December 23, 2014

A Cup of Courage

For the last week I have been enamored with a plastic object.

It started late in the week. I was heading off to work and I saw that someone had dropped one of those insulated cups made to look like a fast food drink cup. You know the kind...
This one was clear with a green tinted lid. It was lying on its side next to a car parked at the curb. It looked as if someone had accidentally knocked it out of the car as they were getting out. My thought as I drove by was that surely the owner would see it when entering the car, and hopefully it wouldn't be crushed before then.

On my way home that afternoon, the car was gone but the cup was still there. How did the cup manage to survive the car pulling away without getting hit? What a clever little drink cup. It was still there in the morning and again that evening. This started my fixation.

Every time I left the house I would look for the cup and coming home I'd do the same. Sometimes it would  get pretty daring with how far out into the street it would venture, but then it would have second thoughts and roll closer to the curb. I actually had to take care to go around it several times to avoid crushing the thing after it had become especially adventurous. This went on for several days with no damage to the cup so surely I wasn't the only one playing the chicken game with a drink cup. After all, no one else had hit it either.

I believe everyone else on the street was as enraptured as I was at watching the tale unfold of the little cup that had been abandoned in the street but then decided to make the most of it, living fearlessly and laughing in the face of danger. That's it, little cup, be BRAVE!

But on Sunday morning, the cup's audacity finally caught up with it. On the way home I noticed there was now a large hole in its side, as if maybe it had survived a close encounter with the side of a tire. It was still holding strong in the street, however, despite the battle wound. But how long could it last with that kind of damage?

The answer? Not long. Leaving the house for work on Monday I was saddened to see hundreds of clear and green shards of acrylic scattered across the road. That poor little drink cup was no more. I can only assume that its demise what brought about by a foreigner to the street, someone who hadn't witnessed the struggles and triumphs of our orphaned cup, someone who had no idea that they had just snuffed out a mini ray of sunshine.

I wanted to stop the car and sweep up the pieces--it just seemed cruel to leave the remnants out in the street like that--but I wasn't sure I could explain why I was blocking the street to pick up trash. So I just mourned in silence.

It was a good cup, a brave cup. For a few days it filled me with anticipation, brought a slice of whimsy, and even offered up a bit of hope. Things looked bleak for that little cup but it made the most out of the hand that life had dealt it. I can't help but be inspired.

Or maybe I just need to socialize more...

December 11, 2014

Let the Planting Begin...

Over our 19+ years of marriage, MC and I haven't had the best of luck with houses. There was our first house which flooded, attracted both cockroaches and mice, and had wall-to-wall linoleum--in every room. Our second house had the distinction of being only one house away from my sister, but it also came with split level stairs that were tough to navigate while pregnant and herding a toddler, a rabid squirrel that didn't take too well to the fact that our bedroom window faced his tree and frequently woke us up in the mornings with his thoughts on our location, and a kitchen that looked like a 1970s Sears ad for the hottest look of the year--olive and goldenrod. Our third house also flooded, but only in the basement--where our friend/renter and my craft business were housed. We also had a grand plan of remodeling but never finished so we lived for 2 years with no bathroom sink and half our kitchen countertops gone. That's not even mentioning our 3 apartments, rentals, and various family members who've allowed us to crash with them for months at a time.

For a girl who moved into her family's house at the age of 2 and never left until the age of 18, not having roots was tough. It was even tougher knowing my kids didn't have a house that they could say was the house they grew up in--there's been too many to keep track.

But finally, after more than 2 years of being a dual income family and finally having steady paychecks, we were ready to try again. We were ready to ditch the rental and find a place to plant ourselves--at least for the next 7 years, when Sassy graduates from high school. But where to move?

Originally, all we knew was we wanted to move away from Mesquite and head farther east, or even northeast (which will mean nothing to you if you're not from the area, but stay with me). We began looking at Garland, Sachse, Wiley, Rockwall, and Fate. During this time, I was going through the worst experience with Bubba's school and the teachers working with him. It became clear that our #1 factor in finding a new house had to be a good school district. Here's where it gets fun.

We heard so many good things about Rockwall schools and especially their special needs program that we decided we would move to that district. We spent the next few months doing most of the legwork ourselves. Looking at real estate postings daily while getting our credit together, saving money, researching financing options, and checking out all the individual schools. Here is what our potential housing area looked like:
That's the entire school district. That line that cuts across the lake is Highway 30--similar in size to Highway 512 in WA.

