As my friends know, I’ve recently become an empty nester. While I love my three boys immensely, when the last one flew the coop last month I secretly did a happy dance. I was free at last. You see, for the past two decades I have raised them largely alone. Yes, when they were young I had every other weekend free and Wednesday night dinners were solo. But, the day-to-day operations like homework, middle of the night fever, soccer practice, piano lessons were all me, not to mention my role as sibling referee, tutor, enforcer of curfews, behind-the-wheel driving teacher. All me.
Some people have a junk drawer. I have junk closets. I decided it was high time I reclaimed my closet space. Today I chose to tackle one child’s bedroom closets. This child had a penchant for clothes, toys, and make believe; he was a pack-rat-in-training.
Of all my three boys, my youngest was the happiest little boy. He could entertain himself for hours on end, play make believe and dress up, play with action figures, and help me cleanup around the house while singing a tune. While we often butted heads we also shared many happy memories and cleaning his closets took me back to the days of him kissing me all over while I dried him from his bath or him playing for hours by himself while singing opera.
As I dug through mountains of books and toys and clothes long outgrown, I came across so many things. Things were either tossed or placed in a give-away pile. Purging is very hard for me but I made progress and was patting myself on the back. The giveaway and trash bags filled up quickly and were then hauled to the curb or the car.
While cleaning and sorting, one toy stopped me dead in my tracks. Two Face. The older two boys couldn't have cared less about these dolls-for-boys called action figures. That all changed with Christian. He loved them, talked for them, and collected them all. His favorite one was Two Face. So when I came across this particular figure, I stopped, picked him up and was flooded with emotions. My eyes filled with tears as I remember this sweet child, now grown and living on his own. The tears were from a raw emotion that comes from the bittersweet mixture of dreams unfulfilled, the unstoppable passage of time and happy times that seem so distant. The one thing I’ve learned along the way is my dreams aren’t necessarily my children's dreams. We have to teach our children to fly, let them fly away and let them soar or reach for their own stars. So, in cleaning his closet, I bid farewell to my dreams and accepted the reality of my sons paths.
How could this happen in a blink of an eye? Well, I’m not sure how it happens so fast but I am here to tell you it does. The cliche’s are true. Time flies. No, it actually zooms at record breaking speed. So while time is still on your side, hug your child a little tighter today, read to them five minutes more, let them stay up a bit longer tonight because before you know it, you’ll have clean closets and only memories to recall.
When I finished purging the space, I felt happy to have two reclaimed closets in this bedroom. Empty hangers now await guests. Toys and clothes are gone and sorted and given away to thrift shops. One small trinket remains. I couldn’t give him away. Two Face sits on the dresser, reminding me of happy days spent with my youngest son, Christian. And when I look at Two Face I can still feel the wet kisses after bath time.
Happy birthday, Christian.
For the first time in a long time, my New Year's resolutions don't include losing weight or getting healthy. I achieved those over the past couple years. That being said, I don't think my weight is perfect, but in a healthy range. I do plan on keeping on track; it's become a lifestyle for me and as such, I don't fret over it.
This year I intend to try to create more and to keep painting, a little every day. Now that the holidays are a memory, the tree is down and decorations put away, I've pulled out my oil paints again. This is the first in many weeks and only my second or third painting (one was done in class). Ever. So, don't expect too much.
As mentioned in a previous post, the first step is in creating something to paint. Here's a photo of the still life I chose. Since I had much trouble painting a white tablecloth recently, I chose a white pitcher from my childhood home. I don't know why, but I love the shape of this vessel and have a fondness for it. And the background is one of my favorite colors. The front lemon was actually turned some from this photo as you'll see in my painting.
Next, I toned the canvas and did an under painting in black and white. Boring but I find this step very helpful.
And here is my attempt to paint the still life. So far. I realize there are some things not right about this painting but this is the results of session one. Some errors such as proportions can't be fixed easily. The learning curve is steep.
And last but not least, my signature. Even that needs work!
