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Nostalgia, The Library and Sharky

nos·tal·gia

/näˈstaljə,nəˈstaljə/

noun

noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias

  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I was having coffee this morning and thinking about what I wanted to write about. Nothing came to mind. I mean absolutely nothing. I kept trying to find a trigger. Something I could grab hold of. A word, a thought, a sign. Nothing. I hate when that happens. It can be hard for a writer to get going sometimes. It’s hard to grasp that tiny piece of thread to start the unwinding of the tale to tell. For me anyway. I would imagine writers are like that. Beginning ones. Me ones. 

I just let my mind go. I was curious to see where it would end up. Ahhhh, the library. The Carnegie Library. The kid library. I remember spending hours and hours at that library. I loved the card on the inside cover of the book. The librarian stamping the due date, with the rubber stamper, filled with blue ink. I wandered for what felt like hours, looking and searching for books. 

The library was officially opened in March of 1905. My birthday month. I knew there was special meaning to this place. It served as the public library until 1972, when operations were moved to the Rawlins Municipal Library. 

I visited the library mostly on Saturdays. Walking through the doors and down the steps. The smell that immediately hits. That dark, damp, book smell. I LOVE the smell of books. I walked down the creaky stairs to the kid section. Just walking and looking and feeling at peace. Books, books and more books. The key to learning. The key to life. The key to disappearing. 

By definition, that is exactly what the library meant to me. Happy personal associations. I loved it there. The librarian, whose name I cannot remember, was a tiny little lady. I can see her walking, she had distinctive walk, kind of a shake to the head as she walked and her heels clippity-clopping on the hardwood floor. She always wore a dress, tied at the waist and always a print. She had glasses too. Stereotypical librarian, I suppose. 

Our house was built in 2000 and we completed the moving in process in 2001. We had an amazing carpenter. He was meticulous with detail. Very OCD if you will. He knew how we appreciated the past. We loved old treasures from long-forgotten, abandoned buildings in town. We have columns in our house from the old Flame Room. We went with him and dug through the upper floor of the building hunting for the treasures. His name was Sharky. He kept an eye on us. He noticed how much these things meant to us and how much the history meant to us. 

He built the mantel for our fireplace and he built the bases for those columns. The craftsmanship is stunning. His work ethic like no other. Meticulous, precise and thorough come to mind when remembering the building of the house.

During the process, he absolutely floored us with something I will never forget. He told us he had salvaged the shelves from the old Carnegie Library. He asked if we wanted him to build our home library with them. Ummmm, yeah! They are a true work of art. The wood is gorgeous and so smooth. Not a bump or a flaw anywhere on them. 

Every time I am in our library, which is where I sit right now, as it has pretty much turned into my home work space, I look at those shelves and I am reminded of the nostalgia of my youth. I am reminded how much I loved that library. He brought my past to life in those shelves. It was a true gift. He was a true gift. 

Sharky passed away on February 7, 2014. He was 62. Sharky was his nickname. His true name was Mark Drees. I still see him roaming through the house, t-shirt and jeans, pencil behind this ear and giant cup of coffee. His voice was distinctive. His laugh was contagious. The talent was crazy amazing. I pulled up his obituary and in reading through it was reminded of the history surrounding his work. So many places lucky to have his touch. He is definitely missed. 

This post started out as the library and turned into the craftsmanship of a man we were very luck to have met. Thanks for the history Sharky. We will never forget it. 

Sharkey Obituary

Good friends do hard things for their friends

It’s never a good time.

How would you know if it was?

The admission is hard.

The decision is hard.

The finality of it is hard.

Today was a day like that. Today was a final decision day.

Pets are an important part of our lives. They become family to us. It’s hard to watch the decline. It’s hard to watch the inevitable. Denial is normal. Emotions are normal. None of us want to face the facts.

My husband helped a friend today. He took his friend’s dog to the vet to be put down. He sat with her and was with her as she let go. He gave her comfort. His friend couldn’t do it. It was just too hard. Pets are like our kids. It’s so emotional.

He gave his friend comfort.

