A Matter of Balance: A Woman's Quest for Health, Harmony & Kick-ass Heels

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kristen vs Garage Door

Yep.  I wasn't looking, I wasn't being mindful, I was probably rushing.  Plus at 5'1" (I like to round up), I rarely have to duck under anything.  But last week rather than take those few moments to let the garage door open all the way, I forged ahead, thought I had sufficiently ducked, and WHAM!

Whiplash and a mild concussion did NOT fit into my schedule at all. 

Since I'm still on the mend from some major surgery, I'm supposed to be easing in, talking it slow.  Of course once I was feeling better, I probably  started going full speed too soon. I felt guilty making time for rest. But as I know all too well, when I'm having a hard time learning a lesson something will be put in my path to remind me (literally in this case.).

Rest is not a luxury, it is a necessity. 

I'm learning my lesson on this.  In fact this latest stunt helped to drive home the message, so in Kristen vs the garage door, despite the bump on my head, I may have actually won. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The essay contest I lost, and what I learned from Nanny & Grandpa

Last fall I entered an essay contest sponsored by a well known magazine. The task was to answer the question: When did you first understand the meaning of love?  I wrote about  my grandparents.  I had forgotten about the contest, but I happened to be thinking of my grandparents a lot this week.  We said good bye to Nanny four years ago yesterday, and to Grandpa nine years ago this coming Sunday.

I checked out the contest details and learned that the winners were chosen last month, and while I'm assuming I didn't win the contest (or I would heard about that $3000 prize by now),  the lesson learned is, as they say at American Express....priceless.

A Seventy Year Example of the Meaning of Love

I can't think of two better teachers of the meaning of love than my grandparents, Agnes and Vance Hallett.  It was their example growing up that left a lasting legacy. Their story, or at least it's beginning, was a bit atypical for the 1930's.

My grandmother, Agnes Wilson (known to us grandkids as Nanny), was kicking up her heels dancing the Charleston in the 1920's when she met the dashing Sam Fulton, of the steamboat Fulton family fame.   They fell in love, married, and as would be expected of them, quickly became pregnant with their first child. 

Only three months into Nanny’s pregnancy, Sam was stricken with the Swine Flu and died on Christmas Day.  That left Nanny widowed, pregnant, and forced to continue working in her father's grocery store. Today a single working mother is to be applauded, but in the early 30's it was a rare anomaly.

Love is being overwhelmed, but moving forward anyway.

Ask any single mom today and they'll also tell you the situation is not necessarily a magnet for eligible men. But that didn't deter Dudley Vance Hallett (Grandpa to us, Vance to his wife), from courting, falling in love and marrying Nanny. Originally from West Virginia, he was a hardworking  steel mill worker living in a nearby  Pittsburgh neighborhood.  He raised her son, Sam Jr. as his own and their family grew welcoming two more children Carolyn and Tom ( my dad).

Love is choosing to take a risk.

It was a risky choice, not just because he was taking on a ready made family, but also because Nanny's Catholic upbringing did not meet the approval of Grandpa's Protestant family, not to mention that she was an older woman.  Scandalous indeed.  He would not let that come in between the love for his new wife, and ties to the Hallett's slowly evaporated and I never came to know anyone from the Hallett clan, except for Grandpa's brother Pete who kept in touch.

Love is choosing to love someone and loving the whole deal.

Growing up I never once heard my grandparents argue, raise their voices or criticize one another.  Instead I recall them sitting close and always holding hands.  Grandpa was hearing impaired from birth, so Nanny patiently repeated things slowly and quietly to him so that he could read her lips and know what was going on in the conversation around him. 

They faced the usual trials and tribulations of buidling a life together, raising a family, and perservering through hard times.  They supported each other through the unexpected deaths of their infant daughter, Mary Ann, and then their youngest  child (my father) Tom, at the age of 52, not to mention of the loss of  several siblings, relatives and friends.  They endured these obstacles with a supportive strength for one another and without blame or judgement.  They coped as they always did, quietly holding hands.

:Love is unconditional.

As often happens, they were eventually forced to leave the home they loved and relocate to an Assisted Living Center in another state,  close to their daughter and more accessible to family.  They adjusted slowly and held one another up (both literally and figuratively).

Love is patience, devotion, affection.

After seventy years of marriage, Vance died at age 93, and five years later, Agnes followed at age 102.  These days with divorce rates soaring over 50%, and even statistics for second marriages even more grim, a seventy year marriage is a rare gem.  It is a without a doubt a celebration of the meaning of love.

Love is awe inspiring and occasionally jaw dropping.

I am honored to have been a witness to the example of the love of Agnes and Vance Hallett because I believe  their lives held all of the essential elements in a lesson plan on love. It helped me to understand the meaning of love and to know that lasting love IS possible.  But even more, I believe their journey was a lesson to everyone whose lives they touched. 

Love is, and always will be,  my grandparents.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stripping down...care to join me?

