Ripped? Shredded? How about perforated?

Image courtesy of The Paper Mill Store

Image courtesy of The Paper Mill Store

Anyone who has ever read through a fitness magazine or even just glanced the cover of a fitness magazine in a grocery store has probably seen the words “Ripped!” “Shredded!” “Cut!” describing the bodies of people in rock solid physical shape. Slogans like “How to get ripped in 30 days!” “Shred 10 pounds by bikini season!” “Tips for a cut body in 3 weeks!” are meant to grab you, pull you in and shake you about until you’re amped up enough to start working out.

I agree that being in healthy shape, eating right and taking care of your body is important but sometimes it’s taken to the extreme. There are those who really want a hard body and they work diligently at it until they achieve their desired results and then there are others like myself who just want to firm up a bit and lose those infamous “last 1o pounds of post-baby weight.” I’ve been carrying this “baby weight” for seven years now and it’s fair to say that Jaycie really isn’t the cause of it anymore. My love of yummy, but not always good for me food is the cause of it as is my off and on dedication to exercise.

I’ve been doing the Les Mills Combat workouts for three weeks now and while I’m definitely getting stronger, I’m far from ripped, shredded or cut. I think perforated is a better term for it. As in, I’m ready to be torn, ripped, shredded whatever and I’m on the verge of it but it’s going to take a bit more work to get there. What’s important is that I know I’ll get where I want to be.

What’s also important is accepting the “imperfections” of my body and that I’ll never look flawless as though I’m chiseled from solid marble. I’ve had two children and I have stretch marks. Yes, I admitted it! No amount of working out, creams, potions or magic spells is going to make those disappear. But I don’t want them to disappear. As I’ve read in inspirational quotes they’re my “tiger stripes.” I fought through several hours of labor for each of my girls and they were worth every moment of pain. I wear my badges of courage proudly!

Darn right!!!

I wouldn’t mind being without the post-baby pooch but I do like my softness and my curves. After all, Greek and Roman goddesses weren’t originally portrayed as skinny waifs with bony hips and oversized bosoms, they had soft hips and thighs and meat on their bones! There is real beauty in being a real woman, even one who isn’t ripped, shredded, torn and cut. Being perforated means there is greatness in you and you’re forever ready to reveal your new and amazing inner glow.

Naming winter storms? Really?!

Image courtesy of The Weather Channel

Image courtesy of The Weather Channel

In their questionable wisdom, The Weather Channel took it upon themselves to start naming winter storms in 2012. The reasoning they list on their website is that giving the storms names makes them easier to track, identify and refer to. There was also mention of how they get more Twitter and media attention when they have names. Is that really necessary?! Don’t the storms get enough attention when they trap us inside our homes with frigid temperatures, high winds and multiple inches of snow and/or freezing rain? Does it really make us feel better when we can grumble about how Hercules and Leon messed up our travel plans? It sounds more like we’re complaining about deadbeat friends than winter weather.

With all the lovely winter events we’ve had the past few months, the weather channel names are already up to the current named storm of Maximus. Pardon me, but why are these storms given such powerful sounding names? Won’t they take that as a challenge to live up to such a strong name? Why not give them names that are less threatening so they don’t feel the need to prove themselves? It seems quite logical to me. If you’re going to be silly and name storms, suck the wind out of their sails with more appropriate monikers. Yes, I do have a touch of cabin fever/winter insanity but here’s my suggested list of names for the remainder of the winter season:

Minimus – Much less intimidating than Maximus. Maximus was a fine name for the horse in Tangled, but for a storm, unwise.

Nominal – Named just because a name was needed, trifling, minimal.

Obtuse – Dull, indistinct, unnoticeable. The kind of storm that makes you wonder if you actually saw a snowflake or if it was a hallucination.

Pitiful – Some of the storms predicted to be monstrous have been quite pitiful and that’s fine with me!

Quagmire – Bog-like, soft or flabby. Definitely not a storm with any real initiative to get going.

Relaxing – Quite the opposite of how stressful winter storms can be and something all of us up north would prefer doing instead of shoveling!

Sleepy – This storm just keeps hitting snooze on the alarm and never got its rear in gear.

