I was born in the year of the horse, according to Chinese astrology, but that has almost nothing to do with this post. Read on and you’ll see….
During my first trip to Santorini in May of 2015, my husband and I came across this handsome devil every day on the way to our hotel from the main beach road.
We always said hello and managed to catch this image. I’m not sure if horses smile and he doesn’t appear to be. Perhaps he’s happy and enjoying the land, visitors like us and the weather, but he’s not running free… something that made me rather sad each time I passed him on the hill. Is he grateful for what he does have? Does he have friend’s, a mate or even a comfortable place to live and sleep? I don’t know, but he is there and he looks healthy and well cared for.
Next photo victim.. Me
I’m smiling, the sun’s on my face, I’m in paradise and enjoying a wonderful vacation with my one true love. Everything is wonderful and I’m full of life.
All of this is true, or is it? (scroll down for more)
It is true however; no one really knows what lies beneath.
I’ve been smiling since the day I was born (nearly) and I enjoy being happy and doing pleasurable things. I counsel friends who are down, have a playful sense of humour, have taken care of my family and husband when they weren’t well and take pleasure in finding perfect gifts for everyone in my life for special occasions or “just because.” I give a lot, probably more than is healthy for me.
I have 3 pockets. I stuff each pocket with things that I don’t need or want while I’m enjoying life and happiness. My first pocket is close to my heart and holds the sadness of losing my father, the second pocket holds my worries… for everything and the final pocket holds my fears.. fears of health and fears of future.
The moment that I walk through my front door after a relaxing and enjoyable vacation or fun event, it’s there again. Me, the “me” that I tucked away in those 3 little pockets. The me that has been struggling “inside” with trauma that has taken over my persona.
My outside (public self) stays positive, optimistic and playful. Nobody realises, I am a great actress and my smile hides a lot of stories.
It comes in many shapes, sizes and colours but it’s best known wearing a red coat and whether or not you believe it to be part of the vegetable family or fruit, it has graced our plates and tables for many years.
So why have I chosen to feature our red friend? Well, I’ll tell you.
Life was simple, free and easy growing up in the states during the 70’s and as a kid, I had the pleasure of regularly visiting farmer’s markets and helping my brother and later on my parent’s tend to an extensive and beautiful vegetable garden in the heart of Northern Maine, New England.
At a very early age, I remember my father bringing home his favourite plum tomato’s and eating them like candy. They were bright red, shiny and were still attached to their vine with soft and fragrant leaves. It’s hard to explain the scent but I guess they smelled like sweet earth to me. I loved them and they were easy to pop in your mouth.
“Where’s the beef?” Beefsteak tomato’s… now this one is the Daddy of all tomato’s! As much as I’d like to say my first experience of this meaty fruit was in New York, I will hold my hand’s up and admit that New Jersey at that time had the best! (sorry fellow New Yorka’s)
Now this is one that can ONLY be enjoyed 2 ways:
cut in half, salted and eaten like an apple
Sliced thick and served on a juicy burger
My summer’s spent in Maine as a child were magical. It was like camping, an adventure of sorts and it helped me to appreciate nature and the simplistic life. What kid wakes up in the morning, picks tomato’s, green beans and sweet peas off of their vine’s and eats them quite happily whilst walking through a maze of blooms to reach a babbling brook only steps away? It was me and I am grateful.
There’s a bit more to this story, which was the motivation for this post. Moving to Northern UK was a culture shock for me in the beginning and I had to adjust to many differences, mainly food. My first tomato experience here was completely different.
Entering the quite reputable kebab take-away… so you can probably gather that I’m pretty darn passionate about food in general. “What would you like on your kebab Miss?” “Oh, I’d like tomato, lettuce, onions and whatever else you have in the way of salad please.” I got home and opened the carefully wrapped package. Orange?? These tomato’s are orange. My husband (who is not entirely passionate about food in general) replied, “what’s wrong with that?”
It’s been awhile since I’ve written you a letter, but I think of you every day.
