Tag Archives: Living

Side Roads

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast…you miss the sense of where you are going.
Eddie Cantor

Most of us live, or have lived, busy lives. When we were younger, we’d get up each morning and move through the day almost robotically at times. Driving the same route to work, performing the same tasks, seeing the same people, driving home, running the same errands, keeping the same commitments, sometimes rushing through dinner to get to the next appointment with or without children, maybe an hour or so to relax before we go to bed and start it all over again the next day. Sometimes even weekends call us. Work, games, obligations. It’s a cycle. More for some than for others. It’s just how things seem to be these days. There is no real down time. The opportunity to relax on a regular basis doesn’t seem to exist any more, at least for many.

There are roads I have travelled for years, and until recently, I never slowed down enough to really see what was around me. There are side roads I never took. I always wondered where they led and what I would find if I traveled them but there was always someplace to be. Always another time. Always.

Not long ago, as we were traveling to an appointment, I chose to take a detour. Soon after, I took another, and then another, until I found myself finding different, more beautiful ways, to get to the same place. It just took a little more time.

Life is like that for so many of us. We pursue a career, lifestyle, family, home and any additional extras  we may have envisioned for ourselves as we move through life. But we rarely, if ever, take a side road. Life sometimes moves too fast for us to pursue a different dream, to learn a new skill, to find enjoyment in different places. Only when we get a little older do we have the time to reflect and breathe. But it shouldn’t, or doesn’t have to be that way. Life paths are a choice.

Cecile Andrews once wrote, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can breathe.” Breathe enough so we have the time to pursue other avenues or dreams. To really enjoy and appreciate family. To not miss the sense of where you are going, or who you are.

To take side roads.

 

 

A New Day

One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.  -Carl Jung

One the aspects of life that has always fascinated me is how we wake up one morning, living and planning our future, and go to bed that evening with a very different agenda. One that is laid out for us. One we have little control over.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last few years, know I haven’t been around much lately. As I wrote early in the year, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last December and we had some work to do to get her back to where she was. Well, we’re almost there. It’ll take some time before she gets back to where she was when this started but she’s doing really well. She’s a tough out and doesn’t back down easily so I’m sure she will handle recovery as directly and aggressively as she dealt with treatment. Surgery, six months of chemo, and four weeks of radiation all ended this past week. So the physical healing begins.
As I wrote back then, we are fortunate. It was caught very early and it didn’t spread so everyone is confident that what she went through is all she will have to go through.

I don’t know how to write about this journey, for lack of a better word. So many people fight their own individual battles with all kinds of dreadful and debilitating illnesses. People young and old. I can’t speak to those and I really don’t want to write about this but I don’t know how to come back here and pick up as if nothing happened, without some sense of closure before moving on again. It seems….disrespectful… to anyone who has ever experienced an illness.

I don’t know how to write about what I’ve seen. A few years ago when my grandson went through treatment for cancer, (he’s doing very well by the way), I wrote about it initially and again near the end, before I moved on. A child dealing with cancer, or any illness is, for me, just a violation of all that is good.
It’s hard to put these images and feelings into words. When you go to a hospital, you see all kinds of situations and a range of why people are there, from the serious to the happiness of newborns. When you go to a center that does nothing but cancer you know why everyone is there. It’s a very humbling place. But it’s also a very hopeful place.

I can’t dwell on the eyes of some of the people I’ve looked into. We don’t know each other and in some cases, never spoke, but they will aways be in my prayers, just as the parents of those children whose eyes I looked into remain with me years later.

We have been blessed to have such great family and friends around us through this time. The support we’ve received; the prayers and meals, the phone calls, cards and little gifts have meant so much. Friends have called to arrange lunch and breakfast dates when my wife had her better weeks, and all of these things mean more than we could ever express.
People surprise you during times like this. Those who we knew but never heard from much in the past or who we never expected to hear from, stepped up in ways that touched our hearts.
Of course there are a handful that populate the flip side but there’s no point wasting time speaking about those individuals..:)

Reaching out to someone during times of difficulty or loss means so much to those in need. If you know someone who’s in that situation now, please don’t ask them to let you know if they need anything. They’ll never call and really, it’s not the way it’s supposed to work. It’s up to each of us. Be the person who does. It’ll make both of you feel so much better.
Thank you to those who reached out those few times I showed up here, and all your prayers. It is very much appreciated.

Hopefully you’ll be seeing much more of me in the future. Of course that can be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective…:)

Stay well.

