Wednesday, December 31, 2014

... putting it out there ~ Bat Fit 2015...
When I originally wrote out my 2014 goals in the beginning of June 2014, I had no idea how LIFE would affect my big plans.  Here’s a refresher:

My Goals for Bat Fit 2014:
  1. By January 2014, I will lose the weight that I have gained since beginning my job in 2006. My goal is to lose 25 pounds by the end of the year. (( FOLLOW UP: Well, I lost ten lbs. and then I gained the weight back so I’m no heavier than I was when I originally started this but there have been a few changes. When I took a mini-vacation in July, I shared that it was the first time that I could remember wearing a tank top in public. I have been self-conscious of my arms as long as I can remember. When I joined Professor Z’s Bat fit and read her post which addresses fat shaming (along with a few other posts in the Facebook group), I started to realize that no one cares about my arms except me. It was a HOT day and my outfit was super cute so why did I really need a shrug to cover up my arms. They aren’t hideous. Small children do not flee when they see them. And of course, my fella only noticed that I was wearing something different. He thought I looked pretty, and I liked my outfit. Actually I felt strong! Something about wearing the tank top made me feel tough and confident. It was the weirdest feeling and the best surprise. Since this time, my fella has noted that whenever I am wearing a tank top, folks best get out of my way because my feisty side comes out. No complaints there. AND, since I wasn’t liking how my clothes fit and I needed new clothes anyway, I went ahead and bought them… a size larger *shrug*.  When wearing clothes that actually fit, I look better and feel better about myself. If I end up losing the weight, I’ll donate the clothes and buy more. ))
  2. I will practice portion control. I’ll pull out my old Weight Watcher At Home books and follow them. One of the helpful features of this is that I will be tracking what I consume. I’m an emotional eater so sometimes a bite here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal but it adds up. I need to stop skipping breakfast and I’m oddly intrigued by the idea of eating soup for breakfast. ((FOLLOW UP: I pulled it out and then put it away. There was a great deal of stress around my fella’s burst pipes and us changing our wedding date so I figured why stress myself even more. I did, however, try out soup for breakfast and it was a hit!))
  3. Now that I will be giving cemetery tours, I will be walking much more regularly. I’ll also be able to commit to daily walks this since I will be on sabbatical until January and do not have the extreme commute hanging over my head. ((FOLLOW UP: I have certainly walked MORE but I haven’t made a daily routine out of walking. I walked a little over 4 miles just before writing this post and I walked 4 miles yesterday. I started giving walking tours which are about 2 miles. Overall, I enjoy walking. It’s my moving meditation in many ways. I’m going to be honest with myself. It’s going to be hard in the New Year because I go back to work which means I leave the house around 5:30am and arrive home around 7ish. I’m be commuting both ways in the dark. My big goal for 2015 is to make sure that I get enough sleep. Since bedtime is around 9pm at the latest, I’m pretty sure I won’t be walking much on commuting days. I will on the weekends and during my research day working from home. That means that I will try to find one evening where I can at least walk before bed.))
  4. I will keep my personal journal. ((Yeah, that just didn’t happen))
  5. I will limit my alcohol consumption. I’ve gotten into the habit of having mixed drinks almost nightly and that just isn’t a good health practice. ((I still drink but certainly not nightly. I realized that this wasn’t as much of an issue as I worried it might be. I don’t get addicted to things… even good things… very easily and have a difficult time forming habits. In moderation.))
My sabbatical went really well. I have about a 200-page draft that will be submitted as a draft to a publisher next week. It’s a research type of book based on the work that I’ve continued since my originally dissertation research was published in 2007.  

I got married and everything *sigh of relief* seems to have fallen/ been put into place. There are still the struggles and negotiations of living with someone (and his cat :p ) but overall we’re all getting along just find.

In October I posted about books as our guides and discussed my experience with Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy (1995). The October 9th passage really resonates with me so I’ve decided to use the list with a bit of commentary as my guide for Bat Fit 2015.

