Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Weekend Away...Montreal in May

Montreal is one of those nearby cities that can make you feel like you're a world away. With its cobble-stoned old town, the smell of crepes wafting from open doors in nearby boulangeries, and the sound of French being spoken all around you, it's easy to forget that you're only a few hours' drive away from Boston...well, six to be exact.

And, as home to a bustling nightlife and home to the legendary jazz festival, Montreal provides New Englanders with a perfect opportunity for a romantic weekend away.

We had the opportunity to spend the long weekend in Montreal and while the weather outside was frightful, especially for the end of May, the weekend away, nevertheless, was delightful.

Thanks to Priceline, we scored a four star feng shui-inspired hotel at the gate of Chinatown across the street from a metro station. A short walk to the right, up the hill and we were standing in the shadow of the grand Notre Dame cathedral. Across the street and up two blocks was the world famous, or rather infamous, Rue Sainte-Catherine, lined with restaurants, bars and other interesting retailers and services.  

We've been to Montreal many times before. And thank goodness, because it was barely 50 degrees and pouring rain...that is, until Sunday night. Nevertheless, we explored some  romantic, quaint corner coffee houses and the matrix of tunnels that lead to the "Underground City" of shopping centers, designed for residents and tourists alike to escape the Montreal's frigid winters.

Regardless of what Mother Nature has in store, here's a sampling of what you will find in Canada's Cultural Capital.

St. Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal--Canada's largest church. You will find pilgrims going up the center stairs on their knees in sacrifice. Check out the views from the top...fabulous views of Montreal from the city's highest point.

And then there's Olympic Park, home of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.
The Biodome is fun for exploring various ecosystems...the tropical one is my personal favorite. It also includes the botanical garden, which is lovely as well.
The bug museum, I could do without...but to each, his own.

And if you're a foodie like me, no trip to Montreal is complete without a Nutella crepe.

If you're from the Northeast, Montreal is a very doable and very fun weekend escape. It's only six hours from Boston, but it feels like an ocean away. Crescent Street is lined with terraced restaurants, bars and clubs. The hipster Mile End neighborhood is another must-see area to explore. And if you like to gamble, check out Montreal's casino, built on rock salvaged from construction of the city's metro system.

Foodies, shoppers, cultural enthusiasts, gamblers, outdoorsy types...there's something for everyone north of the border. Check it out, and you, too, will be able to say, Je me souviens.

Au revoir...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Tomorrow is our anniversary...six years together, one year married. And we couldn't be happier. When I picked up our anniversary cake this morning from the bakery, the baker asked me if I still felt like a newlywed.

Every day, I said.

She said she had goosebumps and that I was very lucky.

Indeed, I know we are.

"I have for the first time found what I can truly love -- I have found you. You are my sympathy -- my better self -- my good angel -- I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you -- and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."    ~Charlotte Bronte

I give you my hand,
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law:
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
~Walt Whitman

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
~Pablo Neruda

Un besote...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No Zombies for Me...It's Time for Dinner

I have been so sick these past couple of weeks that, had a zombie apocalypse occurred, you probably would have found me curled up in a corner, in a fetal position, waiting it out.

But here we are, por fin, and I'm finally coming out on the other side. Luckily, no zombies for me, because I am waiting for my sweet husband to come home and we can have dinner.

It's one of my favorite times of the day...that sweet spot just before he gets home from work.

As a teacher, I get home before he does. It gives me the quiet time I need to unwind, take a power nap, start dinner and sometimes, even go to the gym or go for a walk.

Regardless of my after school activity, every day, I feel the genuine excitement of waiting for him to get home, to see his smile, share a kiss, and begin our night, which almost always begins with dinner and a chat.

Our nights are nothing special in the sense that, during the week, we rarely go out, and often, he snoozes on the couch after dinner. But it is precious time, nonetheless, because over dinner, we talk. There is no television, no phone, no distraction. We chat about what happened that day at work, what we heard on the news or on NPR, or what we are planning to do over the upcoming weekend. We eat, we banter, we connect.

For some, dinner spent in front of the television or eating on the go is normalcy and often a necessity. But for us, dinner together at the table is an unofficial ritual that reconnects us after a day spent apart, doing our own thing.

As we approach our anniversary, I can't help but reflect on how blessed we are, to be in a marriage where we genuinely enjoy spending time together, that we share common interests and maintain enough differences to make conversation playful, sometimes intense, but always interesting.