PS…..I have about 2500 posts to read. .I’m not sure when I can get to them, but hopefully in time  I’ll be able to make a dent. I apologize for not getting to them earlier.

 

 

The Lives We Live

When I was young, and even as I grew older, I believed we had one life to live. I suppose, in a literal sense, that’s still true, but I’ve come to understand that there is a difference between life, and the lives we live within that life.

The transitions are so gradual that we don’t always know they’re happening. But one day, when we choose to stop for more than a few moments and look back at the different phases our lives have visited , we realize the person in that photo may not think or act the same; may not believe what he or she once did when they were innocently smiling at the camera.

When we’re young we live a life of innocent freedoms. Days that never end, summers that last forever, years that we trust will always be there. School is a double decade that gradually introduces us to less freedom, some stress and relationships with family and friends that have the power to shape and influence our lives forever. We were born into these first twenty years and when the transition into “adulthood” happens, we head into it as a continuation of what we know, combined with changes to our daily life and schedules, but never really looking back. Well, maybe when loss rears its ugly head, when we find that we have to navigate the future without someone we always thought would be there for us. We may take a moment to look back then. To remember what was.

But there are things to do. A life to live. Or at least this part of our life. We have jobs, sometimes marry, sometimes begin families and for the next twenty or so years, become that person. We live that life of advancing our careers or attempting to keep our jobs. If we’re married and have children, we run as if the next event, game, concert, field trip, party, sleepover or dance is life altering.  Until it abruptly stops, and children go to college or find a job and hopefully move out.

And we transition again.

Sometimes this change is a little more noticeable. Sometimes we pause a little longer. Our families grow smaller before they get bigger. Family celebrations are different because some of the people at the center of those celebrations are no longer with us. So we sometimes move to other homes and begin different traditions. Our mornings are a little more quiet, our evenings require less running and we find more time for ourselves to enjoy this part of our lives. If we’re fortunate, our working lives begin to wind down and we find time to appreciate time.

If we’re lucky.

These lives we live change us in different ways. Our centers become different or altered at times. Our judgments, mindsets, and beliefs all find different ways or equations to the answers in front of us. Hopefully our core values remain the same but that’s never a given. We may want to believe we are the same person today as we were twenty or thirty years ago, but we aren’t. In truth, how can we be? We’ve lived and lost too much. We’ve gained new experiences, travelled, developed new friendships, learned new ways and came to appreciate the lives we live now, more than ever.

I look back at old photos now and wonder what that boy or young man was thinking of at the time, what his day was like and what he was looking forward to tomorrow. I wonder if he had a plan or dream that day. I wonder what was making him laugh in that moment, why he chose to buy that ugly shirt and when he was going to finally get a haircut.  I wonder if he would change anything if he knew everything.

Personally, I believe he wouldn’t change a thing.

P.S. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

On 45 Million Diets

I read an article recently which stated that 45 million people begin a diet each year.

Now, I have to tell you up front that I don’t use the word hate very often but I hate the word diet. I’ve always believed that if you’re comfortable with who you are and in good health then the word diet shouldn’t necessarily be a consideration. Unfortunately, poor eating habits over a period of time can lead to health issues so I guess  it’s a catch 22. Pay me now or pay me later.

I’ve gone through a number of diets over the years, including the ones listed above, which is why I don’t like the word. I was always a big kid. I think I was 6’2″ in grammar school but I was always very active. I played ball year round which kept my weight down to around 190 through high school. My parent owned a grocery store and we lived behind the store so the words, kid in a candy shop, applied to me. All the wrong stuff was easy for me to have. When I stopped playing ball and didn’t alter my eating habits, the weight started coming. By the time I was in my middle 20’s I was up to 270. I didn’t feel bad but my blood pressure was high and the doctor said, very directly, either lose weight or die early.

So he put me on a 1500 calorie diet, which I still have nightmares about. I tried every new diet fad over the years, including the dreaded cabbage soup diet. But I found that every diet would reverse itself after I stopped and the weight would come back. I also realized that I didn’t gain this weight overnight and I wasn’t going to lose it overnight. So I started doing things differently. I began altering my eating habits. Nothing drastic, just being more cognizant of what I was eating. I also began exercising, not in the way people do today, because gyms weren’t as popular in 70’s and 80’s as they are now. Plus, I never liked solitary exercise, like running or weightlifting. I enjoyed sports. So I began playing racquetball, something I never tried before. I played for several years, 2-3 times a week, two hours each session. It’s a great workout and during those years, I slowly lost some weight, dropping down to around 235. It wasn’t quick, but it was permanent.

