Layer Cake Wisdom

Not sure if it’s that food has been inspiring me to think more deeply about life (read what I learned from a veggie wrap in a previous post here: https://beallthere.net/2015/10/17/a-lesson-in-perspective-from-a-veggie-wrap/) or if it’s the fact that I’m more open to learning these days. Either way, as Alanis Morissette belts out, “You live, you learn.”

This time the lesson began with a picture of a festive layer cake I saw on line. It was stunningly beautiful and I knew the moment I saw it that I wanted to make it and bring it to my sister’s house for Christmas. It was at least a foot tall and consisted of multiple layers (more than two) of snowy white cake and icing with flecks of red and green inside the cake (creating a tie-dye effect), and a dusting of the same red and green bursts of color between the layers, on the sides and on top of it.  It would be a show stopper!

The ingredients were pretty basic and I knew I could easily alter the recipe to make the cake vegan. The most challenging thing to find was the container of red and green “jimmies,” as I call them, or “sprinkles,” as you may know them.

After searching the entire supermarket in town for this pivotal ingredient with my daughter, we spotted the lone container of red and green jimmies in the last aisle on top of the ice cream freezer. Desperate to get the goods, we both lunged for the container as if there were others competing for it, and then laughed to each other about our silliness, since we were the only ones in that competition. We were satisfied with our “win” just the same and knew that no one could have rivaled our split second timing in making the jimmies our own and putting them in our shopping cart!

cake

My mind wandered while we were waiting for the movie to start and I was relieved that I remembered to bake the layers for my holiday masterpiece earlier so I could ice it the next day when it was completely cooled.  I felt happy that I was with my family of four as we continued a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition of going to the movies and out to dinner. My relief quickly changed to regret as I realized that I had forgotten to add the red and green jimmies to the batter! Just as quickly, I was back in my happy place again, seeing the humor in the whole cake thing. It was only a cake and it would still look and taste great.

The next day (Christmas), right before we left for my sister’s, I was ready to assemble “The Masterpiece.” After I put some icing between the two layers, I iced the sides and then the top of the cake. Just as I was about done, my daughter walked into the kitchen and asked why I hadn’t added the second layer of cake before I completely iced it. I informed her that I HAD added the second layer and we both laughed at how flat the cake was, in comparison to our muse.* I hadn’t considered that the vegan recipe might limit the cake’s height and it looked lost on its large palette. When we covered it in red and green jimmies, it looked festive, and I was certain it would taste great.

cake3

We had a wonderful time at my sister’s and the cake looked and tasted fine. Even though it was drastically different from what my daughter and I had imagined, it was so much more. When my daughter thought back to the new Christmas memories we made this year she commented that lunging for those jimmies together in the supermarket with me would be one of her fondest.

As I continue to feel somewhat restless about and unsure of my future, my passion and my place in life, I am reminded that,

Life is a journey, not a destination

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be brave, be kind, take risks, stay curious, embrace change, keep striving to make what’s in your heart and what’s in your head a reality, have self-compassion when you fall short of your goals, and know when to ask for help.

Happy New Year!

 

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

 

*If you want a good laugh, just search google images for “green tie dye cake” and you will see what my inspiration was for my holiday cake, and how much I fell short (but not really).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful Longing

grateful-longing

The Holidays are fast approaching and I know many of my friends and family members will be missing their loved ones. Me too.

I always feel closer to my parents when I see special signs or symbols that remind me of them. I feel sad at first and then happy in the memories that they provide.

Butterflies remind me of my mom and most birds, but especially doves and pigeons remind me of my dad.

What reminds you of your loved ones?

Be All There

Can we feel gratitude and longing at the same time?

I had a mix of emotions this morning. As I walked through my home I was feeling extremely grateful. I’ve paired down what I have so that my most favorite things are clearly on display. Pictures of people I cherish, cards from loved ones, items that represent past family vacations and several things that belonged to past generations. These things bring me such joy!

I’m so grateful for the deep love that I share with family and friends and the meaningful life that I have.

I carried this feeling outside with me as I walked my dog (SO grateful that he’s healthy at 17 1/2) into the crisp autumn air. Thinking about my intention this winter to get outside more despite really disliking the cold, even the cold didn’t deter my grateful feelings.

Funny how a simple sound could bring on a…

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My Cup of Tea

 

tea cup collection

I have a small collection of tea cups. They represent something more to me than just sipping a cup of coffee or tea. It’s what happens while drinking a hot beverage with a family member, good friend or acquaintance that appeals to me. The slower pace, limited distractions and simplistic act of drinking a hot beverage usually foster a relaxed conversation that can range from the superficial to some pretty deep stuff.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that I was just as fragile as one of the cups in my collection. I’ve always been an emotional person, and I’ve had some major changes in my life the past few years. At times, I haven’t felt very confident, loveable or stable, but I always thought that I hid my feelings behind a “put together” façade.

