Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Get Enough Sleep.

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Girl Warrior. Get enough sleep. Make this a top priority every night. And you will have better days. Guaranteed.

You live a busy 24-7 life. Always on the go. You’re stretched to the max most days. Demands are flying at you from every direction. You put others’ needs before your own. You’re on stress and strain overload. Worry, anxiety and pressure greet you at every turn. Everyone wants a piece of you.

And quite simply, you are running on empty.

When you get to this exhausting place Girl Warrior, it’s time to re-fuel. Truth is, this isn’t really an option. Not when your health and wellbeing are at stake. It’s time to shut it all down and take good care of yourself. And the best place to do this is in the bedroom.

This is your sanctuary, your peaceful retreat, and most importantly, your recovery refuge. Think calm, serene, tranquil and relaxing. So feather your nest in a way that fosters these feelings. Make it comfortable and cozy, safe and snug. Free of all distractions and disturbances. Make this a place for you to rest your weary bones and leave all the cares of the day behind.

Hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door of your mind.

Begin a ‘get ready for bed’ ritual. Make this a habit you can’t live without. This is personal so it won’t look the same for all Girl Warriors. This matters not. What does matter is that you make it a nightly routine that helps you prepare for sleep. Start by slowing things down. Dim the lights, do some gentle yoga stretches, drink herbal tea, take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, meditate, say your prayers and give thanks for all your many blessings and the abundance in your life.

Slip into your divinely inviting bed and allow the healing of your body, mind and spirit to begin. Sweet sweet dreams Girl Warrior.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Rhythm of Running.

running gearRunning doesn’t come easy for me.  The first few blocks are pure hell.  Psyching myself to go for a run is a marathon in itself.  Each new day is like starting over.  Even after 30 years, it’s still the same.

Before I run there are a few things I do first.  The Monday to Friday pre-run routine and ritual goes something like this:

1. Get up early. 5:00am at the latest. Except for the summer months, it’s dark outside and quiet inside.  The house is hushed and still in the undisturbed darkness before dawn.  Just how I like it.
2. Put on sweatpants and T-shirt or some other comfortable running attire.  These are found heaped on the floor next to the bed where I left them the night before. I prepare ahead.
3. Grope my way through the hallway to the kitchen where I put on the kettle. Sometimes I hit the bathroom first and take a pee.
4. Head to my office where I check emails and cruise through Facebook while the kettle boils.  Sometimes I read a Cowbird story.
5. Make a cup of Tetley’s Orange Pekoe tea. I like how the round bags fit perfectly int the bottom of the Vegas mug D gave me.
6. Practice yoga for an hour.  Because I’m so spiritual I do this in front of the TV.  Depending on my mood it’s either Steven & Chris or CMT. Until January it was CNN but I stopped that because it was counter productive and stressed me out.
7. Make the bed and tidy my office. I hate clutter and can’t get into an unmade bed.  Just one of my many quirks.
8. Make my lunch for work.  This is usually a salad and some kind of protein.  I don’t really care what I eat for lunch just as long as it’s reasonably healthy and doesn’t make me sleepy by two.
9. Boil the kettle again.  Make a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon. I like to live dangerously.  I also add cream, which is completely over-the-top and edgy.
10. Head back to my office, pull out my latest Hilroy notebook, a blue Bic pen and write my daily letter to God.  This is private.  But possibly some of my best writing.
11. Sip my creamy cinnamon coffee and say my prayers.  I don’t get down on my knees.  This hurts too much.  God knows and doesn’t expect it of me.  We’re pretty tight.
12. If it’s cold out, I throw on my big old grey hoodie with the bleach splatters and pills under the arms.  If it’s warm than the T-shirt is all I need.  I don’t wear a bra.  I like to flop when I run.
13. Head downstairs and lace up my sneakers.  Nothing fancy here.  Nor expensive.  If they aren’t on sale I don’t buy them. One of my best pair of runners came from Zellers. This was before Target took over.
14. Check the clock next to the back door.  I don’t know why I do this. I never check it when I return and I don’t time my runs.  I really don’t care how long it takes.
15. Walk around to the side of the house, past the Camellia tree, the bamboo and the old rose bush that scares the shit out of me.
16. Open the front gate, take a deep breath, hesitate momentarily, mumble ‘what the fuck’ under my breath and hit the streets.