Trivial – Barely worth noticing and so minute, most people don’t remember it.

Uneventful – Goes right along with pitiful.

Vole – Give a storm the name of a small mouselike rodent and it’s certain to tuck its tail between its legs and hide.

Wobbly – It just never got its land legs under it and couldn’t muster the trip across the country.

Xylophone – X names are just hard to come by and I do love the sound of a xylophone, kind of impossible to play it wrong.

Yosemite Sam – Like the Looney Tunes character, full of incomprehensible grumbling that never amounts to much.

Zilch – Zip, zilch, nada, this one just isn’t happening!

Escaping to Warmth

Image courtesy of World Travel Guide

Today is supposedly the last extremely frigid day in the forecast for a while. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be a tropical 26 degrees Farenheit. Then again, today was supposed to get up to 15 degrees and right now it sits happily at 7 degrees, feels like -6 with winds gusting to 35 mph. Warmth doesn’t seem to actually be happening here until May if we’re lucky so guess what? I’m getting the heck out of dodge and escaping to warmth!

I’m quite often ghost writing about Florida warmth as if I live there but now I’m finally heading to the Sunshine State to experience it first hand. Yes, I do realize that today some places in Florida were in the 40s but to that I say: it’s not 7!!! Or worse, the negative whatever it’s felt like for the past several days here. At this point I’d probably be wearing shorts in 40 degree weather.

A week from today I’m hopping on a plane bound for the sunny south. My mother is coming too as I treat both of us to a long-awaited thaw out from winter’s frigid temperatures. I haven’t been to Florida since I drove the girls and my mom down to Disney World years ago. I haven’t been on a plane in over two years. Even so, I’m looking forward to the whole trip because I love to travel! And I love the beach, the ocean and warmth!

New England is still my favorite trip destination and I will be traveling there soon but I just need a break from all the cold. I’ll only be in Florida for a few days but I’m confident it will perk up my spirits and help cure the winter drearies that threaten to overwhelm me. I look forward to watching the sunsets and sunrises over the ocean, walking the beach in the early morning and not having to dress in several layers every day. Time to dust off the shorts and summer dresses and dig out the sunblock because this pale chick is off to soak up the heat!

Piles of Pathetic Pupness

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

I adore my pup Jazzmin but she, just like every other dog in the world I imagine, is an expert at flopping about in the most pathetic and pitiful piles of pupness. She can go from happy and tail wagging after playing to flopped on the floor in utter misery and woe because I haven’t pet her in the last two breaths. She goes from gratefully burping in my face after wolfing down her food to melting on the floor in feigned utter starvation as if her last meal was months ago. Full on doggy drama queen!

It’s been way too cold to take Jazz for a walk the past several days. Just to put her outside for her morning answer to nature’s call I have to dress her up in her booties and sweater to prevent her from becoming a pupsicle. I even had to carry her 55 pound butt back in the house last week because it was too cold for her to walk in the snow! She’s always so eager to get back in the house and I’m always so hopeful that feeling will last all day. Alas, it never does. Within moments, she’s wondering why I haven’t taken her outside for a walk. She looks at me in utter dismay wondering what horrible thing she’s done to make me punish her with lack of walks. My eyes are about to roll out of my head from her constant puppy dog eyes of death!

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

I love Jazz but bundling up to my eyeballs in a snowsuit and ski mask to walk her in negative temperatures just isn’t going to happen. Especially since she’d have to be equally bundled and would never keep a full doggy ski mask on, if such a thing even exists. It was so cold this morning that she was holding her paws up out of the snow even with her booties on! I don’t recall that ever happening before and with her leaky steel trap memory, Jazz doesn’t remember it happening at all by now.

The cold shoulder pout.

The cold shoulder pout.

My daughter Jordan asked me last night if I thought Jazz was born looking that pathetic. I said I highly doubted it and that from what I remember of puppies, they’re furry, round butterballs that sleep a lot, chew on things and pee and poo all over the house. I’m not up to dealing with THAT variety of pathetic pup piles around my house! Despite her constant “woe is me” body flopping in every room of the house, I know Jazz is a happy dog. She has by now forgotten her less than lovely life in the animal shelter but her periodic stays at the boarders remind her what a good thing she has in my tiny, cabin-fever filled house.