I learned this wasn’t the case as I was having a cup of coffee with a friend and she commented on how far I’ve come in terms of my personal development. She said in the past she’d censored what she said to me because she didn’t want to upset me.

My initial reaction was sadness. I felt bad that my good friend couldn’t be herself around me. My thoughts quickly changed to pride. The point my friend was making (and which I’m very grateful for) was that I’m not that person anymore, that I’m a better version of myself.

I’m proud of where I am today. I’m physically and emotionally stronger than I’ve ever been! Here are a few things that have helped me along the way:

1. Meditation: I don’t do anything special, I just sit still and focus on my breath. When my thoughts become intrusive, I try to refocus on my breath. Counting backwards from 100 has been helpful and I always set a timer so I don’t get distracted by wondering how much more time is left in my session. I started with 5 minutes and I’m currently meditating for 8 minutes every day. Check out Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s free meditation series:

https://chopracentermeditation.com/

2. Writing: I write very day. Usually after I meditate, I write down one or two things that I’m grateful for and I also write my intention for the day. These things aren’t always earth shattering. For example, I’ve been grateful one or two times for a much-needed nap! I have a pretty red journal that I like, but anything will do. I’ve accumulated a stack of journals over the years and there are a few marble composition notebooks in the heap. Although I don’t have this one yet, I hear The Desire Map Day Planner, by Danielle LaPorte is pretty cool.

I also write here, on my blog. This public format has actually been very helpful in two specific areas, confidence building and authenticity. I am open and honest in my posts and I’ve gotten some positive feedback on both the content and quality of my writing.

journey cup of tea

3. Yoga: I do my own thing, at home with either a DVD or a YouTube video. I just finished day 11 of the YouTube series,  “30 Days of Yoga With Adriene.” I set up a little space in my house where I  practice yoga. It’s simple, my mat is nearby, along with a Happy Buddha statue  and my aromatherapy diffuser. I have a blanket that I roll up for support when I need it but I want to get a yoga block soon.

buddha

 

4. Decluttering and Minimalism: This has been an amazing part of my journey! I first noticed Courtney Carver’s, Be More With Less blog on Facebook and began to read her posts about the benefits of consuming and owning less. Creating a paired down living space (and an emotional space) have obvious benefits. What I didn’t expect were the secondary gains. When I started to reduce and remove things (clothes, household items, relationships, social media) that didn’t provide joy and meaning, I had more room for the things I truly loved. This has become a new mindset for my husband and me, which is addicting! I started with this simple rule: For a new article of clothing or household item to come into my house, I have to get rid of one item. This way, at least I could get a handle on what I already owned and keep that number from growing.

If you don’t know where to start, look up Courtney’s blog http://bemorewithless.com/author/admin/

and Joshua Becker’s blog on Minimalism http://www.becomingminimalist.com/about-us/.

I’m so grateful to those of you who have supported me throughout one of the most challenging periods of my life, for you have truly sustained me and I continue to learn from you. I’ve even developed closer relationships with some of you as I’ve focused on becoming more authentic! Thank you!

I’ve shed the unrealistic need for everyone to like me, and so, if I’m not your cup of tea, it’s really OK, make room for someone who is.

 

 Cup of tea

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~Jeanne

 

Lighten Up

to lighten up means to relax, to become less serious or less angry (urbandictionary.com).

Happy New Year! Besides authenticity and self-love, this year I’m going to focus on fun!

I’m not quite sure when I became so serious. Perhaps it’s when I became a parent and  felt the tremendous responsibility of impressionable hearts, minds and souls. Or, it could have been when I became a teacher and developed my unwavering professional persona. I think I always had a serious side, but my youth kept it in check. What I do know is that it’s time for me to lighten up!

I recently went through some old pictures that my parents had and was instantly transported back in time to a feeling of disappointment and heartache. As I held the pictures and looked at myself as a preteen cheerleader, these emotions were replaced by gratitude and acceptance. The perspective that I have as a mature adult processed a heavy emotion from my past in a new way which wasn’t haunting anymore.

JF Cheerleading

I tried out for cheerleading in high school and I didn’t make it. I certainly didn’t go into tryouts unprepared. I practiced my cheer routines, my cheerleader voice and my cheerleader look, over and over again. I was obsessed. I even practiced when I wasn’t supposed to be practicing and can still remember my gym teacher, Mrs. Farina, yelling (when I was practicing my splits during PE), “Fornarotto, if you do one more split, I’m going to make sure you don’t even try out for cheerleading!”

