Another Day…Just Breathe.

October is Healthy Lungs Month. Today, October 28, is Lung Health Day. I never gave these much thought, until this year.

Last April, I lost my Dad to a combination of many things, but the main ones being COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and ultimately, lung cancer. My Dad was a smoker for almost 50 years.

I love my Dad, and I miss him everyday, but he did not take care of himself, no matter how many times we asked him to. Sometimes, with enough urging (and some yelling) he would try to do better. But he always seemed to eventually go back to his old ways. “I’ll do what I want” seemed to be his mantra. You don’t get the nickname “Wild Bill” for nothing.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

My Dad was stubborn (just like his daughter) and he lived his life the way he chose to and by his own rules. In many ways, I admired that quality in him, and hope that I, too, can live my life they way I see fit, and not how anyone else tells me I should. There were some times though that I just wish he would have taken the advice of others, mainly regarding his health.

There are two major things my Dad taught me (in addition to learning how to drive): always be yourself no matter what or who says otherwise, and to take care of your body. Sadly, I had to learn the second one by watching him do the exact opposite and slowly suffering over time. Sometimes I think I didn’t try hard enough to get him to do better. Sometimes I think he must not have cared enough about me to do better. Sometimes I realize that there was nothing I could do and he did the best he could. And it had nothing to do with me.

As I mentioned, I have worked hard to take care of myself. I never smoked (ok, I did once in my best friend’s backyard in high school but that was it, I swear). I hardly drink. I watch what I eat (to a fault sometimes). I work out in some way every day and have for the past 17 years. I’ve run 6 half marathons and countless other races. I do yoga. I think about my life and how precious it is. I try not to waste a single second (I don’t always succeed, but I am forever trying). In a way, I have my Dad to thank for this. It’s not the happiest motivator – but I do believe he was very proud of me, and hopefully he knew how much that meant to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Thanks, Dad.

Although my Dad was too stubborn to accept any help, I’d like to think that there are many others out there who can still be helped, and that maybe, just maybe, I could help them. Not only do I have a passion for treating myself right, but I’m even more passionate about helping others to live better. So for National Lung Month, I’d like to tell everyone to get out there, get moving, and keep breathing. Check out some online resources (and there are many), like Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to learn more about lesser known dangers to lungs like asbestos which is known to cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma, and most importantly, spread the word. We can all live better, if we work together.

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Be excellent to each other.

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Dreams, They Complicate My Life.

I have been remembering my dreams since I was a little girl. I always thought they meant something more, even back then. Even today, I still not only remember the dreams I had last night, but I can still remember some of the very vivid ones I had growing up. A few times throughout my life, I even started a dream journal, and every so often when I’m in de-cluttering mode, I’ll stumble across an old journal and open it only to discover a handful of dreams from the summer of 1997, or some other isolated period.

I wish I had done more dream journalling. I love reading these little snippets of my past, because not only does writing down your dreams help you remember them, but it gives me so much insight into the person I was at that time, and how it has contributed to the person I am today.

Growing up, I often dreamed of storms – hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, tsunamis…and I was always running from them. Because of these dreams, I’ve developed an unhealthy fear of storms. I’m like the dog that hides in the tub at the first rumble of thunder. When Hurricane Sandy was coming, I pored obsessively over the projected path, and prayed and begged just before each time I looked at it that it would change and veer off out to sea. No such luck.

my worst nightmare.

my worst nightmare.

My Astraphobia is a post in itself, so I’ll save that for another time. Right now, I’m talking about dreams. I really do believe there is more to dreams than just “those things that happen when you close your eyes.” These things mean something. Whether it’s yourself telling  yourself what you already know but are afraid to admit, or the universe giving you a gentle reminder of who you are and where you’re going.

Personally, I think it’s a little of both.

