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

 

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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

 

 

 

You Reap What You Sow

This expression has always had a negative connotation to me, until recently.

I have been reflecting on my relationships with my children lately, since our quality time together will be forever altered. By the end of the summer my husband and I will have a true empty nest. Not the college-years-empty nest where the kids come home for long periods of time and are still dependent on us, but the kind of empty nest where they begin their independent lives with “their” people and, most likely, will never live under our roof again.

I think we all strive to raise our kids with what we feel we may not have gotten and in my case it’s sensitivity. As a kid I was often told by my well-meaning parents that I was, “too sensitive.” Feelings weren’t really processed much and I was raised with a “stiff-upper-lip-turn-the other-cheek” attitude. As a preteen and well into my twenties, I was one big confused raw emotion and I felt emotionally fragile most of the time. Through much soul searching, life experiences and self-acceptance, I have grown into my sensitivity and actually think it’s one of my best qualities.

While raising my children I’ve always acknowledged what and how they were feeling and how their interactions with others impacted those around them. We didn’t shy away from openly discussing how we all felt, no matter how difficult it may have been at times.
My children are sensitive, compassionate adults, and I get to “reap what I’ve sown.” I may not have gotten the sensitivity that I craved as a child but in fostering it in my children, I’m getting it twofold.

 

by Adella

by Adella

Use the Good Stuff!

I still remember the day my mom took the plastic slip covers off of our gold velour living room furniture. I was mesmerized! The furniture the family of six had been sitting on, eating on and napping on looked brand new. At 12 years old, I found it pretty amazing that we had 10-year-old furniture that looked so pristine. My mom was my hero. My dad was also very creative in maintaining and repairing things rather than discarding them. He had a flip top kitchen garbage can which stopped flipping its top due to the fact that its side plastic tabs broke off. No problem for my dad, he just glued a bolt in each side and voila, good for another 10 years.

I’m not sure if my conservative attitude in buying new things comes from growing up in a family of 6 with parents that grew up in the depression era, pinching pennies as a stay at home mom in a single income family, or a combination of the two, but it’s only been recently that I’ve even noticed how desperate some of my household and personal items look. I don’t remember my parents ever throwing anything away. They reused everything and if it was broken, they repaired it. If it was dingy, my mom bleached it. Our clothes may have been a bit tattered, but they sure were white. My dad still makes “scratch pads” out of cut up recycled paper stapled together.

Now that I’m into my fifties with a new attitude, I’ve decided to treat myself a bit.  I’m using the fancy salon shampoo and conditioner and the “Jennifer Aniston” skin care products.  After taking my dog, Andre to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist for eye surgery (worth every penny), I even decided to spend more than $20.00 for a haircut!

Perhaps it’s  because I’m into my fifties and my new attitude dictates that I satisfy my wants, as well as my needs, or it may even be necessary these days to replace things more often, since they aren’t made like they used to be and they just wear out sooner. Either way, I’m seeing things with a whole new perspective. A few weeks ago, as I was unloading the dishwasher, I looked at my glassware and my dishes as if I was seeing them for the first time. I was horrified! Many of the dishes had chips around the edges and some even had slight cracks. ALL of my glasses were cloudy and spotty. Ugh! Replacing these items was very inexpensive and, oh, so rewarding. My family never complained about the old things we were using, but they sure did notice when they were replaced.

plates1

My new dishes

I still remember what started me on my recent journey of “me.” One day I really took notice of what was in my bra drawer. I think I laughed and cried at the same time. My kids are in their twenties and I had a few bras that looked as if they were older than them. Some of them were so stretched out that they weren’t even serving their purpose, as evidenced by my reflection in my bedroom mirror (and a comment made by a well-meaning friend). A bit embarrassed, I went for a professional bra fitting at a department store and purchased a few well-fitting, beautifully lifting, very expensive brassieres.

The bottom line is that we’re all worth it. We need to take care of ourselves, to ask for what we need and to let people know what’s on our minds and in our hearts. After all, we teach people how to treat us. We need to do for ourselves what we would do for others. My husband and I didn’t think twice about taking care of our dog, Andre, and getting him the proper medical care he needed. He brings us so much joy on a day-to-day basis and is a part of our family. I guess it’s only natural that I begin to reflect on the fact that my life is not infinite. While I’m here, I plan to have silky hair, soft skin and great bras!

dogs

That’s Andre (minus one eye) on the right and Louie on the left