This process is going to take a L O N G time to master, I can tell. But Perseverance is my middle name. Please feel free to offer suggestions, help, advice. Obviously I need all.
As many have experienced or witnessed, aging tends to make some a tad more set-in-their-ways, stubborn, and opinionated. Long ago, I told myself that I would not get stuck in my routine. I vowed to be open to new ideas, take a different route than my usual (What's the worst that can happen? You get lost!), change my hairdo, my home, my wardrobe, my body, my health. In the past two years my life has evolved and improved by leaps and bounds. I want to keep up the momentum. But now what?
After talking with an esteemed local artist about stretching oneself creatively, I decided to take some classes. Several months ago I drove to Old Town Alexandria to take a series of precious metal clay jewelry classes. Most recently, I've enrolled in painting classes. For this latest adventure, I didn't have to travel so far. In an area overflowing with great artists, the most difficult choice was with whom do I take my first painting class? Despite the dilemma, I chose Liberty Town artist and friend Carol Josefiak. In one week's time, I have gone from never picking up a paintbrush in my life, to someone who actually started and finished a painting in a day.
Mind you, I am not new to the art world after years of making one-of-a-kind sterling silver jewelry, serving as president of a local art cooperative for three years, co-founding a non-profit art gallery, judging a local art show, and serving as installation chair at two art galleries through the years. Even so, knowing good art and creating it are oceans apart. The latter will take years, I know.
As a wee bit of a perfectionist, I am hesitant to show you the first painting I did at home. Alone. Yesterday. But first, the process: the first task was to set up an interesting (sort of) still life. Ignore the light in the upper left hand corner. Next came the under painting. And finally, the painting. And in between there was the mixing of the colors from a limited palatte. That part was so much fun.
This is a photograph of the still life I created for my painting.
Next, I did the under painting with a neutral palatte, boring but you get the idea.
And lastly, here is my first painting. Actually it's my second. But this is the first that I did all by myself. No helpful, teacherly advice in the wings. Just me, my still life, my canvas and my oil paints.
This is actually my first painting, done in class under the guidance of skillful teacher, Carol Josefiak. Thank you, Carol. You're the best teacher this non-painter could ever have.
Stayed tuned in the weeks ahead as I share my progress. No laughing allowed. Actually, I love to laugh so chuckle away. Or better yet, join me in staying unstuck. Take a class, get lost, update your wardrobe, cut your hair, try a new food or recipe. Do anything differently. You'll be glad you did and your brain will thank you. Most of all, have fun.
For a multitude of reasons, I have not traveled far from home in years. Sure, there have been a night or two here and there, but never an extended getaway alone. Whenever I left, it seemed as if the flood gates were opened and I was summoned by phone to handle the crisis at hand. Now that my three boys are young adults, I decided to cruise the East Coast and see some old and dear friends and special places along the way.
My first stop was Point Lookout, New York which is the seaside community on southern Long Island where my college roommate, Lisa, has made her home. There I spent two delicious nights breathing in the ocean air, toasting to old times, and otherwise completely relaxing with Lisa, her exuberant extended family and another good college friend, Grace. To my utter surprise my brand spankin' new Prius only sipped on gasoline on the trip from Virginia to New York and I still had 1/3 of a tank left when I arrived.
Next stop was Harwich, Massachusetts where another college friend, Maureen Green, is building a new life for herself. She was a successful news anchor in Syracuse, New York for 27 years and has recreated herself after the loss of her job. She has sold her primary inland home, moved to her favorite location on Cape Cod and is building a successful real estate career at Kinlin Grover Real Estate in Harwich Port. She is living her dream, blogs about life on Cape Cod, and I couldn't be more proud. We wined and dined on cheap wine and fresh seafood. We caught sunsets at various spots around the Cape and I was amazed at the wonderful light of the Golden Hour. Anyone could take a good picture then, I swear. Even me, who scoffs at most photos of myself. Perhaps it was the company of my dear friend, the wine, the salt air or the golden lighting, but the photos read "pure joy" as one friend put it. The visit was such a special, special time and one I won't soon forget.
