50th and France area to catch what I could of the Edina parade. I love parades — the 4th of July just isn't complete if I don't take in a parade for at least a little while. I caught it near the end of its route, and unfortunately by the time it got to the end it was pretty disjointed. There were long stretches where not a single group came by, then one would go by, and — five minutes later — another. I stayed there for about half an hour, enjoying the sights of the crowd that had gathered. Little girls in matching red white and blue dresses lined the streets, alongside boys in shorts with little white stars adorning them. A baby was lying flat on its back in its mother's lap, completely asleep with arms raised above its head like Lindsey used to sleep, with bulbous, noise-canceling headphones over its ears. The baby was oblivious to everything around it, and the mother was looking down at the miracle in her lap when there was a gap in the parade.

I returned home to a quiet house. Lindsey was working, our house guests and Marissa were shopping. Wayne and I look at each other like this was the most miraculous thing ever, and made plans to go out to lunch. We stopped at Turnstyle first to bring Lindsey her lunch, since she left in such a hurry that morning she didn't have time to pack one. We sat outside with her while she ate her bagel sandwich. She talked about how she was enjoying spending the morning detangling necklaces. They didn't have many customers so the necklaces that people consign that were hastily stored in bins and never made it onto the floor were finally a priority. Her co-workers were all grateful that this was a task she wanted to do, because it was loathsome to them!

Wayne and I lunched at a restaurant called Town Hall Station that I discovered by accident when I had to find alternate routes around a bridge closure. It's a former gas station, and it's completely adorable with service station decor. We had hoped to eat outside but it was just starting to sprinkle, so we sat inside by the large open garage doors, feeling the breeze and listening to the patter of the rain. Wayne had a burger and beer, I had a glass of wine and a chicken taco was that unbelievably delicious. We visited and eventually noticed that every TV in the place was turned to Wimbledon coverage. We got into watching the match that was on TV and had to stay to watch the final point. Nadal was moving on to the third round, battling an up-and-comer who had already trounced a favored player in the first round.

Photo of Town Hall Station beer and patio

Back home, I began to prep food for dinner, making cupcakes for Lindsey's "RBG dissent" cupcakes (since her batch the night before hadn't turned out), and boiling potatoes and eggs for potato salad. Marissa, Chelsea and Laurie arrived home and each got a little quiet time. They had enjoyed a lovely lunch at Cov.

Later Laurie commented to me about what an amazing young lady Marissa is — so polite, thoughtful and kind. It was so nice to hear confirmation that somehow, we are doing something right in raising our girls. Then again, I can't even take credit for Marissa's beautiful spirit.

Food prep done, I was able to sneak a nap in while Wayne picked Lindsey up from work. And then it was time to cook! Laurie made grapefruit margaritas that were refreshing, Lindsey worked on her cupcakes, laughter and chatter was on the patio, in the kitchen, everywhere. We had hoped that Kristi would be able to join us, but unfortunately was not able to get off work as there were enough patients in the hospital that she was needed. So we raised a glass in her name and gave thanks to nurses everywhere.

We gathered around our table and passed all the goodies: grilled burgers and brats, buns, condiments, homemade potato salad, baked beans. I was informed by consensus that my potato salad was not as good as Sherrie's. Yes, yes I know. But it wasn't unedible, so there is that.

After dinner we gathered outside for more laughter and stories. Eventually we decided to get ready to head to the fireworks. Marissa offered up her blanket and we all got into the car for the 5-minute drive in the neighborhood. We drove down to where we could access the Minnekahda Golf Club from its back entrance, which they open up for neighbors to get onto their grounds for the fireworks that they host.

We watched the sun go down and savored seeing the sky light up before finally falling dark. The fireworks were so wonderful! Chelsea could not believe that we could get to an area to see them that was so close without having to show up 3 hours in advance or battling crowds or traffic to leave.
Pre-firework sunset with crescent moon.
Ready for some fireworks!
There was an outdoor bar at the club that was serving members only, Wayne somehow passed off that we were guests of [insert member name here] and got us a couple of glasses of wine.

