Sunday, July 27, 2008

Buffalo Garden Walk

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom acts as one with our very soul.

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. ---Walt Whitman

Yesterday I had the glorious joy of doing Garden Walk Buffalo with my good friend Miss Kodak. In Buffalo, in the last week of July every year, about 300 homes and more open their yards to strangers to view their nature's landscapes. We get to see up close their outdoor artworks, bursting with color and beauty, all neat and tidy for the guests of thousands.

We settled on the blocks surrounding Richmond and Sumner as our starting point. Very pretty indeed. We happened upon a little cottage street with charming views. One house used umbrellas to light the world. She had many umbrellas hanging throughout the side and back garden, with lights inside to cast a glow in the darkness from their bright colors. There also was a hot tub with some suitcases floating on top, as well as suitcases piled to the side to be used as a table. It was a wonderful slice of Eden. The umbrellas and suitcases created the sense of flying away to paradise; of packing yourself suitcase of troubles and landing in a cove of serenity.

Another trove of beauty was hidden behind 4 houses in an area the size of my suburban lot. We took a moment to cascade our eyes at the 4 different living spaces, sitting at angles and corners to each other, 2 behind the front. We wondered if the 2 front houses were built first, and then the other 2 were added later, perhaps to house children or extended family. As we walked in to view the gardenscapes, we were further delighted by an alley between the 2 back houses. Upon opening the gate, we were transferred to an alley in an English village, complete with 3 charming cottages. There was a cobblestone walkway in front and between each, with side gardens and back patios with fences for separation. Very peaceful and pretty.

As we further walked and delighted in the use of space and light, we happened upon Dorchester avenue. In the center island down the half-mile parkway, were planted many garden treasures, some simple, many complex in texture, color and size of plantings. One simple planting, had a beautiful pink rose bush in the center, trimmed so only the top half contained leaves and flowers. Surrounding it were simple plantings of pink and green, spread out for space and air. It was really attractive. As we turned into the only house on that part of the street listed in the directory, we found a charming back patio with the most interesting bush of the day. It was a cone shaped hydrangea in a light pink, about 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It dominated the one side of the stone patio with its elegance. As we greeted the owner and talked about the transformation of her private garden, we glanced up to the topmost level of her deck. Amazingly, they had planted cantaloupes in pots, "because you know how you always search for the perfect melon in the store and can't find one."

It was really interesting as we walked to see the use of color and texture to make the eye wander. One patio was interesting in the levels of plants along the fence. First of all, they used the fence almost as a wall in a living room. There was stain glassed windows, framed Garden walk posters, iron and plaster artwork, all hanging amongst the plants. In the front of the garden were the perennials like bee balm, purple cone flowers and black eyed Susan's. Most people plant these to the back of the garden, and plant the shorter annuals in front, but not in this paradise. Instead, behind the perennials were pots and boxes holding up planters with annuals and multicolored coleus in lime and pink. At first glance, you would think these plants suddenly grew that tall, but we fettered out the careful placement of pots. Above these plantings often were other smaller pots cleverly attached to the fence. When you stepped back and took it all in, it appeared to be well groomed plants of different heights, arranged for peak viewing. This was the most magnificent garden of all and must have taken hundreds of hours to arrange.

As we returned home, we stopped at the Buffalo Historical Society to see the Japanese gardens. So simple in its tranquility on the lake. When we journeyed onto the Scajacquada expressway, we glanced over at the steps of the Albright Knox art gallery, where several exquisite bridal parties were capturing the beauty of the their new life on the gorgeous summer day.

God's architecture and sculpture were everywhere to see yesterday, but it was in the joy of the new brides that I think it was really captured. Their grace and love were the whipped cream on a perfect cup of a day.

Check out the flowers today and bring joy to your heart.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Throwing out the scale

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom acts as one with our very soul.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind. ----Leonardo da Vinci

Today, I threw out the scale.