A few years ago, I had a dream that I went to this party in someone’s attic. There was music playing – it was the song Then He Kissed Me, by the Crystals. In waking life, I had no connection to this song, whatsoever. But it played, in the background, in it’s entirety, which meant that in waking life I actually knew every note of every musical instrument of the actual song itself. That’s pretty crazy if you think about it. The brain is really a wonderfully amazing thing. Anyway, I was one of the first people at this party in the attic – I think I was helping set up. There was a green velvet couch against one wall. I was over by the couch as guests starting arriving. One guest was my now husband. At that time in waking life, he was they guy I went out with four times and wondered why we weren’t actually together. But here he was, in my dream, at this random attic party where they were playing Then He Kissed Me. We walked toward each other, and he looked at me and said, “I really want us to be together. It’s just not the right time yet.” And then, I woke up. I didn’t just wake up, I shot up. I remember sitting up in bed, and thinking, “what the funk was that??”

In the years that followed, I’d hear that song, and it would remind me of that dream, and the guy. As I mentioned in my previous post, the guy and I are now married. Guess what song played at our wedding for our first kiss?

and then he kissed me. (photo by The More We See)

and then he kissed me. (photo by The More We See)

Was it always going to be that way and that was why I dreamed about that song? Or was the dream of the song the reason it happened? The world may never know. But either way, the dream was important. It gave me hope. It reminded me of what I really wanted, deep inside myself.

I also often dream about people who have died, like so many other people do. In my dreams, the dead are usually intermingled with the living, however there is one thing that separates them – they do not speak. Not once has a dead person ever uttered a word in any of my dreams. Since my dad died a few months ago, I’ve had plenty of dreams about him. Yet not one single word. Weird, right?

i still miss him.

i still miss him.

I love dreams. I love dreaming. I’ve flown many times. I’ve controlled them many other times. I’ve talked with people I haven’t seen in years. I once dreamed I was chatting with my brother, and I asked him what the lyrics were to a certain song, and he said, “I don’t know, I’m just a character in your dream. If you don’t know the lyrics, then how am I supposed to know?”

Oh, Brother. (Photo by The More We See)

Oh, Brother. (Photo by The More We See)

Anyway, the reason I’m thinking about all this on this fine Sunday morning is that my husband is watching soccer in the other room so I have to find something else to do keep myself occupied, and more importantly, I had a very strange dream last night that I can’t stop thinking about. In waking life, sometime around 2005, I played in a band called 4 Hours Sleep. We had fun, and played a whole bunch of shows around Philly. We recorded an album of songs, and although the band wasn’t together for much longer after we were finished with the album, the songs really stood out to me, mainly because this was a pretty emotionally tumultuous time in my life, and the lyrics to those song still either make me smile, tear up, and just remind me what it means to grow up. In the dream, it was the present day, and I was at my mom’s house, and there was some kind of party going on. I was hanging out in my old bedroom, and I suddenly thought of that 4 Hours Sleep album, and began rooting through boxes of old stuff to try and find it. I eventually found it, and tried to play it on the TV (clearly this is the dream part) but I couldn’t get it to play, no matter how hard I tried. Then a bird flew into the room, I got scared and ran to my mom to help me get it out. Then I woke up.

I have no idea what that means, but this morning, I was on a mission to find that old 4 Hours Sleep CD. I had a vague idea of where it was, and lo and behold, I found it, and am listening to it as I type. It brings back wonderful and painful memories. And it also has on it my favorite song that I’ve ever written, that I had forgotten about.

I just made this youtube video and it took me like an hour. Can you believe this is the first time I’ve ever posted a video to youtube? Maybe that was the reason for the dream – to teach me how to do something new. 🙂

The Underlying Wonderful.

I can’t remember quite how it came to be, but when my husband and I were in our early stages of romance, I believe it was he who said something along the lines of “No matter where life takes us, never forget the underlying wonderful.”  A lot of people ask me how we met. I think it’s a pretty amazing story in it’s own right, and one that might just give others some hope who feel lost or alone and like they might never find “the one.” Not everyone finds “the one” when they’re in their early 20’s. And that’s ok. If I could do it all again, I’d do it exactly the same. Because it has led me right here.

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photo taken by The More We See.

