Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Powering Through the Doldrums

I have officially entered my winter doldrums. Work slows down to a crawl. Many of the outdoor activities I enjoy are not an option and the days are just so short. This past week made it worse because I came down with a head cold. About midway through the week in mid-head cold battle I decided I need to come up with a plan to power through this. So here, for everyone ,is my Winter Doldrums Blasting Plan. If you get mildly down maybe some of these will work for you.

Step 1: Be even more diligent about going to the gym. It’s true. A good workout really makes you feel better. For me it makes me feel better and makes my back happy. If I get caught up in the doldrums no only do I feel like a slug for not working out but my back gets cranky. So happy back + energized me = doldrum fighter.

Step 2: Keep the apartment sparkling. I can always tell how my mood is by the state of my apartment. When I get down in the dumps my apartment starts looking like a dump and drags me down more. This has become even more important after this morning, when I found mouse droppings in the kitchen. :-/ As soon as I’m done with this post that place is going to shine like the top of the Chrysler building. I always feel mentally better when my living space is in tidy order.

Step 3: Eat food that’s good for me. This time of year I always slip into eating junk for or bad for me comfort food. When you eat food that’s healthy you don’t feel as sluggish. At least that’s what they say. But it’s true. When I eat crappy junk food I enjoy it at the time but then become a lump afterward. This then snowballs and affects all the other items on the list.

Step 4: Let the sun in. Day’s are shorter. On the days when I am actually in my apartment I need to open the blinds and let what sun there is come in. A dreary apartment will just make me feel dreary. Speaking of…I’ll be right back…ah much better.

Step 5: Make plans to get out of the apartment. I always feel better when I get to see my friends. Between regular work and getting to the gym after, that doesn’t leave much time during the week. I need to make sure I plan out my weekends. I always feel better when I get to see friends and have fun. The less time I spend sitting on the couch watching TV the better. Even if I can’t see them, maybe at least try to call some of my nearest and dearest more.

Step 6: Crank up the peppy music. If you can’t tell from all the songs I tack on to my posts I love music. A good upbeat song can go a long way for improving my mood. I need to throw together some upbeat mixes to play in the apartment or the car to help keep my mood up once I get it there.

So that’s my list. I feel better already. If you get a little down this time of year maybe some of these things will help get you through the next few months. I’ll leave you with a peppy song to get you moving (this is definitely going in the mix).

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Unexpected Fireworks Spectacular

I don’t remember what year it was. I don’t even remember if I was driving. Heck it might not have even been on Independence Day but it was a great memory and one of my favorite things about the Fourth of July. I was on my way back from somewhere…NJ possibly?  I feel like I might’ve been with my family. Anyway, we were going down the highway we suddenly discovered we had the optimum view for a local fireworks display. We pulled over and decided to take in the whole show. We weren’t the only ones. The show lasted for a few minutes and ended with a great finale. After the show we got back on the highway and continued home.

Ideally I love to be able to hang out with a bunch of friends and settle in for a great fireworks show. There was the great summer where I stayed up at school and walked with a group of friends to see the local fireworks. One of the best 4th of July displays I’ve ever seen to this day. The walk to and from the fireworks with a bunch of friends made the evening all the more enjoyable.

Sometimes you can’t make it to the fireworks show. You have to get home because of work the next day or some other reason. On those occasions, I love if I’m on the road and come around the bend on a highway to see a great display of fireworks right in front of me. Last night was a great example. I’m not sure of the fireworks laws in Connecticut but I’m thinking they aren’t too strict. Every couple miles down the highway there were more fireworks to see. Granted at highway speeds the distraction isn’t always good but it does put a smile on my face that I get to see some fireworks. And hey, if I have the time and the view is particularly good, I’ll pull over and take in the show.

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The Three-Day-Weekend Hangover

Multiple things happen to me when coming off a 3-day weekend. First, I don’t know what day it is. Which is why I neglected to realize I was supposed to write a post until after I went to bed last night.  I usually don’t want to go back to work. Especially after Memorial Day weekend. Spring is always an insane marathon to just work my patootey off until I get to my 3-day weekend break memorial day weekend. This always leads to the inevitable realization that 3-days isn’t enough of a break. I realize what I’ve know pretty much since the end of April every year. I need a vacation. Especially this year with moving lumped in with Spring craziness.

This year I was able to spend the holiday weekend with some of my best friends. Making it even harder to come off the weekend. Three days just wasn’t enough. Last night and even this morning all I could think was that I wasn’t ready to go back to work.

My morning routine is slightly altered after a great 3-day weekend. Instead of thinking “Just 5 more minutes” my brain thinks “Just 5 more days” then I’ll be totally refreshed.  After the first day back the hangover wears off a little bit. I made it through the day. Each day after that is a little easier. And the best part about a 3 day weekend when Monday is the day off. It’s only a 4 day work week. 🙂

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You’ve got to be kind.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

This is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, part of a baptismal speech.   

