So what do I do??

I imagined this scene the other day where I was at a dinner party and someone asked me ” So what do you do?”

In my somewhat twisted mind that is a bit of a loaded question. I could answer everything from “well I walk my dog everyday”  to “I’m a nurse” to  ( if I really feel like being a smart ass)  “I “do” lots of things like sleep, eat, drink, laundry, dishes……”  Yet I know in reality and in my imagined scene they were asking what I do for work and I reply “I am a writer”and this person says:

“Oh really?  And would I be familiar with any of your works?”  “What have you written?” Not that ANY of my friends talk like that and it was recently suggested to me that if they do I need to get new friends but lets move on.

Of course they are expecting me to name a book  they can find on Amazon or in their local Barnes & Noble, or a magazine article or some newspaper byline  but in reality my answer would be ( again with a touch of smart ass)  ” Well lets see I’ve written tons of grocery and to-do lists, papers for school, permission slips for kids and nurses notes but I doubt you would find any of those on Amazon

“Oh and I blog.”

Finally a somewhat plausible answer to that question. In reality the real answer is “I am a writer because I write.” I write for pleasure, for the joy of it,for personal soothing,as a release and because I love creating sentences out of words. Just because you can’t find me in Barnes & Noble doesn’t mean I am not a writer. I am a writer because I write. End of story….pun intended just so I can entertain myself!

It is the same with running (or whatever you favorite activity is). I am a runner because I run. When people ask me about a race as in “How did you do”  I use to think they were asking for my race results and I would hesitate and stumble over my answer and the words “slow” and “not very good” often punctuated the sentences I managed to form.

I quit doing that awhile back when I realized that my finishing time did NOT matter. What mattered was I did the race or the daily run and I was out there running. So the answer I always give now to “How was the race?” is “It was great! ” “I had a blast and I’m so glad I did it!” Sometimes people will clarify their question. “No I mean what was your finishing time?” And I say truthfully “I have no idea!” “I started, I finished and I had fun!” If they keep talking I keep walking!

So claim your answer to whatever it is you do! If you bike you are a cyclist, if you write you are a writer. Whatever it is you do that brings… Click To Tweet

Do fill your paper with the “breathings of your heart” or your belly if it is a grocery list..or fill the air with your beautiful music, or your soul with poetry…as Nike says “Just do it”

And don’t forget to have fun while you are doing it and above all else you have my permission to channel your inner smart ass when answering that question “What do you do?”

Now go out and tri!

 

 

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My Year of Wonder Vs. My Year of Sadness

I’ve fallen down on the job, faltered on my own commitment to pause, be in the moment and savor each one.  Or maybe not.  I started my project “My Year of Wonder” on my  birthday in January and vowed to take a photo each day and post it to Instagram as a way of honoring my word of the year “Wonder”.

As I mentioned in my first post about this project ( find it here) I wanted to make my word of the year an important part of my life.  Wonder might not be a verb but I really wanted to make it one.

And it worked!

I missed a few days here and there but vowed to catch up.  I wanted and did make it a fun thing to do and not a “have to” or an obligation that made me drag myself out of bed at 11:30 pm because I suddenly remembered I hadn’t posted that day.

New things popped up on my daily walks with my goofy golden, Max.  Everywhere I went there seemed to something new in the old and familiar.  I was slowing down to take in these things I had missed so many times before.  It was a glorious wondrous start to my new year!

It worked… it worked really really well until…… a rainy, dreary March 31st.  My very active, fun loving, joke telling  90 yr old Dad died quite suddenly from a heart attack.

 

Just as suddenly as he died my year of wonder turned into my year of sadness.

 

Not much seemed important anymore.  Posting on Instagram seemed to fall to that list of things that no longer mattered.  That unwritten list was incredibly long and I silently beat myself up for even thinking such things had any significance at all.

The month of April is pretty much a blur of not being home, paperwork, supporting my Mom, more paperwork and trying to find some time for myself to reconnect, to breathe and to grieve.