I was pretty excited about the whole idea of being on the high school cheerleading squad. It meant being on the big high school stadium field in front of a crowd and representing my school. I knew how exciting that could be since one of my sisters twirled and the other cheered on that big field when they were in high school.

But, it wasn’t meant to be, I didn’t make it and I was crushed. I felt humiliated and heartbroken. I was lacking something that the other girls had, some of whom were my good friends. I had done all I could to prepare for tryouts and my best wasn’t good enough.

Looking at these old pictures reminded me that I used to really enjoy playing and being part of a team. I played softball and did gymnastics for many years. I was even on these varsity teams! I was also reminded that I cheered for several years for recreational teams, that I WAS a cheerleader. It may not have been on the big field in front of a huge crowd, but  I had fun doing it.  I also did other things that my sisters and my friends didn’t do, like play softball and do gymnastics.

JF Softball

JF Gymnastics

As I look to the future and focus on lightening up, I realize that I need to let go of the heavy feelings that I harbor from the past. However, I think that glancing back and not dwelling on the past can be healing when experienced through the lens of a new perspective.

I have to do things that bring me joy regardless of how others may judge me. In Brene’ Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she talks about living a “wholehearted life.”

“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

JF Lighten Up

I’m more of a softball kind of girl.

 

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Changes

“Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild, a million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)”

~David Bowie

I’m still trying to find my footing as I navigate through the last few months. So many changes including an empty nest and the loss of my dad. I know it sounds dramatic, but without parents, I’m no longer a child. That role was familiar to me and even though it changed over the years as my parents aged, I knew how to be someone’s daughter.

Another role that I’ve defined over the years, through trial an error, patience, anxiety, consistency, heartache, education, love and support from my husband, son and daughter is “mom.” The only thing I’ll ever brag about is how perfect my two children are. I’m pretty confident that I did the best job I could as a mother to my children. I never took this job lightly, always put their needs before mine and never lost sight that I was a major influence on their development.

If anything, I took my “job” too seriously and could have lightened up a little more as my kids were growing up. Thank goodness they have Kevin for a dad! They will sometimes wonder how I can spoil my dogs when I was more strict with them growing up. My response is always that dogs can’t grow up to be bad people. The “heavy lifting” is done as a parent and I can spoil my kids whenever I want now, since they are who they are, and I think they’re pretty awesome.

Since I’m no longer a child, my children are living independently, and I’m looking for a new career path, my day to day life is no longer defined by my role as a child, parent or teacher. I’ve been stripped down to just me; “So I turned myself to face me.” It’s an interesting, yet terrifying time in my life, but I must embrace it. As Bowie says, I must, “Turn and face the change.”

My dad with James and Adella

My dad with James and Adella

 

 

 

Honoring Myself

I’ve been working on paying attention to my feelings and not dismissing them. It’s one thing to be sensitive, yet it takes some courage to really feel what’s going on, in an investigative sort of way, rather than just label and dismiss strong emotions.

While on this emotional journey I realized that I was ignoring how was feeling physically, as well: MY KNEES HURT. Rather than push through these feelings, I needed to honor these feelings and take some of my own advice.

In one of my previous posts, “Rock It!” I discussed the fact that sometimes we have to readjust our goals, yet they can be fulfilling, nonetheless. I reached my goal of becoming a runner (by my standards) and I was not even entertaining the thought of stopping.

I’ve been running for a few months now, consistently, 2 miles, every other day. I even ran in California during my vacation. I am particularly proud of a run I took a few weeks ago with my daughter and her boyfriend, since I was able to keep up with them! It also felt good to be able to bond with them through this activity.

Honoring myself 1

I worked so hard to be able to run for an extended time that I was determined not to lose my momentum. I feared that if I took too much time off in between runs, that I would have to start all over again. So when my knees started to hurt  I pushed through the pain and continued my regime.

After a few weeks of constant pain, I grew concerned. I didn’t want to cause irreversible damage or do anything to my knees that would require surgery.

I bought new sneakers. My knees still hurt. I spaced out my runs more and more and my knees still hurt. Today marks one week since my last run and my knees are finally starting to feel better. Instead of going on a run, I went on my elliptical machine.

By identifying what I was feeling and honoring that feeling, I created a space for another activity.

I ran less, so I had more time to get into yoga, something I always wanted to do. Once again, my original goal (running) was redefined (fitness) and the end result was just as satisfying, perhaps even more.

Rock it!

Sometimes we have to readjust our goals for a variety of reasons. We may not have the money, the time, or the desire to accomplish our original goal, as was the case with me this summer.

