Archives for February 2021

It’s Thoughtful Thursday! The Easy Way to Bring Joy to Yourself and Others

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter or note?  Bet it has been awhile.

I love receiving unexpected notes or letters .  Even if I know everything that is going on in that persons life  it is always good to see familiar handwriting in my mailbox.

You can bet it is the first thing I open.

Why is it so special?  I can only speak for myself but I always feel a little extra love  when someone takes the time and makes the effort to write a real note, find a stamp and get it in the mail.

It is the personal touch that means so much.

When I find letters from my grandmother in her very distinctive handwriting it is like having her here next to me.  At some point in time she touched the paper and wrote those words.  It will never be like having her physically here  but it is something I can touch and hold.  Just seeing it makes me smile.

Thoughtful Thursday started with the intention of writing real letters.  I have fallen down on the job lately so I am jumping back in and committing to sending more letters via the post office.

Just like painting it has a soothing, relaxing effect on me.  Watching and feeling the pen glide across the paper and taking the time to think of what I really want to say makes me slow down and be in the moment.

While you may think e-mails are forever, maybe not.  A handwritten letter has a life of its own.  At least it feels that way.  And opening up an older one feels like a treasure found and a bit of the past come to life.  I have all the letters my husband wrote to me while he was on Navy deployments and while we were dating.  I have a box of love letters between my parents and handwritten notes and recipes from my grandmother.  They are a bit of my personal history.

I also have letters my grandfather typed.  He even managed to find a typewriter  and write one while vacationing in Europe in 1964.  I imagine they had business centers back then as well but instead of computers they had  typewriters.

Honestly it is not cheating if you don’t like your handwriting and you want to type it but always remember to add a handwritten P.S. and your own signature 🙂

I will type some of my letters but my way of typing is definitely old school.   🙂  A throwback to my grandfather 🙂

Love this script typewriter

Yes I have a fascination with typewriters.  I make mistakes, I x them out.  It is so fun.  And I get lots of reaction from the recipients.  The added bonus is there a real satisfaction at pounding on the keys.  Not sure why but just the extra force needed feels like I am accomplishing something.

Here is the other cool thing about mailed letters:

Letting go of the immediate reply

I am never sure if it arrived or when it did and I never  expect a handwritten response.  Of course I would love one but that is not why I do it. I do it for the connection, and mostly just for the pleasure of imagining the smile on someones face when they open their mailbox to find something besides the ordinary bills or advertisements.

Ok..there is the possibility the person won’t smile..but I’m guessing they will.  And guess what?  I may never know and thats ok.

I send it off and hope it does its’ job to bring a little joy to a someone special.  Give it a try..it does a heart good.

Now as always..go out and make it a Thoughtful One.

Jennifer

 

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Interruptions on the Run…

Someone very wise once told me that it is the spaces between the notes that truly makes the music.  I wonder if that holds true for interruptions on the run.  I don’t think so ..insert eye roll.

Way back when in 2017 I was on a serious running kick.  I was starting out with a 10k.  I had run this 10k many times and this year I trained hard and was ready to be better than ever.  Life changing interruption when my Dad passed away the day before the race and so did my mojo for making it my year to do all things running.  It’s way too hard to run with a heavy heart even though I tried.

Fast forward to 2019 and I made a serious effort to train for a marathon.  I struggled in the summer heat when I usually swim and bike instead of run but I was determined.  So determined in fact that when we were on the Eastern Shore celebrating our anniversary I decided to go for an early morning run to beat the July heat.  I was kicking it despite the rising temperature and enjoying the quiet of the small town and its classic old homes.  In the enthusiasm of the moment and giving myself a mental high five  I decided to double back and do one more circle around the block.  My toe caught the uneven sidewalk and I went flying.  Didn’t break anything but bruised my entire left side.  I think a break would have been less painful.   Also this made for a very romantic anniversary…NOT!

Running put on hold…so was walking and moving in general.

There must be something about “one last go around” because thats how I broke my wrist ice skating in 2015.

2020 was MY year.  Do you see a pattern here?   Not only did Covid happen but lots of things with my elderly mother that took up my time.   I did a lot of biking to relieve stress but not much running.  I did manage an 8k which along with a half marathon and a full marathon was open to do for 20 days in November on our beautiful Virginia Capitol to Capitol trail.  I was grateful they had managed to make it seem like a real race.  Well when I did it there were  3 of us out there but hey it is better than being alone.

 

                     An unusually warm day in November for the 8k       

 So here we are in 2021 and I sit in front of the computer writing this with ice on my foot.

Sigh

 Despite the setbacks and being an all together cranky-ass ( said it before and I will say it again..running is my prozac) I am persevering.  It is back to my original love which is triathlons.  So if I can’t run or bike I am in search of a pool to start swimming.

Did I mention this is my least favorite thing to do?