It's sitting in the garbage right now, wondering what it ever did to me but tell the truth. Well, the truth in terms of bags of potatoes maybe. As in, how many 50 pound sacks do we weigh today?

I've had enough with the scales' smug attitude. It didn't love me and support me enough in my time of need. It didn't cuddle up and tell me I look fabulous, simply fabulous darling. No, it just hadn't budged in weeks. Weeks, really, it could have moved a lousy pound, couldn't it?

Would it really hurt it to lie a little and tell me the pina colada's, taco supremes and pizza had no effect on me? So what if I screwed up a few times each week, wasn't I trying the other 95% of the time? Didn't I make it to the gym and about die in spinning class? Wasn't I sure on the way to washing my own clothes in sweat, while I was still wearing them? Aren't I getting up at 530 to start my day? Where is the loyalty now, mister? Cut me some slack, I'm a good girl.

Well, okay, I am a good girl. I have changed a million habits, left over from the ice age known as my 20's. I stopped eating butter. Dropped the high fat cheese habit. No pop tarts for mid-morning break, strictly Greek yogurt for me. Half a sandwich at lunch. Munching on almonds, drinking the water. Isn't that enough?

No, the reality is, it's not. Calories count. Calories count big time the older you get. Those 3 time a week lapses can't be shaken off easily anymore. You need to plan for the binges and control them. You need to work out longer and harder to cover for them, that's the every day fact of life now. You need to build muscle to maintain shape. You need to keep moving to be flexible. You need to do cardio to have energy for the weekends. You need to keep make exercise and eating less a mantra. You need to ramp up your plans for your body as you age.

Living in sweat pants and stretchy shorts is not helping the matter. I don't think a future employer will appreciate big shirts pulled out over the fat pants, held together with a rubber band at the waist. I'm pretty sure business dress codes don't encompass that.

But still, today, when I look at everything going on, I am sure it's the scales fault. It's not mine. It's not my age. It's not the peri-menopause symptoms. It's not genetics of the 6'5" 350 pounds relatives lurking in the past. It's not the snacks while sitting on the patio sipping a cool adult beverage. Nope, it must be the scale.

Instead of the scale, I'm building a dream board today. Healthy pictures, nice dreams of Paris and Maui, relaxing sayings instead. Hang up a size smaller outfit and try it on, picture myself in it, imagine. Use the dream imaging instead of the scale. The scale is just a number after all, and I am so much more then that. I have thoughts, feelings, beliefs that rise above all that.

Today I conquer the world, without the dry measurement of an obscene weight amount

Watch out world, here I come.

The tape measure better hide, it could be next.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

10 Steps to Control Stress

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom acts as one with our very soul.

“Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health, and is as friendly to the mind as to the body.”Joseph Addison

Cheery, happy, joyful, blissful, peaceful, calm, full of mirth, tipping over with gladness, bursting with glee-a state of positive thinking we try to attain on a regular basis. We pray, we give thanks, and we meditate. We feel good. We feel God. We live in the state of grace, wonderment, and blessing....then we wake up smiling.

And sometimes we don’t smile. We wake up, having not slept all night due to stress, playing the problems over and over in our heads. Accidents happen, bones get broken, illness hits us or a loved one, jobs get lost, our parent’s age and our children misbehave. Sometimes our kids are clueless and we wonder where they got their brain cells, like the other day when Maverick hopped in a friend’s go-cart and drove it 5 miles down the side of a 6 lane highway in rush-hour traffic to pick up a friend. What on earth was he thinking? Of course, no brain functions were involved, only hormones were driving the bus that day.

And sometimes the hormones are so stupid school boards and the police have to get involved. Sometimes the disease takes more that a prescription to heal. Sometimes the job takes many months and countless applications to find. Sometimes the wound leaves a permanent scar we can’t heal, we can’t prevent and we can’t undo. And when it’s our kids, we feel the stress constantly. When we aren’t in control, and can’t just wave a wand to get a new job or do the day over, we suffer too.