“Is there a woman alive who doesn't suffer from stress? If there is, seek her out, ask her to share her wisdom. When you find her, I'd be willing to bet she'll offer the following suggestions”:
(Below are Breathnach’s suggestions with my commentary inside the **  ** )

  • Cultivate gratitude.  
  • Carve out an hour a day for solitude. ** my train commute brings a new meaning to moving mediation** 
  • Begin and end the day with prayer, meditation, reflection. 
  • Keep it simple. 
  • Keep your house picked up. **Always have but now I live with a husband and his cat** 
  • Don't overschedule. **Um, I’m in academia :-/ ** 
  • Strive for realistic deadlines. **See above about academia **  
  • Never make a promise you can't keep. **I’ve been divorced twice so this makes me chuckle** 
  • Allow an extra half hour for everything you do. **Especially commuting!** 
  • Create quiet surroundings at home and at work. **Hmm, I’m actually quite good at ignoring noise but I’m going to interpret this into time to focus on me **  
  • Go to bed at nine o'clock twice a week. **Have I mentioned that I get up at 4:30am… my goal is to go to bed by 8:30pm some nights** 
  • Always carry around something interesting to read. **and a journal!** 
  • Breathe- deeply and often. **good idea** 
  • Move- walk, dance, run; find a sport you enjoy. **walk cemeteries!** 
  • Drink pure spring water. Lots of it. **Sure, this I can do. Plus, soda water is my favorite** 
  • Eat only when hungry. **Better yet, stop when full. It would be wiser for me to regulate because if I wait until I’m hungry, I’m usually starving and then I overeat **  
  • If it's not delicious, don't eat it. **Amen!**
    Be instead of do. ** My therapist taught this to me in 2009. I’m been practicing BEING ever since** 
  • Set aside one day a week for rest and renewal.  
  • Laugh more often. ** Not possible :D ** 
  • Luxuriate in your senses.  
  • Always opt for comfort. **Um, or STYLE!** 
  • If you don't love it, live without it. **Sure** 
  • Let Mother Nature nurture.  
  • Don't answer the telephone during dinner. ** I don’t**  
  • Stop trying to please everybody.** Hmmm, I could work on this for sure** 
  • Start pleasing yourself. 
  • Stay away from negative people. **Oh boy… hmmm, I’ll try** 
  • Don't squander precious resources: time, creative energy, emotion. ** Read this as Restrict FB feed and reduce random internet browsing** 
  • Nurture friendships. **!!!** 
  • Don't be afraid of your passion.  
  • Approach problems as challenges. 
  • Honor your aspirations. 
  • Set achievable goals. 
  • Surrender expectations. 
  • Savor beauty. 
  • Create boundaries. **!!!** 
  • For every "yes", let there be a "no".**!!! This is an ongoing practice** 
  • Don't worry; be happy. 
  • Remember, happiness is a living emotion. 
  • Exchange security for serenity. 
  • Care for your soul. 
  • Cherish your dreams. 
  • Express love every day. **yep** 
  • Search for your authentic self until you find her. **Here she is!**

Other things to consider:

  • I also joined a Horror Book club in the area to cultivate some friendships and to nourish that book lover camaraderie need.
  • I used to attend weekly Mass with my dad until I moved further away. I’d like to return to this even if weekly attendance isn’t possible. I’m still reflecting on this—is it for him? Is this for me? Is this for both of us?  

Monday, December 29, 2014

... cultivating the self and a view of today's garden...


It was always meant to be a metaphor.

You see, my townhouse doesn’t exactly get the sun or the lack-of-sun to grow some of the types of flowers and plants in my yard *and* of course I have to abide by the rules of the HOA (insert eye roll because I’m now on the board after receiving a nastigram about the Pom-Pom aka Chinese juniper shrub appearing too whimsical when it was planted in my side yard. Yeah, yeah, yeah... it does actually look better in my backyard but I won't admit that to them.) Part of the front yard doesn’t receive any sun so a purple shamrock can grow there but that’s about it. I would love to have a Black Parrot tulip, Black Hollycock, Hyacinth Dark Dimension, or even those Black Magic elephant ears which I tried to grow from bulbs but they didn’t even sprout :-/ but I don’t have any of them… and I’m okay with that. Isn’t that why I have a Secret Garden Pinterest board?