Did I mention that the last time I lugged my aging body to the pool I happened to pick the time that the high school was practicing with all those young bodies right in my face as I slowly…and I mean super slowly made my way across the pool?

And yet I can’t give up, I can NOT tri. 🙂

Also being the somewhat snarky person I am, I may have just muttered under my breath that those young swimmers will get old like the rest of us…jokes on them..as it was on me.

I am also buoyed by the fact that should I be lucky enough to get all the training in I am still game for a marathon..virtual style..why?  Lots of reasons.

I get to pick the date

I get to pick the weather 

I get to pick the color of shirt…not so important but still a plus!

I get to pick my prize.  I’m choosing a trip to Hawaii or a bottle of wine…or a trip to Italy..need to talk to the race sponsor..oh wait that is me.

I will be the winner no matter what.  The one and only race I won in my age group they stopped giving out prizes (bottles of  wine) at 40+.  I went home a very unhappy camper…who does that?

I can take as long as I want .  I seriously wanted to do the Honolulu Marathon held in December ( still do)  Not only for the obvious reasons but also because we used to live there AND there is no time limit on the race..it runs on Hawaii time..you got this brau!

So yes I am still an over 50 ( way over) triathlete and writer triing to make a difference.

I will be writing more frequently about all things running, biking, swimming plus life in general because ..well because it’s my blog.

See you on the road, on the bike, in the pool and laughing at life’s little and big absurdities.

As always..Keep Triing    Jennifer

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday…thankful for the mess

In the last four years you have read about my monumental task of cleaning out my parents house after my Dad died unexpectedly.  At the same time we also had to move my mother into Assisted Living.  Honestly much of that time is a blur in my memory.

I am still dealing with some of the aftermath.  Well a lot of it.  My parents didn’t throw out much.  The moment that is seared into my memory is opening a box and finding throw pillows from  the couch we had when I was five.  If it hadn’t been 10am I would have started drinking and Kahlua in my coffee does not count.  Well maybe it does.

In any case I am currently going through all the boxes of photos and memorabilia we dumped in my office after the final clean out.  I had to take a break after we finished.  Going through boxes is the most mind numbing experience.  I’d rather go to the dentist or take algebra again..and fail it ..again.

Lately though I have been thankful for the “classy hoarding” my parents did.  “Classy Hoarding” is a phrase I coined to refer to a house that looks put together but has closets and a basement just plain stuffed!  If the house could have groaned and let out its’ seams it would have done it!

So why am I thankful?  I am thankful because I am finding so many unbelievable treasures .  Treasures only to me and my family but still they are priceless.

Among other things I have found a letter written to my mother from  grateful parents whose young son died.  They wrote eloquently about how much they appreciated her kind and loving ways towards their 12 year old son as he passed away from cardiac problems.  My mother could not fill in the details ( unfortunately) but it was during her last weeks of nursing school.  The only thing she could say about it was that it was very sad.

I found humorous photos of my Mom and Dad in their youth.  As a child you never envision your parents as being wild and while this was the mild side of wild it was fun to see. It was  long before they were worried about what anyone would think and I found it refreshing.  I wish I could ask both of them about this time in their lives but one is in heaven and one is sadly in the throes of dementia.

I found letters written by them as a young engaged couple in love.  And then there is a lovely letter from the father of my mothers’ best friend extolling her virtues to her new in laws who did not approve of the marriage.  My grandparents thought my father could do better . Then my parents eloped and that didn’t help. They did recant those feelings many times over and became  Moms’ biggest fans.

In that same letter Ted Holtzinger painted a picture of my Moms’ tireless efforts on the pediatric polio ward before there was a vaccine.  Also as you read this please know that at 5 feet tall and 80 lbs my Mom was not much bigger than her patients.

           Ted wrote:

        I wish I could tell you of her heroic efforts on behalf of the littlest victims of this city’s worst polio epidemic.  She worked around the clock for what must have seemed like endless days trying to save those who were most seriously afflicted from death or from a life sentence to the worst phases of crippling that makes polio such a dreaded scourge.

     I saw her there one night when the epidemic was at it s height., her hands and arms reddened to the elbow form the hot packs that she was administering to the sufferers of this worst form of polio, I watched her wince as she lifted hot pack after hot pack from the scalding water and I said a silent prayer of thanks for women like Betty who could forget self in service to others so grievously afflicted and yet so needful of  her administrations.

My mother never told us about any of this.  I am so thankful this letter and others like exist and were saved so that I may have a glimpse of my mother before I knew her.

By the way I also have the response my grandfather sent many years later and it was eloquent as well.  Not sure why he waited so long but grateful I have the two letters to go side by side.

So on this Thoughtful Thursday what is my point about all these treasures?  Can you guess?