As life starts to settle down a tiny bit and I get back to some of the things on that unimportant list I actually thought of changing my project from “My Year of Wonder” to “My Year of Sadness”.

SERIOUSLY????

My Dad would NOT have approved.

After all he left me a lot to celebrate and  be in “wonder” about!

  • At 90 he had more energy than most people
  • We had to plead with him not to get on the roof ( we failed)
  • He told more funny involved stories than anyone I know
  • How he remembered all those jokes and stories is beyond me
  • He demonstrated to our family, his grandkids and great grandkids how to stay active until the last minute

Mom and Dad celebrating 65 years together 2016

In honor of my Dad it will continue to be My Year of Wonder and I don’t have to wonder one bit if he will approve.

Go out today and celebrate your life…it is a  “wonder” ful life!

Love you Dad!!

 

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In the midst of my year of running, life happened ..sadly!

After a long absence from running which I blamed on breaking my wrist a year ago ( lame excuse but an excuse) I started out the new year with high hopes to get back into running consistently and training for a local 10k on April 1st.  The irony of having my first race of 2017 on April Fools Day did  not escape me.

I was doing well but got discouraged.  Despite joining a training team and being more consistent I was  slow, tired and my legs ached all the time.  The slow part didn’t bother me as I have never been fast.  The fatigue and aching legs did concern me.

I took a break when we had a trip out West.  I planned to do a 5k trail run but it turned into a hike because the trail was uphill, full of big rocks and loose gravel and if it hadn’t been for the guys ( Go Navy!) I was with I would have face planted several times.  Still it was a workout.

Came home and I was on fire.  That little rest did me a world of good and just this past week I ran three times.  Here was my thought process after each run:

First run: “Wow that was great, I’ve got this..I think there is a marathon in my future

Second run:  ” That was challenging…man I hurt but hey I did it…not sure about a marathon”

Third run:  “I’m either going to puke or die right now”

I survived and as they say ( whoever “they” are) :

A bad run is just a bad run Click To Tweet

Except I ran all this mileage in three days and proceeded to perfect the fine art of tossing my cookies on run #3.

Not my best moment..not my worst but not my best.

Update:  I had no idea my worst moment was just on the horizon.

I wrote this the middle of  March.  It appeared that this would be my year for running.  I was excited about my consistency, my dedication and the irony that the 10k I had planned was on April 1st.  I even had several half marathons planned.

And yet as they say “Life happens” and on March 31st my worst moment came when my Dad suddenly died and my life got turned upside down.  He lived a good long life and was active up until the very last minute.  I miss him terribly and running is hard with a heavy heart but after 3 weeks it is time to get back into it because running is my therapy in motion.

Obviously I didn’t get to do the 10k but my Dad would want me to look forward not behind.  Not sure what races I will do but Dad will be cheering me on and he will be with me especially when it gets hard.

Love you Dad

Miss you Dad

 

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Update on My Year of Wonder!!

Wow this year is flying by!!  On January 4th of this year I wrote a post about My Year of Wonder Project.  You can read the original post here !

Here it is March 14th and I seriously can’t believe everything I have learned from this simple project.  For the last 69 days I have taken and posted a photo to my Instagram account  representing My Year of Wonder.  I have to admit I missed a few days while on vacation and I am busy catching up but not beating myself up over it because that sort of thing happens.  This was never meant to stress me out or be a chore.  It was and is intended to keep my word of the year “Wonder” in front of me and help me stop, pause, and appreciate all the beauty and wonder around me.

Some days I really wondered ( no pun intended) if something, anything would show up for me.  Max ( the famous goofy golden) and I would walk pretty much the same walk every day and most days something would just pop out at me.  Other days nothing would pop but I remained patient and sure enough something would appear that was just right for my Instagram post.

Yesterday’s post came to me in the kitchen and is one of my favorites because there is something so soothing about snapping green beans.

Other favorites include a rainy day that I dreaded going out in and it ended up being delightful!

