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

 

 

 

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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If I Can Do It, So Can You!

And if I can do it in one aspect of my life, I can do it in another. As I transition my next phase, I am redefining my life, my relationships and my goals. I seemed to have way more goals, dreams, and ideas for how I can make an impact in some small way, that it all became overwhelming to me and I didn’t even know where to start.

I began to get a little more clarity and success when I decided not to do too much at once. In addition to simplifying my life, finding my purpose (see Courtney Carver’s, bemorewithless.com for some great tips) and working on my writing, one of my goals is fitness, so I decided to try something I have always wanted to do, but NEVER attempted: RUNNING.

I began very, very slowly, running for 1 minute, and then walking for as long as it took to catch my breath (and get up the nerve to continue). As I shared my method with others I encountered, they told me this sounded like the Couch to 5k Running Plan (coolrunning.com). I just did what felt right.

Each time I run, I try to increase the amount of time that I run and decrease the amount of time I walk. Since my daughter recently started running, I would check in with her from time to time for encouragement.

Over the course of about 4 weeks, I went from running for 1 minute, to 2 minutes, to 4 minutes (I was stuck here for a while), to 7 minutes, etc. I stuck with this method of gradually increasing my running time and I run/walk every other day for 2 miles, running about 1.5 miles of that distance (about 20 minutes).

Me, tired, but feeling good after my run

Me, tired, but feeling good after my run

This method of building endurance is really a good metaphor for how I can target some of my other goals. Start off small, remain focused, work at it consistently (even when stuck at some level), ask for support when needed and share successes with others.

There may even be some added bonuses along the way. This morning, as I was running by a man crouched over weeding his front lawn I said, “They never end, do they?” He replied with an unlit cigarette in his smile, “No, and thank goodness, this is my therapy!” I got a good laugh and a warm feeling from this interaction with a stranger. As I continued running, I reflected on the fact that running has been therapy for me, as well.

What have you been meaning to do, to work on, or to finish? Do you have so many things on your plate that you feel overwhelmed and exhausted before you even begin? If so, pick one task, one that is doable and perhaps seems the easiest to complete. Focus on this one goal and write down each day (or every other day, etc.) what you will do to see it through. Small steps are OK and you will build momentum and confidence as you check them off!

Be consistent and share your journey with a supportive friend (or me). This creates a feeling of accountability and it’s nice to have a cheering section.

Good luck and feel free to comment and share your successes here!

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

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