A Retirement Reckoning

I am the youngest by far in my extended family of siblings and cousins. On average, they are 15 years older than me. Hanging around them means a lifetime of being immersed in their baby boom culture, watching them get degrees, start jobs, get married, buy homes, have kids, juggle daycare and then college tuitions. I am perpetually 20 steps behind them all.

And I’m a late bloomer of sorts, which didn’t help me when I’d hyperventilate over the status of my life. I didn’t do anything at the same age as my siblings and cousins. I did many things on my own which means things took me longer, anywhere from 8-15 years later than them. I always felt like certain things, marriage and kids for one, would never happen for me.

A few years ago my oldest sister announced she was finally retiring, and it hit me: she wasn’t retiring at an unusually young or old age but at a normal age. She’s 14 years older than me, which meant I could conceivably retire in 14 years myself.

Shut the front door.

That news shook my world. I’d been saving financially for retirement for a couple of decades at that point. What I hadn’t done is prepare mentally for it. No way, no how was I financially, professionally, personally, mentally ready for it.

See, when my sister announced her retirement, my youngest was a kindergartener. I swear, two months before he started school, we deep cleaned his room and found a binky behind his bed that had been there who knows how long. I mean, right? In the blink of an eye he went from baby to toddler to school-ager. Retirement, therefore, was the furthest thing from my mind, but suddenly it appeared in the horizon for the first time in my life, and I thought I would projectile vomit at the thought.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with work over the years, as do so many people. Unlike many people, I think of my work as a profession and the whole of it as a career. I have always aimed to get value and satisfaction out of my work even if I couldn’t quite place my finger on what exactly I wanted to do.

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Now there have been times in my life when I changed jobs, and suddenly my sense of self completely disappeared. The new job turned out to be nothing more than that: a job. Suddenly I found myself missing what I had, a professional position with career aspirations and growth, and a feeling that someone, anyone, at the company cared about me and how I grew. But to hold “just a job”? You may as well stab my heart with a knife, I’d bleed to death under the circumstances.

This past year two more relatives retired and I’ve watched a huge number of boomers leave the workforce. I wonder whether some of them viewed their work the way I do: a career, a calling. Were they ready? How do you get ready when so much of who you are is wrapped up in what you do? After all, you spend so much of your day working.

Many of these people retired with no fanfare. Some people wanted to leave quietly. Some left as part of a corporate restructuring, and some were even contractually obligated to stay quiet about it least they impact their severance. They were subject to a gag order, real or perceived.

Imagine me on a gag order. Again, stab my heart with a knife as I’d bleed to death. I need to talk to make sense of things. I write to make sense of things. It’s not that I don’t know how to stay mum when discretion is required, but whoa.

I try to put myself in their shoes. What must it feel like to have pursued a career your whole life and to have it end quietly, in a thud. No fanfare, no thanks, no party, just a severance. Especially when you consider your work to be more than a job, but your identity?

How do you fortify yourself from feeling disoriented, unwanted, or unvalued in that situation? As a coping mechanism, do you start thinking of your work, your career, as just a job? Just a paycheck that you collect?

I’ve never wanted to do that. Never. And I don’t want to become so disenchanted with work to become disengaged, to just hold down a job. I pursued an education and I have deliberately changed employers for the sole purpose of avoiding boredom. While I can’t say that I’ve had a strong calling in life to do something in particular, I have always been driven to do my best. How can you reconcile your ethics and heart under those circumstances?

Besides, I’m the breadwinner – so it would be completely foolhardy on my part to disengage, clock my time, and simply collect a paycheck.

My Dad retired from Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel as a laborer after 45 years with the company. He was happy to be done, period. Then again, he was a hard-working, understated, introverted kind of guy. We threw him a pretty huge retirement party, and all of my siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins came to celebrate him. It was a happy way to bring closure to the monotony of four + decades working shifts in a dirty, loud steel mill.

I don’t know what will happen when it’s my turn. I don’t know how to prepare myself mentally for that possibility. It’s especially difficult to do so when you realize it’s actually on the horizon in the next 10-15 years, if I’m lucky enough to stay employed that long. Having kids so much later in life means my financial obligations and goals relative to them will take me longer to achieve.

It’s a race. Will I stay employed, meet my personal goals and college-tuiting-funding goals for my kids, and retire on my terms or will it get cut short in favor of the up and coming Millenials? Will I feel like I contributed in a meaningful way to the best of my ability?

Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

February Fruit Fairy

If you’re like me, the month of December is a giant blur. I love Christmas. ChristmasDay, that is. Everything leading up to it makes me hyperventilate.

It isn’t like I don’t know it’s coming. We all have weeks to prepare for it. The stores start whipping out the Christmas decorations in October now, for heaven’s sake.

No matter what I do to mentally prepare in advance or even SHOP in advance, the month of December exhausts me. Angel trees at school, at work, at church. Teachers to buy for at school, piano, dance, and Sunday school. Sports coaches too. Family to buy for. Not to mention the early November text messages from my sisters asking what’s on my kids’ wishlists. I haven’t even thought about what we as parents would get for them, let alone provide suggestions to the aunts. It’s endless.

I’m grateful. I want to show appreciation and love toward all these people, but the excess. Oy, the excess. I would much rather opt out and focus on the religious aspect of the season but I’m weak. The struggle to find balance is real.

Christmas Day comes and it’s wonderful but over in two heartbeats, it seems. The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day? Now that’s one of my favorite times of year. Things slow waaaay down then.

This year was no different. However that week in between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which really ought to have a name like “winter siesta” or something like that, gave me time to reflect on the frantic weeks beforehand. I felt bad that I didn’t do anything to show my appreciation to the elementary school staff. These wonderful people create a delightful atmosphere at school. Now that we’ve got a third kid walking those halls, they feel like family to us. I wanted to do something nice for them, and thought maybe they get an overload of stuff in December themselves so I would wait until January.

True to form, I couldn’t even get my act together in the early part of the month but this past week I hand delivered a fresh fruit basket to the front office. Fuji apples, bananas, cuties, green grapes, and strawberries. It was very early in the morning and the school must have just opened. No one was at the front desk, so I just left my basket on the counter with my note.

As I drove away, one of the admins called me on my cell immediately to say what a nice surprise my basket was. I joked and told her to just call me the “fruit fairy”. Really, me just dropping off a basket with no one to witness felt a little like being the tooth fairy! sommi-257178She laughed and told me too bad I didn’t wait until next month or I could be known as the February Fruit Fairy. “Next year,” I replied.

I kinda like it. We even have teacher appreciation week in early May but that sneaks up on me every year. But to be the February Fruit Fairy? I’m totally down with that.

Doesn’t everyone want to eat healthy in the new year? And after all that craziness in December, maybe it it IS better to celebrate these wonderful people another time of year.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Level Up

A remarkable thing happened this week during our weekly family meeting, the Louie Scoop. Seriously, there are days when I wonder if our kids are getting anything out of it. Just when I wonder if we’re making a difference: boom! Magic happens.

You’ve probably heard people talk about keeping a gratitude journal, or if not a journal, taking time to express what you’re grateful for every single day. I keep a journal for myself but my husband and I have agreed that we want to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” within our kids.

To put this into practice, we take time toward the end of our family meetings to go round-robin and share three new and unique things we’re grateful for and why. “New and unique” so the kids can’t copy off whomever goes first. Everybody gets a turn. We are intentional about doing it as one of the last things so we can end on a high note.

When first we started these family meetings, we asked the kids to name one thing they were grateful for, and given how easy it obviously was, we changed pretty early on for it to be three things. All well and good. Seriously, when we get to that point in the agenda (yes, yes…we actually have an agenda!), they shoot their arms to the sky to be first to speak. It’s the cutest thing ever. Let me put this into perspective: we have a teenager, and even he participates. It’s a contest for who can go first.

Well this week, we opened the floor for “new business”. Our youngest raised his little hand and challenged us with a giant smile: “I think it’s time we ‘level up’ on our gratitudes. Let’s name four new and unique things starting next week!”

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He’s 7. This idea came from his heart. I’m telling you right now that Cupid was flying around our family room with his bow and shot an arrow straight to my heart. I was a puddle and somehow beaming with pride at the same time.

And it was the way he put it: we need to “level up”. Our other kids totally got it. Let’s be clear, they moaned…but they got it.  Video gamers as they are, they constantly strive to master the game they’re in so they can move on up to the next level where the challenges are greater but way more fun at the same time. Every gamer wants to level up.