Mo and I then traveled to Rhode Island and cruised the coastline that we both knew so well from our college days. In Newport we lunched at The Black Pearl, walked down the Forty Steps to the ocean, looked at historic neighborhoods. It was fun to reminisce. It seems as though it took both our brains to fill in all the blanks of our distant collegiate past, umpteenth years ago. This day trip served to settle many things in my head and took us both down memory lane.
Last but not least was a trip to Rochester, New York to my sister's home where I witnessed my niece Laragh's wedding. It was special in all ways--from the unusual wedding location at the Seneca Park Zoo, to seeing family and friends, to witnessing a tender new love. Weddings always give me pause; I don't think I'm that unusual in that regard. I wish Laragh and Pat a lifetime of happiness and love. From what I saw, I'm betting on these two.
After 10 days on the road, it's back to reality. It's all about healthy, clean living, daily exercise and tending to my unpaid bills. I'm also planning my next excursion. I can't wait!
People routinely ask what I've done to turn my life around and become a big loser in the best sense of the word. It is no wonder that I move a lot more and eat less, but what I eat is key. Low glycemic index foods are my preference in an attempt to avoid sharp spikes in blood glucose levels. Think lean protein, lots of fruits and veggies. And I also power up a recipe to incorporate more of these foods in every mouthful.
According to www.glycemicindex.com and the University of Sydney, "The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance."
Here is one recipe full of such options. It got rave reviews from my family.
Turkey-Black Bean Burgers
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 c. black beans, slightly mashed
1/2 c. santa fe salsa (with corn and beans)
2 T. fresh chopped cilantro
Pepper Jack cheese
Whole wheat slider rolls
Blend ingredients and make into small patties. I tried grilling these but found they fell apart somewhat when flipping. So, I opted for a grill pan and my stovetop. Cook for 5 minutes per side and make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Top each burger with a thin slice of pepper jack cheese, melt slightly. Garnish with a dollop of salsa and crisp lettuce leaves and place on a slider roll. Yum. Enjoy!
Tonight The Killing returns on AMC. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, it is based on the Danish TV series, Forbrydelsen. The American version was developed by Veena Sud and enters its third season with a new murder mystery. While some may think the day-per-episode time frame may move too slowly, I, for one, can't wait.
The cast of characters will obviously change but leading the way are two exceptional returning actors, Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman who play detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder.
While the reasons why I like this well written drama are many, one compelling reason is watching Sarah Linden. She is a modern day woman who, like me, struggles to single handedly balance her personal and professional life. She is a single mother to Jack, a somewhat troubled teen. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, it was noted that America's working mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40% of the households with children, up from just 11% in 1960. Given these statistics, I have no doubt that other female viewers can relate as I do with Sarah Linden's constant struggle to do both jobs well. The statistics speak not only to recent changes in the economy, but also to the rate of both divorce and unwed mothers having babies. Forty percent of births today occur out of wedlock. Wow.
I'm not here to debate whether a woman should be in the workforce or stay-at-home with her children; instead, I urge you all to watch with compassion as Sarah Linden tries to keep all the balls in the air. Rather than criticize Sarah's parenting, which is easy to do, try putting yourself in Sarah's shoes. Watch tonight on AMC for the two hour premiere of Season Three of The Killing. I know I will.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a household full of love and steady, positive encouragement. My parents were a drop dead gorgeous pair who despite outward appearances had their share of struggles like everybody else. But, in our household, the children mattered. The kids' best interests came first whether it was scraping together enough tuition for all three of us to go to Catholic school, watching us compete athletically, perform on stage, or give a speech in high school. They thought their three kids could accomplish anything they set their minds to and told us we could. As a result, I grew up thinking I could take the bull by the horns and win. And often I did.