Sometimes we just can’t do it ourselves.

Sometimes we need a little help from a friend.

Sometimes friends are what we need the most.

He texted around 8:30 this morning and said she was gone. I asked if he gave her lots of love. He said yeah and that it was hard. We both loved that dog too. She was a great dog.

Sometimes we have to do really hard things.

Sometimes we do hard things for friends and it is appreciated.

I hit send…

I did a thing. And then got slammed.

On November 25, 2020, I submitted something I wrote. It was to an online site, using a writing prompt. The parameters were pretty easy. Start with this phrase … and end with this phase… and write 1000-3000 words. So I did. I’ve never put my writing out there like that. I’ve published a ton of blog posts and a few short stories, but I have never publicly thrown down like this. I was nervous and was definitely feeling self-conscious. The story was fiction, so that was a little different for me to write, but I thought why not. I thought it would be fun to stretch myself a little bit. I thought my story was a little dark, but decent. 

It felt great. I felt like I really did a good thing and was supporting myself and pushing myself. I was super proud of myself. So when I received an email a few days later with a notification that someone commented on my post, I was really excited to see what that person had to say. I read the “critique” and immediately felt like someone punched me right in the gut. You know that gut feeling, where you just want to crawl in a hole and hide. The kind where you feel it throughout your whole body. Every single inch of your body feels the shame and humiliation. The hotness of those feelings radiating throughout your body. It’s so tangible right now as I write this. That feeling sure stuck. The feeling of being so embarrassed and wondering why you even tried. Yeah, that feeling. It was gut-wrenching for sure. All the emotions circled around for days. More than days actually.

I felt like such a failure and I questioned everything about my writing. That feeling stayed with me for a while. I didn’t want to write anything. I couldn’t. It blunted my creativity for several weeks. There was nothing critique-y about it. It was pretty much a full body slam. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I have not gone back to that site. I don’t know if I will submit anything there again. I might. It will probably take a long, long time if I do. I can’t let one person’s opinion sway me from continuing. 

I think about the things people say and their unsolicited opinions and advice, and I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. For example, I liken this to when someone who is trying to make some positive changes in their life. This person decides in order to change they should start working out. They buy a gym membership. It takes guts to put yourself out there. Then this person goes to the gym and gets made fun of because they are overweight or not doing an exercise correctly. The point is they showed up. They showed up to try and make some changes. They showed up to be better. Isn’t that enough?

I showed up for myself and got shot down. It took me a while to get over that. And frankly, it still stings. It stopped me in my tracks for a while., but I feel like I am back to being my “normal” self with my writing. I don’t plan to give up. I plan to keep going. I will keep writing. I will keep working at it. Why? Because I love it. Because I care about getting my words on paper and because I care about growing and stretching myself in this craft.

What you say matters. Remember that. You can inspire or you can dishearten. You can motivate or you can discourage. Think about that before you respond. You never know what someone has been through or what someone is going through. Be helpful and be positive. 

If something like this has happened to you, I would love to hear how you persevered. I would love to hear how you kept going and how you are doing now. Please let me know. I love to hear from you. 

Shine your light. 

Diet Pepsi and Donuts

Yesterday was Christmas. John, Tayler and I took the dogs to LaFramboise Island for a Christmas Day walk. The temp was beautiful, around 45 degrees. We timed it right. By the time we left, the parking lot was almost full. We walked for about an hour and 15 minutes – 3.65 miles. The dogs did great. Once we let Jack off the leash he was much happier. He is a hunting dog through and through. Nora did well considering she is afraid of everyone. 

The coat I wore was one I have had for a while. Pretty much a down liner jacket. It served its intended purpose. Perfect layers for the day. 

Once we got back home I was taking off the jacket and pulled a dime out of one pocket and a receipt out of the other. The receipt was from December 15, 2019. Two things were purchased. I have to laugh at this because it shows how much I have improved my food relationship. And it also shows what I have been doing for the last year. Diet Pepsi and donuts. There. My life has consisted of Diet Pepsi and donuts over the last year. Seriously, though, I eat nutritious foods most of the time and throw in the donuts and cookies once in a while. I also coach people to help them find their big picture life. Changing my mindset has improved my coaching so much. 