I have developed some excellent coping techniques during my extended play time at home. I passed these on to a friend in need today, and I wanted to share with you too. Please send me yours and I will update.

10 Steps to Cope with Stress

1. TRASH TALK Just call a friend and vent, yell, holler, moan, diss the other people, scream about the unfairness, roar that you can’t cope, blast the government, trash your employer, and let it all roll out of you. Just let it all hang out. Don’t expect resolution, but you will find that talking through it will help you cope. Sometime, in tough situations, this is every day.

2. HELP, I’M MELTING Schedule a time each day to allow a melt down. That’s right, let it happen. Plan on it. When you are hyperventilating, pick a time later in the day, and tell yourself, this sucks, but I am not melting down until 2 p.m. when I take my walk.Only the will I scream and cry to myself, it will be just me, and that will be okay. I will flail on the floor if I want. I will simultaneously eat 5 pounds of chocolate and 3 glasses of wine at that time if I need to. However I want to melt, I will, but it will not be until then and it will only last 30 minutes. Plan a start and end time, and let it be.

3. SNAP OUT OF IT When turmoil strikes, one problem we have is seeing our way out of the situation. We get in a cycle of repeating bad thoughts in our head, and can’t get out of it. We tell ourselves again and again, “If Only…” Stop this. Wear a rubber band, and snap it on yourself when you realize you are doing this. Pull yourself back to the moment and break the habit of the endless moaning in your head.

4. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY Remind yourself to live in the moment and not view this as life ending. Whatever it is, you will get through it. Post a note on your computer at work, hang a sign on the fridge, clip one on your vent in the car that reads “This will NOT effect my eternity.” You are a child of God and your soul is much larger then whatever problem you are facing. In a year, you won’t even remember what caused you so much pain today. Believe it.

5. BE A LOVER, NOT A FIGHTER Loving yourself, your life and your day is the key to success and peace today. Fighting against the stress does not make it go away. Concentrate instead on thoughts of love. Make lists in your head, share then with friends to give you something else to concentrate on. Funny movies I love, best books I love, seasons I love, meals I love, people I love, best days I loved, etc. Keep the focus positive. Don't fight the stress, love it and let it go.

6. WALK OFF THE WAIT Get the feet moving. A sense of accomplishment in trekking for 30 minutes, in completing a course, in walking fast for 10 house; this walking will really pull you out of a funk. Watch your toes move, see the heel hit, notice your calf bulge as you dig in. Don’t allow yourself to think of anything but the walk. This is a powerful way to pull you back from a habit of worry.

7. COUNT YOUR SHEEP Sleeping gets very difficult when we are stressed. Talking to yourself
about it during the day really gets you in the mindset of being a good sleeper. Pretend this is the Olympics of sleeping tonight and you will be awarded the gold medal. See yourself handing God your worries in a worry basket, and crawling under the covers, and sleeping quietly for 8 hours. Feel the REM sleep take over easily and give you peace. See yourself smiling while you sleep.
Talk to yourself about it, see the worries being pushed aside, and make it happen. This really helps the sleep come quickly.

8. QUIET ON THE SET Set a time aside for quiet. You need it. It will give you much rest.

9.TAKE THE DOWN ESCALATOR Often when we are stressed, our moods with other friends, co-workers or family members get intense. We escalate the discussions into major fights (If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times to pick up your underwear after you shower!!) and before you know, the entire U.S. Army is needed to break up the discussion already. Stop saying “Always and Never” and take it down a notch. Walk away. Let it go. Let them win, and give yourself peace. Winning every fight does not make your stronger.

10. THRIVE NOT SURVIVE See yourself with a positive outcome, whatever it may be. Start with a gratitude journal, and move it up to major dreams. Allow yourself to bloom wherever you are planted, even now…see this manure as the fertilizer of your new life.

Give thanks each nite by remembering, “I am blessed, not stressed.”

Laugh each day. This is the best coping mechanism of all. It's makes us cheerful the whole day.