Giving Up Lent

If you’re Catholic, you know that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a.k.a., the first day of Lent. Lent, for all you non-Catholics reading this, is the forty days (or 43, this year) before Easter when Catholics pray, reflect, fast and make penance. Basically, it’s a six-week period when we give up our biggest vices as a way to repent and sacrifice before overindulging in them once again on Easter Sunday.

So what am I giving up this year?

I usually denounce chocolate for the 40+ days, but being that tomorrow is also Valentine’s Day and next week is my birthday, this creates a bit of a conundrum for me. I could forego chocolate on the two days a year when I do indulge or I could cheat and suffer weeks of Catholic guilt. Neither option sounds appealing, so chocolate will not be on my Lenten hit list this year … Problem solved.

I could give up swearing and speeding, my two biggest vices, but who am I kidding? Both are part of my DNA and I own that sh*t. Plus, I’m usually late — hence my propensity to speed — so, no.

I could offer up alcohol, but I stopped drinking over five years ago and I don’t think Lenten sacrifices are retroactive.

I could duplicate last year’s extreme efforts and avoid the basics of modern life — food (I attempted the Whole 30 diet) and social media — but depriving myself of these necessities just made me mean. Or meaner, according to my wonderfully honest kids. Besides, if I give up Instagram again, how will you know what I eat for dinner or when it’s leg day at the gym?

So after much thought and consideration, I’ve decided that this Lenten season I am giving up Lent. Yes, you read that correctly. I am giving up the Lenten tradition of sacrifice and fasting. Instead, I am taking my cue from the universe aligning the first day of Lent with Valentine’s Day and giving something out rather than giving something up. For the next 43 days, my Lenten promise is to commit at least one act of love, kindness and/or compassion a day. Big or small. For a stranger, friend or family member. Anything counts as long as it’s heartfelt, pure and meaningful. Because isn’t that what being Christian is really about? Isn’t that what being human is really about? Spreading love, being kind, showing compassion … It’s what the world needs now more than ever.Plus, I figure a few good deeds should counterbalance a handful of F-bombs, right? I call that a Lenten win-win.

– LJDT

Recycling Resolutions, 2018-style

Happy New Year! Can I still say that? It is January 12, after all. Anyway, …

This is the time of year when we all make grand resolutions to improve ourselves in some way: Vow to eat healthier and exercise more; Promise to meditate daily and go to bed earlier; Pledge to live in the moment and be kinder; Save more, do more, be more … The list goes on. I get it. I do it, too. Every year, I make similar resolutions: 2015 – To be calmer, happier, better; 2016 – To be less uptight and rigid; 2017 – To be more forgiving, mindful and connected. Notice a trend?

According to researchers, 80% of people abandon their resolutions by mid-February. They just throw in the towel and straight-up quit. Well, I am not a quitter. I am also not a totally relaxed, carefree, zen yogi like I hoped to be by now, which is why I’ve decided to recycle my old resolutions from the past three years as my new resolutions for this year. Some will say this is lazy, but I say it’s inspired — maybe even genius — because I never fully achieved any of those old resolutions. Sure, I’m a little calmer, looser and more aware than I used to be, there’s still lots of room for improvement. Every day is a chance to get better, to be better and to move closer to truly reaching my goals of inner peace and happiness, so I’m going to keep trying.

Strive for progress, not perfection.

My motto for 2018 is, “Progression over perfection,” which is a good thing because it’s been slow-going these first twelve days of the new year. 2017 went out with more of a fizzle than a bang (a canceled vacation and ten long days of family togetherness left a bitter taste in my mouth) and 2018 started off sort of strong — until it didn’t. The boys finally went back to school and actually left the house showered, fed and on-time without any yelling involved for two days in a row! This minor miracle gave me hope and I took it as a positive sign of what the year had in store for me — peace, serenity and productivity. Unfortunately, Mother Nature interpreted this sign differently. She must have thought hell froze over because what followed has been nothing short of a shit show so far: One ice storm (with a school delay), two snow days, three broken toilets, four power outages, five days without heat, six meltdowns (all mine) and, of course, back to the usual scream-filled, late mornings. I’m not sure if I’m more pissed at Mother Nature, my kids, the school superintendent or that f*cker Murphy with the bad luck that makes everything “law.” Not exactly the road to blissful living.