So this week, I challenge you to the same. Level up your game. You can decide if it’s a one time thing or a “from now on” thing. Start a gratitude journal. Engage in a random act of kindness. Get off your social media for just one day and spend the time you otherwise would with a loved one or tackling a chore at home that’s gone undone for way too long. Read. Go for a walk. Find a charity that resonates with you and write them a check. Send a thank you or “thinking of you” note in the mail, with your own handwriting. Call someone who’s lonely. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to your savings or investment account every month.

Pick just one thing. I dare you to Live Laugh Love Louie-style and level up. Tell me what you decided to do.

 

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

 

Silken Threads Through Time

My fascination with other cultures is life long. When I was a little girl, we had an album that I played over and over: Disney’s It’s A Small World: 18 Favorite Folk Songs. I loved hearing each of the songs in the native language and sang along with them. Of course I sang along! I loved to sing. I was always singing as a little girl.

When I was four, we went on a family vacation to Disney World when it opened in Florida in 1971, the only time I remember all six of us going since my oldest sister graduated high school that year and married a couple years after that. The It’s A Small World attraction completely enchanted me. Oh, the costumes were so incredibly beautiful with all the different styles and colors. The children singing that precious song over and over as you go through each room representing a different continent. It’s a visual cornucopia. I MUST visit Small World every time I’m at the Magic Kingdom.

Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. As a matter of fact, I cry every single time I ride! And you know why? It’s like a perfect vision of what the world could be if we all got along, and then we enter that final room where everyone is in their costumes but wearing white. I had heard a church story once that everything in heaven is white and gold, so when I see that room, I think we’re in heaven.

Fortunately at home we had a series of timeless books on different countries, duangphorn-wiriya-474291highlighting the food, clothing, landscape, and language of each. It was fascinating to me! I distinctly remember having books that focused on France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, and just to show the age of the series…Hawaii. I learned how to say hello and a few other words in each language. You see, my parents spoke another language to each other at home, but I didn’t know what it was really. I figured that other languages were spoken in every home, and that this was completely normal.

All this “immersion” in other cultures caused me to announce to my mother at age six or seven that I wanted to learn how to speak multiple languages. She burst into laughter at the notion, and said something about it would take me too long to learn all that and I never would. I remember feeling really sad that one of my first dreams was squashed like a bug. I never seriously considered it again.

Still, the fascination with other cultures held. For whatever reason I was particularly enchanted by France and Spain, and I secretly wished I was French or Spanish. The girls were beautiful, and I wanted to be beautiful. I would ask my parents what we were, hoping they’d confirm my wish, but they gave me confusing answers. My mother would say her mother was from Austria, but nothing about the pierogi and kielbasa that we ate jived with what I learned about Austria which was all Sound of Music, lederhosen, classical music, yodeling, and beer steins. Then mom would say things that made me think we were Hungarian. That made no sense either because the only thing I knew about Hungary was that they ate goulash and we didn’t. Other times, when pressed, she told me her mother was from Galicia, but couldn’t find that on a map anywhere in the pre-internet days. She may as well have told me my Baba, or grandmother, was from Mars.

Then I’d ask my dad and he would say that we were Czechoslovakian. Like I had a clue what that was. Sure, that was a country on my globe, but yeah…it felt like no one knew what it meant to be from Czechoslovakia. As it turns out, that was entirely true. It was a new country, hobbled together after WWI, long after my grandparents had emigrated. No one was actually Czechoslovakian.

See, my parents were first generation Americans who came of age in the Depression, and I was their 20th anniversary surprise. Their parents were born in the 1880s and immigrated to America through Ellis Island from Eastern Europe. Like so many other immigrants, they came here to start over. It wasn’t easy for the Irish, the Italian, and Eastern Europeans as they all came to America around the same time and the primarily white Americans of western European descent looked down upon them. My parents didn’t ask many questions of their own parents about life in Europe, so when I asked questions long after my grandparents passed, my parents didn’t have answers or had answers that didn’t make sense to my young mind, what with the border changes that happened over and over.

All I could make out is that we were a people without a home. And everyone at church was descended from these same people.