We decided for many reasons that we liked one high school over the other so we eliminated any neighborhoods that were feeders for High School #2. That took out everything to the south of Hwy 30 and shrank our pool to this:
No problem. That still left us lots of areas to look at. During our search, we put our stuff in storage, moved in with my brother-in-law and his family who live in RISD, and got the kids registered for school instead of moving them mid-year. My drive to work was now an hour one way. After 2 months, we came to the conclusion that Fate was just a little too far for us. There are 2 bridges that cross the lake and having to cross the 2nd one from Rockwall to Fate added another 15 minutes of drive time. So, we made the decision not to look for houses beyond the first bridge (Dalrock Rd). This left us with an area only 2 1/2 miles long and very narrow as one side of Dalrock is Rockwall schools and the other side is Garland schools. This is what we had to work with:
Yes, the INSIDE of the blue marks was our target. There are still lots of houses in there so we're all good, right? Oh, but wait. We needed 4 bedrooms or a 3 bedroom with a room we can convert. A garage was a must. We also needed a formal dining room that we can use as an office. Plus it either needed to have a pool or be cheap enough and roomy enough that we could put one in. (A pool is the only thing that will get our kids outside.) No galley kitchen. And, if possible, Mama would really like a fireplace and a craft area. And we were really hoping for a two story. You know, if possible.

I'm not even kidding.

We looked at every single listing that even came CLOSE to having MOST of it. We made lists and rejected many. Finally, we narrowed it down to a few candidates. Then we called the real estate agent. During one Saturday, he took us to see 4 houses. Two we had to reject outright and two were possibilities. We went home, crunched numbers, prayed, crunched numbers, discussed, crunched numbers, and then made a decision that night. At 1:30am, we put in an offer on a house that had 4 bedrooms--a master downstairs with 3 upstairs--a formal dining room, a storage area perfect for crafts, a 2 car garage, a fireplace, a pool, and a kitchen that makes me want to cry it's so pretty.

We had to negotiate a bit, but we finally found terms everyone was happy with and our offer was accepted. We picked up the keys yesterday. This is it, our new patch of soil in which we're putting down our roots...
While we don't actually get to sign until January, they are letting us move in now.

Welcome home, Slacker Family!

August 21, 2014

Reading Between the Lines

I leaned into the mirror this morning, as I do every morning, and began my usual pick/pluck/squeeze/smooth inspection and dissection of my face. I lamented the fact that my roots were once again growing in which means it's time for another coloring. Despite the fact that I started going grey at 15, my vanity still has not come to terms with it. I tell myself that one day I'll wear that grey (ok, mostly white) with pride, but then I admit, today is not that day.

As I took a look at the creases between my brows, I was pleased to note that they weren't as noticeable as they seem to be when I'm scowling at all the moronic drivers in rush hour traffic. And my fear that squinting in the summer sun for days after having lost my sunglasses on a ride at Six Flags would cause deeper grooves was unfounded. 

But as I turned my head slightly, I felt disappointment set in. I saw lines branching out from my eyes. Visible lines. At not-yet-40 (and dragging my feet the whole way there), I could see Mother Nature catching up and it was depressing. I now had crow's feet. How could I still feel so young, how could I still CLAIM to be young, with wrinkles that no one could miss?

My default mode at this point is to start bemoaning the fact that I am "middle aged" and "it's all downhill from here", to be saddened that half my life is over, to mourn for the pre-Loreal glory days when both my freedom and my metabolism were something to envy.

The truth is, I've done all that. I've wasted time and stress--and, yes, even tears--over the fact that I'm turning 40 this year, over the fact that I'm "not getting any younger, you know". I've thrown that pity party; it's not a fun place to be. 

So this morning I decided I wasn't going to go there. I decided instead to be bold, be brave, and accept those lines. While they might resemble crow's feet, they are truly laugh lines. For those wrinkles to have formed, my skin and muscles had to repeatedly be put in that position--that smiling or squinting position. They say that the average adult smiles about 20 times a day and laughs about 17 times a day. As a baby that laugh number jumps to 300 times a day! That means, just as an adult, I've smiled about 158,360 times and laughed about 134,600 times! That's amazing!

I have to say I've earned those lines. Not only that, but I cherish them. They are proof that my children's corny jokes, crazy antics, and endless imaginations light up my world. They are proof that I've spent 21 years with a man who makes me inexplicably happy. They are proof that throughout life I've always managed to find those girlfriends who make me laugh until it hurts. They are proof that getting kicked out of public places with my sisters is a happiness unmatched. They are proof that I have parents who love me and taught me such happiness in the first place. They are proof that despite depression, unemployment, horrible bosses, foreclosure, death, doubts, medical issues, broken cars, Autism, loneliness, and personal struggles, despite living in the midst of a twisted, chaotic, turned-upside-down world, I have been able to find joy and laughter.

Instead of investing in miracle creams, laser cures, or questionable injections, I am choosing to embrace my laugh lines, my crow's feet, my wrinkles for what they are. They are a symbol that I have not let the dark of the world bring me down, but instead I've chosen to let the light lift me up.

July 8, 2014

Why Isn't This a National Holiday?

On this day in 1968, God created my best friend and the man with whom I would share all of my best adventures; God created MC. While he loves to make people laugh and drops one-liners like they're going out of style, he hates to draw attention to himself. Lucky for him that he married a woman who is happy to put him in the spotlight.