I used to have that all or nothing attitude and I used to be a food snob. Boy, have I changed. Now, I know I can eat donuts and fit them into my day and I am not ruining any progress I have made. I know that if I eat a donut I didn’t wreck my eating for the day and then go off the rails the rest of the day or even weeks after. I learned that I don’t have to restrict these foods, because come on, we all know they taste absolutely amazing. I have learned that I can eat this stuff and still maintain my over 40 pound weight loss. I don’t have to be ashamed if I eat this. I don’t have to feel like a big failure if I eat this. 

I can be me. I can enjoy the foods I want. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating things I love. But, the thing is, it took me a long time to get to this point. It takes time to change. Change isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it. I work on myself every single day.

I used to talk crap to myself if I ate things like donuts or cookies or chips or pizza. I felt like I had to be all in all the time. I used to restrict, restrict, restrict, and then of course that can only go on for so long until the binge happened. I never actually binged according to the definition of a true binge. That was in my eating disorder days. Now, it would have been eating all of those foods that I had been restricting. I just wanted more and more and more of them. See, that’s the thing, as soon I told myself I couldn’t have a certain food or types of food, all I thought about was those foods and how much I wanted them. So, when I learned to build those foods into my plan, that pressure came off. It made it a lot easier to control what I was eating. I didn’t lose any progress I had made and I was happy with my food choices and with living my life. The food is never going away. It is always going to be around. 

So, what helped me change? I got a coach. Yes, coaches use coaches too. That lasted about a year or slightly longer. The accountability part is huge. I learned how to track macros. I had never really tracked anything previously. I remember in junior high tracking calories because of gymnastics. Which, by the way, is where my disordered eating began. But, other than that, I always thought just eating clean would do it for me. So not true. Because I definitely overate clean foods too and ended up needing a big life change. I learned to believe in myself. I empowered myself. I looked for the good in myself. I left the self doubt behind and tackled my health head on. Instead of wishing and hoping and saying what if, I jumped right in and saw the big picture. The best picture and the best I could become. I set myself up to do better and to be better.

Easy? No

Worth It? Yes

Shortcuts? No

Long Game? Yes

We always have choices. 

Lessons

Sometimes the kid is the one teaching the lesson. 

Tayler was home this week after her 18 credit semester. She needed some down time. We joined a gym for the week and went several times.  

I have to admit I had a little gym anxiety. Everything was different than my home gym and I wasn’t sure how to navigate what I needed to do. A little bit of overwhelm and irritation was happening. It all turned out good though. 

On the second day our program called for goblet squats. We found a corner with the dumbbells and got busy. We were doing goblet squats and I looked over and noticed Tayler had a 60 pound dumbbell. I was shocked. I was like WTF kid! I mean, I know she has been getting a lot stronger and has been lifting solid for awhile. She decided to try 70 pounds and nailed it. She made it look easy. We were doing the same program recently and she has been extremely consistent. Her body type – tall and lean and a hard gainer. She has a great aesthetic. If someone looked at her they would never think she would be as strong as she is. Her look is very deceiving. I love watching her get stronger and more confident. 

It’s funny because I always tell my clients they are stronger than they think and they shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavier or try new things. 

I thought to myself that I should be taking my own advice and lifting heavier. And watching Tayler definitely inspired me to go heavier. I have kind of been going through the motions. I PR on some things, but I kind of slack off on others. So I thought well I guess I will see what I can do. And, to be completely honest, squats are not one of my favorite things and I am sure that is why I kind of slack on those. Usually with a KB I will grab the 16 or 20kg bell and call it good. That translates to about 35 and 44 pounds respectively. I ended up going for reps of 8 with the 55 pound dumbbell and definitely had room for some more. What was I afraid of? Why haven’t I been pushing myself in the gym? I always wonder about things like that. Why don’t we find our potential and push past it? Why do we stay in the safe zone? Why do we settle?  We have to break through the barriers to make progress. 