My brain works like a puzzle without advance knowledge of what the picture is supposed to be. I have bits here and there that I try to piece together to make sense of who we are, where we’re from, and what our story is. Are there innate talents that run through generations of us? Are there given names that have meaning? What are all of the surnames in our family? And for that matter, what meaning does my maiden name have, exactly, if it has one at all? Is my maiden name really my maiden name? What’s the proper pronunciation? I have cousins who say it one way, and people at church who say it yet another way. That felt CRAZY to me, since it was my own last name…I ought to know how it’s pronounced. What gave anyone the right to say it “wrong”?

My mother died first 30 years ago followed by my father 11 years after that, and with them went whatever stories we could hope to know. In some respects, I’m glad my brain tries to solve puzzles the way it does. Or maybe my brain solves puzzles the way it does because I’ve had a couple of decades of practice doing it to make sense of who we are. Who I am. Either way, I’m glad.

Fast forward to being a mother. My husband is Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian, and our kids are insanely proud of that aspect of their heritage. Those cultures are so rich, so fascinating, so STORIED. And my oldest would ask me questions to understand my side of the lineage, and I’d have to tell him I really didn’t know much beyond the village in what is now Slovakia where my paternal grandparents came from. Slovakia. I’ll be honest – it doesn’t have quite the same panache as those other three. I mean, pierogis and kielbasa are killer but uh, Disney hasn’t made any movies about where my ancestors are from.

Yes, I seem to use Disney as a weird cultural benchmark. Just run with it…

But we’re not Slovakian, not really. Slovakia is the just the name of the country now that houses the village where my grandparents are from. It’s a village. These are country folk. Very, very likely peasants once upon a time. When I think about two generational hops from peasant to my solidly upper middle class life today, I am agog with what’s possible in America.

What we really are is Carpatho-Rusyn. Some people say we’re Russian, including my parents at one time, but we’re not. We’re Rusyn, pronounced the same way as Russian, hence the confusion. Other people say Ruthenian. My parents never used that word so it’s not something I have embraced.

Maybe you’re beginning to appreciate why my question about lineage was so difficult for my parents to answer.

Still, it bugs me to not know entirely who I am. I mean, the only claim to fame Carpatho-Rusyns have is Andy Warhol…which is pretty cool as far as artistic roots are concerned. Who knows? Maybe he’s a cousin! I’m pretty sure that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I really want something else to latch onto besides pierogi, kielbasa, vodka, babushkas, and the Orthodox church. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things, except maybe the babushkas. Never was a fan of the babushkas. I mean, Paris couture on one hand versus a flowered handkerchief you wear on your head and tie under your chin when you’re a wrinkled, little old lady as wide as you are tall? No contest.

A couple of years ago I hopped on Ancestry.com and took one of those DNA tests, hoping that they’d clear up who I am. Seriously, I was hoping for something exotic. Like tell me that on my mother’s side, I’m Greek or African, or French or Spanish after all. My mother was gorgeous with her dark golden brown hair and olive skin tone, and her mother looked more exotic to me even more so.  Tell me where I get my almond shaped eyes? Tell me there is something COOL in my lineage. Tell me who my great grandparents are…as I may never ever know anything more than what we know of those who became Americans.

Around the same time I took the DNA test, my husband and I took the kids to Hawaii for the first time, to show them where their grandmother is from. We went to my mother-in-law’s hometown Laie and visited its cemetery. As we stood at the grave of one of her relatives, I told my oldest with tears in my eyes, in pure astonishment of my own not to mention more than a tinge of envy, “Son, this is your great, great grandfather!” In Hawaii…. It just blew my mind that there was a cemetery with that much history in it, and yet I couldn’t even tell him where part of my family is from.

The not knowing must drive adoptees crazy. It drives me crazy yet I’m not adopted.

Little by little the puzzle piece is coming together. I discovered I’m 95% Eastern European, and interestedly enough, more Eastern European than the people who live there today! The DNA test couldn’t really narrow down the region by much at all. Maybe in a few years there will be more data, but not now. The test said I have traces of ancestry from the Iberian peninsula (France and Spain!), Eastern European Jewish diaspora, the Middle East, and western Asia. Now I know where I get my eyes.

Ancestry.com also does a DNA match with other people who have taken the test and it explains what kind of cousin relationship you have. That’s been interesting, if only because it has put me in touch with people who know a little more about my family tree than I do. We are related, somehow…we just need to figure it out.