This is 100% me #keepingitreal

But tomorrow is a new day and I’m not giving up. Progression over perfection. And things are already looking up: The sub-zero temperatures are gone, our heat has been fixed, new toilets will be installed next week and my husband and I are going on a much-needed vacation without the kids. Life is good. I know there are more sucky days ahead, but in general, my life is good.

So here’s to slaying all your 2018 goals, and even those left over from 2015. Just take it one day at a time like me. Breathe, you got this!

Ready to slay 2018!

– LJDT

Festivus For The Rest of Us

Over the past two weeks, I’ve sat down four separate times to write a festive holiday post. Something light and fun about outrageous Elf on the Shelf shenanigans, ugly Christmas sweaters and oversized SUVs adorned with reindeer antlers and Rudolph noses. But I just can’t seem to do it. My yuletide cheer is buried somewhere inside a dusty box of velvet stockings and tangled lights that I didn’t bother to open this year.

Flashback to merrier times, circa 2006. Now jaded, the wonder has faded.

At the risk of being labeled a Christmas curmudgeon, I have a confession to make: It is December 22 and I’m still not in the holiday spirit. Maybe it’s the stress of shopping in overcrowded stores, the pressure to find “perfect gifts” and the financial strain that comes along with it. Or maybe it’s the absence of decorations at home, my self-imposed ban on Christmas music and the fact that I intentionally accidentally forgot to make a holiday card again. Whatever the reason, I’m just not feeling it.

Maybe I need therapy for my holiday angst, too?

The irony is, I actually like Christmas and many of its commercial traditions: The cheesy spectacle of lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn and 13th Street in South Philly, the elaborate windows at Lord & Taylor, Barneys and Saks in midtown Manhattan, the tree at Rockefeller Center and the outdoor ice rink beneath Philly’s Ben Franklin Bridge are some of my favorite holiday memories (minus the crowds that, today, give me anxiety). What I don’t enjoy is the build up. For me, a day and a half of merriment — December 24 and 25 — is more than sufficient. A month (or more!) of Christmas carols, decorations and shopping is simply too much for me. The weeks leading up to Christmas have become overbearing and exasperating, both emotionally and financially, and frankly, I can’t handle the pressure anymore. Correction: I choose not to handle it anymore. Call me a grinch, but I think Seinfeld‘s Frank Costanza was on to something with his December 23rd Festivus holiday. Maybe not with the unadorned aluminum pole, airing of grievances dinner or feats of strength competition, but the abolition of overspending and overindulging is right up my alley.

Frank Costanza may have made up Festivus, but I like it.

Thankfully, my kids are old enough to be unphased by our deck-less halls and stocking-less mantel. They understand that Mom wasn’t up for the decorating challenge this year, and apparently, it wasn’t important enough for them to tackle either. So while no one here has visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, it’s not all bad. And I’m not a total scrooge. For the boys’ gift, we’ll be spending the weekend in New York, spending too much money shopping in midtown, fighting the crowds seeing the sights and bickering spending time with family. Lighting candles at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is on the itinerary as well, as I can use the extra prayers. If I make it through the holiday, it’ll be a real #festivusmiracle.

Bam! Holiday card throwback-to-2008 style. Thanks, Facebook, for reminding me.

So whether your holiday is filled with candy canes and tinsel, latkes and dreidels, lights and corn or an aluminum pole, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy (belated) Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa and even a Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

Whatever you celebrate, happy/merry that.