So why don’t we push ourselves? Well, I will tell you – because sore as hell legs. That’s why. My legs definitely felt those squats and are extremely sore. That’s why! Just kidding. I mean, they are sore, but I will continue to keep lifting heavy. Sore is part of the process. 

I was lifting in the status quo. It’s okay, but it’s not what I want for myself. I want to be in the potential section. I want to be even higher than that. I want to be in the go for it section and nailed it section. 

Usually we are the ones inspiring our kids and helping them become a great version of themselves, but this time the kid inspired me. It felt great. 

Now, ask yourself when you are at the gym or wherever it is you train, why you don’t try to lift more. Don’t put yourself in the box of being weak or calling it not strong. Don’t put yourself in the box of being afraid to go to the gym or lift weights. So many times we worry about what the scale says or what other people think and we miss out on how strong we are or how strong we can become. We miss out on the process and we miss out on our potential. We miss the big picture. 

Today is Christmas Eve. What do you plan to do with the in between time? You know the time between now and the new year. Are you going to find your potential and keep going? I know I am. Set some goals in your discomfort zone and then take the small steps to get there. Find your happy and your healthy place. Find you. Find your potential. 

Thanks for the lesson Tayler. 

Sandy

Memories of loved ones lost. It’s always hard. This time of year, holidays, other days, maybe even all days. Looking at pictures of them. Wondering about them. The what ifs. The whys. Do you ever hold an actual picture and study it? Looking at the faces and the scenery—the background and wondering what was happening in that actual moment.

I noticed today when I picked up a picture of Sandy. On the back it said, “10/02/02 Sandy’s last ride.” 

It was a picture of her at the Buffalo Ranch. She was standing behind her motorcryle. Beside hers was Nancy’s. The opening to the ranch had two big rock posts. It looked like a beautiful fall day. Her face held her beautiful smile. She always had that. No matter what. I found myself trying to zoom the picture bigger. I took my thumb and forefinger and moved them apart, trying to bring her face into focus. Trying to see. I wanted to see her face closer. I wanted to see her smile closer. Her eyes, and her hair. I wanted to see her clearer. I wanted to see her better. I wanted to remember her clearer and better. 

I took a picture of the picture with my phone. And then, I zoomed it closer. There it was. There she was. The smile. The laugh. The positive.

Missing you today Sandy.

Are you really fine?

How are you? Such a simple ask. The auto response. Fine. Always said in haste. Always said automatically. But are you really fine? Think about it. Stop going through the motions. Start really thinking. 

What if you aren’t fine? We’ve all had a rough year. I closed the doors to my brick and mortar. I lost over half of my income. Is that fine? Maybe not, but it was a choice I had to make. 

Did you have some hard choices to make this year? Think about being fine. What does that look like? My emotions and feelings have been mixed. Anxious one minute. Relaxed the next. Gaining weight one day. Losing weight another day. Eating all the food one day. Eating none of the food another day. The navigation has been hard. It’s different. It’s hard to know what is happening. It’s hard not to look to the future and be anxious about it. 

Giving thanks and having gratitude helps. Thanks for the hard. Thanks for the lessons. Thanks for the outlook. Thanks for the time. Thanks for the clarity and thanks for the fuzzy. 

Everything matters and nothing matters. It all matters or none of it matters. Right? Weird how that works. So many things we want not to matter, matter. And so many things that do matter to us, shouldn’t. We focus on things we can’t control. We don’t take the time to work on ourselves where we are. We are constantly looking down the street. We are constantly looking for help. We are wishing and hoping and what if-ing. But what if we looked at where we are with compassion and love? What if we loved ourselves for where we are and what we are right now?