My original goal was to learn how to scuba, and I was determined to make this a reality seven summers ago in San Diego, California. I love being active, the beach and nature and I thought this would be the perfect sport for me.

My husband, my two teenaged children and I were assigned to two instructors, a former navy seal (seriously) and a beginning instructor who was still trying to earn his “hours” for his certification. The navy seal took one look at us and said, “I’ll take mom and the son and you take dad and the daughter.” I guess I looked quite capable.

Once we layered on our equipment of wet suit, fins, snorkel, mask and (extremely heavy) tank, and received a very brief lesson, we headed onto the rocks and into the water. My underlying anxiety became full blown almost instantaneously and I was falling over, gasping for air and unable to remain underwater.As my daughter and I clutched each other for comfort, I heard the navy seal utter the words that closed the door on this dream of mine. He said, “YOU take the mom and I’LL take the dad.” My husband, my son and the navy seal had a wonderful experience.

rock it 3
My daughter and I held onto each other for the remainder of the torturous experience, which seemed like a lifetime. Our instructor wasn’t much help and obviously hadn’t yet dealt with  this level of nervousness. When I told him I had to go to the bathroom, he told me to “Just go.” Like a good student, I followed his instructions. His inexperience was pretty clear at this point, since I soon learned that wet suits aren’t porous.

I was relieved to be alive after the whole experience, but felt defeated that I wasn’t very successful.

In speaking with a friend of mine who frequently snorkels in San Diego, she inspired me to get back in the water. She recommended that I give snorkeling a try since I could, “Still see the pretty fish, without all the hassle.” She also advised me to go to The Cove in La Jolla, San Diego, since they have the best snorkeling conditions.

This sounded ideal and I could hardly wait to try it when visiting San Diego this summer! After a quick stop at Children’s Beach in La Jolla, San Diego, to see the seals, we had lunch at a beautiful rooftop restaurant (George’s) with an ocean view. We hadn’t come across The Cove on our brief walk earlier and were anxious to find it after lunch. While eating and looking out at the awesome view, we were quite surprised that The Cove was almost directly under the restaurant, as evidenced by the tiny specks of people moving about in the water in an unusual way….they were snorkeling!

photo 1
Unfortunately, we had to drive to another location to rent equipment, which meant we had to sit in traffic (again) and circle to park (again), since La Jolla is a very popular destination. Since there was an area to snorkel near the rental shop and it was tempting not to have to experience the traffic and parking again, we decided to give this area a try.

I didn’t even bother to get into the water, since I could see the conditions were not ideal for snorkeling and, after all, I was (trying) to fulfill a dream, so, back in the car we went.

After sitting in traffic and circling to park, we arrived at The Cove. I was super excited to get into the water and my very supportive husband watched me from the beach as my wing-man. I secretly think he felt above snorkeling since he had mastered the navy seal scuba diving experience, but I’ll go with “supportive.”

I didn’t even feel the cold water as I entered the shallow water with just a mask, snorkel and fins (no wetsuit). Nor did I feel the sharp edges on the rocks beneath my feet, later realized by a fairly deep cut on the bottom of my foot.

I’m sure my adrenaline was at its peak, since the feeling of exhilaration was incredible! The water was clear, the fish WERE pretty and I was relaxed knowing that I could just pick my head up out of the water if I felt overwhelmed.

With my husband’s encouragement at the edge of the water (and the fact that there were kids under eight gliding with ease through the water beside me), I snorkeled and LOVED it!

After about 20 minutes, I exited the shallow waters and fell into my husband, laughing hysterically. I had to hold onto him to keep from falling over. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but it felt like all kinds of emotions were finally being released.

I was exhausted, but satisfied and proud at what I had accomplished, years after my failed attempt to check something off on my bucket list. I didn’t scuba dive, but I did snorkel in La Jolla Cove. I’m sure the sense of satisfaction, happiness and pride were no less.

When I composed myself, stopped laughing and had the strength to stand on my own I asked my husband to take my picture. I got some lovely comments on this picture when I shared it, such as, “You’re rocking the whole look” and “You rock!”

After reading the comments I thought about how people were (kindly) commenting on how I looked. This was not my motivation in posing for the picture. If it was, I surely would have smoothed out the gathered bathing suit material around my midsection.

The reason I wanted my husband to snap a picture of this specific moment in time was because of how I FELT and I wanted to remember it forever. I DID IT!

Rocking It 1
So if you have been putting off something on your bucket list because of time, money or because you’re not sure you have the courage, don’t abandon your goal altogether, instead, try a simpler, yet related activity. I can’t guarantee you’ll feel like a rock star, but you might be surprised at how fulfilling it may be!

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