Pom Pom HOA trouble maker
I actually love flowers and plants that are a variety of colors, not just black ones. I’m somewhat obsessed with my perennial hibiscus (especially the red ones) but it was the bromeliad who saved me.  (I’m an English professor and I know it should be *that* and not *who* but I personify my little friends).

I bought the bromeliad because she was strange. At that time I had no idea that something so beautiful, a blooming bromeliad flower, indicated that she was dying. This was when my garden was in pots on a balcony and I was very much trying to get back to the girl I was. She had to be somewhere! But just like the bromeliad which sprouts a pup, my 15-yr-old inner goth girl resurrected small. Once she began to resurface, I could save myself; and, I did.

a resilient pumpkin
I follow the definition of *gardener* simply as “a person who tends and cultivates a garden as a pastime or for a living”. That’s a Google definition by the way and at best I’m an amateur gardener.  I don’t even remember the names of some of the plants and flowers in my back, side, or front gardens… and I’m okay with that. I talk to them anyway. I cheer their growth. I thank Mother Nature for their arrival. I mourn when winter takes them away.

My nails are shit and it is all my fault. I love getting my hands dirty. I love working with my hands. I forget to wear gloves. I was actually blessed with beautifully long nail beds and that’s the only reason I can have the shortest of short nails that still look nice… when I try. (I don’t try very often.)

upcycled yard art, a whirligig, and a Chinese fringe flower... yeah, I know some of their names
All of this was meant to be a metaphor… gardening was used as a metaphor for living. I was tending my spirit; I was weathering the seasons; I was in need of some serious fertilizer which thankfully I have been receiving through (goth)living well… and through the connections I've made from this blog. Thank you to all who read this blog. My little black heart just grew two sizes larger (um, uh, yeah you know what I mean.)

All of that being said I was going to write that my current backyard garden looks a little dreary. It’s a rainy December day and much of the plant life isn't so attractive. But really my garden isn’t dreary at all. There are little bits of life on some of those shrubs (even berries!). I still have yard art and whirligigs. The garden is going through the seasonal cycle so that it can resurrect in a few months. At points in life, we all have to go within so that we can regenerate and renew. Sometimes we even look a little rough around the edges. (Aside: plug for Bat Fit!) In many ways as my sabbatical is coming to an end, I'm starting to see the work that I've put forth... I'm seeing tiny sprouts of life in my research. During the sabbatical, I started this blog as a way to reconnect with myself and the subculture. I can see growth from this as well. 

It’s a rainy, overcast day but my garden and I are doing just fine.

Friday, December 26, 2014

... Christmasing until Candlemas & the legend of the snowdrop...

Snowdrops in snow
It’s much too early to talk about Candlemas… or is it? Apparently, Christmas Day is over and everything returns to *normal* (or Normal Time as the Church calls it). Christmas music goes away; trees come down. My fella recounts how his family had their Christmas decorations taken down before Christmas day even ended. He was playing with his toys under the tree while watching Christmas being taken down. GASP! This is the START of Christmas! It is only beginning! And while the commercialism ceases, the festivities can begin.

For decades, I’ve embraced an old Polish tradition, one that even my family didn’t follow. My Christmas decorations remain up until February 2nd or until Candlemas… which I often have to explain to folks is the day most folks in this country acknowledge as Groundhog’s Day.

Cookies from a past Candlemas Brunch
Candlemas is the midpoint of winter, halfway between the December solstice and the March equinox. Candlemas activities most likely derive from Imbolc, a Gaelic festival, or the Roman feast of Lupercalia. February 2nd marked the ‘Feast of Lights’. It was the hope and welcome for the return of spring and for the sun to return.

