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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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

Gratitude

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Yes, I have more questions than answers into my fifties, but one of them isn’t, “When will I be able to spend more time with my family?” My two adult children, my husband and I enjoy spending time with each other. Yes, our cross country RV trip was more like “family survivor” but we survived!

My husband recently celebrated his birthday and one of the things he wanted to do on his special day was to go on a hike. I’m a given hiking partner, but on this particular day both of our children agreed to join us, as well. 

It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, which made the hike that much more pleasant. I remember taking the same hike up Schunemunk Mountain in the summer and it seemed much more strenuous on an extremely steamy day in July. Schunemunk Mountain is the highest mountain in Orange County, NY. It spans the towns of Blooming Grove, Cornwall and Woodbury, and the 1,664-foot summit is located in Blooming Grove, my back yard!

This is one of my favorite hikes, since we enter at one trail head and exit at another. This means we have to take 2 cars, park one at the exit location and drive the other to our entrance, but it is much more rewarding than making a loop and doubling back the way we enter the trail. This free hike is well maintained and clearly marked by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a volunteer-based federation of about 10,000 members, which includes 2,000 miles of foot trails around the New York metropolitan area! To follow the trail, keep your eyes on the painted blazes on trees and sometimes on rocks at your feet. Also, be on the lookout for rock and/or branch formations other considerate hikers may have left behind. If you see branches or rocks that look like they are blocking a path, they may have been strategically placed for just that reason. Be aware of your surroundings when you hike and, remember, keep your eyes on the painted blazes. It’s easy to lose sight of them, especially while taking in the beautiful scenery and chatting with your trail mates.

We chose to enter on Clove Road near Hil-mar Lodge and follow the ORANGE  trail (the former aqua trail) to the top of the mountain after dropping off our second car at the Otterkill Road trail head parking near the Moodna Viaduct (train trestle). This entrance is a little more of a gentle incline than coming in at the train trestle entrance, which immediately presents a very steep uphill climb.

A steady incline, but not too steep

A steady incline, but not too steep

After about an hour of steady, but not too rigorous uphill hiking, we reached the summit. As one reluctant hiker commented, “This made it all worth it!”

The summit of Schunemunk Mountain

Schunemunk Mountain Summit

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A great time for a break!

It was such a clear day

It was such a clear day

After a little break which included a snack, taking some pictures and checking out the beautiful views of the Hudson River and Storm King Art Center in the distance, we continued along the summit briefly as we continued hiking on the RED trail. Since we knew we would have to change directions here, we kept referring to our trail map to be sure we would be heading back down the mountain and to our car. I have to say, even though this can be a bit stressful, I like finding my way in the woods with a map, especially when I don’t get lost!

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Beautiful vista!

It turns out we were heading in the right direction, since the trail looked familiar and we soon reached a handmade memorial bench on a vista where I always pause to take in the sights and wonder what significance this spot had to the woman who passed away six years ago. It’s inscribed, “Sweet dreams Sharon” and this time of year there were a bunch of red roses left on the bench to mark the October anniversary of Sharon’s passing. She was around my age when she died, which draws me to this spot and her story even more. I also wonder about the person who built this beautiful bench in Sharon’s honor and what it took for that person to haul the building materials up to this spot.

Memorial Bench

Memorial Bench

You can see the trestle through the trees

You can see the trestle through the trees

We continue back down the mountain where the descent gets rather steep and we need to step cautiously so as not to slip and fall. When we reached the train trestle on our right and we were steps from the end of the trail on Otterkill Road, we stopped for a few minutes so my son and I could check out the  trestle surroundings. It’s one of my favorite sights in this area and anyone that knows it would agree. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth the trip! On this day, my son and I wanted to do some investigative reporting. We had recently read that a girl had fallen off the trestle and had luckily been spared due to the fact that the trees broke her fall. We wondered if this was the spot, but concluded that it couldn’t have been since the trees in this area were much too small to break her fall. While there we noticed some graffiti on the huge, rusted, steel beams. It went partially out onto the trestle as the ground dropped further away and the trestle continued to the west. My son commented this was probably a badge of honor (from the perspective of the graffiti artist), the further out, the braver the person. I hadn’t thought of that.

Within a few minutes we were walking along Otterkill Road to our car at the trail head parking. A quick ride to our starting point at Hill- Mar Lodge to pick up our second car and I was on my way home.  The total hike was about 4 miles and took about 2 hours. It didn’t cost a thing and included some spectacular views. I always feel a sense of accomplishment after a hike and although I’m tired, I feel rejuvenated.

The gratitude that I felt after my husband’s birthday hike was for time spent with my family. I’m so lucky that this isn’t a rarity and that most times we truly enjoy each others company.

The Finnan Family

The Finnan Family