It was the start of the summer of 2008. I had just come out of a two year relationship with someone, and wasn’t really looking for a new someone. I was playing with a new band at the time, and was nervous for our first show, so I asked some friends to come out for support. A friend of mine agreed to come with his wife, and he said he’d bring friends. I was on stage when they arrived. I walked over after the set to say hello…and that was when I met him. And I knew it right then, although I wasn’t really sure what it was that I knew. But there was something about this “friend” of my friend that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Sadly, this “friend” was there with his girlfriend. But we all became friends because I just had to be around this guy. He and his girlfriend wound up breaking up a few months later, and he and I went out. 4 times. It just wasn’t the right time for us though, and he got back together with his girlfriend, and I found someone else. But those 4 times never left my mind. I thought about him every single day and wondered why it happened that way. I was so sure he was who I was supposed to be with. How could I be so sure that he was “the one” if I wasn’t even going to be with him? As the years went on, it seemed less and less likely that we would ever find our time. Another relationship ended for me, and I decided it was time for me to figure out what the heck I was doing.

I started practicing yoga. I started journaling. I graduated pastry school and got a new job. I hung out with friends and did the things I always wanted to do. I traveled all over the world.  I asked myself why my life was the way it was, and I found the answer: it was how it was because of me. Not because of anyone else. Everything I did in my life was my responsibility. Once I came to realize this, old unresolved relationships began to either mend or end. I was able to confidently move in the direction of my dreams. I was able to forgive myself for my past mistakes. I was able to admit them to others and to myself, and say sorry.

By now, it was early 2013. I had just returned from another trip. I was thinking about “the guy” again, since this seemed to be the only relationship left that I still hadn’t gotten any closure on. One day, on a walk with a friend, I told him the whole story. I said I thought I might always wonder what could have been. We chatted about a few other things, and somehow on that same walk, I recounted a random story about how some girl was jealous because she thought i was interested in her boyfriend and how ridiculous that was. My friend stopped in his tracks. “How is this any different from the first story?” he asked. I told him it was because I actually DID have feelings for the first guy so that made it ok, and he went on to say, “that doesn’t matter. This is the exactly the same thing.” I argued with him, but began realizing he was absolutely right. The reason it never worked out with “the guy” was not because of him or his girlfriend our our friends – it was because of me. I suddenly was sorry for how I handled things. And I felt, at that moment, that I could move on and be just fine.

A month later, out of the blue, “the guy” emailed me. He was single, I was single. We agreed to meet. Two years later, we were married. We’re both 39.

photo taken by The More We See.

photo taken by The More We See.

The point is not that everyone is worth waiting for, or that you should sit around and let love find you. The point is that once you find you, meaning once you realize your own faults, your own hopes, your own dreams – only then can you be the person you would want to be in a relationship with. And the door to the underlying wonderful opens. 🙂

Enjoying the thing you are doing.

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The other day, I was driving to work, and I started thinking about leaving. Not leaving home or my job or my husband. No – about going out to things that I was really looking forward to and thinking while I’m there about leaving. I started to wonder why that happens. And what I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. Granted, sometimes you go somewhere and you really are not having a good time, or it wasn’t quite what you thought it would be, and you legitimately want to leave. But other times, I just feel like leaving for no reason. Ask my husband about my weird desire to leave concerts/sporting events/shows at least 30 minutes before the end (sometimes more). Sometimes I even feel this way when I’m the one PERFORMING the concert! I guess I just start thinking about all the other things I have to do; about how long it will take me to get home; about what time I have to wake up the next day; about how and when I’m going to fit in a run. The worst part is that these are not awkward/weird/unpleasant events. These things are FUN! I should be enjoying myself!!! So then why do I often want to leave? I made a conscious decision at that moment: to get to the bottom of this, and to no longer want to leave.