So, Valentine’s Day is about love, and blah blah blah, and hearts and flowers and candy and music.  It’s actually a day about stuff about love, isn’t it.  It’s not a day about being kind and generous and giving of yourself.  But, I’m not going to talk about the myriad problems I have with the celebration of Valentine’s Day as a concept or as a practice.  (I’m misanthropic in many ways, and Valentine’s Day brings many of them out in me…it’s not pretty, so we’ll be ignoring it.  Thank you very much) 

I want to talk about kindness, which is the manifestation of love, is it not?  Kindness to your dear ones is a manifestation of your very real love for them; kindness toward strangers is a manifestation of a love of humanity. 

This weekend, I found out that the woman who taught me to knit had died.  She was an extraordinarily kind woman.  We worked together on the night maintenance crew at a gym one summer.  Needless to say, we had some time to chat.  She spent the minutes between wiping down the machines or loading towels into the dryer correcting my wooly mistakes and telling me how I went wrong.  I saw her from time to time over the next few years, but I moved away, and I didn’t keep in touch.  It was a sad moment when I found out that she had passed away.  It brought me back to that summer and the frustration that gave way to fascination, which eventually gave way to obsession with knitting.  But it also brought me back to the laughter and fun that she shared with me. 

We all have friends and loved ones who go through hard times.  Sometimes, if someone is having a difficult time, the only things you can do are be available, be accepting, listen and say nice things.  It might not be enough to make anything right, but it’s the very least you have the capacity to do.  It’s not hard, it doesn’t cost you anything.  In fact, there’s an argument to be made that you’re gaining something, too. 

Love (the real thing, not the schmoopy droopy Valentiney thing) is easy to feel, but difficult, sometimes, to put into action.  My point, I suppose, is that Grand Gestures of love and adoration are nice, and sometimes necessary.  But, what people really need is the small stuff.  We need the listening, the forgiving, the patience, the time. 

Afterall, we only have, at the outside 100 years here.  God Damn it…we’ve got to be kind.

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My Summer Vacation

No, your calendar isn’t wrong. It’s January.  But, I’ll be conveniently ignoring that for the next few paragraphs because I am in the throes of the winter doldrums, and we’re really only a month into this slog.  We’ve had a fairly large dose of snow every week this month and all the digging, trudging and freezing are wearing thin my patience and pleasant demeanor. 

So, today, I’m planning my summer vacation. 

Last summer was one of the most fun I’ve ever had.  I kicked off the season with a week in Tennessee, on a houseboat.  It was great. There was nothing to do but sunbathe, swim, boat and drink cocktails.  At night we played games and watched fireworks.  We also held the First Annual Blow-it-out-Your-Ass Contest (a thrilling sport, in which contestants use their lungs to expell air through the hole in the center of a floating noodle held underneath the body. The championship is awarded to the contestant whose water goes the highest in the air.  It’s way more fun than it sounds.)

Waterworld

Following the trip to TN, I opened my family’s lake house to my friends for a week and a half.  You never really know how many friends you have until you have a free place by a lake for them to stay.  We boated and cooked and had camp fires and played games.  I stayed at the lake the whole week and half, and friends came up for a few days at their leisure.  The fridge was kept stocked with beer and fresh vegetables. We kayaked to secluded islands to pick wild blueberries, we swam, we floated, we went for long walks.  It was splendid.

This year, we’re doing it all again. 

And, this, my friends, is what’s keeping me going through the snow and the slush and the freezing rain.  Even though, right now, it feels like it will never be warm and sunny again, the memories of what last summer was and the hopes for what this summer will be are keeping me warm in this season of little sun and long cold nights.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dig my car out from under a snowbank.

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The best decision I’ve ever made

I move a lot.  In the past ten years I’ve moved nine times.  No, seriously, I’ve just counted and I’m as astonished as you are.  These weren’t just cross-town moves.  Seven of nine moves took me to another state or cross country. 

Every time, it’s the same  fever dream of anxiety, heavy lifting and yelling.  In most of these moves (save one) my family has been the backbone of the moving effort (which explains the yelling).  Friends help out, lending me their arms and backs in exchange for beer and pizza.  But every time, I feel like it’s an unending torture and I hate it. 

Also, for some reason known only to meteorologists, I always move on either the hottest, or the coldest, day of the year. 