A lot has happened in my life since you left and the piece of my heart that you took with you on your journey is still felt. I didn’t think it would be this hard… not to hear your voice, tell you about my life and hear your stories (even for the 10th time), but it is.
Your pride, your unconditional love, support and general inquisitive nature…it is a part of what’s missing in my life, my routine and my being. I am not the same person without you, I have lost the one person who made it all better just by listening and being my father.
Life is funny in a strange way…as a child, I never saw an end to anything, only seasons,the last day of school and maybe an ice cream. Those are moments that are enjoyed but their end does not leave a lasting mark.
As I reminisce about times past and the holiday season, I am reminded of how time changes things.. circumstances, people, events and myself. All of this leaves me searching for something and I haven’t put my finger on what it is yet. So this letter .. I’m an optimist but sometimes even an optimist falls. I resisted writing this, for fear that my readers would doubt my optimism, but I’m only human.
I’ve been watching videos I’ve taken of you and it’s almost like you’re here. I wish you were. I have a heavy heart writing this because I have changed since you left. I know that I was lucky to have you in my life and I have wonderful memories of all of the times we’ve spent together. Somehow I feel selfish… selfish for wanting everyone to understand my loss, but I still keep these feelings tucked inside.
I’m in a foreign land, with a man that I love however, my heart is missing family and familiar places to ease my sadness. So I listen to songs that remind me of moments, people and places and sigh.
I’m trying Dad, but there are few that understand my dreams, wishes and wants.
I hope you are safe and not worrying about me. I will bounce back but you dear father have left an large empty space.
Something amazing happened to me this morning.. for the first time since I’ve lived here in the UK, I witnessed a Monarch butterfly land in my back yard and it stayed for quite some time. So I decided to check into the meaning of this, if there was any…. this Optimist is now speechless…
Here’s little preview of what I found, but the full description is available by viewing the Monarch butterfly link added above.
Lessons and Challenges:
The monarch butterfly teaches us that life is short, and that it must be valued. Assuming that we have decades of our lives left (or at the very least, years) is all well and good for things like economic planning, but it is through recognising the fleetingness of human existence that we come to value every day, even those which get us down or which are hard to appreciate.
I’m switching tactics here, following one of my earlier posts entitled “Food Glorious Food.”
Diet’s, healthy eating, fitness programmes.. they are there to help us right? One size fits all… I have learned that this is not the way to approach weight loss and become a healthier you. I’m no expert by any means but the fact is…everyone is different.
Over the course of my life, I have tried numerous plans, pills and potions, which were advertised to “give you your ideal body” in so many weeks, months etc. Back then I believed every word however; now that I’m older and wiser, I know that It’s impossible to guarantee the same results if you don’t know your individual circumstances, genetics, metabolism etc. For example… would a vegetarian have the same results as me on an Atkins type diet? What about someone who has physical limitations and would find it difficult or nearly impossible to go spinning or weight train? Can we all afford a personal trainer? Probably not…
So that leads to the journey I have found myself part of and I’m hoping it can provide others with some inspiration from lessons that I have learned.
Let’s see if Mother was right….
Metabolism-“breakfast is the most important meal of the day” it jump-starts your metabolism and this instruction was embedded in me from an early age.
Oatmeal and oils Oatmeal is not only healthy for your heart, but it also sets you up for the day leaving you feeling full and satisfied. Oil’s- ease up on these folks… there are good oils/fats and bad ones. Stick with oily fishes (high in Omega like Salmon and mackerel), cod liver oil in the form of a capsule from your health food shop or grocery store and low-fat cooking spray. (They even have olive oil types and garlic flavours now)
Tomatoes-Vitamin C, good source of fibre, potassium and B6 to name a few! Can be eaten raw on it’s own to help with snack cravings, in a salad of course or sautéed with other veggies. SWEET! Treats are also important! If you don’t treat yourself now and again, you’ll end up bingeing and reversing all of the good you’ve accomplished. Save a small treat for each day or reward yourself at the end of the week or weekend. For instance: 2 of your favourite cookies with a cup of herbal tea at night or perhaps some Chinese food on a Friday or Saturday night. (get something tasty but try to stay away from fried stuff in gloopy sauce.)