Through the following years, I would plateau at certain weights, then lose 5-10 pounds over a couple of months before maintaining my weight for a while. Long story short, I now weigh what I did in high school, around 192. I would set certain goals for myself but those goals would sometimes be months or years apart. Losing all that weight at one time was just too hard and depressing for me but knowing I was moving in that direction and not going back was important to me. The thing I was most excited about was getting below 200 pounds, something I didn’t do until 6-7 years ago,. I had been playing around at 202-205 for years and could never break that barrier but when I did, I took a photo of the scale. It was fun.

So as someone who has been there and struggled with weight for many years, here’s what I learned.

Losing weight is something YOU have to want to do, You can’t lose it for anyone else but yourself and while having someone be your support through the process is helpful, it can’t be an excuse. Just like being happy is up to you, so is weight loss.

When you’re out of a clothes size and begin to buy new clothes, get rid of those bigger sizes immediately. Don’t have anything in your closet you can fall back on. Putting on a few pounds  and having to squeeze into clothes that are getting too tight, is a great motivator.

Exercise. It doesn’t have to be a gym or some expensive equipment. Going for a good paced walk is helpful on so many levels but mainly it’s good for your body and your mind. It’s easy to say you don’t have the time but that’s just an excuse. You don’t have to go every day but it should be something you do 4-5 times. week.

Moderation,moderation, moderation. You can eat anything as long as you do it smartly.  Going out to eat is not that difficult, There are healthy items everywhere now but even if you wanted to eat something decadent, eat half of it and take the other half home. You’ll thank yourself the next day when those leftovers are lunch or dinner. Everything in smaller portions. It’s something that Weight Watchers preaches. Portion control. It’s why I think they’re the smartest weight loss organization out there. Eat anything you want, just do it in moderation and with a plan.

Use the old adage….eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner (preferably before 6:00) like a pauper. I can’t tell you how much that has helped. Also, smaller meals rather than larger ones. I found that grazing during the day worked best for me, which is why my family calls me the nibbler.

Finally, and most importantly, never go back. When I began losing weight, I told myself that I would never put back what I lost. But long weekend parties and vacations sometimes alter those plans. So if I ever put on 2-3 pounds I made sure I took it off immediately. I never went beyond that, no matter what the situation, because 2-3 becomes 5-7, which becomes 10-12 in a heartbeat, and then it’s mountain instead of a hill.

Dieting is a tough and touchy subject, 45 million tough and touchy. But if it’s something you have to do for health reasons or just because you want to, then understand it can’t/shouldn’t  be done overnight. But it can be done. Everyone’s body is different so what works for me might not work for you. I developed a lot of little habits that I found helped me, but there’s not enough time for that today…:)

Everyone’s motivation is different. But the end result is the same.

Just don’t use the word diet. Its depressing.  Tell yourself that you’re going to adjust your eating habits and make small changes, because that’s really what you’re doing.

If you’re one of the 45 million…good luck.

 

 

Signs Of The Times

We were walking in a park the other day and came across this sign. Normally I wouldn’t be surprised except this particular park was wide open. It has a long walking track, playground, lots of athletic fields,  a dog park, even a water park for kids in the summer. What it doesn’t have is trees. Or wooded areas. Or anywhere to do what the sign prohibits except in the open. So as I looked around I wondered where this lawbreaking activity actually took place. Could it be that men made believe they were checking the tires on a car and women spent more than the usual amount of time squatting down to get  something from under the baby stroller, out in the open? Really? I’ll have to visit more often to check out this situation. Oh yeah, those facilities near the concession stand? They’re closed until April 1st. So is it still against the law if the facilities you advertise for use are closed? Just asking.

So this is another park I was walking in last week on a trail that’s not paved. Still, I’ve never seen a sign that prohibits texting while walking. There were other signs that prohibited cell phone use, horseplay and running. I’m sure the exposed tree roots had something to do with this and I’m sure safety was a concern. Probably not as much of a concern as potential liability on the part of the township but tha’s just me being cynical. So, rule breaker that I am, I decided to jog a bit while texting and making a phone call. I tried to horseplay but I was alone and my other personalities didn’t want to play with me. Go figure.

I thought this one was interesting. The free trip portion was an attention grabber, though anyone familiar with the Catholic Church, as I am, understands that free usually comes with a price tag. Still, I thought it was clever. It reminded me of a line I heard many years ago, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Such a conundrum.

Who would have thought one would find such a profound/meaningful statement in a mall pizza joint. But here it is. Think about it. Then go hug the people you love.

