The Danger of Huckleberry Fudge

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Security is tight at Missoula International Airport.

There was a way-taller-than-me taxidermy bear standing guard behind glass. In retrospect, that was the first warning. Everything started off normal as I entered the security line, I greeted each TSA agent with a smile and eye contact to emphasize my lack of terror. I placed my socks firmly on the yellow painted shoe prints, and with my arms up I passed the full body scan. I placed my Ziploc on the conveyor belt packed full of all the necessary 3fl oz liquids required to prevent my full blown junior high school hair.

Everything changed quickly when my luggage entered the X-ray machine.
The conveyor belt came to a dead stop.
There was a long pause.
Two agents pointed to the screen and side glanced in my direction.
I smiled even bigger.

TSA: “Ma’m is this your bag?”
Me: “Yes.”
TSA: “Did you pack this yourself?”
Me: “Of course.”
TSA: “We are going to need to search it. Is that ok with you?”
Me: “Sure!”

After some vaguely professional shifting of clothes the agent grabbed the box of fudge I had just bought for my hosts awaiting my arrival in Oakland.
My only thought was Nooooo, don’t take the fudge!!

TSA: “Ma’m what’s in this box?”
Me: “Fudge. Huckleberry fudge.”
TSA: “I’m gonna to need to run this through the machine again.”
My 5 am brain could not conceive what about my huckleberry fudge would require DOUBLE X-ray exposure. I actually said the next thing, out loud, in complete seriousness.

Me: “Is fudge considered a liquid?”

There was a smirk on the agents face when she put the box back in my suitcase and said, “Ma’m were gonna let it through this time.”

As I rolled my bag to one of the three gates in the tiny ski-lodge of an airport I felt lucky, extremely lucky. Huckleberry fudge is really serious business around here.

When I arrived in California I eagerly presented my best-friend and her husband the nearly confiscated box of fudge. A rarity that apparently was allowed out of Montana just this once.  Brittany opened the box and I stared in awe as she pulled out a impressively articulated and seriously serrated white plastic knife. I laughed as I enjoyed a perfectly cut piece of Montana’s finest huckleberry fudge.

We fill in the smallest details everyday, without even realizing it. It’s part of how we survive, we move forward by lifting our feet just high enough to meet the next stair. Some of it’s unconscious, we bridge the gaps of the unknown by creating and trusting a logical(ish) known. But sometimes our minds get carried away and these assumptions don’t actually match reality. Like, for example, how it was more conceivable to me that fudge was considered a liquid than the possibility the girl at the candy shop had slipped a “weapon” in the box. If we repeat any assumption long enough, we begin to believe it’s a fact. For years I believed I was meant to be overweight, that that’s just who I would always be. I assumed that I would be the heaviest most awkward person at any exercise class ever, so I wouldn’t sign up. I just knew that people would gawk and laugh when they saw me sweating through my sweatshirt from just walking down the sidewalk.

None of it was true. What my mind had created did not match reality. Repeating those assumptions only kept me from finding out the truth. Open the box. The bear can’t hurt you, it’s already dead. Start walking.

Full Disclosure: This is not an image of the taxidermy bear that guards the Missoula International Airport. The one in Missoula is brown but equally terrifying and behind similar glass. This image is of a stuffed polar bear from the Juneau airport. Image by hfabulous via flickr used and remixed under a creative commons license.

Lean in

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“Don’t move and try not to inhale deeply,” the nurse said just before she slid me into the center of the massive donut shaped machine. I was face down and topless on a flat sterile slab of cold, my arms stretched above my head when it began. It sounded like the epicenter of a trio of tornado sirens vibrating my every molecule with their 80‘s synthesized wail. The mirror three inches from my corneas reflected a florescent light obscured by a plexiglass forest photo. The clear tube connected to my IV spiraled across the leaves. I ached and the sound was piercing.

All I wanted to do was to leave.
Run away, half-naked down the hall.
But my escape was impossible, so my mind began to race.

Did I just breathe too deeply? Are these sounds even allowable under the Geneva convention?  Will this ever end? Shit. Did I just move?