In order to do this, I started thinking about the things I’ve done that I never wanted to leave – those events and occasions that you just wish would stretch on into the wee hours of the morning and then some. What about those things was different? Some involved my husband and when we first met. Ok, that makes perfect sense – that new love and all the excitement and butterflies that come with it. I won’t count those things for now. But what other events did I wish would never end? I remembered back to a Peter Gabriel concert in 2002. It was an amazing show, and I could have sat there and watched him all night. I remembered a concert from high school where I played Eponine from Les Miz and I did not want that performance to end. I remembered pretty much every gig with my old band Sonic Girl, and I never wanted any of them to end. I remembered my wedding day. I remembered a Gillian Welch concert, also some time around 2002. I remembered pretty much all of my classes in Pastry School. I remembered laughing with a couple of friends all night about random things that no one else would think were funny (like how old Ben Franklin would be if he were alive today). I remembered playing and camping at the Newport Folk Festival in 2004.

from our campsite in Newport.

from our campsite in Newport.

So what do all of these things have in common? For starters, they seemed magical. There was some kind of magical energy at each of these events that made me wish they would never end. But I think it’s more than that. All of these events had two things in common which made them “magical.” Two thing that have to occur in order for me to wish they would go on forever:

1. They are things I am passionate about

2. I have to be fully present

I HAVE TO BE FULLY PRESENT. Sure, being passionate about it is also important, but I could be enjoying so much more in life if only I allowed myself to be fully there to enjoy it! That’s the key. To allow myself to actually enjoy these things while they are happening and not spend my time thinking and worrying about the next thing. Every event can be magical in a sense, if we let it be.

This weekend, I went camping. I  hadn’t been camping in many years, because last time – you guessed it – I wanted to leave. This time, it was different. I wanted to stay. I wanted to breathe the air and enjoy the trees and watch the fire. It was relaxing. It was fun. And i never once wanted to leave.

who would want to leave this??

who would want to leave this??

I’m sure there will be times and events that I will want to leave. But I promise to try my darndest to be there and enjoy each moment as it’s happening from now on. It’s gonna take some time, and some practice. But it’s definitely going to be worth it.

When Life Happens.

I haven’t posted anything in a while.

I’m not upset about that – I haven’t really felt like writing. Maybe it’s because things have been a little crazy. Some major events happened over the past few months:

1. I got married.

2. I went to Prague.

3. My father died.

#3 actually happened first. My father died almost exactly one month before my wedding. Being so sad and so happy at the same time is quite a challenge. And mentally exhausting. This was on top of the stress of planning a wedding in it’s final stages. I really just didn’t have time to write. At least,that was my excuse.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

The truth is, I’ve loved to write since I was about 9 years old, when after a class assignment to write a short story about a polar bear, I discovered not only did I enjoy doing it, but I was pretty good at it, too! Every week, I looked forward to Fridays, when we got the chance to write another story. Writing was my passion. Through the years, my focus on it has ebbed and flowed – but I always come back to it. I admit I have many passions; but writing is and always will be the one ring to rule them all.

So why did I stop? Having no time was definitely a contributing factor – but not because I actually had no time for it – I just wasn’t making time for it and I believe that was intentional. When life gets too heavy, I push writing away out of fear. Writing for me, is about truth – about sharing a part of you that no one sees. Sometimes, when life becomes “too much,” I don’t really want anyone to see that.

Another big reason I stopped blogging in particular was because I had stopped baking – I really didn’t have time for that, what with  wedding crafts, family visits, vendor meetings, etc. So no baking = no blogging. That thought depressed me. Why should I have to stop writing just because I had stopped baking? Well, duh, I don’t. There are no rules in writing! That’s the beauty of the craft! So, I stripped away the limitations, and redid the blog. It’s still called Small Indulgences. It will still have recipes and baking adventures. But that’s only part of the fun. Living a life full of Small Indulgences – that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I want to write about. Having coffee with an old friend – that’s a Small Indulgence. Taking a Stand Up Paddle Boarding class with my husband (I still smile when I get to call him that) – that’s a Small Indulgence. Scratching my cat Gandalf the Gray behind the ears until he starts purring – that’s a Small Indulgence. Heck, watching the next episode of Game of Thrones is even a Small Indulgence! The little things we enjoy, that make us smile and warm our hearts – these are the things that matter. These are what life is all about. These are things worth sharing. And hence forth, they will be shared.