And when either of us, or even both of us are in a quiet mood, neither seems to take offense at the quiet space between us, because there is comfort in sharing space, confident that anything other than quiet time is discussed and not shrouded in uncertainty or anxiety about what the other is thinking or why the other is so quiet.

Dinner time, like our Sunday coffee dates is precious. It's something I look forward to every day, like the excitement that builds as I wait for his car to pull into the sets this perpetual newlywed's heart aflutter.

Un besote...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Same Beso, Only Bigger

I bit the bullet and bought my domain last night.

My blog is no longer a, but a .com. I don't know that it makes any difference...only to me.

Beso, meaning "kiss" wasn't available and none of the suggestions worked for me, so I decided to go bigger.

Besote, meaning "big kiss" was available and so, go big or go home. 

Introducing Y Un Besote dot com...twitter @YUnBesote. All of the social media buttons still work. Besote is open for business.

Next stop, sponsorship!

Have a great day, mis amigos! And it's Friday! Bonus!

Un besote!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5-Minute Bad Day Fix

We all have them...those days that leave you longing for retreat under a blanket fort. At times, they can seem overwhelming, but there's a quick fix that can provide respite from the passing chaos.

Be thankful.

It's that easy and it takes less than five minutes. Stop what you're doing and think of five blessings in your life.

I won't list mine because everyone has different blessings. They may be similar, but if they're not shared, and you're reading someone else's gratitude list, you could be sucked down the comparison rabbit hole.

Don't. Go. There.

If you're life is really not going as you had planned right now, a gratitude list may be hard to come by, but start at ground zero. If you're reading this, you're already blessed with technology that many people around the world cannot access. Whether you see technology as a blessing, or a curse, or a blend of both is up to you. Nevertheless, it's there.

And don't save the gratitude for the bad days. Start or end each day with thankfulness. It doesn't take long and once you realize and give thanks for what you do have, it can provide hope and inspiration for brighter days to come.

So, go for it. You have the bad day fix. Be thankful. And pass it on.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Back at It...Couch to 5K

I'm not a runner; I'm a wannabe. I am surrounded by runners. I see their passion for their sport and I love the idea of running and experiencing a similar runners' high, but I never quite figured out form, breathing and pacing. I can walk until the cows come home, having accomplished such feats as the Breast Cancer 3-Day and Boston's 20-mile Walk for Hunger, but running? I never quite got it.

This is not to say that I don't give it the old college try. In November of 2011, I ran in my first road race, a November 5-miler. I was proud of my accomplishment and can say that I actually ran most of it, walking only momentarily to rest.

I ran through the spring, but stopped just shy of my wedding when I re-injured my knee while out on a morning run. Thoughts of hobbling down the aisle took over and I put off running off until after the wedding.

Well, here we are, nearly a year later. It's time. 

I decided to join two other couch-to-5k'ers at a local park for our first workout. Well, only one showed, but it was fabulous. We downloaded the app, chatted it up, ran for a while, walked when we needed to and ran again. We did 3.5 miles (overachievers, I guess) and I can hardly wait for next week.

Running is one of those things that I have to work at. It does not come naturally, but that's the beauty of it. When I finish a workout, there is such a sense of accomplishment (and exhaustion) that is comparable to few other challenges in my life. Everyone starts somewhere and my somewhere is here. Again.

Every time I lace up and get out there, I build strength, endurance and self confidence. We're not worried about pace; it will come.

As for me, I am off to snuggle with hubby, watch a little tv and look for a summer 5k to join.

What's on your list? What goals do you have for yourself that you have been putting off for lack of time or hesitation in your ability to succeed? What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? What's stopping you?

Go do it.

Un beso...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jillian Michaels, Shame and Getting Over It

Last week, I joined hundreds of fans and fitness enthusiasts and went to see Jillian Michaels on her Maximize Your Life tour. At times it seemed like her schpeel was a compilation of all that is trending right now, but one thing stood out and it helped me achieve my very own aha moment.

She talked about how the Biggest Loser contestants shake off images of their former selves with disdain, almost disgust about who they used to be. But the thing is, old body or new, it’s still them.  And, she added, he or she lost 100 pounds. How are you going to top that??

And then came my aha.

As someone who has lost 110 pounds, I hesitatingly look at or share pictures of my bigger body. Discomfort and awkwardness stem from shame…shame in the size of my body…shame that defined who I was.

And what’s worse, I had shame about how I lost my weight because I was worried about others' reactions and my own fear of failure. I just didn't get it.