I wasn't always so confident. In kindergarten I went cheerfully to school everyday, took in all the conversations and activities surrounding me, but never uttered a word the entire year. I wouldn't even tell the teacher I didn't like the pulp in the orange juice or the nuts in my cookies at snack time. One day I mustered the courage to talk and touched my teacher's elbow. Shockingly, Mrs. Higby turned and yelled, "Why can't you speak up like normal children?". That only served to make this stubborn and determined 5-year-old dig her heels in even more. I vowed not to speak a word. And I didn't. Not even at recess. I would swing and play but always as observer. Not a word was spoken. Ever.
The following year my parents decided to transfer me to the parochial school. As I was walking up the steps to the first grade entrance, loving my new uniform and happy to be going to school as usual, my mom held my hand and told me that no one here knew I was shy and I could be anything I wanted to be here. Apparently, I took her words to heart; the second week into the school year I prided myself on getting scolded for talking in class by my beloved teacher, Sister Fidelia.
In high school, my innate shyness persisted but mom, who had no psychology degree but was more skilled than most in this area, gently encouraged me, pushed me beyond my comfort zone and as social psychologist Amy Cuddy says, she had me "fake it until I made it". I'll never forget the day that I rode into the Bishop Ludden High gymnasium atop a float and gave a speech for Vice President of Student Council in front of the student body of 1200. Not only did I give the speech, I won the election. What I didn't know at the time but learned long after, my mom was in the hallway outside the gym quietly crying as her once mute daughter had a loud and clear voice.
Though both my parents were taken way too young, I just want to publicly thank my genius mother for prodding, encouraging, listening and otherwise molding me into the chatterbox I am today. The skills I learned while being the observer early on have served me well in life though. I am inclined to think before I speak. More people should try doing it!
Many of you are familiar with the wildly popular Stampington and Company publication Where Women Create. If you haven't seen this magazine, do yourself a favor and pick one up, sit in a comfortable chair with a hot cup of tea and transport yourself to an energizing and creative world. A few years ago someone suggested that I submit my home for consideration in this publication. Little did this acquaintance know that my personal space didn't reflect the artistic me. Instead of my footprint, I still had my parents'. I had a lot of vintage and antique furniture from my now deceased parents. I clung to these pieces much like I clung to their distant memory. Well, no more. I have repurposed, repainted, reupholstered the entire place. It is coming along and I am so happy with my very fun and creative space that I want to share it with you.
Here's a before shot. Not much pizzazz or creativity here. Safe, traditional and boring sums it up.
Here is my after space.
Each and every time I walk into my home these days, I smile. It is my happy space and one that reflects the whimsical, creative woman I am. Since my mother painstakingly refinished and restored many of the antiques, I was nervous to alter them for a long time. I have now updated their look with an eclectic, modern mix. A spool chair now sports black satin legs and bright wide striped fabric. I'm confident that my mom is smiling down at the changes in my happy space, right along with me. What do you think?
While some may find this hard to believe, sometimes the hardest part of creating one-of-a-kind jewelry designs comes at the very end of the process when I name the piece. Even if the piece conjures up a memory or feeling, the exact name is more elusive. I'm stumped. So, please help me name this set. It's made entirely with sterling silver, dreamy peach Coral and Chalcedony. Feel free to post a comment here, or email me if your bashful. Stay tuned for the name, coming soon!
Everyone has a zillion excuses why they don't exercise. High on the list of reasons are lack of time and the weather. Let's cross those off your list and look at Tabata, a quick, high intensity interval routine developed in Japan in the 1990s. The research done by Tabata and his team found that those who used this intense interval training improved their aerobic (cardiovascular) health and their anaerobic condition (muscles) more than any other group. The workout uses a 20/10 interval where you exercise hard for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You do this 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Best yet, no equipment or gym membership is needed. It can be done in your home with little or no equipment. I use this Tabata timer for my workout: http://www.tabatatimer.com/
Join me down the road to better health. Who doesn't have 4 minutes to spare?
Dee Antil is a multifaceted woman much like the stones she uses in her artisan jewelry designs. She has worn many hats from nurse anesthetist to single mother, founder of non-profit art co-op, amateur photographer, orchid grower, exercise/nutrition enthusiast. She also loves design, fashion, and the sea.