After the finale we packed up our things and were back home in 10 minutes. Other people went to bed while Lindsey and I stayed up and watched two episodes of "Stranger Things" season 3 which had just dropped. It was 1 a.m. before we finally said we called it quits and went to bed.

The ideal Independence Day.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Writing a "To Done" List

I have started using an app called "Noom" to start tracking my nutrition and exercise, in an attempt to get healthy and lose some weight. "Noom" is all about the psychology of why we eat what we eat, what triggers us to make unhealthy decisions and help us counter those. The goal is to help people make better choices moving forward so users can maintain a healthy weight the rest of our lives.

This week the coaches at Noom had us do an exercise and create a "to-done" list, and I thought it was too good to not share with others.

We all have a "to-do" list, right? Be it a for work, home, family or just you, we've all got a running list of things we need to do. Mine often consists of stuff like: get groceries, make a dinner menu for the week, run kids around to appointments, make various phone calls for house projects, et cetera. That doesn't include client projects or other things that make their way onto that list.

The coach at Noom asked us to make a "to-done" list. List all of the things that you've accomplished this past week or month or whatever, those things that were most important to you. Your "to-done" list could look something like this:

1. Had a successful project launch at work.
2. Finally made it to the dentist which I've been putting off.
3. Spent time with friends at a happy hour.

Review that list, and now ask yourself, "What of these things is important and will be remembered?" 

This became really poignant when one of my group members posted her list, which consisted of many enjoyable activities like gardening, spending time with her grandkids, finally seeing a friend she hadn't seen in decades. She had this to say about her list:

"I've been retired for 13 years, and I've told myself that there is so much I want to do in retirement. I thought I would have less stress, but I still have stress and have more health issues than ever. Making this list have made me focus on the most important things in my life...my health and how much time I have left to enjoy it. Today is a new day with opportunities and I am going to make the best of it."

Wow. All that discovery from a weight-loss app? Yes.

Before reading her post I had made a list of my own. As expected, it consisted of many things that had been on my "to-do" list that were now done: Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Running kids around to appointments.

I made a second list after I read hers, and it read a little differently:

And then I had this epiphany: Those things that are on my "to-done" list need to start by being on my "to-do" list. I need to make room in my life for those things that bring fulfillment and happiness to me and to those around me. My kids probably won't know or care about how much grocery shopping I did, but Marissa will definitely remember going paddleboarding on a beautiful summer day with her mom, and Lindsey will have memories of learning how to drive with me in the passenger seat. (Hopefully not traumatic memories.)

Now I ask you: What things do you need to put on your "to-do" list so they make your "to-done" list?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Journey through Motherhood

At "Time to Fly" event benefiting CCRF, 2009
In my neighborhood I am surrounded by mothers at every stage of the journey. My next-door-neighbor has an adorable soon-to-be 3-year-old, down the street are siblings 8 and younger, across the street is a teenager and down from him are recent empty nesters.

My girls will be 16 and 14 this year — we are nearing the end of the "raising" portion of parenthood. Soon we will be entering the "why doesn't she ever call" portion of parenthood, followed shortly, I've heard, by the "my kids finally appreciate me" portion.

I find this stage to be rather ironic.

I mean, when our kids are little, they are just so darn cute, but they are also so much darn work! Their fingers and faces are always sticky, they are constantly needing to be fed, changed or taken to the bathroom, bathed, reasoned with, (as much as you can reason with babies or toddlers), and so on and so forth. They are a lot of work, from which parents often need a break. If I ever had even an hour to myself in my home without my children around, what a joyous time it was! Laundry got done, floors got mopped, windows got cleaned. One time Wayne and I took advantage of a "parents night out" at KinderCare, where they stayed open until 10 p.m. so parents could have a date night, and he and I washed all the windows in our house. They hadn't been washed since our kids had been born, we were happy to have spent our child-free time that way.