Till next time….

Empty Mansions

A couple of years ago, while visiting a small book store in Newport Rhode Island, I came across an interesting book titled, Empty Mansions. I didn’t buy it then but strangely enough, my brother gave it to me as a gift several months later. I always meant to read it but for some reason it sat on my reading shelf for over a year.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and one of the blogs I really enjoy following is Book Club Mom. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend giving her a look. Barbara does a terrific job reviewing all kinds of books and opening up interest where none existed before.
Coincidently, she reviewed Empty Mansions just as I was beginning to think it might be a good time to read it.

I have included the link to Barbara’s review of the book below since I could never do it as well as she did. In short, it is a story of Huguette Clark, an incredibly wealthy woman, who owned and maintained palatial homes in California, New York and Connecticut, though some remained empty and not visited for over fifty years. It’s the story of a woman who, in spite of her wealth, lived the last twenty years of her life in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She was 104 when she died, choosing to live in the strangest form of seclusion.

But there is much more which you will find here….

https://bvitelli2002.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/empty-mansions-is-the-story-of-huguette-clarks-reclusive-life/

One of the things which touched me the most and, in some ways, helped me to understand Huguette, was an old French fable titled, The Cricket.  Sometimes it is called, True Happiness and is included at the end of the book. It was written in the late 1700’s by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian.

The Cricket

A poor little cricket
Hidden in the flowery grass,
Observes a butterfly
Fluttering in the meadow.
The winged insect shines with the liveliest colors;
Azure, purple and gold glitter on his wings;
Young , handsome, foppish, he hastens from flower to flower,
Taking from the best ones.
Ah! says the cricket, how his lot and mine
Are dissimilar! Lady Nature
For him did everything, and for me nothing.
I have no talent, even less beauty;
No one takes notice of me, they know me not here below;
Might as well not exist.
As he was speaking, in the meadow
arrives a troop of children,
Immediately they are running
after this butterfly, for which they all have a longing.
Hats, handkerchiefs, caps serve to catch him.
The insect in vain tries to escape.
He becomes soon their conquest.
One seizes him by the wing, another by the body;
A third arrives and takes him by the head.
It should not be so much effort
To tear to pieces the poor creature.
Oh! Oh! says he cricket, I am no more sorry;
It costs too dear to shine in this world.
How much I am going to love my deep retreat!
To live happily, live hidden.

The fable, which was a favorite of Huguette, has a powerful lesson.

The book is both fascinating, and sad.

If You Make One Resolution This Year…..

Some of you may have noticed that I have been absent from our blogging world since the end of November. Then again, some may have not noticed at all…) I understand either way…) Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way and prevents us from following our normal routines or pleasures. In this case, the reason is breast cancer.

My wife was given the diagnosis in early December, had surgery a few days before Christmas and will begin treatment shortly. The good news is that the tumor was small and we caught it early. The not so good news is that chemo and radiation is ahead of us, but the outlook is very promising.

My purpose in writing this post is not so much for us, though prayers and good wishes are always welcome. My purpose is to let you know that this cancer was caught very early through a yearly mammogram. Because it was so small and deep, it could not be felt through self-examination or by a doctor, only through a  mammography.

Her decision to be tested yearly probably saved her life. My hope is that my words here may encourage someone out there to go for a test they may have put off for too long. Whether it’s a mammogram, colonoscopy, yearly physical, blood work, dermatologist visit or whatever else you should be checking, please take the time to take care of yourself.

I don’t know if anyone dislikes going to a doctor or for tests more than me. It’s unnerving, stressful and easy to convince yourself that you’re feeling fine and don’t need to rock the boat when the waters are calm. But we recognize, in time, that waters don’t always stay calm.
I also recognize that some people don’t believe in tests as a preventative tool and I’ll be the first to admit that not all tests are necessary. So let’s get that excuse out-of-the-way and focus instead on those tests that may save your life. You know what they are.

If you don’t want to do it for yourself, then do it for those who care about you. Do it so you have no regrets. No what ifs. Do it so you have the joy of living life to its fullest, even if that means a test reveals a detour that takes time away from the things you planned. Do it so you have many more days to make plans. Do it because you understand that while time is a depreciating asset and we can’t control everything in life, there are things we can do that just might help us, help ourselves.

I recognize this is not an uplifting post and it’s a topic we sometimes shy away from. But I’m hoping these words encourage just one person to make a phone call and do what you’ve been putting off. Making the appointment is the hardest part. Don’t wait.

Do it for those you love.