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Eventually the weather will break and we’ll be able to go for walks again but for now I’m doing my best to ignore the sighs, huffs, grunts and stares of longing she keeps aiming in my direction.

Frozen Frolicking

The view across the field behind my house tonight

The view across the field behind my house tonight.

I don’t exactly frolic happily when I take Jazz outside to answer nature but we do move quickly and that’s as close to hopping and skipping as we’re going to get in this weather. I’m not a fan of running but when it comes to getting inside out of the cold, I’ll run! I’ll think of it as conditioning for when the weather’s warmer…and I still don’t like running.

There’s nothing to do about the weather really except keep bundling up and finding ways to stay warm. Another day, another prediction of negative wind chills and snow. There’s also sun with the negative temperatures and it does give the illusion of warmth and help heat the house toward the end of the day so it’s not all bad. Not all bad but definitely all cold.

The sparkle of the snow in the sunlight has a distinct beauty despite the deep chill in the air. It reminds me of the Disney movie Frozen that my girls both enjoyed. They have some of the toys from the movie and we all like the song entitled “Let It Go” so much that I downloaded it to my phone. I played it this morning to wake Jaycie up and the moment she heard the first chorus she was sitting up and curious. I love the words of the song and beauty of the sequence of the movie and it reminds me that even the frozen tundra can be magical when you view it from the right perspective.

Goddess of Fire?

Photo by Ed Merritt

Photo by Ed Merritt

I had no idea what I was going to blog about tonight. Thankfully, the fates intervened! Friends of mine posted a photo of a large bonfire on Facebook and said, “This one’s for JulieAnn, goddess of fire!” It was in reference to me barely helping tend a bonfire at their home last winter but marveling at its warmth and dancing flames. Goddess of Fire? I rather like the sound of that and if I was such a fiery creature, I’d certainly be warm! Have I mentioned how much I miss being warm? I really do…

I do consider myself a queen but a goddess might be pushing things a bit too far. Then again, aren’t all women goddesses? When they discover their own inner beauty and strength, doesn’t that make them feisty, undeniable sources of power? I’ve lost track of how many things I’ve read and seen that say a woman with confidence is considered highly attractive. I am confident in many aspects of myself but not quite all of them. I am always a work in progress and I’m okay with that. I do know that I’m the best I can be every day and am grateful for every dawn that gives me the opportunity to explore my full potential.

The whole goddess of fire idea coincides nicely with my recent resumption of writing in Unbroken Flames. The story revolves around a woman who wields fire but fears that her excessive emotions will make it impossible to control the flames should she ever fully unleash them. Fire wielders are easily turned to darkness and evil in her world and she refuses to risk such a fate upon herself. What she doesn’t realize is that it’s far more dangerous for her to suppress her emotions, withhold her magic and ignore her true self.

Unbroken Flames, its story and its characters are close to my heart and perhaps that’s why it’s taking me so long to write it. Revealing so much of my inner working and feelings, even in a fantasy story, is a daunting prospect. I shall take a lesson from my heroine Vihresa though by being true to myself and unleashing my goddess-of-fire-like magic.

Embracing Silence

My sturdy little plum tree stands tall through the wind and snow!

My sturdy little plum tree stands tall through the wind and snow!

Weekends without my girls are always much quieter than weekends with them. I miss the sound of their voices filling my little house and the unique conversations we share. It used to be that I worked very hard to fill every silent moment with something. I feared silence because silence meant I was alone and I didn’t yet understand the difference between being alone and being lonely.

I used to text friends non-stop or write long emails just so I’d feel like someone was hearing my voice, even if I never said a word aloud. Filling my time with that type of mental noise drove the feeling of loneliness away but it was only temporary because I didn’t know how to be okay alone. It’s taken me some time but I feel I am all right alone and that I can finally embrace the silence and use it to center myself.