I have acquired something of a moving expertise, however.  I’ve inherited my father’s calibrated eye so I can easily determine whether something will fit in a small space.  I’m a great packer, and I usually emerge on the other end of the move with all of my belongings intact.  And I’m a pretty good weeder-out of things I no longer need.  (A separate and very funny story has two of my best friends in a deathrace for the give-away box of books and dvds from one of my more recent moves)

But, I finally got fed up with all the bullshit hassle that a move entails.  So, for my most recent move, cross-town from Somerville to Brighton, I broke down and hired movers. 

Let me tell you, that was the BEST $300 I ever spent. 

In typical fashion, the day of my move saw a 20 degree increase in temperatures.  I had asked my dad and my sister to help with the final push and they showed up early, before the moving team arrived.  My dad looked at me and said, “What do you need me to do?”

I wish I had a picture of the look on his face when I handed him the keys to my new place and said, “Can you go over and be there to let the movers in? Thanks.” Shock and awe and absolutely zero lifting.  He was bowled over.  He hastened out the door before I could change my mind.

The moving team arrived and they took 25 minutes to load the truck and were underway while my sister and I finished cleaning and throwing out the remaining detritus.  About another 25 minutes later, we were all in the new place, the movers were finishing up and I signed the bill and sent them on their way. 

It was all over by 11 am and worth every penny.

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Stress Case

I’m not very good at sublimating my stress.  I will usually sit on it until it explodes in some dangerous or terrifying way.  There are lots of things that stress me out and only a very few that actually relieve and release that stress. 

One thing that takes me out of my own head and away from the troubles of being human is being with friends.  Having dinner, or drinks, or just talking on the phone can make me feel miles better, yet, I’m sometimes reluctant to reach out to them for that comfort. 

The holidays are built (at least in my house) around making time for family and friends.  So, I should have little to no stress in my life now, yes?  Nope.  Less time, less money and more seas of humanity (all also short of money and time) than usual provides a perfect storm of stress. 

Stress breeds.  When it meets more stress, it multiplies, especially the stress of strangers.  Stress is kind of a slut.  But, stress can also kills itself as an act of selflessness.  When it meets the stress of loved ones, it can go away to give you the opportunity to be with someone else and help take care of their problem. 

In closing this all-over-the-place post, I’ll first apologize for its lack of central theme or clear structure. Then I’d like to explain by saying that I’m a bit stressed out right now.

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“They call me mellow yellow…”

We’re supposed to be talking about stress this week – how we manage it, how we experience it, etc. Since high school, I’ve been very active in a number of activities – school, theater, band, volunteering, traveling, work, hobbies. I’m usually doing something. With a schedule like mine, I’m no stranger to stress.

BUT…

I had a bunch of friends over this weekend for a little winter soiree. My house is all sparkly clean, I ate lots of good food, have a plethora of baked goods in the house, and saw some of my most favorite people in the world. Sunday, after everyone went home, I did nothing but watch movies. It was a good weekend. Today, I had a good day at work, did my Pilates, ate some dinner, and saw pictures of my husband’s cousin’s brand new baby. I am about to go have some wine and pie. Tomorrow, or I guess today as you read this, I’m working from home. I am incredibly, super, totally and completely mellow.

I tried to write about stress. I was thinking I’d talk about how I deal with stress, which I like to think I do fairly well. I started this post several times. I tried composing it on my way home from work, but all I succeeded in doing was boring myself.

So, rather than boring you (any further?) I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. Though to try to bring in some kind of poignant observation or thought of greater significance, I guess I could argue I have discovered the key to managing stress – good friends, good food, being productive at work, exercise, baby pictures and wine. And pie. I think pie is key.

Image from Google images

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The family you make

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what defines a family.  In most cases, these definitions are strict, black and white: multiple generations sharing some genetic material.  This definition is not at all dependent on whether or not those generations of people can actually stand to be in one another’s company.  For me, though, the definition of a family is more fluid and expansive. 

I was born into a small nuclear family, but a large, bi-coastal extended one.   My paternal grandmother was a true matriarch, her clan gathered for holidays and important occasions.  We all tried to be together at least once a year.  Since her death, we still gather, but in smaller groups, at odd times, and the nuclear units tend to do their own thing more and more.  This could be because my generation is starting to form our own nuclear families and priorities are changing.  Also, dining rooms are only so big, and the family continues to grow (two new babies this year alone!)

On the other hand, there are people who are my family, even though we’re not related.  There are those people you invite into your life in ways that make the word “friend” seem insufficient.  This is something I learned from my parents.  In their lives they’ve introduced several new family members into my life.  Their friends became their family then became my family and added richness, love and warmth to our lives.  Some people just fold so seamlessly into your existence that you forget that you ever didn’t know them.  

So, I’m really lucky.  I have a wonderful, strong and happy genetic family, and I have an ever-growing real family.  I have more people to laugh with and love than I was born with, or than I ever anticipated.  That’s the beauty of life: it only is, it only ever can be, what you make it.

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