I start to run immediately.  It’s uphill right out of the gate. Brutal. Punishing.  Grueling.  My legs are already tired and I feel the burn.  It’s killing me and I haven’t even gone a block.  All I can think about is how lousy I feel.

But just when I think I can’t run another step, the sidewalk slopes downward and I coast along for the next bit. This is where grace and mercy come into play.

It’s during this little stretch that I set the pace. This is different every day.  It all depends on how I feel that morning.  Not just physically but emotionally.  One day I could be the hare. The next, the tortoise.  Sometimes I feel like a freebird.  Other days, a slug.  There are mornings where I feel like I could run forever.  Or at least a mile or two.  Maybe even ten.  Then there are days – many, many days – where I ask myself, ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I just want to roll over onto the boulevard and curl up like a wood bug.  Go to sleep. For a long time. Like Rip Van Winkle.  Some days, my youth is renewed like the eagles.  Others, I’m an old wizened woman.  Gnarled.  Weather-beaten.

The difference between a good day and a bad one usually comes down to rhythm.  I don’t plug in while I run.  No iTunes. No playlists. No music. No motivational talks.  No podcasts.  None of that.

I listen to my soul.  My heartbeat.  My inner cadence.

I hear the sound of my breathing.  My footsteps on the concrete. Crows squawking on the telephone lines.  The voices of the squirrels.  Leaves rustling.  Wind howling. Gentle breezes calling. Dogs barking. Cars racing.  Doors slamming.  All the early morning reverberations.

I hear the silence.  And the pauses between the clamor. I hear God whispering my name.

It is here that I get in the groove.  Find my rhythm.  This is the sweet stuff of running. This is the meditative place. Where everything works.  My body, mind and spirit are all in tune.  Harmonious.  Peaceful.  Grounded.

I run to the rhythm of me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 1 Million Likes and My Dad will Quit Smoking.

IMG_1700In an earlier post I shared some of the things I was angry about since this dance with the Big C began last fall.  Mostly bat-shit crazy, Mad Hatter things that have been overwhelming and downright mystifying.  The bubbling brew of oozing gooey undisguised and unrestrained emotions.  My psychological backpack is already jam-packed, yet I continue to gather more of these sour candies with each passing day.  It’s been a real slice and I am grateful to everyone who is on the road with me.  I’m especially grateful to those with large hearts and even larger compassionate muscles who haven’t judged.  Just walked the mile in my moccasins.

One of the big things I have wrestled with in this messy muddy life I lead is that there is just no way to sanitize these emotions. I wish I could.  But the truth is, they are there.  Maybe they always were and E’s cancer just brought them roaring to the surface. Demanding that I take note.  So I have.  And the thing is, I can’t paint a pretty picture.  Won’t even try.  All my life I have been referred to as “such a nice person.”  Well, there isn’t anything nice about this.  None of it.  So if you will indulge me one last purge, one final rage, one more dump about anger, then I think I’m done here.

Warning: Some of you may want to quit reading at this point.  No hard feelings. This isn’t for everyone.  I get that. You can move on and read the blogs about flour-free recipes or how to make a tee shirt from toilet paper.

There is one colossal thing that I’ve been livid about for years.  It trumps all those other things I’ve been mad about.  Makes them seem almost trivial.  Not even deep enough to be superficial. It’s the Big Kahuna of piss-offs.  I intentionally left it out of my first rant because it’s been such a sensitive thorn in my side.  And believe it or not, I was still trying to play nice in that post.  But since this is the final puke-up, here goes.

E smoked.

Not casually.  Not after dinner.  Nor while on vacation.  Not like those rare birds who bum smokes at parties but never indulge otherwise. It wasn’t a bad habit he picked up late at night while playing in bands.  E was a hard-core smoker from the time his was nine years old.  He chain smoked. Tons. It was the first thing he did when he got up in the morning and the last thing at night.  If he couldn’t sleep he got up and had a cigarette. It comforted him in ways I never could.  It was his best friend. An extension of his yellow nicotine stained fingers.