 

And a snapshot of a letter my parents found that my husband had written to them while on a Navy Deployment and our second baby was due to arrive hopefully after he returned ( she waited for him to come home thankfully!)

And another of cloud lines that were just begging to be written on!

I could go on and on and nobody is more surprised than I am about how delightful this so called “exercise” has become and how much I enjoy it.

Feel free to start you own “Year of Wonder” project.  Or just enjoy mine on Instagram!

Keep wondering and keep triing!

 

 

 

 

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday….We’ve all said this but please stop!

I was watching a heartbreaking video by a Mom about her severely non verbal  autistic son.  It was sincere, honest and brought me to tears.  She was confessing that she had to let go of the dreams she originally had for her son.  We all have those dreams for our children.  Dreams of success, adventures and possibilities.

This Mom had one last dream for her son.  To be happy. She was struggling to let that be enough and at the same time  she was dreading going into work because the night before she and many of her co-workers went with their children to see Elmo. Her  friends witnessed  the struggles she was having with her son.  That was okay with her and not what she was dreading.

She was dreading the one sentence that we all say.  We mean it as a compliment but it really isn’t despite our good intentions.

That one sentence is ” I don’t know how you do it”

Innocent enough.  It has been said to me multiple times over the years when Paul was on Navy Deployments, when my kids were little and when I was going to school and Paul was traveling and most recently while he has been working 1300 miles away from home.

I’m sure that Mom would like to say out loud to those who “compliment ” her what was being said in her head:

“Wait don’t you get it?  I don’t have a choice.  This is my life and I do what needs to be done just like you would and by saying that you are also saying to me that you are so glad it’s not you.  You may have never intended to say that but the subtle message is there.”

In my current situation we did have a choice and I chose to stay here and let him go to a job that he really wanted and we knew it would be semi-temporary.  Yet wives of military guys, Moms of special needs kids or parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s have no choice.  Neither do the people who lose spouses or children to cancer, car accidents, or heart attacks.

We do what we have to do.

Please do not beat yourself as you think back about ALL the times you have said it.  We all have.  Now you know it’s not really a compliment.  Find something else to say.  Bring her a cup of coffee, or flowers, a post it  with a sweet note or chocolate.  Chocolate is always good. Make her laugh!

Most times in these situations you can’t change what has happened or what is happening and it  will continue to be a part of your friend or loved ones life.  You CAN be there for them in little ways and those seemingly little ways are HUGE!!

Words are powerful, use them wisely.  Now go out and make it a Thoughtful One!!!

P.S.  Here is the link to the heartfelt video from Cooper’s Mom :https://www.facebook.com/findingcoopersvoice/videos/823629497779513/

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My life as a sitcom revisited…and it is still funnier than reality T.V.

A post from a few years back that still makes me laugh…hope it makes you smile as well

Why my life should be a comedy show:

I am making a case that my favorite comedy writers should just call me up and ask me for the latest happenings at the Ross household.  We seem to have an endless series of comedy routines unfolding daily.

So first up..my parents.  Bless their 85 year old hearts.  They are a constant source of humor.

Scene 1  “Let them eat flowers”

My Mom just celebrated her 85th birthday.  Her “real” present is a day with me that involves great food and lots of retail therapy and time together.   In the meantime we sent her flowers and balloons.  Not just any flowers.  Something different.

Flowers in the shape of a cake.    The florist assured me that it would be beautiful.

It was too beautiful and too real.  My Mom loved it and she was especially excited to get balloons. Seems in her 85 years no one ever sent her balloons.

Note to self..you are never too old to receive balloons.

Later in the day we spoke and she once again thanked us and then said “We can’t wait to have a piece of the cake”

OOPS

We finally had her look closely at the cake and she laughed when she realized it really was flowers and not cake

In her defense it was delivered in a cake box.

My Dad’s reaction “What?  Does that mean we don’t get cake??”