Through all of this, I’ve been able to decipher that Galicia was a kingdom at one time, covering a region that is Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia today. And distant family members with more knowledge than I have know the names of the ridiculously small villages where my maternal grandparents are from! I’m going to trust this information for now because what I’ve learned fits the puzzle I am putting together. These towns are in present day Poland. I’m Polish! I’m 50 years old and discovered just this week that I am Polish.

Like I said, it’s not like I’ve researched church records to figure this out, and I learned that my maternal grandmother’s village was destroyed in the war so I’m not ever going to get church records. But I have village names, and thanks to the power of Google maps, I can pull up these tiny villages on a map, and look at pictures from these places. Pictures that feature Orthodox churches and cemeteries where I get chills thinking that my ancestors are buried there.

Wołowiec,_Cerkiew_Opieki_Matki_Bożej_(HB3)

The church in Wolowiec, Poland, a village of 30 where my maternal grandfather is from.

Many years ago I heard a most beautiful description of family that explained that the veil separating the living and dead is a myth. There is an unbroken silk thread that runs from those who have passed to those of us living, creating a tapestry that the living continue to weave today. We can’t see the tapestry already woven, nor can we predict how the weave will change going forward. We can’t begin to understand how intricate and beautiful the weave is but it is undoubtedly there with an invisible, silken thread, spun through time.

Now I know my tapestry, and that of my kids, traveled to present-day Slovakia and Poland. I need to visit. I need to lay flowers at the graves of my ancestors, John and Anastasiae, and Janos and Anastasia. I can’t believe I know their names.

 

Globe image courtesy of Duongphorn Wiriya on Unsplash.com. Church image courtesy of Wikipedia Poland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hail Hamilton!

I’ve been offline for a couple of days. Drove 6.5 hours one way from Ohio to New Jersey and back this past weekend to visit an old friend of mine who beguiled me with tickets to Hamilton to celebrate my big birthday this past year. That last sentence should be enough to explain that she’s a pretty good friend.

We took the train into New York City Sunday afternoon. Got out at Madison Square Garden and walked to the theatre district. Oh man, was it ever cold! She’s a former resident of the city so she had her earmuffs firmly in place but I’m a silly Midwesterner who thought I could get away with gloves, a warm scarf and a hood. Nope. The city is WAY cold in the winter when you walk blocks and blocks…

Anyway, we get inside the theatre and I discover we were sitting seven rows from the stage, house right: so so close.  The Richard Rodgers Theatre is pretty intimate to beginIMG_6786 with but still: what a delightful surprise. It was Javier Munoz’s last performance in the lead, having taken over for Lin Manuel Miranda who originated the role and wrote the whole thing. The audience was uncharacteristically rowdy from the perspective of my prior Broadway experience, and totally pumped up for the show. Javier appeared on stage to extended applause and whoops, as did a few of the other lead actors.

From the opening line of the show, you could tell it would be different: an in-your-face, gripping story of a man who overcame unbelievable odds but whose accomplishments aren’t lauded.

Until now.

About 15 minutes into the show, tears streamed quietly down my face. I couldn’t believe how remarkable this performance was. Not that I’m a Broadway aficionado, but what art form tells the story of the Revolution? What musical virtually avoids all spoken word but raps and sings throughout? Tell me what Broadway event showcases modern dance and hip hop throughout the entire performance? I’m telling you, every single word was punctuated by a movement or gesture at just the right moment by the principals and cast. This wasn’t mere stage blocking…this was magic. The cast mimicked a hurricane, they became part of the set, props in a scene…

The words flew out of their mouths like rolling waves of history. So so fast. It was as if you had to hear an entire phrase and absorb it on delay to appreciate what they were saying. The speed of the speech was incredible. And it’s rap so it freaking RHYMED! You can claim that you hate rap and you therefore have no interest in this show, but I beg you to reconsider. The best kind of rap is storytelling with soul. And that is Hamilton.

How can you even begin to appreciate how much dialogue is in this show? At 3-5x the rate of any other type of entertainment? This is a story being told with speed, dynamics, rhythm and rhyme, poetry and motion, not to mention color. The deliberate multi-cultural casting of the show is brilliant. As a line the playbook says: the story of America then being told by America now.

I swear, it seems that growing up we studied the Revolutionary War starting in 1st Grade all the way through 8th Grade. Memorizing dates and battles and commanders in a meaningless haze, to the point where I had zero interest in revisiting any of this history. Boring. Mindless. Yes, we formed a new country. Yay. Men died. Understood. We kicked the British out. Yep. Got it. Heard it, read it, been there, done that.  Yada yada. I know that sounds flippant. Arrogant. But nothing I had heard about the early days of our country really jazzed me.