I could feel my heart racing and I knew I had to relax, there was no hiding from this moment.
I focused on my breath and let go of everything else.

Forty five minutes later there was silence.
It was over.
I survived.
I walked way shaken, fully clothed, and breathing.
This is leaning in.

We cannot avoid pain. Our discomfort is alive, sometimes hurt pulsates to remind us that we are still breathing. We feel to feel. It’s when we forget this fact that we try to escape. We eat more. We sleep longer. We want everything to be better, happy, and painless.

It’s those places that we escape to that become the structures where we learn to hide. At first, the architecture may seem to shelter us but it only keeps us trapped. Lost. Numb. We construct intricate mazes of hallways and elevators that go nowhere. We just want to get away, we run because we fear pain.

That’s how we got here.
Exhausted, unrecognizable, with fancy prescriptions, an empty bag of chips, and an open-mouthed propensity for weight loss infomercials. Stuck.

When we escape we become the habits, addictions, and beliefs that we hoped would keep us pain free and happy. But we are safe already, there is nothing to hide from. Pain is a part of living. There is nothing to be afraid of, so climb those walls. Stop the elevator and quit wandering the halls. Choose to feel. Choose to stay present with whatever you are afraid of. Lean in to the pain. That’s the place where we grow. Lean in and let the fresh air open your eyes.

 

image by davetron5000 via flickr, used and remixed under a creative commons license.

This Time

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It’s got to be hot. Really hot. Steam covered glass hot. So hot that moisture surrenders as gravity reveals tiny streams of reflections that trace their way down an otherwise blurred mirror. So hot that every bit of skin is pink with awake. Saturated inhales help exhales go a little deeper. Skin, water, silence and maybe soap.

I call it “Showering in the New Year.” It was my weight loss trick for years.

And just after midnight when I turn the water off I don’t weigh less, there is no detoxification, or sweating out of any fat. It is about turning it and tuning out. Staying in the present and refocusing. Distancing the roar of everyone else’s everything else. Listening to the part of you that knows you can do anything you set your mind to and letting any doubt be overwhelmed by the water. It’s about being who you are exactly where you are, no distractions.

THIS YEAR

These first weeks of January are always abuzz with weight loss resolutions, healthy dinner tips, and 3 minute ab miracles. The pressure to be skinny in 2013 is consuming. It’s punctuation by never ending commercials and magazines that instantly regenerate vast piles of turkey-brussel-pie holiday spreads into bikini clad photoshopped before and afters. The nauseating marketing creates and then preys on our insecurities in pursuit of our money.

The truth is that today is no different than 12 days ago, it only matters that you start. You can transform your life and loose weight. No fancy gym membership, special shoes, or a new digit at the end of the date is needed. The secret is starting and then regardless of the background noise, starting again. Then again. Over and Over. Your New Year is now, January 1st is not required.

Start.

Turn in and tune out any doubt. Be exactly where you are. It’s almost midnight and the showers on. Make sure the water is hot.

Inhale

The truth about feeling better is that it sucks sometimes but it’s worth it. Change is not always comfortable and if you let the fear of that uncertainty creep in, it paralyzes you.  Focus on the certainty of your breathe and let go of everything else. You can only control your actions, your thoughts, and your inhale. Stay in this moment. Let go of the past. Inhale this life one breath at a time.

 

photo by pedrik via Flickr used under CC License, remixed by me

Morning

It’s been two months since grandma passed away. It’s hard to believe how fast time moves and how fresh the tears still are sometimes. The shock wears off, the love doesn’t. The places we shared still linger next to her half eaten Nutella. It’s like that. Then the sun comes up again. Super vivid dreams after nightmares. Smiles next to half inhales. Living next to the past.

I’ve learned that sometimes feeling better means trusting time and leaning into each and every moment.

 

photo by PV KS via Flickr used under CC License, remixed by me

Elia “Grandma” Huffman 1921-2012

My Grandma was wise. She knew that in order to feel better sometimes you have to risk feeling worse. She had the strength to make her own decisions and the courage to follow her own path.

