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The season of blessings

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is this time of year so different from any other? We still go to work. We still take care of daily chores. But there is an excitement, an expectation. Some of us work hard to damp that expectation down, seeking to avoid the disappointment of hopes unfulfilled. Some of us battle feelings of sadness that our own life isn't "more", somehow. But not everyone!

Yesterday I went to visit my sister in law, the one with ALS. I went bearing a plate of the cookies my son helped bake on Saturday, a gift to the household, which includes her daughter in law and two grand-daughters... all of them left behind by my nephew's passing last February.

What did I find in my visit? A home full of love and caring. A home full of positives and hope. Because she tires easily I don’t stay long. We talked of the things we can be grateful for: that she has family living with her, to help her. We talked of the amazing technology that allows her to text and have it give me a synthetic voice phone call, of the fancier camera technology that will read her eye movements and allow her to type (she doesn’t have that yet, she can still type). We expressed gratitude that she has a window she can look out on the world. That she still has *some* mobility and functionality.

We spoke of hope: that the pharmaceutical trial she’s a part of will result in slowing down or stopping the progress of the disease, and she will be able to adjust to a “new normal”, knowing what she can do, and finding new ways to do common things. She wishes she could be more active, and she wants to find a level of activity she *can* live with and be as healthy as she can for as long as she can.

There were some tears, too, when we spoke of her son, and what a good father he had been to his beautiful little girls. They are growing up so fast. I sat with them for a bit while the visiting priest ministered to my sister in law.

I had done my own workout at the gym before our visit. After the visit I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and allowed myself to go calendar shopping. I love motivational calendars, and am so disappointed that Spark didn’t offer a page a day one this year. Fortunately, I kept some of my favorite Spark Calendar pages to recycle!

And as I reflected on my day, I came to the gentle awareness that yes, this is what Christmas is about... the love and appreciation we bear to one another. Christmas is about hope and love.

May these joys fill your home, whether you celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, the Winter Solstice and the growing return of light to the world, any other religious event or nothing at all. If I have one wish for the world it is for gratitude, hope, comfort and love to permeate hearts and minds everywhere.

Or, to put in in the old-fashioned way: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all.

Spark on! emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEBRITA01 12/22/2011 10:04PM

    Your SIL's positivity is inspiring and your words touched my heart. Christmas IS about love. Merry Christmas! emoticon

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CONCHA77 12/20/2011 8:17AM

    I don't know if it is your beautiful words this morning that I am reading on this blog or my hormones but tears are rolling and my heart is filled with joy, it's all good. You surely filled my heart with joy. Merry Christmas, Barb.
Tis the Season. emoticon

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KARIDIAN1 12/19/2011 11:47PM

    Your sister has such a good attitude for everything she is dealing with. So nice that you can visit them often.

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FIT4GOOD3 12/19/2011 1:57PM

    Thank you, Barb, for this inspiring blog. You have a beautiful family - your son chose well!

Wishing you and yours every blessing of the season.


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MSLZZY 12/19/2011 1:27PM


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ANDI571 12/19/2011 12:08PM

    I am always in awe of those that are going through such trials, and you would never know it by their attitude. I'm glad you had a nice visit. emoticon

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KALIGIRL 12/19/2011 11:16AM

    "If I have one wish for the world it is for gratitude, hope, comfort and love to permeate hearts and minds everywhere."

Amen and a joyous holiday season to you!

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LOVE_2_LAUGH 12/19/2011 9:44AM

    A beautiful blog, Barb. This is tagged the season of hope and love, and yet we should be in that spirit all year through. So glad you were able to have such a warm and loving visit with your sister. God's blessings to you and yours!

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Observations on the season of gift-giving

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When I was a kid (oh, no, there she goes again) the gifts we got at Christmas time were essentially things we needed anyway, just wrapped up. New undies (my one and only shot at day-of-the-week undies came as a wrapped package on Christmas... tmi, I know, I think I was 8 or 10 at the time). PJ's. Slippers. Gloves. That sort of thing.

Well, these days, I don't have a lot of people in my life (like parents, say) who know what I need. And I don't know what other people need, even the people I care about. So it's hard to replicate the Christmasses of my youth, at least in terms of gifts that mean something special. I guess the meaning (for me) was that a true gift was simply our needs were being met. Every time I think about the gifts of the middle years, when nobody knew what anybody really needed, I feel a little hollow and let down: the year I got a bracelet from mom that broke when I first put it on. The clothing that didn't fit my burgeoning girth (which of course I hid from the family because I lived 1200 miles away and could!)

As I come upon the gift-giving season, I feel relieved that most of my family is now Jewish, or Buddhist, or Atheist, or whatever and I don't have to think to the level of "what does this person need or like?" Because to me, a gift that they didn't want (or need)... isn't much of a gift at all.