Marissa decided not to smile this day. 2012
Then your kids grow and grow, and at this stage they are...people. Fascinating, interesting people! They have opinions and ideas and really big, new words to communicate them. They are absorbing the world around them, making their own decisions about what's right or what's wrong, and wow, look out world, there is some change a-coming! They are so fun to do things with, to go shopping, or out to eat. 

But just as your kids get really fun to hang out with, they don't want to hang out with you. They'd rather be with their friends, watching movies, playing soccer, going to Starbuck's, building relationships with friends their own age. 

Soccer, Summer of 2017
Lindsey, Homecoming 2018
Marissa Selfie, 2019
When they want to spend time with me, I'll be here, ready to reminisce with them about the good old days when they used to play with water tables, push the dog around in a doll baby carrier, and do other silly things. Those stories are always good for a laugh.

Happy Mother's Day. 

Monday, May 06, 2019

Sweet 16 for the First Kid

Eight years ago, I wrote a blog post called "Halfway to 16." It was about Lindsey turning 8, and 16 seemed so very far away.

Now her 16th birthday is already 3 days ago. How things have changed!

At 8, she was excited to get clothes for her Barbie dolls, but was equally excited to get an iTunes gift card. I'm pretty sure she bought some Katy Perry songs with that gift card.

At 16, she asked for a large plant for her bedroom. Yes, a plant. She also has a fixation on all things flamingo. She finds them silly and quirky. So I also purchased a large standing metal planter for her room. On Friday, her actual birthday, she and I made a trip to Bachman's to get just the right plant for her room and for her flamingo.

I felt like I was being watched as I worked.

Lindsey's large plant, nicknamed Za Za. 
She got a silk butterfly hair clip to go with her butterfly dress that she wore to the Southwest winter formal. She loves dresses, she probably has 8 or 10 hanging in her closet at any time. Thanks to her job at Turnstyle she puts dresses on hold for her to try when she's not working. The butterfly dress was purchased there for $7.50. I think the hair clip cost more by the time I paid for shipping.

Opening gifts, her Marvel blanket always nearby to warm her.
She also got a journal, the feminist's journal. Lindsey has become quite the activist, marching in the women's march, even when it was 20 below zero, following politics, getting involved in environmentalism and, of course, helping animals. This summer she's going to start volunteering at the Animal Humane Society and she can't wait.

Like when she turned 8, she opted for a dinner at Benihana's restaurant. We went with Kristi, who lives in Minnesota now, unlike when Lindsey turned 8. We were thoroughly entertained by the chef who was fantastic and really made Lindsey feel special throughout the meal.
Lindsey wanted to dress up, I couldn't convince Marissa to not wear a hoodie.

Aunt Kristi with Lindsey, wearing her butterfly dress with matching hair clip.
In my original blog post I wrote about how my dad joked about coming to Minnesota once a year to see my kids. Back when they were small he'd say stuff like, "Geez, just 12 more visits and I'll be going to a high school graduation!" Sad to say, he didn't live long enough to see either of our kids graduate from high school. But I know that he is looking down and would be really proud of the young women they are becoming.

Lindsey's first beer! Just kidding. It's a frothy iced tea.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Artist's Way

About a month ago I began a 12-week course called "The Artist's Way." I had never heard of it before I started it. My sister-in-law Laurie is doing it and encouraged me to give it a try. And by "encouraged" I mean she bought me the book and a journal to go along with it and said, "Do this." Couldn't get more "encouraged" than that!

Here's the gist of the book and course: all human beings, having been created, are capable of  creativity. We simply have to channel the creativity that is given to us by [insert belief here, God, the Universe, the Divine One, whatever or whomever], and creativity is ours to tap into at any time. We do not have to "wait" for inspiration, we simply need to be open to the experience, or as the author says, "unblocked," be still, and listen.

In a nutshell.

What I'm finding is that to "unblock" your creative self you need to do a lot of self-assessment. Outside of going to therapy, which only a portion of the population does, how else do people improve their personal selves? I've been to hours and hours of professional training: nonprofit conferences, writing/storytelling seminars, how to be a better manager, how to be a better employee, etc. etc. But this course is really "how to be a better person."