Until now.

This telling gave you an appreciation of who these Founding Fathers were, what motivated them, what doubts they had along the way, and what qualities they had that mirror Americans today. And how every single one of them came from somewhere else, with their own dreams for success in this land, the French, English, Caribbean, and Dutch, to name just a few back then. That’s the beauty of theatre. It stirs emotion in you that makes it somehow relatable. I’m sitting there thinking of what characteristics Hamilton and Washington and Jefferson and I have in common. I’m still thinking about it, the connection of Founding Fathers over time to their American child: me.

There were moments in the show that blew me away. The music was a constant until one point in the show, when maybe Hamilton is actually using spoken word or maybe not, when the absence of accompaniment had an almost klieg-light effect on what he was saying. There was another poignant moment when the music became a heartbeat, and you could hear a pin drop.

And King George was hysterical throwing a subdued hissy fit. Every single restrained line was absolutely delicious. And it seemed that his words could be just as relevant to us today as they were intended to be at that point in history.

It was breathtaking. It was freaking genius, every single bit of it.

It’s been three days now since I’ve seen that show. I keep humming the themes and phrases that repeated throughout. I marvel at the remarkable drive of Alexander Hamilton, not to mention the irony and tragedy in the line, “I am not throwing away my shot”.

All I can tell you is, hands down, Hamilton is the most amazing artistic performance I have ever seen. A total game-changer in terms of entertainment. The story of an old world told by a new world. I am forever changed having seen it – so so proud to be American – and I urge you to see it in New York or in a city near you when it tours.

 

 

 

Detox Day 5

brooke-lark-194254Oh boy! It’s a brand new year and I am on Day 5 of detox, the social media, personal device, rampant consumerism, terrible news cycle, and sugar kind. I can’t believe it’s Day 5 and I’m doing alright!

Let me back up. As I sat and thought about all I wanted to do last year and how I fell short, I decided some changes were needed. I have had a good, long time to think about these changes and was ready. Now, now…you may be thinking I did a lot last year, and while that is true, I know there are more valuable ways I could be living my life. Besides, while I want to live another 50 years with a good quality life to boot, none of us have that guarantee.

What’s that quote my friend Johanna has at the end of each of her emails? I believe it’s from Hunter S. Thompson:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

I have been known to spend (ahem, you can alternatively read that as “accused of spending”) entirely too much time online, combing through the same disgusting, horrific stories in the news, watching endless silly or heartwarming videos to lift my spirits because don’t we all need to?, and reading updates about the stuff other people were doing, instead of you know….just doing those things myself, whether those things were spending time with family, friends, learning something new, finishing the laundry room makeover, whatever… Now granted, Facebook is where I discovered that I love to write but overall the forum has become way. less. fun. Even the ads! Oh, the ads….endless ads for stuff I don’t need but thought I did. I’d get sucked in, and daydream about how a certain pair of flats were what I really needed to look pulled together. And if I looked pulled together, then SURELY everything else in my life would fall into place. Because that’s how life works. The perfect pair of flats solves everything.

Uh-huh.

Not to mention how I’d go to bed with my iPad on my nightstand, plugged in and ready to go at a moment’s notice. After I spent a couple of hours checking news and posts in the home office, I’d retire to bed to do more of the same until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. I’m pretty sure my eyesight has plummeted as a result, but the worse part? The worst part was pulling a muscle in my back doing this a couple weeks ago and then having to admit to some friends that that was why I was so stiff.

Really, Denise?

Not to mention all the articles that talk about how bad for you are the blue light emissions and electromagnetic radiation from these devices, before and while sleeping…  Last month I started to ramp down my usage by powering down my iPad before I slept. Now? I don’t even keep the iPad or iPhone in the bedroom. I let my biorhythm wake me up or use an old fashioned alarm clock now.  That was the first change I made on January 1. I’ve been coaching the kids about their devices, but they like to fall asleep to music. Gotta find a better alternative or just, ya know, parent like a boss…. (Yes, yes. I know that’s the right answer!)