Hahahahahaha…sorry Dad..I’ll bring “real cake” when I visit the next time.

cake( This is the photo from the florist.  Mom sent me one of the actual cake which was all white with pink but her photo ( like all the photos she takes) was mostly of the wall.  Sigh..just gotta love her!)

Scene 2:   “Wait I am standing right here”

Could never seem to catch my boss in her office.  Sooo I sent her an e-mail even though I would have rather talked about this situation  in person.  Ran into her the following day and this is what unfolded.

“Hi Jenn..got your e-mail but just haven’t had a chance to respond.

Great…( I take a breath)  Obviously I breathe in way too slow because she was already halfway down the hall and out the door and though I tried I could not catch her to talk  for the 1 minute I needed to hear her response.

Seriously??  The writers from “The Office” need to contact me for even more material that could potentially get me fired.

Oh and 2 days later I still don’t have that e-mail response and she has gone MIA again.

Scene 3:   “Thanks Jeff..its really not that bad”  or “Certain rooms are off limits”

I  have to tell you this happened years ago when people still had a sense of humor about these things ( Thank God)

So I am in the shower in the late afternoon on a summer day after doing some yard work.  I hear my six year old son yelling “Mom. Mom Mom Mom ”  throughout the house.  I yell back  I”m in the shower”  The renditions of Mom Mom Mom reverberate up the stairwell until he discovers me SOOOOO I open the shower door and there he stands

WITH HIS FRIEND, Jeff.

Jeff immediately covers his eyes and I close the door and mutter “Its really not that bad Jeff”

My son gets a lecture and new rules on who he can bring into the bathroom (nobody) .  That’s not the worst part.  The worst part was calling Jeff’s Mom to tell her if her son ever mentions ( hopefully not at the dinner table) that he saw Mrs. Ross naked, ummm..he is not lying.

So there you have it.  Scenes from Part 1 of  our version of reality T.V.

What’s your favorite “reality” moment in your real life?   We can’t be the only ones whose family motto is:

“Remember, as far as anyone else knows,

we are a nice, normal family.”

Keep laughing and keep “trying”

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Trying to overcome my swimming anxiety…

Yes I have swimming anxiety.  Not the kind that makes me fearful to go into the water.  As a matter of fact I’ll be the first one to jump in the deep end with my grandkids and the last one to get out.

I love the water.

I hate the water.

Wait..what??  It’s true.  If you ask me to go swimming, go to the ocean or the lake I am there before you can finish inviting me.

Yet last year when it came to doing the one and only sprint triathlon I had signed up for I chickened out.  The anxiety about the swim part grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

I had done this tri before so I knew the drill.  It was an outside pool swim and you were seeded according to your swim time.  The last time I did it I was the next to last to get in and  out of the pool and I barely made it.  I promised myself it would never happen again.

I have no problem being the last out of the pool. That’s okay but what I didn’t like was how I struggled with the swim.  I thought I had trained enough but obviously not.  I knew what I had to do.

So last year I signed up for it again knowing that I REALLY needed to practice, train and train some more.  And guess what I did?

I got a PhD in swim procrastination.  I did some training but by the time the triathlon was 10 days away I started to panic so I rationalized as to why it wasn’t a good idea to participate.  My lame reasons amuse me now but I remember waking up the morning of the tri and thinking “Wow that was such a good decision” and then a week later beating myself up for not at least giving it a go.

One of my main reasons ( aside from the lack of training) was the waiting by the pool for a good 2 hours before it was my turn.  Not only was it in the blazing sun but there were women  (it was a women’s only tri)  already crossing the finish line by the time I got in the pool.

An embarrassing, anxiety inducing, heat exhausting wait.  Nope wasn’t going to do it.

The joke was on me.  They used two pools this past year to avoid the wait.   Beat myself up some more upon hearing that.

So here it is January 2017.  There is 8 inches of snow on the ground and I am thinking about  wiggling and contorting my post Christmas, post birthday celebration body into a swimsuit and going for a swim.