Write a real letter.  A real one.  Not a text or an email…a real honest to goodness letter.  Make a copy and save it.  Who should you write it to?  That is for you to decide but in this day and age of digital it is refreshing to hold a letter that can be read over and over again without turning anything on.

Tell someone what they mean to you, write down memories of fun times , special life events and anything that has become family lore. If you see someone like my Mom doing something so very special let them know you noticed.

I know it is all the rage to be minimalistic and to get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down.  I get it.  And all that is found will be digitized in case the originals are lost.  In the meantime it is a joy to hold a letter once written by a friend, a grandparent, my Mom, my Dad.  They once held that piece of paper.  The connection is real.

So thank you Mom and Dad…it has been hard but the rewards are bountiful.  I am so happy you saved this part of our history.

Now as always, go make it a Thoughtful One..and if you are so honored go hug your Mom and Dad !                                                                     Jennifer

 

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Using “Young” Wisdom to Pick my Next Book!

Is it possible we were smarter as kids then we are now? It’s not only possible it’s the truth.  Granted, as kids, we did not have all the life experiences that bring more common sense and obvious solutions.  We can make a batch of brownies without a chocolate explosion in the kitchen but the reality is I listened more to my heart when I was eight years old.  I knew what I wanted as a toddler ( even if it was unreasonable) and at eight.  I didn’t give two hoots about what I was suppose to wear, what the latest fashion was or if my belly was too big or my thighs were too chunky.

Given the era I grew up in the input from outside sources was limited to my parents, grandparents, older siblings (my sister was especially embarrassed by my fashion sense) teachers and my friends.

I had a second grade teacher who encouraged us to express ourselves through creative writing.  She wasn’t concerned about grammar or spelling or what subject we chose. She made the writing time more appealing than recess.  We couldn’t wait to get going on our stories.  It instilled in me a love for not only writing but reading as well.  I still have my box of writings with crayon illustrations.  A true treasure.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, it slowed down in my teen years and came to a screeching halt in college when I was forced to read textbooks that gave sawdust a run for its money in being interesting.

Lately I have been doing more reading in an effort to reduce the number of books in my house, to offset the crummy weather and no where to go pandemic boredom.  Also my pandemic pudge needs to go, so book in hand keeps hand out of mouth or so I am hoping.

It has been so interesting  to see what books I am choosing to read or maybe what I am not reading.

I could choose from one of the many  Pulitzer Prize winners, best sellers or a book from one of the endless celebrity book clubs made famous by Oprah. And yet those types of books rarely work for me.  I tried twice ( real book and audio) to get through “Olive Kitteridge” , a Pulitzer Prize winner, and I just couldn’t do it.  I could not believe it won that prestigious prize. Best sellers can also be great but when they are really awful I wonder how many have been “sold” but never read.

As far as the books go from the celebrity book clubs I am often puzzled  as to why they would choose a certain book.  I tried to read some of Oprah’s selections but honestly I found the ones I chose to be dark and dreary.  I actually purchased “Lovely Bones” and read it .  It has the distinction of being the only new book I have ever thrown out.  It was so disturbing I could not give it to a friend to read.   I was not going to be responsible for wasting someone else’s time with such a creepy book.

I have learned not to post about a book I did not like on social media. Okay..maybe I just did in that last paragraph but I will risk it. People take their book loves very personally and if you dare to say you didn’t like it they act like you said their kid was ugly.  Wow!  Then they will plead with you to try again.  If I have to struggle to get through the first 50-100 pages then it is a no go.  Try again?  Probably not.  Life is too short to read books that I  don’t like no matter how many people love them.

So back to my wise and wonderful 8 year old self. 🙂  I have fond memories of climbing the winding stairs of the old library in our town.  Sometimes I would race up them to get to the children’s section.  I would plop myself down on the scuffed up wooden floor in front of the shelves and start looking, pulling out the ones that interested me, reading a few pages, putting it back or deciding it was a keeper.  Without lists, suggestions or book clubs I managed to pick out some gems:

  • The Secret Garden
  • Stuart Little
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Henry and Beezus ( actually anything by Beverly Cleary)
  • Harriet the Spy
  • Nancy Drew ( The Ghost of Blackwood Hall scared the pants off me)

 

Much like the imaginary friend I had when I was five, I now take my 8 year old self with me to the library, the bookstore or where ever I find myself looking at books which is just about everywhere I go.  Together we pick out books that I often can’t put down.

Trust yourself like you did when you were a kid.  Read what you love whether it’s  fantasy, romance novels, thrillers, classics, comic books or Sci fi.   What YOU love…nobody else has to love it. As long as it brings you joy than it’s the best book for you!

So here’s to you next best read…may it make your February days warmer and transport you to another time and place..a mini vacation pandemic style!

And as always..keep triing!  Jennifer

P.S.  If you want to know what I am reading you can find me on GoodReads where I sometimes ( tri) to list the books I have read.

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