While I can't say I had a great example of marriage growing up (divorce runs rampant in my family--even my parents considered it more than once), I had an excellent example of what a family was and I knew that I wanted that one day. What I couldn't have known then and still surprises me to this day, is how much more I got when I married MC. He is truly my best friend and it's not sappy greeting card speak to say I love him more today than I did on our wedding day.

Those who know him would cite his dry humor and quick wit, but they would also say he's a good man, an honest man, a strong Christian example. They would also tell you what an amazing athlete he is, and that he can play almost any sport out there--and do it well. (How he ended up with an introverted bookworm whose idea of athletics is cheering enthusiastically at the game is something only God knows.) They could tell you that he's a great father, a loving husband, a caring brother, and a loyal friend.

But it's the things they can't tell you, the things I treasure close to my heart that have made me love him more than I ever thought possible.

Things like...

...getting up for all middle of the night feedings (no matter how many occurred in one night) with Howdy and then getting up and going to work the next morning when I was dealing with depression for months.

...putting in 90 hours at work one week to make sure we had enough money for the down payment on our first house.

...supporting me in anything and everything I want to do and making me feel like I can still do anything and be anything even though I'm now married with kids.

...pretending we are spies.

...sticking with me through the times that I went off my meds and off my rocker.

...loving my family while missing his own.

..."blankets and pie".

...forcing me out of my shell--no matter how much I grumble and complain--knowing that I will be grateful for it later.

...listening to me go on and on about all the plot points and character development in my stories even though he doesn't like to read and isn't huge fan of paranormal.

...letting me dress him up for Halloween in outrageous costumes even though I know he hates it.

...learning that leaving the house without a goodbye and a kiss is unacceptable.

...kissing away my pain.

...spooning with me every single night as we fall asleep.

...learning how to work around my quirks (not touching my heels, no folded hems, closing cupboard doors).

...accepting that we're raising bookworms instead of athletes.

...passing along the same sense of humor and "music appreciation" to our kids.

...quietly judging strangers with me as we people watch.

...allowing me to exploit every moment of our lives for laughs on my blog.

...sticking beside me through changes in jobs, cars, houses, states, churches, body size, and dreams. Things like making me feel safe, secure, and protected. Things like educating me and creating the desire in me to want to stay informed. Things like reading books to our babies and doing Sassy's hair and bonding with Howdy over a TV show and with Bubba over board games. Things like spurring me on to be a better Christian and to keep building that relationship with God. Things like making sure there is laughter, a hug, and a kiss in every single day. Things like getting up and going to work every day to keep us all fed, clothed, and in a warm home. Things like making me feel like a smokin' hot superhero chick who married the greatest secret treasure.

For all these reasons and more, there is no one I'd rather celebrate than MC. Happy Birthday, Babe!

June 23, 2014

The Dating Game

Sassy doesn't have her own phone. According to her, she is the only person her age who doesn't have one, but we still aren't giving in. However, she does have friends she would like to talk to sometimes and so I've let her give out my number before so they can call and text on my phone. Apparently I should have been more specific as to how and to whom she gives my number to.

Yesterday, I received a "hey" text from a number I didn't recognize. Those are generally from Sassy's friends as they only communicate in one word phrases:
But since I didn't know who it was, I didn't respond. At least, not until I'd received 12 "hey"s. Then I got a little annoyed. So I answered...

I saved the number in my phone as "Markus", but according to Sassy, she doesn't know a Markus. She does know a Shemarcus but she says she's never given him our number--and they aren't currently friends. She also claims to not have a boyfriend but that could be more from self-preservation and not wanting to see mom flip her lid than the actual truth. Either way, I do not handle the idea of my not-yet-teenage daughter having a boyfriend so well. The conversation continued...

I ignored the fact that he used the wrong spelling of "allowed" since he's probably only 11 (even though my daughter can spell it just fine) and focused on the fact that he doesn't seem to have a problem with 11 year olds dating. I know dating at that age means something completely different than dating at 17 or 21, but I still have a problem with it. In fact, at this point I was now picturing some miniature, mack daddy-wannabe showing up at my house on his Huffy and offering to give Sassy a ride on his handlebars.

You're willing to wait? Yes, Sassy is absolutely worth waiting for but she's not allowed to date until she's older...MUCH older. You're going to wait a few years? What kind of stalker are you? And what exactly is it you think you are waiting for? At this point, according to MC, I went a little TOO Mama Bear...

After I explained that Sassy says she doesn't know a Markus and asked his last name, he informed me that his "common" name (his quotations, not mine) is Mark. Sassy was even more lost when I asked if she knew anyone named Mark. And so I asked again for his last name.

Haven't heard back from him since.

I'm really hoping this was just someone messing with me. Otherwise I have to keep my eye out for the little lothario who has turned me into a rabid wolverine protecting her young while MC tries to reign me in. What will I do during the teenage years???

June 16, 2014

Dear Daddy

I realize it's the day AFTER Father's Day, but is there ever a bad time to praise your daddy?

I'm not close enough to hug on my dad on Father's Day, too far away to enjoy a nice dinner with him or offer him a present, and he will never be on Facebook, but what I can do is share with everyone all that he's done for me as I've grown up.