It’s not the size that counts; its how you live it.

So let’s get out there and live. 🙂

living it up in Prague.

living it up in Prague.

23.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m being stalked by the number 23. It started about 3 years ago, when I started seeing it everywhere. When I’d pull up behind a car and the license plate would have “23” in it. When I’d happen to be walking by someone in conversation and they’d randomly say “23” at the very moment I passed within ear shot. When I’d be about to pay for something, and the bill would be $23. Some days (like today), it’s around much more than others, and those days are usually the ones also happen to be filled with contemplative thoughts about my life – where I am, how I got here, where I’m going,  and how to be better. Those days, I seem to be practically slapped in the face with it. And being that 3 years ago was when I really began the crusade to live responsibly, it makes sense that it started appearing then.

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my stalker.

Let me say that I believe in the Universe; that when you want something, it does in fact conspire in helping you achieve it; and that we are all a part of something bigger than us, I figured it had to be some kind of message. So, I started doing some research (and by research, I mean I googled “23”).  Some of the results included a movie called “23”, another movie called “The Number 23”,  Michael Jordan’s Jersey, and something called the “23 Enigma” which claimed that everything relates to the number 23.  That last one was the only that seemed like it could have something to do with why I was seeing the number everywhere (although I did have a short-lived dream of playing professional basketball when I was a kid), but even that seemed a bit far-fetched and it really had nothing I could relate to or apply to my own life. So those were out.

not gonna happen.

not gonna happen.

Then one afternoon after coming off of a very 23-heavy morning,  I stopped into a gas station at the last minute, even though I had no time and enough gas to get home. For some reason, I just decided I needed to get gas at that very moment. As I sat there waiting for the tank to fill, a truck pulled up to the stop light, and stopped right in front of my face. It was solid white, with nothing but one long line of black writing on the side, spanning the full length of the trailer, from left to right.  It said:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. “ ~ Psalm 23

Now let me just say that I’m not a very religious person. Like I mentioned, I believe in the Universe – a higher power that connects us all to one another – but this was clearly what the number meant; what the Universe had been trying to tell me all along.

Everything I need to make my life better I already have.

Sometimes it’s a hard thing to remember, what with social media, mass media, and pretty much any kind of media constantly throwing all these images and ads at you full of things that you absolutely must have in order to be “happy” and live a better life: a nicer car, a bigger house, the newest iPhone, this hot new diet, the latest album, and so on and so on and so on….

I’m not immune to these media blasts by any means. I look at social media and (more often then I’d like to admit) think about all the things I don’t have, and subsequently start to believe I immediately need to get all those things and then I’ll be as happy as everyone else, as the people in all the pictures. Then depression starts to set in, and the downward spiral into the “have-nots” and “why-nots” begins. .But without fail, before I’ve spun completely out of control, it appears, like a lighthouse guiding a lost ship through the darkness back home.

23…. 23…. 23….

You have everything you need. Remember that. And be thankful for it.

The lighthouse at Assateague. Taken on my vacation this past summer, enjoying everything I have.

The lighthouse at Assateague, taken while on vacation this past summer, enjoying the wonderful things I’m lucky to have in my life.

Good Books Come to Those Who Wait.

 

books

Every so often, I feel the desire to write about something other than baking – a small indulgence of a different kind, so to speak. Today, is just such a day. Today’s topic: books.

I have this theory – I believe that the right book finds its way to you at the right time. Whether it be a gift, something left on a table in the doctor’s office, something you happened to notice one day on your own shelf that you never gave a second glance to before….however it happens, it’s like a light goes off when you see it, and you just know this is the next book you must read. When this happens, I find I better get right to it and start reading because whatever is in this book is something that I really need. And it has not let me down yet.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, this happened again. This time, the book was intended for someone else, but due to extenuating circumstances, was not given to the person it was initially intended for, and wound up being given to me, instead. As soon as it was placed in my hand, I knew it had to be the very next book I read. For the next week or so, I kept carrying it around, thinking I was going to start it. Then, after a somewhat tough day, I finally opened it and began reading.