We are told we should change. We are told we aren’t good enough. We are told we aren’t skinny enough. We are told we aren’t pretty enough. FOR WHO???? It’s a trap. Go to the mirror and look at yourself. Look hard. Tell yourself how you feel. Be kind. Be loving. Be compassionate. It takes a long time to get to I love me, but it’s there. It’s in there. Sometimes it’s deeply rooted and takes a long time to come out. Start unwrapping. Start saying nice things. Start looking for her. Start looking for the person you once knew. The one who is fun and carefree. The one who wants to live and enjoy life. The one who does’t care what other people think. Do this for yourself. Only you can help yourself. Nobody is coming to save you, except you. Take a step. Take action. Little by little those steps will turn into big progress. It may take a year. It may take a month. It may take two years. The time passes regardless. Start loving yourself where you are right now. Start looking into your own eyes with compassion and love. Start seeing you. Start loving you no matter what. 

It’s All Gravy…

Timing is everything. I wouldn’t have even been in the store, if not for having to take John his phone. He forgot it this morning so I took it to him. I thought I would stop at Dakotamart for a few things before I headed home. 

I notice people. It’s just a normal thing for me. He was tall. He had dark hair with gray in it. It was long. He wore faded jeans, no brand. White tennis shoes, maybe New Balance. He wore a dark zip up jacket. As he walked away towards the milk section, I thought to myself that he looked kind of like Hal Ketchum, the country singer who recently passed. That is why I noticed him. 

I was perusing the coffee creamers. Califia has a new one. I was excited. Almond milk creamer, mint cocoa flavor. In fact, drinking it now. It’s okay. Everything always looks and sounds better than it tastes. So, there’s that. 

I heard a voice and that guy came over towards me. He said, “I’m 68 years old and you could have had a naked lady on your shirt and I wouldn’t have thought twice, but when I saw you had gravy, well…” He laughed, and then I laughed and we both laughed. My sweatshirt was from a virtual 5K. It is a cranberry color for Thanksgiving and has a gravy boat on it and it says “it’s all gravy.” He then started telling me about his mom. He said she has passed, but he said she was the worst cook ever. She overcooked everything and even canned vegetables she boiled to death. He said the shirt reminded him of his mom. He said thanks for helping him remember her today. He walked away. 

A minute later he was back again. He told me he was sorry, but he just had to tell me a little more. He had been drafted and he said before he was drafted he thought he was a picky eater. He said when he was in the military though, he ate everything. All the vegetables and all the food. He really wasn’t a picky eater. He decided that his mom was such a terrible cook that he thought he was a picky eater. He laughed again and said how wonderful to be remembering all these things and that he would be thinking of this all day. He left again. 

Back again, after about 30 seconds. Now we get to the gravy point. He said for Thanksgiving his mom always had to make a lot of gravy. And he noticed that he and his siblings fought over the dark meat of the turkey because the white was so dry that they couldn’t eat it unless it had a ton of gravy. He again told me that he loved my sweatshirt and that it brought back all these great memories of his mom. 

I loved this. You just never know who you will inspire. You just never know what is going to trigger someone’s memories. It takes zero effort to be nice to people. Zero. You get a whole lot back in return. It’s all gravy! 

Today Is Thanksgiving

John is watching the news and the dogs are curled up and sleeping close by. The cats are sleeping too. Soon they will all be begging like they haven’t been fed in weeks. The furnace is humming and pushing out the heat. I can hear the muffled voices from the TV. 

I sit here at my desk, looking outside at the cloudy, slightly foggy sky. It looks cold. It’s still. No wind. That’s nice. My coffee is warming my belly. The taste on my tongue is my familiar. Strong, yet smooth. Creamy, not sweet. Just right. 

I think about this year and the difficulties. I think about the hard things from this year. I think about so many things from this year. I could be bitter. I could be negative. I could dwell on it. But I don’t. This year taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about myself. It taught me a lot about people. Things were seen with clarity. Things were seen with a good eye, not a rose-colored glasses eye. 

This year I have remained positive. I have remained thankful. I have continued to roll the boulder up the hill. I show up. I take the steps. I grind. I hold back when needed. I speed up when needed. I learn. I love. I keep learning. I keep loving. 

We get one life. We don’t know when it will be snatched away. My outlook is positive. My life is positive. My life is not perfect. I wouldn’t want it to be. I am thankful for every breath I get to take. I am thankful for everything I get to do. I am thankful for the peace I have. I am thankful. 