– LJDT

Mother Knows Best

If you know my mother at all, you know her favorite things in life are black coffee and anything chocolate, Home Goods and Lord & Taylor, oldies music and the Sunday funnies, her friends and family — especially her two daughters and five grandsons (her husband and sons-in-law pull a close second. Sorry, guys). She’s a devoted grandmother who drives three hours to Pennsylvania for 24-hour visits on the regular, always with cupcakes and some new kitchen gadget that she “thought [I] might like” in hand. She’s a supportive mother who lets me vent without judgement, complain without correction and brag without limitation. And she’s a faithful wife who has survived over 49 years of marriage and almost as many years of coaching with my dad. She’s not without her flaws, but I wouldn’t trade her anything — on most days, anyway.

She’d do anything for her grandsons — even don a turkey hat in public. I’m sure I’ll pay for using this photo, but how could I not?

I’ve written in the past about my mom and identified the traits I’ve inherited from her — everything from her hair color and big hips to the inability to tell a succinct story. I’ve also received sage advice and useful life skills from her, like how to pluck my eyebrows, make sauce (although I’ve since altered the recipe to accommodate food allergies/sensitivities) and where to find the best deals. But some teachings go deeper than basic hair removal and savvy shopping tips; They offer life lessons worth their weight in gold. Here are the five that resonate with me the most:

  1. Lick the spoon. When cooking, baking or making chocolate milk … It’s the best part. Translation: Treat yourself and do what makes you happy.
  2. Dress the part. Even if you’re not the best tennis player (runner, yogi, etc.), you can still look cute in the outfit. My interpretation: Be confident in who you are.
  3. Never arrive empty-handed. A small gesture goes a long way. Meaning, be kind and generous to others.
  4. Your house, your rules; My house, my rules. Decoded as setting and respecting boundaries, both your own and others.
  5. Try your best and know that you’re doing a better job than you think you are. No explanation needed, just words to live by. #believeinyourself

Is Grace Dewey the next Tony Robbins? Not exactly, but she is one smart cookie. I’m not gonna lie … She can also be a hot mess and a huge pain in my ass at times (thus the short, 24-hour visits), but her heart is usually in the right place. Today is her 75th birthday and Thursday is Thanksgiving — what better week to tell the blogosphere how wonderful my mom is and how grateful I am to have her?

Happy Birthday, Mom! Chocolate cake and Motown to celebrate tomorrow when I see you.

c. 1973. One of my favorite photos, but why am I dressed like a clown at the petting zoo? So much for dressing the part!

– LJDT

Keeping it Real … My Mother’s Day Wish List

Back in the day with the two who call me “Mom.”

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day — or as I call it, Sunday. In my world, there will be no breakfast-in-bed served or brunch reservations made. No homemade cards with glitter and still-wet glue to read or towering piles of extravagant gifts to open. No bouquet of fresh flowers to smell or surprise facial and much-needed massage booked at my favorite spa. And there definitely won’t be any sappy slide shows showcasing my most loving mom moments while Bette Midler’s song, “Wing Beneath My Wings,” plays in the background. Nope, not here … And I am perfectly fine with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d happily accept any of these gifts or gestures. But as the mother of two moody growing boys (a tween and teen whom I simultaneously cherish and want to strangle on a daily basis) and the wife of a more pragmatic than romantic man (whom I love dearly, despite his shortcomings), I just don’t expect such things …. And I really am okay with it. Really.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess to having a few lofty wishes, but I’m too much of a realist to think they’ll come true; I know how to lower the bar and set my expectations accordingly. So what’s on my Mother’s Day wish list? I wish to sleep until noon, but I’ll settle for 7AM. I wish to be smothered with hugs and kisses all day, but I’ll settle for a single, unforced hug and kiss from each of my boys. I wish for a full day of zen and blissful relaxation, but I’ll settle for a peaceful hour of gentle yoga and unforced help planting my vegetable garden. I wish my husband and kids could read my mind and get sh*t done without me, but I’ll settle for them doing what I ask when I ask and how I ask without attitude. I wish for world peace and human kindness, but I’ll settle for a single day without eye rolling, arguing or back talk.

Bonus points if someone buys me flowers. I prefer tulips or peonies (hint, hint).