What I’ve discovered as I step further away from the texting and the emailing is that there’s actually no such thing as silence and that when I stop to listen, I’m never alone and have no right to feel lonely. There are people in this world that know me and care about me and should I need them, they’ll answer my call. There are also higher powers in this universe that are always with me, just waiting for me to discover the right way to hear them. The only way to truly listen is to be silent.

Snowflakes dancing in front of my back pine tree.

Snowflakes dancing in front of my back pine tree.

Despite the occasional gusts of wind outside making my wind chimes sing, tonight has been very quiet. A slow snow is falling so I decided to go outside and take some pictures. There is great serenity in the sound of falling snow. While the wind can roar, howl and moan, snowflakes descending from the sky are blissfully silent when undisturbed by winter breezes.

When I wasn’t crunching through the snow in my boots, I enjoyed the soft whisper of the falling snow when I’d pause in my yard to take photos. The light from the distant ski hill offered enough of a glow to help me navigate in the dark and my flash made occasional bursts of white as I snapped pictures.

My bird feeder collection and the remnants of summer's last sunflower.

My bird feeder collection and the remnants of summer’s last sunflower.

While winter will never be my favorite season, I’m learning that fighting it, complaining about it and disliking it has no power and only leads to frustration. It will take time, just as learning to embrace silence took time, but I will eventually find a way to embrace winter and truly see it as another beautiful example of nature’s humbling magic.

My little mosaic solar light on the deck railing.

My little mosaic solar light on the deck railing.

Energy and movement

It’s been rather difficult to stay warm lately. Bundled under blankets, gathered around heaters, covered in layers and there are still parts of me that have trouble thawing. One highly effective way I’ve found to warm up and even break a sweat in this frigid cold is by working out. Five minutes into my Les Mills Combat workout, I’m so warm I’ve stripped down to shorts and a tank when only moments ago I was in yoga pants, tank and sweatshirt. After that comes a nice hot shower and I’m sufficiently thawed for at least a few hours.

In the evenings it’s a bit harder to stay warm when the sun has gone down, if it even bothered to show up for the day. Last night drinking wine and painting warmed me up but tonight I’m going to partake in something different. No wine and no painting but lots of music and movement…through dancing.

I have been doing what I now term “living room dancing” since I was a teenager when I’d dance around in my room to my favorite up tempo songs of the time. Some of my earliest favorites were Mr. Vain by Culture Beat, Be My Lover by La Bouche and Rhythm of the Night by Corona. If you don’t know those songs and are curious, check out YouTube. My musical tastes include much more than dance music but it’s still my favorite genre because it always fills me with energy, lifts my mood and makes me want to move!

So tonight I shall indulge in my living room dancing and I’m quite certain that I’ll be warm, energized and happy. No one has witnessed my dancing in person aside from my girls in many years and they might be my only audience from now on but that’s okay. I do it to restore my inner glow, rejuvenate my spirit and this time of year, thaw my frozen appendages.

Plum wine and winter painting

A girl and her paint.

A girl and her paints.

I’ve been wanting to do some new paintings for months now but I’ve been too busy or it’s been too cold for me to crawl out from under blankets on the couch to stand at my easel. I could ignore my muse no longer though and had to get creative to shake off the winter chill.

That creativity involved drinking a glass of plum wine to warm me up and loosen my rusty painting skills. Skills might be a stretch but I do enjoy painting and what flows from my brush is usually appealing in some way.

Once the wine had started to make me all tingly, I got out my brushes and paints and set about adding some life to the blank sheets of watercolor paper I’d taped to canvas boards earlier. I had Pandora blasting from my computer speakers and I danced as I painted. It felt really good to express this aspect of my creativity!

Blank watercolor paper in need of life!

Blank watercolor paper in need of life!

Jazz would occasionally bring her lobster for me to throw so I’d pause in my work and play with her. I even picked up her front paws and danced with her a bit. While her tail was wagging, I don’t think she really enjoyed what her crazy mama was subjecting her to.

By the time I’d finished my three snow-inspired paintings, I’d had two glasses of wine and if my body was cold, I couldn’t feel it anymore. My paintings aren’t masterpieces worth millions of dollars but they’re pieces of me and as such, are unique, colorful and beautifully flawed.

My completed paintings.

My completed paintings.