Several years back, instead of giving gifts, I went to making donations to charities. As for Christmas shopping? I did mine last night. Under the tree for me? New undies and socks. And some running tights. From my personal Santa to me.

For those of you who are waiting for the running report from yesterday: felt good running outdoors on a great day with my son. I slowed him down (a little over 10 minute miles). He kept me going (the full 3.4 miles). Win-win! Then he came over to my place post-showers and errands and we baked the Christmas cookies - full of sugar and butter and flour... and I sent the bulk home with him, reserving a plateful to take to my sister in law and a small sample to take to work. None left for me... YES! Now, that's a gift.

The best gift of all? Time together.

Life's good, Spark on! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MAGGIE101857 12/22/2011 8:01AM

    Brought back memories of Christmas pasts! We always had a pair of pj's to open on Christmas eve so we looked pretty for the next morning! And you are right, it was mostly things we needed, but there was always one special gift that we "wanted" - a favorite large green stuffed snake that I named FANG" comes to mind : ) and our stockings stuffed were such a treat. To this day, my stocking being filled means the most to me!

I love giving gifts that show I was thinking of that doesn't have to cost a lost, and I love to do something homemade. This year, with the economy, I went smaller but personal and included some home baked truffles. My BH goes into a panic each year so he and I went shopping last night and I picked up "my gifts" from him....things to aid me in my goal to run, run, run....!!

Sorry for rambling this morning!! I'm jealous you got to spend time with your son - 2 of my 3 children are in FL and I wont' get to be with them this Christmas : ( Merry Christmas to you!

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LINDAJOYWK 12/22/2011 7:45AM

    Time-a very precious gift indeed.

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FROGGGY13 12/19/2011 2:23PM

    My husband told me he dislikes receiving gifts and asked me not to get him anything for Christmases, birthdays, etc. It makes it easier not to feel obliged to exchange gifts. If I want or need something, I tell him I will get it - perhaps not very romantic, but it works for us. Our daughter gets a few little things from Santa and her grandparents.
The time together is indeed the most important thing.

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SUNNY332 12/19/2011 8:53AM

    I would agree with you Barb that the best gifts of the season do not involve price tags. They are things that have no price tags.

Hugs, Sunny

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_LINDA 12/18/2011 9:43PM

    Nothing beats family time together. Glad you had a nice one with your son! Our families are all financially strapped so we try to discourage gift giving. If we get something for them, it will be a practical gift they can use -like towels, jackets, and yes, socks.. If they want to bake us something, thats fine, but no spending. "Grandma', my sweet Mom, always gets her grandchildren things or gives them cash even though she doesn't have much to spare of her own, being on a limited government pension. I try to get her to stop spending on me, but she won't listen grr.

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KARIDIAN1 12/18/2011 6:39PM

    I remember getting undies and pj's. My grandmother made all our under wear and Jammie's. I didn't have store bought underwear until I got to junior high and needed to start wearing a bra. Both my grandmother made incredible doll dresses for our dolls.

So nice you got something nice for yourself that you really wanted, needed and fits!

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MOBYCARP 12/18/2011 6:24PM

    Time together with your adult child, seeing him/her manage his/her own life well: Priceless. The best gift, indeed.

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LOVE_2_LAUGH 12/18/2011 3:43PM

    Time together. ABSOLUTELY the best gift of all.

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MSLZZY 12/18/2011 1:02PM

    The best kind of day and the very best gift to give yourself-time with loved ones. HUGS!

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DRKYASHI 12/18/2011 11:18AM

    Nicely put -- Thank You for Sharing!
Peace... emoticon

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SLENDERELLA61 12/18/2011 9:17AM

    The time together is beautiful. Running together is awesome. The undies and useful gifts to self are just great. Have the beautiful Christmas you want and deserve. Thanks for being an ongoing inspiration, Barb, and proof that we CAN change our lifestyles even after years. Merry Christmas.-Marsha

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DEBRITA01 12/18/2011 8:57AM

    I remember Day of the Week undies ~ha! The gift of time is the best gift of all. Glad you got to share that with your son.

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LINDAJ0621 12/18/2011 8:34AM

    I loved your blog and it is a timely reminder to all of us that the best gift of all is time together!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 12/18/2011 8:11AM

    New undies, new socks, new running tights: all things you need, all things you want. Yay you for gifting you! Is there anything more comforting than a fresh pair of socks, just the right weight and colour and length to suit your own preferences?

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The body makes its demands

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Funny, when you are used to exercising, your body DEMANDS it. I started feeling this demand for activity on the way to work yesterday morning. I have held off exercise this week, other than my break walks because I had things that needed doing "in real life"... and it lost out first to overtime, then to grocery shopping and prescription pickup, and last night to anticipation.