The second change was trying to wean off Facebook. I alerted a couple of friends that I was doing it, so they didn’t wonder what happened to me since I’m otherwise a prolific user. I still ended up checking it every day. Man, that’s a tough habit to break! There are a couple of health groups and school groups that I should to monitor, so I suppose there is no getting rid of it forever. I posted only once during the week to one of those health groups, and then again this evening playing catch up on the birthdays I missed and feel bad about. Going forward I’m going to try to limit my Facebook activity to weekends, like a Friday night quick check and that’s it. This is no doubt inconsistent with some skincare products that I started to sell, which is most successful using social media as the primary sales platform. I find I am unable to bring myself to do it…which is rather telling about my commitment to that business.

Detox applies to the news too. Good Lord, it’s endless bad news. I am just sick over it (see Wake Me Up From This American Nightmare). There is only so much you can take in…so I’m trying to limit that too. It really isn’t serving me well. Besides, you’d have to be stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean not to know what’s going on these days.

The next big detox is that I’m trying my darnedest to not buy any clothes, shoes, or accessories for myself for at least a couple of months. I’m shooting for spring but hope I can go way longer. Honestly there is not one stitch of clothing I need. Not one. I don’t care how good of a deal it is, I don’t care if I’ve been searching for it forever: no. I have plenty of clothing I like that fits. Besides, I just purged half of my closet. I don’t need another gosh darn thing. Let me wear it out or let it fall off my body and then I’ll rethink the strategy.

Which leads to the next big thing: I adopted a ketogenic way of eating on January 1, which basically means cutting WAY back on the simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, pizza dough, cookies, soda, etc., in favor of more protein and way more good fat. I’ve lived in this body long enough to know my liver needs a detox from the non-stop insulin it’s been producing for years now. I know I will feel loads better and frankly, I could lose 80-85 pounds at this point.

So yes, I’m waiting until my clothes literally fall off my body before I buy new.

So far so good. It hasn’t been as hard as I think. Each time I see leftover holiday candy, I think of what someone said to me, “Choose me, choose health.” However I’m kind of a Coke-aholic but I stopped drinking it once before and couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt. My legs stopped aching which was a big deal. I haven’t been insanely hungry this week but I do need some variety in what I eat, and that will come over time as I learn a different menu than what I’ve been used to.

But this week? Eggs and bacon for breakfast, water with lemon or tea with no sweetener at this point (don’t feel I need it anymore), salads for lunch except for the day I got a ham/swiss/guacamole sandwich and then promptly tossed the bun. Almonds to snack for now. Meats, veggies, and seafood chowder without potato and flour to thicken it for dinner.

I’m eager to see what this does for me. From what I see of the online groups that follow this way of eating (woe), the results are dramatic. Significant weight loss, eye-opening improvement in lab work, reduction or outright elimination of medication, powerful gains in self-confidence, huge improvement in skin tone and overall appearance, major increases in energy levels and cognitive function, much-needed healing in the body, and a sustainable and delicious woe that kicks the sugar cravings.

Luckily for me, I don’t have all of those issues. My labs are slipping but I don’t need medication other than some vitamin supplements to manage anything. Thank goodness for that! Sure, I could relieve some of the aches and pains and I would welcome anything that boosts my mood, energy level, and brain function. Not to mention how nice it would be – yes! – to be thinner, to do yoga again without my belly getting in the way.

The American diet is awful, and it seems to me that the carb/sugar-heavy diet of Eastern Europeans that I grew up eating definitely does me no favors. So stay tuned. Trust me, I’ll be leaping for joy if I drop even 20 pounds off this frame, let alone 80. That will take me all year, but I’m detoxing. This is it. This is the year! I’m an older mom to younger kids. I’ll be 60 years old when my youngest graduates high school. I intend to be the rocking hot mom at his high school graduation ceremony, and I want to jitterbug at my youngest grandchild’s wedding in 2067. That’s right. You heard me.

Five days isn’t much of a milestone, but here’s what has happened since the first of the year: I’ve written this post, finished a book I started in November, slept like a baby for the last three nights and remembered my dreams in detail, totally rocked two meetings at work, planned a birthday party, haven’t purchased anything but gasoline and lunch, cut my social media habit to a 10th of the time I used to spend, and maintained this new way of eating.

If you ask me, I just put five notches in the win column for all of it. Yeah, baby. Bring it!

 

Image by Brook Lark, courtesy of Unsplash.com