Today is Thanksgiving.

The Sliding Scale

The dread. The anxiety. The dread. Yes, I said dread again. I hated going there. I didn’t care what it was for. I mean, seriously, why did I have to get weighed when I had a cold. I mean come on. Why is the scale such a mindfuck? Who made me hate it? Why did I hate it? Where does that come from? The fear, the shame, and the overall self-loathing, all because of the number on a piece of equipment.

The dreaded scale. But this time I am talking about the old-fashioned kind. The sliding bar scale. I bet you know which one am talking about. The one that instills even more dread and shame and anger.

It was tall. It was massive. It was intimidating as hell. The top slider covered the pounds 1 through 50. The bottom chunky thing that landed on an increment sounded like it weighed a ton. You damn well knew when you went to the next increment and so did everyone within a 50 foot radius of the waiting room. The scale itself was heavy. Oh, I almost forgot. I was daydreaming the dread. The bottom increments were 0-50-100-150-200 and maybe more. I don’t remember for sure because I was always concerned about that number that was 150. That number meant something. That number meant that the chunky thing dropped to the next increment. The 150 increment. The horror of that increment. 

The way the scale worked was a person stepped on the platform of the scale and waited. The nurse would watch as people stripped off nearly everything they owned. Because lighter. Okay then. I will use myself as the example here. I’m sweating bullets already because we all know the doctor scale and our home scales NEVER match. I mean never. The doctor scale always has to add a little zinger for us and be up by around five pounds. It twists the knife in, just for good measure. As if, we weren’t anxious enough. 

So, I looked at the scale. Okay, deep breaths, here we go. There is another factor I needed to take into account. The human factor. The nurse factor. Her job was to stand there and take a look. A judgey look. She decided what increment to start at. Now, just a little side note, if it was me and because I know so many people have that dreaded scale anxiety, I would definitely go lower than a stupid guesstimate I had for a person. Or maybe way high to make a person feel better. It’ a crap shoot. I bet her job was not fun being the judgey one. But alas, a girl can dream. And alas, hindsight is 20/20. 

Okay then. I stepped on the scale and waited. I waited for the increment. Increment 100. Because obvious. I wouldn’t start at the 50 increment, unless I was a child. I don’t know, I was probably acting like one. She moved the top slider over to the 140 area. Nothing. Another half inch, 145. Nothing. Shit. This sucks. Another half inch, 149. Nothing. The dread started to kick in. The anxiety for sure. The steps of scale grief. Dread – Anxiety – Shame and then Anger. Anger for the push to make a change. Anger because I let myself get this way. Anger because shame, anxiety and dread.  Circle jerk of emotions and feelings. So, she keeps moving the slider, just waiting for the balance to come. The clunk of the 150 increment. Watching my face and my eyes glued to the slider. Feeling the pain of the dreaded piece of equipment that has the power over me. The power of my self worth. The power over how the rest of my day and maybe even my week and month are going to go. That is a lot of power to give to a piece of equipment. 

That was the old me. The new me knows the scale is nothing more than a tool for data. That took a while, not gonna lie. I never weigh the same on any given day, because my body changes all the time. When I track my weight, I look for patterns. As long as the scale is moving in a trend pattern that I want, or staying in a holding pattern, I know it is working. I have taken that power away from a piece of equipment. It no longer decides my worth. It no longer shames me. It no longer makes me angry. Sure, there are days when I can still feel a little bit of dread, because I am human, but I don’t let it define me. The scale path is never linear. There are ups and downs and downs and ups. It’s just the way it is. 

People are told to throw away their scales. I used to be one of those people. Not anymore. I use the scale for data. And, more importantly, I faced the scale fear. I was afraid to know what the scale said. But now, I have faced that fear. How else will you get over a fear unless you face it? I get on the scale every single morning and I track the data it gives me. That’s it. It has taken time to get to that point. The scale is powerless over me. I am the power. I had the power all along. The power to change. The power to love myself. The power to change myself. 

If I go to the doctor now, I just leave everything on. Who cares. The scale will not tell me my self-worth. Period.