Snow and swimsuits  brrrrr

Of course the main problem ( which I always blame my lack of training on) is there is no close by indoor pool   I have been patiently waiting for the one to be finished that is about 25 minutes away but it’s taking forever.

Wouldn’t you know as I was online checking on the pool construction status I find one on our local military base that is not only what I need but can use right now.  It’s a little farther away but doable for once or twice a week.

And my anxiety started simultaneously with the excuses as to why I couldn’t manage this. Everything from:

  • there will probably be all these fit young military people swimming there..how embarrassing to be the slow poke
  • to the old standby “I don’t have the time for this”

I got myself into such a state of anxiety I was starting to think about the leftover birthday cake downstairs that would taste so good with a hershey kiss chaser.  So far I am resisting…barely.

After a couple of deep breaths I made a decision!

I WILL swim this week Thursday* because despite all my reservations, all the silly excuses I make up,  all my anxiety over doing it, and not really wanting to put on my suit I KNOW that I will be so disappointed in myself it I don’t at least try..or should that be tri.

What will you Tri this week???

 

P.S. Its Thursday because it fits into my schedule but most of all the roads in my community won’t be iced over by then!

 

 

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The Two Things Carrie Fischer and I have in common!

The world lost a unique individual last week.  Like many of you I have been following all the news posts about Carrie Fischer’s life, and if it wasn’t enough that we lost her, then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, left us as well.

The first thing that surprised me about Carrie was her age.  I actually had no idea how old she was but assumed she was a bit older than me.  Turns out she was only a couple of months older than I am.

WOW… my first thought was she was way too young to die.  And she was!!!

You see as you read this I will be celebrating my 60th birthday and while it sounds old I sure don’t feel 60 ( that’s the good news) .  As a matter of fact one of my recurring thoughts as I approach this milestone is

“Wait, how the hell did this happen?”

I just don’t think of myself as 60..its just too big a number to get my head around.

Turns out neither did Carrie.  Her sister Joely Fischer said that one of their last conversations revolved around Carrie saying she couldn’t believe she was 60.  I am right there with her.

Also she and I share a weird sense of humor.  In Carrie’s back yard against a wall is the rear end of a Lion with all his glory hanging out.  Now I have not seen this so I do not have the  details, but just the description alone made me laugh and realized she and I could have had a lot of laughs together.

I saw this in Omaha last spring and laughed hysterically.  I think it would fit perfectly in Carrie’s backyard. Cracks me up that it’s hung over a picnic bench.

Giant nose with pimple in Omaha

The only thing it is missing is a giant finger in one nostril.   Too bad someone around here won’t let me put this in our backyard over our picnic table!!

I would like to think that Carrie enjoyed her last birthday celebration with great gusto as I plan to do. Plus I wish I could thank her in person for finally finding a way to include the funny nose photo in a blog post.  I think she would approve.

Enjoying a good celebration must be genetic as I obviously loved a great party from an early age.

imageLast I want to remind everyone to celebrate everyday( not just your birthday), laugh until you pee your pants ( not that hard as you get older) and put something absurd in your yard, house, car or office that makes you laugh..tell them Carrie and Jennifer made you do it.  And I am off to enjoy the last 15 minutes of my fifties…its going to be an amazing year!!!

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My year of Wonder!!!

Every year for about the past 5 years or so I have picked a word of the year.  One year it was “inspire”.  My intention was not only to inspire others but to inspire myself.  In 2016 my word was “focus”.  I wanted to focus on what was really important in my life.  I also think the underlying intention was to help me set boundaries with the big black hole of the internet and social media.

This year I thought for sure, hands down, positively that my word would be “fearless”.  I intended to use the word to give me even more courage to try new things and do them fearlessly.

And yet it wasn’t fitting somehow.  My mind wiggled around it much like someone wiggles in an itchy wool sweater.  It was a great word, it fit..sort of but it still wasn’t quite right.

January 1st I woke up excited about the new year.  Excited or excitement sounded like a really good word of the year.  That lasted a couple of hours until I realized I had donned that itchy wool sweater again and I started to twitch a bit and knew it didn’t fit.