Preach!

Happy Mother’s Day!

– LJDT

My Reflection on Lent … Nailed It!

Okay, so the title of this blog post is a little misleading. Maybe even a lot misleading. Okay, it’s a total lie. I didn’t exactly keep all my Lenten promises for the full 46 days, or even for the more traditional 40 days. I know, I know, I’m a bad Catholic … But some good did come of it, I swear.

If you recall, I gave up social media and pretty much all food for Lent. A lofty goal, but I was determined to suffer and atone like all good Catholics do during the holiest time of the year. Besides, if Jesus could pray and fast in a desert for 40 days and then make the ultimate sacrifice, surely I could give up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while following a Whole 30 diet for 46 days, right? Apparently not. I was pretty good with the food part, as long as you don’t count that one time I accidentally ate something “non-Whole 30-compliant” because I didn’t read the label closely enough, or that other time when I deliberately ate a spoonful of cookie dough while my son and his girlfriend were baking cookies together (I paid for that one within minutes, trust me!). But my social media fast proved much harder than my food fast. A few times (and by few I mean 7 or 8 times), I cheated and went on Facebook … But only for 10 minutes and I didn’t comment on anyone’s status, like any posts or wish anyone a happy birthday, I swear! I also felt guilty about it, so that should count for something, right?

I may have been less than successful in keeping my Lenten promises, but I did learn a few things. Notably,

  • I’m not very nice when I’m inconvenienced, hungry and information-deprived for 46 days. (My apologies to all those I encountered over the past month and a half.)
  • Following a strict Whole 30 protocol is hard, but having food allergies/sensitivities makes clean eating a little easier. (Perhaps my autoimmune disease is a blessing in disguise?!?)
  • Sugar is the devil, as proven by the cookie dough incident. (Lesson learned — the hard way, of course.)
  • Social media is a huge time suck and I’m more productive without it — on most days, anyway. (I still found ways to procrastinate.)
  • I didn’t really miss much without Facebook and Instagram. (Sure, I forgot a few birthdays, skipped a couple of product launch parties and didn’t see those new selfies, food photos or family vacation pictures that people posted, but I survived.)
  • Lofty Lenten promises are hard to keep, even if you’re not in the desert. (And especially if you don’t really want to keep them.)

Clearly, I am not the good Catholic I set out to be. If human salvation rested on my shoulders, we’d all be damned. But I tried, and I will keep trying because it’s not about giving up food or Facebook; It’s about being accountable, learning from mistakes and making improvements. Knowledge is power, so I consider my Lenten experience a (minor) success … Even if that is a bit of a reach.

– LJDT

It’s Lent … Proceed with Caution

Today was the first day of Lent, and like a good Catholic, I got my Jesus on. I went to mass (the “lunchtime express” was a mere 20 minutes!), got my ashes (which, sadly, drew attention to my forehead wrinkles) and successfully made it through day #1 without breaking my 2017 Lenten promises … at least as of 10PM, as I was writing this post.

And I though the “Lunchtime Express” service at my church was great … Ivanhoe Church in Ohio offered drive-thru ashes!

I usually give up chocolate or cursing for Lent and fail miserably by day #3 . Last year, I switched it up and gave up negativity with an “at least” clause. But this year, I really need to get my shit together, so it’s back to tangible sacrifices. This year, I’m going big. This year, I’m going all in … which means I will either fail miserably by day #3 again and feel guilty about it for the following 43 days, or I will be a hot mess for the next 46 days. Either way, you’ve been warned.

So what exactly am I giving up that’s going to be so bad? Basically, food and life. For the next 46 days, I am giving up social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and following the Whole30 eating program, which requires me to give up nearly every food group except for meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds. As an added punishment sacrifice, I’m giving up homemade almond butter (my weakness) and my favorite sort-of healthy, go-to sweet fixes of dark chocolate covered almonds, dates, figs and dried apples. This may not sound like much of an indulgence to you, but it is for me. As I said, the next 46 days won’t be pretty, and for the record, I’m blaming Jesus.