My whole sober curious journey began when I started thinking about things that block my creativity, and alcohol was one of them. I decided to try cutting it out of my life, and in the very next chapter I read, "At this point in your journey you may find yourself wanting to remove some toxicity from your life, be it a toxic friend or a toxic behavior." Huh! Imagine that, I was one week ahead of the author.

It has you do exercises like: "If you had five other lives to live, what other professions would you be or do?" Then the next day it has you list 5 more. One of the exercises has you list 20 things you enjoy doing. Twenty! Try it. I did, and I was at a loss after eight. I've got to start some hobbies before I can retire or I'm going to be bored AND boring!

I'm on Week 4 which is the "reading deprivation" week. This is the week that you are not allowed to read anything, to create silence within yourself to allow your own creativity to flow. Two things about this were crushing for me:

1. I just started the novel "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman and it is AMAZING. I'm only a few chapters in and now had to take a one-week break from it which makes me mad because I can't wait to pick it up again.

2. "No reading" also means no social media, so I deleted my social media icons off my phone and logged out on my computer so I'm not tempted to scroll.

The social media one is by far more difficult. Still, five days into this reading deprivation thing, I find myself automatically hitting where the icons on my phone used to be. I check it out of habit several times an hour. It's a great habit to break, I may just leave the icons off my phone from now on.

Supposedly I'm going to start hating this journey starting around week 5 or 6, so I thought I'd better write about it now before I turn against it. We'll see how all of this goes!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

No More Wine Time

I am setting an intention, which means you, dear reader, get to be a part of this.

I have decided to abstain from alcohol for...well, for a yet undetermined amount of time.

Lately several reports have come out talking about how the emerging "mommy drinking" culture has normalized alcoholism for women. The blog post I linked to above is a perfect example of how it happens. And our retailers have helped this along.

These are some photos of a display at PaperSource, a store that specializes in paper products; invitations, greeting cards, gift wrap, and customized invitations for special events. Plus, of course, gifts. This was the majority of the gifts available in the store yesterday, outside of the Easter display.

If I were looking for a gift for a girlfriend for her birthday, I can either refer to her addiction to prosecco, mixed drinks or wine. This is not what I would expect at PaperSource.

But really, it's not their fault. They are just jumping on the bandwagon of jokes about how our kids drive us to drink, right?

I find myself craving a glass of wine around the time I would start cooking dinner. I truly embody Julia Childs' quote about cooking with wine. During the week I used to ignore it, but then the days I would cave and open a bottle went from weekend nights to Thursday through Sunday nights.

Then I would have a glass with dinner. And then a titch more with a piece of chocolate or something for dessert, and the bottle that my husband and I had opened together was gone.

But then...what will I drink with the movie I plan on watching later on?

That is my true downfall — I enjoy having a drink while watching a movie. And sometimes I stay up late to watch a movie all by myself. After all, some days it's the only "alone time" I get. Before I know it bottle #2 is empty or nearly empty.

All without feeling any effects of the alcohol until the very end of the movie.

There are an average of 635 calories in a bottle of wine; by the end of the evening I would have had nearly 900 calories worth of wine. Do that several nights a week and suddenly the weight I'm trying to drop won't drop. Shocking.

Plus the fact that I can drink two glasses of wine with no effect is concerning. It sets a bad example for my kids.

So...I've decided to abstain entirely for a time, to give my body a break from having to process all that poison. I'm paying attention to my "critical moments," those times when I really crave a glass of wine, when they happen, who I'm around when they happen, and choosing a different behavior instead of opening a bottle. Sparkling water and limes will always in my house, so I can get a refreshing drink without need the alcohol to make it taste refreshing.

We'll see how this goes. Who knows, maybe I'll reduce my alcohol tolerance and be able to return to having just a drink or two at special occasions. But for now, this is the intention I am setting and I appreciate all of your support in this endeavor.