A love affair with hot baths

Same space, different looks.

Same space, different looks.

I adore a nice, hot, lengthy bubble bath. They’re especially wonderful in the winter when soaking in hot water is about the only thing that thaws out my frozen toes. My fingers and toes get all pruney, I feel utterly relaxed, and I wish I could carry that warm, comfortable feeling around with me wherever I go.

I do believe in writing what I love and that’s why many of my female characters partake in baths. I have extensive experience enjoying baths so it makes perfect sense to write about it! Such descriptive scenes are also a great way to warm me up when I’m feeling cold as I recall the sensations of figuratively melting in the tub.

My goal tonight was to write the bath scene from Unbroken Flames that went along with the bathroom rendering I roughed out last week. In its current state, the bathing area resembles a dungeon but it helps me visualize the scene in my head and keep details consistent. I created a second version of the same space that’s much more modern, clean and non-dungeon like as a way of demonstrating my ability to see the potential in even the most dismal seeming areas.

I wrote out the part in the story leading up to the bath and that took me longer than expected so the bath scene will wait. It’s all forward progress though and I’m happiest when I’m writing in my fiction stories, creating characters people can identify with even when there’s magic involved. Magic or no, nothing beats the warming power of a great bubble bath!

White Knuckle Drives

Another winter storm?! Seriously?!

Another winter storm?! Seriously?!

I was supposed to drive to New England tomorrow morning for another planned visit. Unfortunately, Mama Nature saw fit to send yet another winter storm up the east coast. Such storms haven’t deterred me in the past. In fact, every time I’ve driven to New England this winter I’ve endured all sorts of scary winter weather. From the harrowing snowstorm the day before Thanksgiving to the freezing rain nightmare in December, Mama Nature has thrown it all at me. This time though, I decided to let her win. I’m staying in New York.

During my various white knuckle drives I have discovered that I’m better at winter driving than I realized. All those tips my good friend told me about winter driving actually sunk in and pop into my head right when I need them most! I’ve come upon multiple car accidents during night time snow storms, I’ve watched cars go sliding off the road when they hit their brakes too hard in freezing rain and I’ve felt my heart in my throat more times than I care to remember. I am always eternally grateful that I arrive safely at my destination and believe me, there is quite a bit of praying to all the powers that be during the drives!

I’m certain I have a guardian angel or six watching over me during my travels and I appreciate their help and guidance. I think by now though that they’re as tired as I am from the winter drives and we all deserve a break. I’ll try again in February or March or both and every month after that as the weather turns nicer. I won’t be kept from the region I love for very long but for now it’s time to regroup, recharge, write, create, stay warm and play lots of lobster fetch with Jazzerboo!

Snow Angels

I asked Jaycie to pose cute and this is what she did.

I asked Jaycie to pose cute and this is what she did.

My girls had the day off today and we woke to the sight of fresh snow falling. Well, it wasn’t really snow at that point, it was more like tiny, frozen ice balls. Within an hour it had shaped up into snow and Jaycie was quite happy watching it fall. Of the six creatures living in this house, I think only Jaycie and Jazzmin still enjoy the snow.

Jaycie wanted to go outside and play in the snow so after lunch we wall bundled up in snow pants, jackets, gloves, hats and boots and headed out into the cold. Jazzmin had her booties and coat on and she was quite happy frolicking in and sniffing the snow. Jaycie and Jordan found two rather long dead branches from the vast selection in my yard and started drawing pictures in the snow. The flakes were still coming down and the temperature was dropping but we managed to have fun for quite a while.

Eventually Jazzmin started shivering so I took her back inside before returning to the yard with the girls. As I’m leaving for New England this Wednesday and it’s only supposed to get colder, I used my bundled up state to clean out my car and ready it for packing. While I was sitting in the driver’s seat gathering up various receipts and garbage, Jordan asked if she could have the snow brush to clean off my car. I certainly couldn’t refuse such a request so I handed her the brush.

For the next several minutes, both Jordan and Jaycie worked on cleaning the snow off my car. Jordan was using the brush while Jaycie was wiping it off with her mitten-covered hands. I greatly appreciated the help and the fact that they volunteered all on their own. There’s still a layer of ice on all the windows but running the defroster tomorrow will melt that before I have to leave.