Herbs-Goodbye gloopy oily and sugary sauces… Let’s opt for flavourful herbs instead. pepper, rosemary, basil, cilantro, curry powder, tarragon, lemongrass.. you choose.. it tastes nice and it’s healthy!
Eggs- Great source of protein (especially for vegetarians) and easy again to snack on if you plan ahead and hard boil a bunch for the fridge. Plus, it contains .. you ready? (Iron, zinc, iodine, Vitamin E, B2 and studies have shown that it boosts weight loss when eaten for breakfast (without 4 slices of toast with butter of course!)
Red food-Well, green food has always been on the list, but as we’re going with mom’s advice here.. I’d like to focus on the red’s-Strawberries (high in vitamin c and has powerful antioxidants that have been proven to preventdegeneration of the eyes in some cases) cherries are high in quercetin and ellagic acid. This antioxidant flavonoid has been shown to promote cell and tissue health.Cherries are also high in substances related to reducing the joint and muscle discomfort. Cherries also contain melatonin, an important natural chemical related to healthy sleep rhythms and maintaining a youthful appearance. BONUS!
By following “mother’s” instructions, I lost 2 stone (almost 30 pounds) in 7 months. I feel better about myself and I’m healthier to boot.
I hope this helps at least a few people and thanks for reading!
Whether your Father is present or dearly departed, I feel that sometimes, Dad’s Day get’s the short end of the stick.
Okay, so how many father’s day cards have you seen with either a tie, fishing rod, some type of sport or racing car on it?
Countless right? The public are therefore stating that all Dad’s fish, race cars and play sports…. Um nope.. they’ve got it all wrong. I realize that each family will have a different experience and that times have changed due to technology, modern conveniences etc however; there can be many special talents within Dad’s (young and old) and I’m here to tell you about what I feel is important to remember, based on my personal experience’s with my Dear father.
What my father gave to me was precious and I remember each gift as if it was yesterday. It is the gift of time.
Dad had 4 children before me, so he was well versed by the time I arrived but older and a different kind of wiser. When I was growing up, we didn’t have much but there was always “time”, creativity and self-made adventures. As I get older and wiser myself, I have realised that time is definitely more precious than things. Remember one thing, you can always replace a possession but you cannot replace a time or a moment.
So, without further ado and moving on to the celebration of Father’s Day, I present my 10 ideas (a mixture of ideas for kid’s and adults):
Go for a nice walk and spend some time just talking, catching up on life and listening to his stories
Prepare a nice dinner of his favorite item’s (even if it’s not what you would eat)
Make your own card by hand if you’re a kid or if you’re an adult, choose some photos sharing special moments together and showcase on a card
Take the time and experience something new together- whether it’s an outdoor activity or a new movie
If you’re like me and your Dad always insisted on paying for your dinner when you dined out, treat him this time
Make something together, it could be anything from a “mud pie” if you’re a kid or something less messy as an adult that he would enjoy making
Return the kindness and teach him something-perhaps how to do something new on the computer, if he’s technophobic (exercise patience)
Switch off the TV and play a board game
Adult and children alike-if he has his own car separate to mom, surprise him and wash it
And last but not least, thank him for being there and loving you unconditionally
I would like to add that the same love and kindness applies to Father figure’s and Step-father’s and whomever you have considered to be a Dad in your life.
When I was a child, I was confident because at that time, I had no fear of the “unknown.”