No one knows with 100 percent certainty that smoking was the cause of his disease. Even the doctors who treated him, and the nurses who cared for him, left the door open for other possible explanations.  Cancer does strike randomly.  Nonsmokers get lung cancer.  Health nuts, who only eat organic foods and run ten miles a day, get stomach cancer.  People who wear big floppy hats and cover themselves in gobs of suntan lotion get skin cancer.  We know this to be true.  Stress and inflammation are often at the heart of many diseases, from head to heel.  I get this.

But here’s the two thousand pound elephant in the room.  E stuck a carcinogenic substance in his mouth for 45 years, every day, all day.  He has mouth cancer. Mathematical equations aside, odds are cigarette smoking most likely caused this thing.

And I’m mad as hell about that.

Before our daughter was born I begged and pleaded with E to quit.  Once M was here, I tried every manipulative trick in the book.  Of course, intellectually I knew this had to be his decision. He had to hold his own come to Jesus meeting.  I had no control over this.  I understood addiction. Having grown up with an alcoholic father and personally battled with uncontrollable sugar cravings my entire life, I knew what misery looked like.  I’d grovel and drag myself through the mud just for an O’Henry Bar. I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night needing to feed.  I will always be a sugar addict, whether I eat the stuff or not.  I’ve also smoked.  I know how hard it is to quit. I bawled like a baby for two weeks solid the last, and final, time I quit.  It was pathetic.  Not one of my more graceful and exemplary times.

Because I knew intimately how difficult quitting smoking could be, I exercised as much compassion and understanding as was possible with E. But I’m only human after all.  And I have my own crap to deal with. There was always this underlying resentment about him not quitting.  I often viewed it as defiance.  Not something he couldn’t do.  But wouldn’t.

There were a couple of occasions over the past 20 years where E attempted to quit.  His longest smoke-free period was about four months.  Most of his efforts were futile though.  When it came to quitting, the best he could commit to was “someday.”

Over time, my protests and admonishments ebbed and flowed in volume and frequency.  I also had a comrade, a buddy, a conscientious objector who shared my concerns.  I went from wanting to shield my daughter from a swath of cigarette fumes to having her join me on the protest line.  M and I were a united front on this issue.

At times we were passive aggressive in our objections and disapproval.  Never really coming out and saying, “You’re an asshole for treating this so lightly,” but implying it just the same, in our offhanded comments.  These ran the gambit from the descriptive, “The garage looks like a butt factory” to the succinct, “you reek.”  His habit was bringing out the worst in us.  We were evil twins.

But once E’s mouth cancer was confirmed, no one dared to say, “I told you so.”  We knew there was a good possibility something like this could happen. He was playing a risky game with much at stake.  Sad thing is, E knew it too.  That was the frustrating part.  Just like quitting  might happen “someday” so could getting cancer.

It’s a peculiar thing how love supersedes everything at times like these. Instead of thinking, “I knew this was going to happen.” All I could think about was losing him.  Nothing else mattered.  The cause was irrelevant.

Having said all that, I’m still angry.  At E for not quitting before it came to this.  At his doctor, for not ever suggesting he should quit.  At myself, for not being more persuasive, not fighting hard enough.  At God, for not answering all those millions of prayers.

Pointless self-flagellation.  I know.

One last thing.  All over social media sites, but Facebook in particular, there have been these images of kids holding signs that read something like, “My dad says that if I get 1 million ‘likes’ he’ll quit smoking.”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry the first time I saw one of these posts.  For the most part these are scams called “Like Farming”, which can generate tons of money for the owners of those phony pages.  Scams or the real deal aside, I found them disturbing.  Because M and I know the truth.  It will take more than 1 million “likes” to make someone’s dad quit smoking. No matter how much they love you. It just doesn’t work that way. Nothing’s that simple.

I’m angry about that too.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Not a Dream House But a House to Dream In.

The little white house around the corner.

I own a home.  Truthfully, I own it with my husband and the bank.  For the most part I don’t think about the bank partnership, except for when it comes time to renew our mortgage.  I had dreamed of owning a place on the West Coast long before it became a reality.  You might say that the day we were handed the keys to the front door was a dream come true.