The girls working away!

The girls working away!

Jaycie made sure she got both headlights.

Jaycie made sure she got both headlights.

When our cheeks became too frozen to feel in the fridge temperatures, we all headed inside where Jazzmin happily greeted us. I know how truly blessed I am to have such sweet snow angels for daughters!

This night is a rap

This is what happens when I write poems at 4 in the morning…

This Night is a Rap 6/3/12 4:17 a.m.

Texting, drop the phone on my face
Tossing, got my hair out of place
Rolling, calf cramped up like a glitch
Fumbling, can’t find the dang light switch
Walking, or hobbling down the hall
Meowing, cat about makes me fall
Drinking, water spills down my chest
Gazing, mirror shows no good rest
Grumbling, step around yellow dog
Laying, mind is lost in a fog
Thinking, ceiling fan on or no
Sweating, air movement is a go
Sighing, sheets are nice on bare skin
Smiling, my bed is so much win
Breathing, this is what life’s about
Loving, though I’m all inside out
Dreaming, never can know what comes
Hearing, thunder as the rain drums
Laughing, though such nights are a test
Knowing, all I give is my best
Closing, eyes are so tired and spent
Puzzling, what fate for me is meant
Longing, for one whose heart still glows
Missing, the girl that no one knows.

Don’t Forget the Squid!

A very important reminder!

A very important reminder!

Anyone with a white board on their refrigerator knows that it’s a great place to write grocery lists and reminder notes. My girls and I use it all the time to remember school events, draw pictures for the holidays and make lists for groceries. Well, the note that Jordan wrote on it today was certainly a first! “Bring vampire squid!”

Jaycie loves the Octanauts program on Disney Junior and she got some toys from it this past Christmas. In those toys is a plastic vampire squid that changes color in water. The girls take their Sunday baths at my mother’s house in her big tub and Jaycie keeps wanting to bring that squid but we all keep forgetting. Jordan found the perfect solution by posting that helpful message on the fridge!

Anyone else walking into my kitchen would wonder why we have a vampire squid and how we could ever forget it but to those that live in this house, it all makes perfect sense!

Girl Power!

Jaycie ready for battle!

Jaycie ready for battle!

I think being the mother of two daughters has made me an even stronger believer in girl power. Over the past few years, I’ve discovered just how strong I am as a woman and I do my best to teach and encourage self-confidence, courage and strength in my girls. Every day I see new evidence that they were born with great strength already and I feel it’s my job to help them unlock their full potential and realize the amazing things they’re capable of.

I recently started a new workout program called Les Mills Combat and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! There’s just something immensely empowering about kicking and punching imaginary opponents. Not only is it great exercise, it’s very therapeutic!

This morning Jaycie found the boxing gloves that came with the workout and put them on. They’re size small but even so, too big on my hands. They fit her about the same but I could tell by the grin on her face that she felt that same tingle of girl power I get when I wear them. There’s no denying Jaycie’s unique strength and I have complete faith that she’ll come into her own and make a significant difference in this world.

My oldest daughter, Jordan had her first semi-formal middle school dance tonight. Friday nights she’s always with her father so I told her I’d go down to the school and wait for her to arrive so I could take some pictures. This idea obviously didn’t thrill her but as her mother, I do occasionally invoke the right to embarrass her.

When Jordan arrived with Jaycie and her father, she was adorable! Er, I mean, a pretty young woman. I found myself wondering where my baby girl went and desperately wanting her back! I know that I can’t stop time though so I embraced the moment, snapped a couple of pictures and tried not to dote too much.

Jordan all dressed up!

Jordan all dressed up!

Jaycie was dancing along to the music coming from the gym and she’s so tall that if she’d been wearing a dress, she probably could have snuck right in without anyone knowing she’s only seven and not eleven or twelve.

Jordan joined her girl friends and went off to have fun and I resisted the urge to tell her for the hundredth time to stop slouching. Perhaps she needs to put on those magical combat gloves and learn how to punch, kick and fully unleash her untapped girl power!