The anticipation is of jogging with my son. He IM'd me last night and as we were setting up the appointment to bake cookies today he mentioned he figured he'd make me jog first. Smart Sergeant Son! This is actually a good plan and strategy to avoid overindulging in the cookies we make afterward. I might take one or two, but chances are good I'll be too endorphined up from the run to want to undo the good I've done.

Anyway, I know he'll track performance, and I'm looking forward to that. Testing myself against his GPS tracker for time and distance.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, full of conscious choices and good feelings. Life is good. Spark on! emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LJCANNON 12/18/2011 10:48PM

    emoticonEnjoy the Jog with your Son (like I need to tell you that!!) It is a Blessing and a half to be able to jog with him, AND that he WANTS to do it!!
emoticonThere is nothing wrong with indulging in a Cookie or Two, the Trouble is that I too often let it become a Dozen or Two, LOL!!!

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FROGGGY13 12/18/2011 4:19AM

    Sounds great! As for me, I feel the need to exercise for my mood - I always feel that the problems and worries are less distressing when I 'm sweaty and loosened up.
Have fun!

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KARIDIAN1 12/17/2011 8:47PM

    We look forward to our walks now too. And feel bad when a walk is missed due to weather or hectic schedule. Sounds like you have a nice day planned with your son.

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WATERMELLEN 12/17/2011 7:56PM

    Exercise first . . . because the body demands it . . . me too. This morning I got to the gym for cardio and weight lifting and then a great stretch session BEFORE I hit the stores and did the groceries etc. etc. Yeah. So glad, because would not have had the steam afterwards, that's for sure!!

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_LINDA 12/17/2011 6:27PM

    Awesome son and awesome Mom, you guys rock!!
Enjoy the running and baking!!!

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KASEYCOFF 12/17/2011 5:24PM

    And so much better to run before rather than have those 'good intentions' to go after but decide not to--!

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MOBYCARP 12/17/2011 1:48PM

    Very smart Sergeant Nephew! Not only does he keep you healthy, he scores more cookies for himself and his buddies, because they can eat however many you don't.

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LOVE_2_LAUGH 12/17/2011 1:27PM

    Have a GREAT day with your son, Barb! Sounds like fun!

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JUST_TRI_IT 12/17/2011 10:52AM

    Smart mom to make sure to include smart son in the day! Enjoy the running and the baking :)

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Surviving the "shoulda seen it coming"...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I tend to wear rose colored glasses. Especially when thinking about how much I can accomplish in a day, week or month! And of course in thinking that my programming code will work great in test! I call that part "programmer optimism". You try your own suite of test cases on it, but then it enters the real test phase where the business users try different sets of scenarios on it. And some of them are very creative about how they set up their test cases. (MobyCarp is rolling on the floor at this point, his e-mail tag line in action.)

In any case this is a "shoulda seen it coming" scenario. My code entered system test last Thursday. Guaranteed the next month is going to involve some justified overtime as the creativity is exercised (not to mention late breaking requirements changes). So that's the peek into the non-Spark life... that slops over into Spark. Everyone has analogous things in their non-Spark life!

So... my ambitious athletic training plan? Juxtaposed against three things: dark and cold, overtime, and holidays. Balance is vital! I can't NOT do the OT. In this case it's needed, people are depending on my getting my bit done so they can get theirs done.

I have my line in the sand, though. I *shall* continue to take my 10 to 15 minute walking breaks. I may not make it to the gym as often. But if I'm on track with the food and I get these walk breaks in, I can get through December and January... and pick up the training plan when things calm down a bit.

And maybe I back off the training performance expectations a shade. After all, the goal is to be healthy, not to injure myself. And NOT to outdo my baby brother. Because that's impossible when he sets his mind to it as a competition! emoticon

So, here's to healthy, balanced, nurtured Holidays, surving Winter and work variances... because life is good. Spark on! emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 12/17/2011 7:58PM

    My work is busy at the moment too . . . and also not postponable. Plus of course the holiday demands/desires.

But: nutrition is going well, AND I'm getting to the gym at least a couple times a week . . . and zooming around the shops and the grocery store at warp speed has to count for something, right?

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CEHALLA 12/17/2011 11:04AM

    I don't have as many outside demands as you do right now, but I can relate. My biggest issue is keeping my foodchoices in line. So I admire you for keeping on track like you do, and forgiving yourself if your choices aren't perfect. Thanks!

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KALIGIRL 12/16/2011 8:46AM

    Sounds like a emoticon idea to me - funny how 'life' gets in the way of the best laid plans...
Namaste my friend

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LINDAJOYWK 12/16/2011 6:10AM

    Totally get it-you just put it into words!

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FROGGGY13 12/16/2011 2:02AM

    Oh yes! I am in a similar position - cannot not do OT, especially now until the end of February, probably. So I depend on my husband NOT working overtime and picking up my slack with regards to childcare ( daycare pickup, dinner). As far as my program, I'll do exercise in small packages when I can, but I will not let my eating habits slide - I know from experience that that spells real trouble.
Good luck with adjusting to this period of life getting in the way!