On December 23, 2011 Grandma took her last bite of food. In spite of Christmas, New Years, and birthdays she tasted only liquids for the next 75 days to prepare for surgery.
On March 7 she made it through 6 hours of surgery beautifully, and as soon as I saw her in recovery she reminded me to wash my hands after leaving the hospital. Classic.
Grandma spent the next 27 days in the ICU fighting every single second. I sat with her everyday listening to opera, reading newspapers, holding her hand, even dancing to make her smile. Even when she was sick, she was ridiculously sharp and clever.
On April 1, Grandma let us know she was exhausted and she decided to stop fighting.
On April 2, after 90 years of living Grandma passed away peacefully.

My grandma and I had an unspoken language full of shared laughs and similar glances.
A need for solitude and plenty of space to think.
A love of potato chips and a stash of chocolate.

Our similarities, once noticed, were too many to ignore. I saw myself in her.

I savored her wisdom.
I searched for morsels of truth that might somehow keep me from discovering them the same way she did, from 90 years of pain and sweat. It’s impossible, I know, but her words are still close and I think of them often.

Her voice was horse and blunt. She didn’t speak in “darlings” or batches of homemade cookies. She spoke in the cursive “F.Y.I.” letters on newspaper articles. She spoke in dated, yet completely genuine, fashion advice about my need for brighter colored clothing. She spoke in carefully curated grocery lists complete with an asterisk that adorned her love of coffee yogurt. She spoke her own language, she spoke love.

Death is inevitable, our bodies will begin to fail and our minds will fade. There will be a moment when we stop fighting and our breathe will soon follow. It may take seconds or days, but it is unavoidable. It’s also okay. Tomorrow will happen and so will next year. The thing we must remember is that today is when we get to choose, because some day we will either look back and remember those stunningly gorgeous sunsets or that fear.

Things change. always.

Me: “Grandma, if you could give your 27 year old self any piece of advice what would it be?”

Grandma: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Me: “But Grandma, how do you know what is small?”

Grandma “Colleen, everything is small. everything.

– –

Grandma & I reciting her fav poem, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service (watch on YouTube by clicking here)

(We didn’t plan to wear matching outfits, thats just the sorta thing that would always happen with us.)

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The Power of Naps

I count it as an absolute certainty that in paradise, everyone naps. A nap is a perfect pleasure and it’s a useful, too. It splits the day into two halves, making each half more manageable and enjoyable.

– How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson

A solid 23 years after my kindergarten graduation I still take naps. Generally speaking, we are an anti-adult-nap-taking culture, with a distinct lack of a Siesta. Napping can be a controversial topic, people either love them or hate them. I find naps both restorative and worthwhile. Here are a few of my unscientific solutions for some common napping complaints I have heard over the years.

POST NAP DAZE

Living the remainder of your day in a post nap fog is a calculated risk. When sheer exhaustion makes it hard to function without more rest, it’s a risk that is worth taking. Find your own nap style. Trial and error helped me determine I’m a 2 hour max napper. Between 1 and 2 hours being ideal. 30 mins is usually not enough and over 2 hours keeps me in a daze.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

I have a 5:00pm rule for napping. That is the magic hour. I try not to take a nap after 5pm or sleep past 5pm. The later and longer I nap increases the chance that it will mess with nightime sleep routine. To learn more about your individual ideal nap time pick up Dr. Sara Mednick’s book Take a Nap! Change Your Life.

AM/PM PANIC

Waking up painicked is never ideal. What I am about to share is possibly the dorkiest thing I do yet also my best nap #PROTIP: Creating a unique nap routine will help ease post nap confusion. For example, I only take naps in a sleeping bag over top of my sheets. This does seem like a strange habit on the surface. But waking up in a sleeping bag instantly alerts me that the winter darkness means evening and that eliminates any panic.

PEAK PRODUCTION LOSS

I tend to be most productive early in the morning and very late at night. I also require a lot of sleep. So naps work well for me. BUT, just because I find value in napping doesn’t you will. Just because society only endorses a 20 minute “power nap” doesn’t mean that will work for you. Don’t believe the hype, listen to you body. Trust it and sleep well, whatever the time.

photo by gabork via Flickr used under CC License, remixed by me