It was thought that the weather on Candlemas Day, just as we look to today’s Punxsutawney Phil to predict the weather for the remaining winter. If the weather is bright and sunny, the rest of winter will be bleak. If the weather is stormy and wet, the worst of the winter weather is over.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Cookies from a past Candlemas Brunch
From an old Catholic perspective especially during the Middle Ages, it was the day that parishioners would bring their candles to the church to be blessed by the priest to ward off any evil spirits. If you’ve ever attended any type of candle lighting ceremony in the darkest of winter you’ll know how powerful this must have been especially in one of those medieval churches.

Candles were sources of light and they were also thought to offer protection against illness and even plague. One superstition believed by the Romans was that on winter nights a lit candle would frighten away evil spirits. Before electric lights, candles were extremely important. Metaphorically the candle is the light of Jesus. Christians considered the world dark and lost until the light of the world was born.

Yet, another source of brightness connected with the day is Candlemas Bells or Snowdrops. The Latin name is Galanthus, which means "milk flower".

The Legend of the Snowdrop
According to legend, the flower became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. Eve was about to give up hope that winter would cease to end when an angel appeared. She angel transformed snowflakes into Snowdrop flowers showing that the winter will return to spring.

According to Christian belief, these flowers symbolize hope while others consider snowdrops to be a symbol of Christ bringing hope to the world.  
Garden Snowdrops are known for their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses, and will even often poke through snow. In the South, Snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

It has been considered unlucky to bring Snowdrops into the home before Candlemas; yet, some people think that they help purify a home.

Robert Herrick’s poem “Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve” offers:

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,

Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

Of course, all of this is difficult to take in when the weather high today is 53ºF/ 12ºC and tomorrow it is predicted to be nearly 60ºF/ 15ºC. Virginia winters usually arrive late. Fingers crossed for no harsh winter weather which lead to frozen pipes in 2015.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

...doing Christmas right this time...

'Cause it's r-s-v-p
No thanks, no party lights
It's Christmas Eve, gonna relax
Turned down all of my invites.
In a quiet way, unwind
Doing Christmas right this time.

The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” lyrics pretty much sets the tone for this Christmas.

Normally I would be getting dress to head to Mass with my dad but this year my new husband really wanted to have Christmas be about us. And, since he's been right on so many other suggestions, this will be the first Christmas where I haven't seen my folks on Christmas Day. Even when I lived 524 miles from them, I made it home for the holidays! I'm a believer in The Color Purple version of church and God so being a Catholic who has decided not to attend Mass this Christmas Eve isn’t a big deal to me. Being a daughter not attend Christmas Eve Mass with Dad is much more of a big deal… but then I think he understands.

 “...have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”       ~Alice Walker, The Color Purple

We did our Christmasing with my fella's family on Monday and then our Christmasing with my folks yesterday. I have my own tradition of giving her a fruitcake which she loves. I’m usually not a fan until I discovered the Harry and David’s fruitcake confection. This year it completely slipped my mind and when I went to overnight one, they were sold out. Williamsburg, VA was the closest store so on Monday morning at 8am, I did a 40 minute drive there and then back just so that I would have the perfect fruitcake. Even when we don’t want the holidays to be hectic, we make them so just to meet the expectations that we set for ourselves sigh. She was happy so that was what mattered.

My mom is the best gift giver! She has always completely *gotten* me when it comes to little presents, and I have no idea where she finds the silliest things like bat glow-in-the-dark gloves and Skull soap-on-a-rope.

Christmasing for just us has meant Christmas cookies, wearing our Christmas pajamas, and spending time together. Yesterday I baked Pumpkin, Raisin and Ginger Cookies. They're not fancy but they're one of the best cookies I've ever made. Today we went out to support some of our local stores. He’s a gamer so we went into the local game shop. I bought supplies to make a Christmas spider. Tonight we’ll probably watch a Christmas movie and I’ll make a craft. Tomorrow we have a lobster dinner planned (since I’ve been a vegetarian since 1993 and just started eating seafood a few years ago). That’s really how we like to celebrate. Fancy plans are all around us but we’re feeling lucky to have found each other… and we’re just trying to do Christmas right for us this time.