I finished it two days later – this afternoon, to be exact. I laughed. I cried (a lot). I related to it and the characters. But most of all, I learned something about myself when I had finished – something I needed to learn in order to get to the next chapter of my own story. And to the next book.

Everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected. What we do everyday not only changes our own lives, but changes the lives of every person we come into contact with – and sometimes those we don’t. We find the things we need, if we only open our eyes and look around us. Life is a gift – a wonderful, exciting, scary, emotional, roller-coaster of a gift. I’m sure the author of this book, or of all the other books that have changed me, did not ever think they would have such an effect on a random individual so far removed from them in time and space. Yet, that is precisely what happened. We all are part of each other.

our real-life bookshelves.

our real-life bookshelves.

Thank you, friend, for giving me this book. Thank you author, for writing this book. Thank you world, for my place in it. I can’t wait for the next book. 🙂

Gotta be the Shoes.

shoes

So, every so often, I write about something other than baking, and it’s usually one of three things: travelling, music, or running. And this just so happens to be one of those posts (surprise!).

I’ve been running now for a while – but I started actually racing back in 2011, when I ran my first ever official race around this time that year. It was a 10k, I was nervous as heck, cried on the way there, ran the thing anyway, and felt like a different person when it was over. I had done it – and I had done it on my own.

A year later, around this time in 2012, I ran the same race – and remarked on what a difference a year can make. I again cried on the way there, but this time, it was tears of joy – of accomplishment. I was again going to the race by myself, however I no longer felt alone, I no longer had any fear. I felt awake and alive, and was grateful for everything that came and went in that past year.

This year, I was going to run the same race, as kind of an homage to my racing beginnings. However, due to a very exciting turn of events, I won’t be racing this year. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not still running, and more importantly, reflecting.

Had someone asked me where I thought I’d be this time next year at last year’s race, I would have never imagined it would be where I actually am. It’s been a truly AMAZING year – I couldn’t be more grateful for all the wonderful things and people that have come into my life (or been there along) and just keep making it more and more fabulous to be alive. And by the way, it’s true what they say – sometimes the very thing you’re looking for is right in front of you – you just might have to be a little patient until it’s right. You can’t run a marathon without the proper training, right? 😉

Anyway, this post was originally going to be solely about my new running shoes, and how I couldn’t tell if it was the shoes or my mind that was making me run faster. But in the end, I’ve realized, it’s both. You can have the fanciest gear in the world, but your head’s got to be in it. If you really want something, you’ll always find a way to make it happen, even with old beat up shoes. The right shoes just make it that much easier.

And so it is, with life. It’s not the shoes that matter – it’s how you use them.

You Get What You Give.


A year ago today, I experienced what may have been the worst thing that ever happened to me. Although I don’t wish pain (mental or physical) on anyone, I do hope that everyone gets to experience such an awakening as I did, and if a horrible event is what brings it about, then so be it.

I learned to be responsible for my actions and to live my life with integrity. I learned that patience truly is a virtue and must be practiced daily. I learned that your body, mind, and spirit are stronger than you could ever imagine, and are capable of healing even the deepest wounds. I learned that being alone does not mean being lonely (and in fact, it has the opposite effect). I learned what it means to have a real friend and to be one in return, and that one real relationship is better than 1000 superficial ones. I learned to laugh more deeply, to cry more openly, and to really get good and angry. I learned that looking people in the eye and telling them the truth is always the right thing to do and brings harmony and peace to your life and theirs (even though it may be the hardest thing you can imagine doing). I learned that love actually…IS all around.

And most importantly, I learned the simplest lesson of all, which is so often taken for granted: You Get What You Give.

if you want to get flowers, you have to give them, too.

Really bad things happen to good people. But it’s through those breakdowns that we can learn what it means to be great people. Be excellent to each other. Time won’t wait for you – so wake up and live while you still can. You’ll wonder where you’ve been all your life. 🙂