In most cases, when we are young we just go with it and enjoy play, light conversation and meeting new people (making new friends) etc. There are no rules on how to be… we just are who we are at that moment in our young lives and we are not being judged by anyone. Perhaps the biggest decisions we make as children are; which toy to play with or which one of our friends are free to play jump rope with. (well.. in my day anyway)
Let’s talk about fear.. I have a very early example of this. 1973 aged 7- I was a Brownie and due to take part in a Christmas concert with my troop.. there must have been over 100 people in the audience (mainly proud parents.) We were performing “The 12 days of Christmas” and my part was.. “and a partridge in a pear tree.”
One line, easy to remember however; the act of delivering this was frightening. I was in the spotlight, which for most people is where they get stuck. At that early stage in my life, I didn’t know about believing in myself or my abilities.. who would? So I forced myself to sing to cue and almost missed my line once, before my troop leader gently tapped my shoulder to encourage me. The performance ended and I was relieved after many happy and proud parents applauded all of us kids. phewww.. it was over.
Why was I so afraid? Why are people generally nervous and scared to be in the spotlight? Actor’s who we perceive to be extremely confident also claim to be nervous every time they perform. Let me skip ahead to my working years and share with you how I overcame shyness.
So, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” yes… really and this was the beginning of my confidence building because A) I was in the “spotlight” and B) I was “performing” in front of strangers.
My good performances resulted in rewards (tips) and when I was off kilter, not so much. 15 years in the hospitality industry overcoming public appearances face-to-face with happy people, grumpy people, celebrities and new event challenges, encouraged my ability to feel more confident and so, I started a new challenge.
I began working for a globally recognised company and brand, where my people skills were valued even more. I rose from service advisor to sales advisor/ team leader and then technical advisor in less than 2 years. I was the go-to person for both customers and new recruit training and loved interacting with and helping people. As my training mentor has always said, “I could sell ice to an Eskimo” and had positive persuasion skills. Positivity is a “state of mind” and so is confidence. So I soaked up all that I could in the 5 years that I was employed there before embarking on the adventure known as the next stage of my life. Hang in there, I’ll get to the point but if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I enjoy telling stories and taking you on a mental journey.
All aboard…. next stop North West, England. A different culture and a new beginning. How did I prove myself to yet more strangers? My husband is one of the most confident people I know. Not arrogant by any means, but genuine and very approachable. He makes friends wherever he goes and I was never like that. He uses the “icebreaker” technique, which is such a simple concept, but one that you need to follow up and not be afraid to continue being yourself. I used to be the type of person that went to a party and stuck like glue to one or two people I knew in order to be part of it all, I didn’t have self-belief at that time or confidence in being myself to just mingle with anyone. I was simply…ME. Me from the very beginning of this story. Happy to be a part of something but froze under pressure. I must admit, with age comes a new kind of confidence and so I conjured up all of my powers and promised myself I would break down my wall.
After learning that a fair amount of companies in the UK prefer presentations as a means to rate one’s confidence in an interview, I swallowed my fear and came up with a plan.
During my first presentation, I decided to wear a mask. You think I’m kidding don’t you? Well.. I wore my glasses, which provided a mask-like protection that physcologically helped my confidence, as I felt that I was not fully exposed. I performed pretty well and if it wasn’t for the lack of a driver’s licence, I would have gotten the job. Personally, I don’t believe in presentations as part of an interview because A) It’s not a natural environment and B) I believe in getting to know the person.
I’m a people person (as you’ve probably gathered) and generally have good feelings or intuitions. So, I played the game several times during my career, with no training just being me and spreading my passion about subjects, people and experiences. I’ve created events, chaired meetings, started focus groups in order to share ideas and working practices and find that focusing on liked-minded people, relationships and common goals is by far the best way to nurture your mind and confidence. My state of mind has grown and so will yours if you’re true to yourself.
Some of the examples I’ve used might help you. I’ll break them down briefly in 5 steps:
Believe in yourself and take baby steps to master your fear
Use a conversation “Icebreaker” and stick with the conversation
Be yourself-It is much easier
Wear or use something that comforts you or makes you feel more confident
Be honest and talk about or do things that you know how to do (pretending is nerveracking)