Little back story.  Both my husband and I had owned homes in previous lifetimes, with our former mates.  When I was five months pregnant with my oldest daughter, my ex-husband and I bought a house.  It was brand spanking new and nestled smack dab in the middle of a cul-de-sac in an equally new suburb within walking distance of the house where I grew up. I use the term “suburb” loosely here because I’m talking about a town, not some sprawling city.  There really weren’t suburbs, just neighborhoods added to neighborhoods added to more neighborhoods until some were almost on their way out of town, like this one happened to be.  And to be honest it didn’t take much to be within walking distance of anywhere in my hometown.  For two very good reasons.  Firstly, it was considered small – not rural small but definitely on the shy side of a real bonafide city –  so walking anywhere was within distance.  Secondly, I have always had a love affair with walking, and can go the distance, at least within reason.  A trek across the country would be considered unreasonable in most people’s books, although some have ventured forth.  But that is not my idea of a good time so it won’t be happening any time soon.

That ever so brief foray into home ownership was embarked upon more for practical reason than anything else.  Nothing dreamy.  More nightmarish.  I was pregnant, full of baby hormones and hellbent on having a proper home in which to bring my new offspring.  We had been renting a small apartment (by anyone’s measurements) that was barely big enough for the family we already had.  This consisted of my ex-husband, my son and an intelligent black Persian cat named Isadora, who used to pee in the toilet, which is more than I could say about my son at the time. In his defense, he was young and I’m still prone to exaggerate the length of his potty training stage.  In my defense, I think for most young parents this chapter in childhood development feels like an eternity.  But I digress.  What’s important here, is that in my mind it was essential that we find a bigger abode.  Back then home ownership was still within everyone’s grasp.  So we saved four months worth of my wages, slapped down a downpayment and moved in.  A year later we moved to Toronto.  End of back story.

Up until 10 years ago my current husband and I were renters. (This is beginning to sound like I’ve had a string of husbands and habitations. I haven’t.  Just for the record.)  The thing about renting is it costs a lot, sometimes more than a monthly mortgage payment.  And a roof over your head aside, it does nothing for your bottom line.  We never had enough left over at the end of each month to save for a downstroke on a house.  Not that we lived beyond our means, but we did use up every bit of what was left after we paid the rent.  Then Ma died and five weeks later the Old Man followed her into the Great Hereafter.  And then a year later a miracle happened.  With a small inheritance in hand we marched to the bank and proudly declared “one mortgage please.”  It didn’t go down exactly that way, but you get the picture.

Once the mortgage amount was determined, we then knew the price range of the house we could actually purchase.  We met with a Real Estate Agent on a Friday night, chose a selection of places within our price range, and mapped out a plan for the following Sunday to “view houses.” Imagine that.  We were now people who viewed houses.  How exciting.

The next day something very serendipitous happened.  We were on our way to the grocery store when we noticed a “For Sale” sign on a house just around the corner from where we lived.  It was a cute little white house, a forty’s postwar ranch style thingamajig.  There was something familiar about it that spoke to me.  Close proximity to where we lived aside, until I saw that “For Sale” sign I hadn’t even noticed it before.  Not sure why.  Perhaps because it was so unassuming and modest that it just blended in.  We called our Real Estate Agent and asked her to add a house to the list for “viewing” the next day.

The little white house around the corner was the first house we saw.  I walked through the front door and I was home.  There it was.  No need to look any further.  After 25 years I had come home.  It was sweet.  And simple.  And dear.  Unpretentious and humble.  Full of natural light.   Round corners and wooden floors. Families had lived there. Loved there.  Prayed over evening meals and sick children, dying dogs, birds that flew the nest.  It reminded me of the house I grew up in with Ma, The Old Man and my three siblings.  It spoke to me.  This was the house I wanted to buy.  We looked at a half-dozen other places that day but it was all just a formality, the new homebuyer jig to appease the Real Estate Agent and her desire to have done her due diligence. We respected that.  But at the end of the day I declared, “Let’s put in an offer on the first house we saw, the little white house around the corner.  I liked that house.”

This little house that I live in and own with my husband and the bank wasn’t my dream home. Far from it.  This little house was not the picture I tore out of magazines and kept in scrapbooks, nor pointed at while walking with Ma, nor envied while visiting others with homes in the style that I fancied, nor was it the centerpiece of my domicile daydreams.  No, this little white house around the corner was not my dream home.  But it was something far better. It was my home to dream in.  And after ten years, I know without a doubt that it is more than I could have ever imagined.