Two birds, one stone?

Lent is a time of sacrifice and reflection, but it’s also a time for self-improvement. Because I’ve been lax on my clean eating habits lately, I’m hoping the Whole30/46 gets me back on track. I’ve even enlisted the help of my bestie to keep me honest. She’s giving up sugar (read: all sweets) for the entire month of March and texting me daily for support. She’s not exactly getting her Jesus on (she is Jewish, after all), but she is giving up Cadbury Eggs, which is a huge sacrifice for this girl … That’s love, people!

Love is … giving up chocolate for Lent for your best friend, even though you’re Jewish (photo: April, 2016).

I’ve also been lax on my writing, wasting too much time each day on Facebook and Twitter, so I’m hoping my social media sabbatical will help me procrastinate less and become more productive again. For the next 46 days, don’t be offended if I don’t wish you a happy birthday on Facebook, like your photo on Instagram or R.S.V.P. to your Stella & Dot/Pampered Chef/LuLaRoe party … It’s Jesus’ fault. [By the way, my blog posts are automatically uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, so I’m not cheating.]

I should probably also mention that I anticipate cursing and yelling even more than usual during the next 46 days, due to my expected hangry and isolated state. Again, you can thank Jesus. But to counteract my anticipated crankiness, I plan to engage in one act of kindness every day throughout Lent, adding on to my Facebook birthday promise to spread the love as many times as I received birthday wishes. If I don’t skip any days, I think that means I’ll be paying it forward through the end of the summer … and isn’t that what Lent is really about?

– LJDT

How Do I Love Thee? … An Honest Valentine To My Husband

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I’m generally not one for sappy sonnets and generic, grand gestures, but I do like to tell my husband how much I love and appreciate him on this day. He’s not perfect — far from it, actually — but he’s prefect for me in many ways and for many reasons. So despite the fact that he is a rather private person, I am dedicating this Valentine’s Day post to him.

A note to my husband: Remember, there’s always room for improvement (said lovingly, of course!).

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

I love how you make our bed every morning … but I wish you wouldn’t leave your shoes in the middle of the bedroom floor.

I love how you carry the folded laundry upstairs for me … but I wish you’d put it away sometimes (just your own stuff would be fine).

I love how you always put the toilet seat back down … but I wish you’d remember to always flush, too.

I love how you fill my gas tank after you borrow my car … but I wish you’d move the seat back so I can reach the pedals.

I love how you handle waking our oldest in the morning (waking a teen is like waking a bear!) … but I wish you’d remind him not to take a 20-minute shower.

I love how you put our youngest on the school bus a few days each week so I can get to the gym earlier … but I wish you weren’t still in bed when I left (I’m jealous!).

I love how you call me each day to check in … but I wish you could meet for lunch sometimes, too.

I love how you call me each night before leaving work to ask if I need anything brought in …but I wish your timing was better so you didn’t interrupt dinner.

I love how you eat whatever I cook … but I wish you’d eat more vegetables.

I love how you help clear the dishes after dinner … but I wish you wouldn’t leave your glass on the counter all day/night.

I love how you follow my insane “everything has a place, so put it away” craziness … but I wish you wouldn’t leave your coat on the back of the bar stool each night.

I love how you are passionate about sports … but I wish you weren’t so passionate about sports.

I love how you joined the gym for me … but I wish we could go together more often .

I love how you love me despite all my flaws, idiosyncrasies and nagging … but I wish you’d tell me more often just how imperfectly perfectly I am for you (okay, this one’s a stretch — but it’s okay because I already know it’s true!).

We may not always be on the same schedule and we may not always see eye-to-eye, but you are my lobster. My voice of reason. My North Star. I will always love you because you make me a better person. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My hubby and me … I guess opposites really do attract.

– LJDT

2017, Take 2 … or 12, But Who’s Counting?!