There's something different about fathers and daughters. As a little girl I loved my daddy and wanted to grow up to marry him. I grew up with 2 sisters so that means my dad--the man who lives for hot rods, racing, and rock'n'roll music--was surrounded by females. He was never a have-a-fake-tea-party-with-the-girls kind of guy (although he's mellowed out quite a bit with age and grandkids), but there was never any doubt that he loved us.

Some of my best memories of my dad are the two of us curling up in his puke green vinyl recliner to watch Star Trek, Kung Fu, or Mutual of Omaha's Animal Kingdom together. I would sit through the most mind-numbing shows or watch animals being slaughtered and eaten on the Savannah because it meant I got to snuggle with my daddy. Sometimes us girls would pull out the sleeping bag and he would let us take turns sitting on it while he pulled us around the house for a crazed, bouncing off the walls roller coaster ride.

My dad always made sure there was plenty of room in the animal graveyard for our deceased pets (and there were plenty). He gave us rides on his scooter that, to us, felt like a daring motorcycle ride. He never failed to try to cheer us up when we were crying over the latest break-up--no matter how awkward that may have been. Because he worked at home, he was the one we called to pick us up from school when we were sick, bring us lunch money, or even bring up an emergency stash of "girl supplies" when we weren't prepared. He's the kind of guy that will give you backhanded compliments that you just accept in the way they were meant because you know that his heart was in the right place.

One year on Valentine's Day, my dad brought me and my younger sister (my older sister was already out of the house) a plastic heart-shaped box filled with tiny, heart-shaped Red Hots. I can't stand cinnamon candies but that remains in my list of Top 10 gifts I've received because it was a Valentine from my daddy. I actually pick up a present for CJ to present to Sassy on Valentine's Day each year because of how special that one little box of candy meant to me. It was probably just a spur of the moment purchase he picked up from the gas station, but to his daughter it meant the world.

My dad has always been fun, from his loud rock music and love of dancing, to his race car and much younger friends. But I think the one thing that has always stood out more than anything else is how much he loves his family. My dad taught us at a young age that nothing was more important, that nothing should ever come before family. And while he did give us speeches that said the same thing, I learned more from his actions, his willingness to do whatever it took to take care of his wife and daughters than anything else. He would give you the shirt off his back and then offer his pants as well if that shirt wasn't enough.

It's hard to be so far away, to not be close enough to tickle his feet or kiss his stubbled cheek, but if there's one thing I've learned it's that if I ever need my daddy for anything, he'll always be there--no matter how far apart we are.

June 5, 2014

Last, But Not Least

MC and I are going to camp on Sunday and we are excited. It's a camp for Middle School and High School kids at church so we got Howdy and Bubba signed up. We were asked to be teachers/chaperones and we agreed as long as Sassy could go with us. Now we have our family vacation for the year planned and we didn't even have to take care of transportation, housing, or food! Nice!

We had a last minute meeting last night with the youth ministers, interns, and camp crew to go over all the particulars. Very productive. As we were winding down, the high school youth minister--"A"-- said he needed to get home so he can pack. My first thought was, "We're heading off to camp soon. Where could he possibly be going?" With that thought tumbling around in my (obviously vacant) brain, the middle school youth minister--"J"--jokingly says, "I'll pack on Saturday!" And that's when I put 2 and 2 together and realized that A was going to pack for camp...that was still 4 days away. When I look back on my life, I can vaguely remember bits and pieces of a time when I would pack ahead of time, even a week or two before the event.

But then I had kids.

And it's not that having kids running around makes it too difficult to accomplish the packing, it's that somewhere in the process of incubating and birthing the little minions, my internal schedule broke. Whereas before, MC and I always strived to be punctual, if not early, now I'm happy if we make it to an event before it's actually over. And packing for said event? That's just a whole other challenge right there.

Packing for 5 for a week long camp in the mountains of New Mexico will look something like this:

*Start gathering clothes Friday night after work, after dinner, because that's the first moment that I've had to
sit down.
*Realize that I cannot make a single outfit out of any of the clean clothes we have left. Start doing laundry. This week I get the added bonus of a broken dryer, so after everything is washed I will pile it all into the Beast and spend 2 hours at the laundromat waiting for all of it to dry.
*By the time I get back, it's 2am and I'm dead on my feet. I set my alarm and vow to get up early to finish packing.
*After hitting the snooze button 27 times the next morning, I drag myself out of bed to discover that the kids made themselves breakfast and found time to watch 4 hours of brain-deteriorating cartoons but couldn't be bothered to let the dog out to pee.
*Take the dog out.
*Dig through the suitcases and try to remember which ones work, which ones are big enough, and which ones I should have thrown away after the last trip. Get the right suitcases and pass them off to the corresponding campers.
*Stop for lunch/kid herding/dog herding/(insert time-sucking activity here).
*Put together all the outfits, the "get dirty" outfits, and the extra layers needed for myself and MC, since he most likely had to work extra hours to get the latest work project done before he was unreachable for a week.
*Yell at the kids to stop playing around and start packing.
*Gather all the toiletries.
*Shove, fold, rearrange and generally do whatever it takes to get the darn suitcases to close.
*Stop for dinner...and to repack since I realized I forgot to include my pajamas/jacket/underwear/(insert needed article of clothing here).
*Look over the kids' suitcases and realize they still don't know how to pack. Fix the kids' packing jobs.
*Set the suitcases, pillows, jackets, sleeping bags, and shoes by the front door so they aren't forgotten.
*Write a list of everything that has to be grabbed in the morning. Make peace with the fact that one or more toothbrushes and/or deodorant will be left behind.
*Crawl into bed late (again).
*Wake up late (again). This kicks off the frantic, chaos filled, running around like crazy routine that leads to the forgotten toothbrush and/or deodorant. Make it to the buses with zero time to spare.