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MOBYCARP 12/15/2011 7:53PM

    Cheer up; the work load and the holidays are beginning to get to me, too. Success will be actually getting out and running at least 3 days a week, maintaining what I have. Actually improving my fitness would be wild, over the top success.

Good luck with the ingenious fools testing your software. May they be kinder to you than the clueless Policy people have been to me!

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MSLZZY 12/15/2011 5:47PM

    Backing off from some of these things this time of year is expected but you are choosing to
change how you do things, not swear off of them completely. Life happens, adjust and move on. But don't short change yourself in the end. Balance is key and I think you've got a good handle on what you need to do. Take care. I could use some more 50 degree days. Cold is just not my thing. HUGS!

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_LINDA 12/15/2011 12:28PM

    Not fun having this happen during holiday time, one more barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.. Good for you keeping up the walking breaks! Hope everything works out with your code without too much major trauma!!

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KARIDIAN1 12/15/2011 9:56AM

    Keep your priorities in mind, but do what is best for you too. Good Luck!

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LOVE_2_LAUGH 12/15/2011 9:45AM

    It's all about balance and being flexible. As a fellow rigid, all-or-nothing person, we have to embrace the thought of adjusting our schedules (heaven forbid!). Way to go on remaining true to your excercise goals. Those 10-15 minut walk breaks will keep you moving and help reduce the stress. Take care, Barb!

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DEBRA0818 12/15/2011 7:36AM

    I can only link to what you're doing there by remembering the all nighters I used to pull at the law firm getting the word processing codes right in a massive IPO circular so that it would print correctly (and by extension rich people could get richer by joining the IPO). Doesn't sound quite as noble when put that way, but I'm sure the testing, reworking, testing again and time swallowing was somewhat similar.

Also remember how hard it was to take care of myself while all that was going on. Hang in there, Barb!

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SAMI199 12/15/2011 7:10AM

    Ahhhh-the life of a programmer... emoticon (Married to one-lol) Hang in there & do your best to take care of you-it's a challenge-to put it mildly!I love your background Santa!


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Miscellaneous Wednesday

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Nutcracker is on the soundtrack this morning. I'm sipping my post-breakfast, pre-work mug of coffee (Mistletoe Mocha, in honor of the season). Taking just a few minutes to reflect on life and how good it is can be just what the Sparkler ordered!

Yesterday I dontated blood over my lunch hour. I had forgotten about the appointment until Friday coming home to my answering machine message. I checked the calendar and found it was the same time as the office "Christmas dinner" potluck. Well, that coincidence resulted in my avoiding a whole temptation meal. And it was successful, to boot. Second time in a row. emoticon

And in the evening, I had a call from my work-sponsored "health / lifestyle coach"... part of the "wellness" program. While I bragged a bit about my triathlon and half-marathon goals, I also owned up to the struggles I've been having with sugary/fatty treats... nay, with staying away from the ingredients I brought into the house to make those treats. While no amount of talking can guarantee action, some good strategies can come out of such a conversation.

This upcoming weekend my son is supposed to be coming over to monitor the baking of the Christmas cookies, and after that is done, the leftover ingredients that are NOT part of my *normal* larder supplies are going to disappear from my house. Immediately. Despite my frugal nature that tells me how wasteful that is. Better wasted than waisted, to use a tired old pun.

So this morning, positive feelings, purpose, and checking weather: high today supposed to be 50! Wow. That's incredible for this time of year. It's raining. Not snowing. Of course it will freeze overnight, but we shall deal with THAT tomorrow!

For now, life's moving forward. And that is good. Spark on, my friends! emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 12/14/2011 9:29PM

    Food IS "wasted" when it's "waisted": if I don't need it, worst waste possible to carry it around . . . yeah!!

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ANDI571 12/14/2011 7:34PM

    I have been making my Christmas treats, and so far so good. I haven't let myself even eat the crumbs. After I dip my pretzels, and Ritz peanut butter crackers, I always throw almonds in the last bit of chocolate and make almond bark. I hate throwing it away. I even had Terry taste one earlier to make sure it was good.

You can do it. You are stronger than any old cookie. emoticon

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MSLZZY 12/14/2011 11:30AM

    Find a food pantry or mission house that will be glad to accept what you no longer want or need. That will keep the pantry empty for the good stuff. Hope the weather isn't too bad. We've gotten rain but so far, the temperature is mild enough to avoid ice. Just waiting for the wind to kick in this afternoon. Take care, hugs!

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DEBRA0818 12/14/2011 8:13AM

    Enjoy your good weather and congratulations on planning for success! It is hard to throw away food, but then again, why treat our bodies as the place where the leftovers should be disposed of?!

Cheers, Debra

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