Thankfully I'm up and about now, but have to be very mindful that I'm still recovering. According to my doctor that includes not lifting or carrying anything for a few more weeks. Ok, no problem.

Wait, that is a problem, because apparently that lifting starts with my purse. Granted my purse is probably as heavy as a small toddler, but you just never know what you'll need, right?

Then there's my gym bag (I'm ready for an impromptu coffee after class, or probably even a cocktail party). And there's my "work bag", where alongside the unfinished marketing project of '05, there's enough reading material that if I end up stranded like Tom Hanks in Castaway, I'd be set for months.

Despite the fact that I was never a Girl Scout, I've always lived the motto, Be Prepared. It's probably one of the reasons I adored Nancy Drew. Everything she needed was in her trunk (or her purse) and with her cohorts Bess and George by her side she was ready to solve even the most perplexing of mysteries.

Stripping down my bag lady persona has been a bit anxiety provoking. What if I don't have something I NEED?

I went about the process, streamlining and organizing (did I really need seven lipsticks at my fingertips? That's not counting the two lip balms - which of course are totally different!). 

I'm now traveling lighter. I'm no longer weighed down carrying too much stuff. I only hope I'm not called upon to solve The Mystery of Lilac Inn and find myself without a flashlight, Swiss Army knife and extra undies.

My challenge to you is to find one area in hour environment and par down to the essentials. Your purse, gym bag, trunk of your car, whatever physically pulls you down.

Although I'm not sure how long this will last, stripping down feels good. Wait! You didn't think this was going to be about something else did you? 

It's freeing...and your back will probably thank you as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

All you need is love....

That's what the Beatles proclaimed at least.

During my many years of being single (I was a late bloomer on the marriage front) I did not necessarily always embrace this day.  
But as I was just saying to a friend......

Today is about LOVE.  Pure and simple.

Love for your kids, love for your cool & highly intelligent girlfriends, love for your pets...

Love for all, not just husbands, wives and significant others...


(And speaking of love, I LOVE that book!)


1. Acceptance, know that you are in the perfect place for you today
2. Recognize that you are constantly evolving and growing to become a more powerful and more loving being.
3. Take a walk in nature, drinking in the beauty.
4. Forgive yourself all mistakes, mistakes are always part of growing
5. Keep your mind sharp, do a word puzzle or read a book
6. Pet a dog or cat
7. Do some yoga
8. Find joy in the moment
9. Blow bubbles
10. Say positive affirmations daily
11. Remember to dream.
12. Make yourself a special snack
13. Let your creativity flow, make something special for yourself.
14. Take a nap
15. Go to the gym
16. Give up a bad habit
17. Look thru a photo album
18. Play music and dance like no one is watching
19. Sing along with the radio
20. Wear you pajamas all day
21. Write a love letter to yourself
22. Get all dressed up just for yourself
23. Sit by a fire
24. Take some pictures of yourself, remember you are beautiful
25. Take time to talk to your best friend
26. Take up a new hobby
27. Use stairs instead of the elevator
28. Look in the mirror and smile
29. Find your home within yourself.

Self love and a person’s sense of self worth are tied closely together. Self love begins with knowing your value as a human being.

Happy Valentine's Day to YOU!
Show yourself some LOVE!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Start your engines....let the kindness flow!

Social media has been spreading the news that this week is Random Acts of Kindess week.  Why we need to designate a week for this, I'm not sure.  It would be great if we were flooded by such acts so that we didn't even need to label it. 

Here's what my morning Milkshake email newsletter had to say about it.

Introduced by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation®, a nonprofit organization that dates back to 1995, Random Acts of Kindness Week runs from February 13-19. It is designed to spread joy, partially through the Extreme Kindness challenge, which challenges participants to commit to a daily act of kinds for the duration of the week

That should be easy enough, right?  I invite you to rise to the challenge AND to post each day either the acts you commit (sounds serious, huh?)  and/or the times you are on the receiving end of kindness this week.    

Kindness breeds more kindness.

 I'll be looking for your posts and remember what we put energy toward grows.  By posting you will be helping to spread the  kindness "virus" and you may just motivate or inspire someone to join the crusade. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Adopting a singular focus

We live in a world of multi tasking. We believe it to be necessary. A coveted skill. A badge of honor. I'm no exception, I pride myself on my multi tasking expertise.

Lately though I've adopted a singular focus.

I've been forced to abandon my twelve hour work days, my endless to do lists and my crammed social calendar. No complaints on all of that, I truly do love my life and sometimes even thrive on my overcommitted schedule.

As a result of having some recent major surgery, my sole focus has been on healing. Hence the lack of blog posts of late.

I don't remember the last time I focused on only one thing. All choices, all actions right now revolve around healing.

I must admit it's kind of a nice change (aside from the actual physical pain), to have only one thing to concentrate on.

I don't recommend waiting for surgery to give yourself permission to give something your full undivided attention.

But I do recommend giving it a try.

Pick something, anything. And focus.

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