In comparison, doesn't packing ahead of time just seem...dull?

May 28, 2014

The Gospel According to Mom

I just read an article in which Admiral William McRaven, a 36 year Navy Seal, addressed the graduating class at UT Austin and shared life lessons he learned while in the Seals. They were all very good, all sound advice. But I couldn't help but think he missed some vital information. I couldn't fault him since he didn't grow up in the same house as I did, but I want to take a moment to correct the mistake. I'd like to round out his lesson plan with those learned at the feet of my mom.

1.  Never leave home without clean underwear on--you never know when you'll be in a car accident.  While I never quite understood the basis for this, I suspect it has something to do with the fear of not being at your best when faced with a cute doctor (well, in addition to being bloodied and broken from the accident). Personally, I'd amend this to just "never leave home without underwear". I think that would cover it.

2.  Eating raw cookie dough will give you worms.  I'm sure there is a minuscule but real possibility of this
occurring, but I can tell you that I've eaten raw dough for over 30 years and I've never had that dreaded case of worms. I do think there is validity in this rule, however, because if allowed to eat the dough freely as opposed to just sneaking it when mom's head was turned, there wouldn't have been any dough left to actually make cookies with.

3.  Dinner must consist of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable.  Growing up, there was always a meat (such as chicken, steak, or pork), a side (potatoes, noodles, or rice) and some type of vegetable (corn, green beans, or--barf--broccoli). On occasion mom would shake it up a bit with spaghetti or some type of casserole, but even then I'm sure she had all the food groups covered. While I sometimes let my family have a "Fireman's Dinner" where dessert is served first, I still feel like dinner is being done wrong if it doesn't have the essential three. Speaking of...

4.  Three is a magical number.  In addition to our dinner line up, three is also the number of daughters in my family (no boys)--3 girls with boy trouble, 3 girls with PMS, 3 girls to marry off. If you were in trouble, you had to the count of 3 to comply or your backside would get a little too personal with a wooden spoon. Even if you thought dinner was disgusting, you weren't allowed to leave the table until you ate 3 bites. The number 3 just seems to have a power all its own.

5.  Sometimes you just need to let your body breathe.  I always hated this one growing up. This is the one that would come up just after getting out of the bath when mom would tell us we could sleep without underwear because we needed to "breathe". What that means is, it's good for your girl bits to get a wayward breeze now and then. To this day I still don't feel right without underwear on (probably because she also drilled in Lesson #1.) But then one day, after Sassy's bath, I realized she didn't have any clean underwear. Before I realized it, mom's words had come out my mouth and she went to bed commando. That's when I got it; she didn't need to breathe so much as I needed an excuse to not rush in and do a load of laundry.

Mom had many lessons over the years that were just as valid, such as always shave your toes (hairy toes on girls are just gross), use meat tenderizer on bee stings, never returned borrowed dishes empty, if you pick at it it'll only get worse, and eat a banana when you've got a cramp. Some of these lessons may not apply to everyone (although men--if your feet resemble a Hobbit's, feel free to shave), but there is one lesson I learned that should be shared with every student, every graduate--whether from high school or college. She taught me that if I was willing to work hard, there was nothing that I couldn't be, nothing I couldn't accomplish, no goal I couldn't reach. So from my mama's house to all of you, always remember that the only thing that could every limit your possibilities is you.

May 20, 2014

Master of Its Domain

Yes, it's another fitness-inspired post. I figure, even if I don't manage to work myself into some kind of buff mama with freakishly strong calves and arms void of chicken wings, at least I will be able to pass on any hard won wisdom to my readers. And today I would like to offer one particularly important piece of advice: avoid the Stair Master. The Stair Master looks like a bite-sized portion of an escalator, but in reality, it's a torture device assembled by the devil's minions for the sole purpose of giving him yet another reason (along with GPS, ISS, and doorways) to laugh at my expense.

With my trainer so far, I've worked on my back, my arms, my core, and done some cardio. I warm-up and cool down with 15 minutes on the treadmill. Trainer is fond of increasing my speed and/or incline every couple of days just to "push me" when really all it does is make me want to push him...down a flight of stairs. (On a side note, it hit me the other day that I'm actually paying someone to yell at me, push me beyond anything I think I can handle, wear myself out physically and mentally, and then to do it all over again when I come back after refusing to give up. Paying?? My kids have been doing this for free for years!)