Another word came to me that morning and it ended up being the right one in so many ways.  It fit a new project I was starting.  It fit my desire to be more present every single moment and it also fit my desire to have a my feet dangling in that black hole of social media, electronics and the internet but not get sucked in every minute of every day.

And the word is  ( drum roll) :

WONDER

I believe it has been lurking in my mind for awhile but was not wanting itself to be known just yet.  You see every morning I walk this goof ball for about 1 1/2 miles around the neighborhood.

IMG_8792

Max

Our neighborhood has wide streets with lots of trees, bunnies, deer, and wooded lots that all those critters can hide in.  It never fails ,even though I have been on this walk literally hundreds of times ,that I see something new.

BUT only if I pay attention.

When I do slow down and take it all in I am always amazed that I somehow I have walked past this sight and  I start to look for more things I might have missed.  It puts me in a state of wonder.

Wonder is definitely my word for 2017 and it is also the theme for my new project:

            “My Year of Wonder”

Starting on Jan 4th I will be posting a photo each day for a year on Instagram.  Each photo will be taken that day and my hope is that it will do a couple of things.

  • remind me to slow down and be present in the moment
  • renew my sense of wonder  each day
  • help me find gratitude and joy in the things and people around me
  • make the people who see these photos smile and encourage them to find the beauty surrounding them

I can’t promise the photos will be earth shattering pieces of art but they will be authentic, original and shared with a smile.

So one last thing.  Why January 4th??  Well, its the best day ever for me!  It’s my Birthday and if you know me you know I love my birthday..always have.  And I am starting a new decade of my life so what better way to start than with  a sense of Wonder!!   I just have to tri!!!   Enjoy!

P.S.  You can find me on Instagram as jennifebross . Please note that at the time when I created my Instagram account  I obviously could not spell my own name and left off the r in Jennifer…cracks me up and Instagram is a bit of a stinker when you try to change things so it will remain the way it is..just going with the flow!

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday! Forever and Always My Baby You’ll Be!

All those parenting books never tell you the one truth that you have to figure out on your own.  Parenting never ends.  No matter how old your children get, or how many amazing grandchildren they give you, you never stop being their parent.

Nope!

And it is all okay.  We signed up for this gig many many years ago and I wouldn’t trade it for the world but some days  my heart is a little more tender than others.

This past Monday we waved good-bye to our youngest and only son. He is heading overseas to a new job and we probably won’t see him for another year.  It was time for him to go.  He had taken a break from his previous job and stayed with us for a few months and now he is on to new adventures.  Still I started missing him the moment he firmed up his travel arrangements.

He is a grown man and has been out on his own for several years and yet I did not see a grown man wave to us one last time as he walked down the jetway.  This is what I saw:

boy-633016_1280

 

At home in a way too quiet house I sought to console myself.  My husband ( as Dads tend to be) was more philosophical about it relying on the knowledge that it was time for him to move on.  I needed something.  So I baked chocolate chip cookies, ate way too many and saved the rest for the grandkids.

I am grateful for the long visit we had, his sense of humor and especially that THIS time I did not need a hazmat suit to enter his room after he left!   He left his mark as most adult children do.  I will be spending the next couple of months figuring out where he put stuff  away in the kitchen.  He tried but I am finding things in the oddest places.

I am also grateful that we can Skype, text message or hangout thanks to Google.

And yet this week will be one of continual Thoughtful Thursdays and honoring all my emotions.

Most of all I am grateful that this parenting gig never ends and my children, no matter how old they get, are always with me even when they are far away.

And yes even when I find petrified PB&J’s under the bed along with dirty laundry. Some things never change!!

There will come a day when he finds the same stuff under his son’s bed!

So your assignment this week is to go out and be thoughtful to yourself and give yourself permission to stretch Thoughtful Thursday into a whole week..sometimes you need it.  Well that and some warm chocolate chip cookies and  a big hug.

Now go out and make it a Thoughtful one!

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