How ridiculous.

In 2011, I had gastric bypass surgery and both my decision to pursue surgery and my use of this tool has saved my life.

Aha! I finally got it.

I have spent years thinking that if I only looked like X, all my dreams would come true.  But through this process, I got the smack upside the head I needed.

My life is amazing and my dreams have come true. And my BMI has nothing to do with it.

It has everything to do with me and the person I am, that I have always been.

It has everything to do with the choices I made and continue to make every day.

It has to do with my strength, my perseverance, and my commitment to life and all that is good.

It has to do with the dreams I hold for myself and my life, and the steps I take to bring it all to fruition. My good choices and accomplishments didn’t start with my weight loss. And they certainly won’t end with them.

Finally, pride has replaced my shame.

Pride in pushing through when it seemed easier to give up.

Pride in a body that never gave up on me, especially given the abuse I had inflicted on it over the years.

Pride in allowing myself to trust that such an amazing man could love me so completely, even when I couldn’t love myself.

Pride in allowing myself to stop self loathing and move into a space of self awareness.

Pride in how far I had come and excitement in how far I could go.

I am proud of the person I am today, and I am a work in progress. Losing my weight was part of the process, a chance for me to discover my strength and a catalyst for the great things that are still to come. But the choices are still up to me.

Instead of hiding photos and memories of my bigger self in the bottom of dusty boxes or photo albums, I wish I could hug her, tell her how proud I am of her and give her the biggest high-five I could muster, because the reality of it is, I couldn’t do it without her.

Want to Eat Clean? 3 Things

Many of us want to "eat clean" but sometimes, time gets in the way of our best intentions and we're making on-the-go choices, which almost always, aren't so clean.

This has been my experience, and while I know what I should do, what I do do isn't always the best, so this post is for me as much as anyone.

Want to clean up your eating? Try these three things.

1. Decide what "clean eating" is for you and plan ahead. If you plan, based on what you know to be what's best for you and your healthful eating, it's a win-win. Keep a snack with you in your bag. No excuses. There are healthy options that require no refrigeration. For me, it's a serving of almonds or walnuts, carrots, berries, kashi cereal and my favorite Quest protein bars.

2. Do not eat in front of the television or computer. Take the time to eat and feed your body. When you eat mindlessly, it's gone and you're left wondering, what's next? This leads to snacking, also usually done in front of the tv. Not good.

3. Write it down. Know what you're eating. Knowledge is power and when you see it in black and white, you can see it and adapt it as needed.

Start here. Trying a life overhaul all at once is daunting, but if you chunk it, it's manageable. Start where you can and make small differences...they all count. Have a great week!

Un beso.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Time Out...Fighting Nature Deficit Disorder

There's something about the woods. The sun peeks through the canopied trees. A creek babbles along over rocks, rushing under foot bridges, foaming in corners along its path. Passers-by nod in unison that all is right in their world, at least while we are all here in the woods.

We are blessed here in our pocket of New England. We have wooded and paved trails, once railways, now havens, for those who seek fitness of body, mind and spirit.

The sensory experience we cull from our outside time is important. We breathe fresh air, we take in vitamin D, and we stimulate those primal areas of our brains as we reconnect to the earth. And as my husband says, the mosquitoes and bears need no mention. ;-)

Some run, some bike, some blade, some stroll.

Some tune into each other, and walk hand in hand...our personal favorite.

Some chat, some share space...we like this too.

Some tune out the world, opting for dark glasses and a motivational beat.

Some tune in to their own hearts and heads, to be with their thoughts.

Our path is shared, but our steps our own.

Getting outside and into the woods is a valuable sensory experience that so many of us lack in our daily lives. Bound by long work hours indoors, we are often tuned into our climate controlled pods, saturated with various media, artificial colors, scents, flavors and textures.

This disconnect to nature, Richard Louv says, results in a loss of empathy, sense of stewardship, an overall apathy for the environment and the natural world.  Nature Deficit Disorder, while studied mostly among children (as explored in Last Child in the Woods) can affect any of us.

Here's a slightly humorous look at NDD from Matador.

But it's easy to reconnect. '

Even if you're not blessed with rail trails like we are, you probably have a place outside where you feel at peace. Maybe it's the beach, a favorite park, your garden, or the solace of your back yard. Seek it out. Find or create sanctuary from the artificial sensory stimulation of life and reconnect with the natural beauty of the world outside your door.