If you read my last blog post, then you know that at the beginning of the year I wasn’t exactly feeling the whole “New Year’s resolution/new year, new me” thing. Despite having just returned from a relaxing vacation in Jamaica, I was feeling stuck. While everyone else was posting inspirational quotes and memes on social media, I was whining and complaining about pretty much everything. I knew my negativity was spiraling out of control, so I gave myself a pass and claimed the first few days of the year to be a mental detox week. Then, after a week of outrageous bitchiness, I declared January 9 the new January 1. Finally ready to tackle the new year, I pushed the reset button and started over again … and then again … and then again. It was bad. I couldn’t string together more than two days at time when I didn’t lose my shit over something trivial. Pretty much, I was a hot mess most of January.

But 2017 is the year of the #nastywoman, as well as the year of the rooster (the most highly motivated animal in the Chinese zodiac), so I am not giving up.  I am resetting the 2017 button yet again and going to finally be that better version of myself. I know, I know … You’ve heard me say this before. But this time, I’m older and wiser. This time, I’m more dedicated and enlightened. This time, I have a plan because a goal without an action plan is just a wish.

Step one: Declutter my life. Get rid of whatever doesn’t bring happiness. For me, that’s everything from old files and outdated clothes to bad memories and toxic relationships. Score one for me and the local consignment shop.

Step two: Practice mindfulness. Slow down and breathe. Meditate every day. Listen better and react more rationally (less emotionally and selfishly, as per my usual M.O.), like a real adult.

Step three: Stay connected. I’m a better version of myself when I’m in synch with my husband and when I get time with my girlfriends. More of that in 2017!

Step four: Forgive quickly. Shit happens — Get over it and move on. Cut myself more slack when I mess up (daily) and give people the benefit of the doubt more often (hopefully, people really aren’t all assholes).

Step five: Try something new. Step out of my comfort zone and take a few risks (like zip lining in Jamaica). Push the limits and challenge myself, even if it’s scary.

Step six: Don’t back down. Say no without guilt. Fight for what I want and push back when needed, without being an asshole about it.

I’m going to attack this plan like I do my gym goals — with patience, practice, hard work and determination. Some days I’ll kill it and some days I won’t. But I’ll keep trying because where you focus your attention is where you focus your power. Hopefully, each day I’ll get a little closer to becoming that badass, zen chick I know I can be. I just have to take it one day at a time.

Okay, enough of this sappy, inspirational crap. Next post, it’s back to sass and sarcasm … You’ve been warned!

– LJDT

Putting 2017 on Pause

Happy New Year! It’s January 3 and I’ve spent the better part of the past few days contemplating what I should post. I wanted it to be inspirational, original and profound. I wanted it to be funny, sassy and smart. I wanted it to be great. Instead, what I’m giving you is simply timely, truthful and probably a bit lame.

The thing is, I’m not really feeling the whole New Year’s Resolution thing this year. At least not yet. I know I want to be calmer, kinder, and less uptight. I know I want to more patient, more forgiving and a better example for my kids, but I’m just not feeling it. At least not yet. If I wasn’t post-menopausal, I’d say I was PMS-ing this week because I’ve been cranky, moody and downright mean. We are only three days in to the new year and I’ve already failed all my resolutions — Not good. Should I throw in the towel already and admit defeat on day 3? I don’t think so. I’m changing the rules instead. I’m pushing the pause button on 2017 and labeling this my detox week. For one week, I’m giving myself permission to continue writing 2016 on my checks and bitch, curse and scream guilt-free to clear my system. Then come January 9, I’m getting my shit together and staring anew. 2017, here I come … just a week late.

I know, I know — It sounds like a load of crap. A weak excuse to complain and not stick to my resolutions. Maybe, or maybe I’m on to something. Who says resolutions have to begin on January 1st? Every day is a new day, right? I’m a realist. I’m not in the right mindset yet to act on my resolutions, so I’m letting this negative streak run it’s course and I’ll start fresh next week. If 40 is the new 20, than January 9th can be the new January 1st.

My 2017 do-over starts next week … who’s with me?

– LJDT