After getting through my workout on Thursday, Trainer decided to have me cool down on the Stair Master. As this didn't require me to use arm muscles that were the consistency of vanilla pudding at that point, I was relieved. He climbed up, set it all up for me, and then told me "10 minutes". 10 instead of 15? Yes!

Actually, no. It turns out 10 minutes on the Stair Master is way harder than 15 on the treadmill. And it takes longer, too...well, for me anyway. But it did give me time for a bit of self-reflection and meditation. Because I am a transparent soul, I'm sharing the insight I gained while perched high atop those Masters of Stairs.

1.  I have no coordination. If you've seen me bump into walls (or the aforementioned doorways), or have been subject to my I-will-run-you-off-the-sidewalk way of walking with friends, you've probably already figured this one out. I only realized how bad it was when I started Muay Thai class and I found myself in constant danger of tipping over after kicking my target. I've also observed that the side rails on the treadmill are the only thing that keep me on the track. If not for them, I'd probably jog myself right off the darn thing. Oh, but the Stair Master...that machine is a whole new level of coordination strain. Not only do I have to keep myself in a somewhat straight line while walking, but I have to walk up steps while doing it--steps that increase and decrease in speed while I'm climbing! Seriously, who invented this thing? I imagine they come equipped with hidden cameras and the inventors are sitting somewhere watching the video feeds while cackling and patting themselves on the back over how deviously they've managed to get a whole population of balance-challenged people to struggle to hold on to their dignity AND the railing while watching their feet very carefully to make sure they hit the next step.

2.  I can make 10 minutes last foreeeeeever. After a workout, my muscles go into self-preservation mode--they curl up in a fetal position and refuse to surface for fear they will again be yelled at to "push through the pain!" I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of a cool down exercise is seeing as how I always end up even hotter and sweatier, but it usually serves as the icing on my I-hope-I-don't-have-to-use-my-now-useless-muscles-for-anything-today cake. It turns out that the Stair Master is a lot of icing. I climbed those stupid stairs at different speeds like I was told, but it seems that my Jell-O legs can't hold up to the climb very well after a regular workout because I don't think I ever made it longer than 45 seconds at a time before I had to hit "pause", catch my breath, and wait until the shaking in my muscles let up a bit. Most of the time it was closer to 30. Yeah, that's right. I can climb for 30 seconds before I'm ready to cry Uncle. Climb. Stop. *pant, pant, pant* Grit my teeth, start again. That was repeated every 30 seconds until I had climbed for 10 minutes. You see, when the Stair Master stopped, so did my timer. It was a very long 10 minutes.

3.  I don't want a support group.  Because I was taking an exceptionally long time to get through my climb, a line had started to form of people waiting to get on the Stair Master. The first woman in line was older than me and she kept trying to encourage me. While she was smiling and saying, "you can do it", I was eyeing her fashionable workout clothes and her fit muscles (and the fact that she was OLDER than me) and all I could think was, "I'll bet she can make it at least a minute at a time." Having Fitness Barbie watch me struggle to climb my escalator from hell didn't make it any easier. The best part? When I finally finished and gave a half-hearted attempt at a cheer, "I'm done. *pant, pant* I did it!", she responded with, "Good! You should try it again tomorrow." As I walked away, I'm pretty sure I heard her cackling and patting herself on the back. 

May 14, 2014

Superhero Training, Week 2

Yes, I'm calling it Superhero Training. I've started working out with a trainer, I'm taking Muay Thai classes, I've cut out white flour and starches, I'm down to half a Dr. Pepper and up to 5 bottles of water a day, my lunch staple of Chik Fil A has been replaced with grilled chicken salad, and, most impressive of all, I'm EMBRACING the change. If that's not the road to Superhero-dom than I don't know what is.

But the Training continues; today was gym day.

One of the biggest challenges in trying to get fit and healthy isn't walking by Auntie Anne's Pretzels and having to pass on their Buy One, Get One Free deals. It's not having to control yourself when you buy a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate and caramel squares for a party and most of them come back home with you. Heck, it's not even having to go to work after your muscles are so tired that tying your shoes becomes an epic feat on par with scaling Mt. Everest. My biggest obstacle on my road to the New & Improved Me is OK, more specifically the Girls. You know, my chest, my tatas, my chest-bound boulders that are forever causing pain during vigorous movement. It's really difficult to keep those puppies in place.

Only those who have likewise been mammarily blessed will understand the singular, frustrating, uncomfortable, and often downright painful sensation of jogging without proper support. But even our support isn't all that supportive. For the most part we have 2 options:
1.)  Find a cute sports bra that works to some extent, buy 2, and then layer 'em up using the combined power of double lycra and double spandex to hold those suckers in place.
2.)  Spend close to $100 for a sports bra that will force the Girls up and in until they have been so squashed together they are known among the female crowd as "unaboob". Unaboob occurs when a sports bra flattens, redistributes, and molds your breasts until they no longer resemble 2 separate boobs, but one giant lump...positioned right in the middle of your chest. Trust me, it's not pretty.

Last night I was lucky enough to find a sports bra that bridged the gap between functional and fashionable, and I wore it with pride when I went to the gym today. My usual routine is to start out with a warm-up--15 minutes on the treadmill, walking 1 minute then running one minute. Everything was going great until around minute 5, when suddenly I heard a snap and something felt a little too loose. It was the right strap of my sports bra. I immediately downshifted to walking mode and tried to assess the situation. I was hoping the strap had just come loose from it's hook--an easily fixed problem. I discreetly checked down my shirt and caught a glimpse of the frayed strap. No such luck, that sucker was busted. I guess I should've checked to see if there was a weight limit before squeezing myself into it.

So here was my dilemma--after another 10 minutes of treadmilling it I was supposed to meet with the trainer
so he could turn my arms and legs into jelly and my lungs into something that sounded like Darth Vadar. It was going to be much more difficult to execute any exercises with one Girl packed in and the other one hanging free and loose. For the first time, I had no extra clothes since I had planned on showering and getting ready back at home when I was done, so no back up bra. I had my old one at home but by the time I got there and back to the gym, it would be time for me to turn around and head back home. After missing out on Monday's workout due to an MIA trainer, I didn't want to go back home. Given that the gym is located smack in the middle of shopping central, I figured my best bet was to go buy a new one. I popped in to the trainer's office and let him know that due to a wardrobe malfunction, we were going to have to start our session a bit later and then I hightailed it to the sports store.

My walk into and around the store was an exercise in muscle control. I was trying to hold my keys and my wallet (no purse) while keeping my right arm tucked in close to my body to help support my wayward Girl, but also looking around and digging through rack upon rack of sports bras. I found a few candidates and then went to the dressing room. I tried them all on, doing the jump-up-and-down-in-front-of-the-mirror move to test their control factor. While not completely satisfied (the Girls were contained but there was still too much "wiggle" room), I managed to find one that would work, paid for it, and rushed back to the gym where I got in my workout.

I had to go through all that just so I could voluntarily sweat buckets and push my muscles to the point of begging for mercy. This Superhero stuff is hard! But at least I've learned one lesson. When it comes to my Superhero costume, I'll leave the fitting to the professionals. 

May 5, 2014

Let's Get Physical

Some years ago, while we were still living in WA, I was walking on a regular basis with my mom in an attempt to get in shape. At the time, I felt so motivated to keep it up that I set a goal--I would be able to run a marathon before I turned 40. Obviously I'm closer to 40 than I was before, but I'll be honest--a marathon does not factor into my future plans at this moment.

However, it's hit me that I AM closer to 40 (I refuse to discuss how much closer lest reality causes me to curl up in a fetal position and ugly cry), but I'm not any closer to getting in shape. If I never shared my secret dream with you before, let me share it with you now. My dream is that I will be a fit, cut, hard bodied chick who can kick some tail and battle with the best of them. If I could snap my fingers or wiggle my nose, I would turn myself into a female Navy Seal, without the enlistment. My girl crush is Kate Beckinsale, not for her romantic movies but for her roles in the Underworld series. I dream of being the next Lara Croft, Black Widow, or Sydney Bristow--able to take out the enemy with a swift hit to the throat or kick to the head, all while looking good in spandex and heels. (Well, maybe not the spandex.)

But then reality intrudes. I am a middle-aged mother of 3 who gets winded as soon as I actually pick my feet up off the ground. So maybe superhero-dom isn't in my future, but that doesn't mean I can't get in shape, right?

I've already started with Muay Thai (kickboxing) classes, and today I had my first session with a personal trainer. I stared with a warm-up on the treadmill (pretty easy) and then we moved over to the weight machines. He started me in on pulling and pushing weights (3 reps of 15 on each machine) until I was soaked in sweat and didn't think I could do anymore. He took it easy on me and after my 2nd rep on one of the machines he told me to take a water break. I got a drink, caught my breath, and was feeling proud of myself for managing 2 reps when he said, "OK, now finish it." Are you kidding me?! "You've got to push yourself." Hey, I ran on the treadmill, didn't I? But somehow I managed to finish. He did this to me repeatedly until my arms felt like Jell-O and I started to wonder if I'll be able to do any typing at work.

I had to do the water break/recovery thing on another machine that had me pulling down on a bar that was over my head and bringing it down to my lap while lifting 45lbs. A guy jumped on while I was watering up and moved it to 150lbs. After he got his reps in, he moved on. But not before smirking at me! I'm not kidding! Was I supposed to be impressed? Dude, I've given birth to 3 babies. Come back to me when you've accomplished that. I wasn't the least bit intimidated, I just told the trainer to move it back to my baby weight and "let's go".

Thankfully, it was time for the cool down after that. Apparently, Trainer didn't think I'd been breathing hard enough with the warm-up so he bumped up my speed on the treadmill. You want me to sweat? Mission accomplished.

After showering off all the sweat, I managed to drag my clothes on. My arms wouldn't cooperate enough to tie my shoes, apply makeup, or even put in earrings (despite the fact that I feel naked without makeup or earrings).

On the way out, I said to Trainer, "I'll see you Wednesday."
Trainer: "Great, then we'll get to work on your arms!"
What?! I can't even move my arms at the moment and he wants to work on them again? In just 2 days? What happened to mixing up the routine? I might just hit him...if only I could lift my arm.
Me: "But we just did my arms!"
Trainer: "Today we worked your back. See you Wednesday!"

Now if only I could find a nuclear power plant or a radioactive spider before then...

February 24, 2014


4:01pm on Saturday was a most glorious time as it found me loading up my last Girl Scout cookie booth least for a few weeks. As far as everyone else is concerned, cookie season is over. But what we don't tell you, the unsuspecting public, is that if any troop still has cookies after our payment deadline, we can keep selling them until May 31st. That's right, you just thought it was to safe to start prepping for bikini season. Think again.

This was only our 2nd year of selling cookies but something happened to me this year, something that sent me over the line from enthusiastic Troop Leader/Cookie Mom to pusher of Girl Scout crack. I went from being a mere distributor to being a dealer willing to do whatever it took to get philanthropic-minded customers hooked on what we were selling. It's a slippery slope, but I'm here to give my testimony so that those among you who are destined for the cookie/popcorn/discount card/random fundraiser crap path can be alert and aware of the signs of impending doom.

This year, the GS Council changed the game on us. Instead of earning only .50 per box (that's right, folks, those sweet little girls only get .50 a box) for our troop, we could earn .67 a box if we ordered about 90% of what we sold last year on our first order. While this sounds good, my particular troop was down to 7 girls after having 14 girls selling last year. My girls and parents had originally only wanted to sell around 1500 boxes (just over half of last year's sales), but they decided they could try for more. And so I ordered 2500 boxes. For my first pickup.

While the girls are allowed to go door to door, the best way to sell lots of cookies is through booth sales. We had booth sales at grocery stores, hardware stores, a medical clinic, and a bed&bath store. We peddled
those cookies at home, at school, at work--sometimes even to random strangers we met in doctor's offices. I've got my girls trained. They ask every customer who is leaving the store if they want to buy, and they don't take "no" for an answer. No cash, you say? They will be quick to inform you that "we take credit!" Can't eat cookies? It's a good thing you can still donate to send cookies to our military. Already bought some? Why not buy another box to keep in your freezer for later?

These girls were cookie-selling machines.

And they worked their tails off. They stood outside in 33 degree weather to hawk those little nuggets of sugary goodness. They waved signs on the street corner, made up cookie themed cheers, and pasted on cutesy smiles when all they wanted to do was sit at home and eat cookies instead of selling them.

And where was I during all this? I was behind them, urging them to not miss that 90 year old lady heading
out the door with her walker and reminding them to shout as her hearing aids meant she probably didn't hear
well. I was the one convincing them that they didn't need a break because they'd only been standing for 2 hours. I was the one asking them how they expected to earn a trip if they weren't selling more cookies to that lady with the 5 kids who was probably trying to save her money for diapers and formula. I was the one scheduling the girls in 3 hour shifts because 4 would mean they would get tired and cranky and be useless. I set up a sales booth and then I let my girls go to work while I watched the money come in.

I was a Thin Mint pimp.

Sure, I sometimes provided my girls with drinks, snacks, gloves or even the occasional break, but only because I needed them pushing product and if they keeled over from dehydration, they'd be worthless to me. Slap a long fur coat and a feathered fedora on me and they would have fit perfectly. The only thing that mattered is that we reached our goal of a trip to an overpriced waterpark where we can't afford the food and we'll only stay for one night because it's so expensive.

In fairness, I was at all the sales with my girls except for one. I stood out in the cold and waved signs, froze my fingers off, asked/rang up/sold and greeted with the best of them and spent plenty of time on my feet. I also took cookies with me wherever I went on the chance I could sell more. I brought in a couple of cases to work where the office is filled with young twenty-somethings who live on their own but don't know how to cook and get all their meals from take out or delivery. I stored more than 200 cases of cookies in my livingroom since there was no other place for them. I kept track of thousands of dollars in deposits, made signs, connected with store managers, and stuck with our twice a month troop meetings in the meantime. I was a pimp, but I was a working pimp.

The girls have reached their goal for this year and set a long term goal for the next 2 years. The only trick? Selling all these cookies first. And that means more booth sales. Now...where did I put my purple fedora?

January 22, 2014

Keep Calm and Go Hardcore

It's been 2 days and the ringing has finally died down in my ears. And why were my ears ringing? I'm so glad you asked.

Howdy's 15th birthday is in a few days and a few months back he informed us that what he really wanted for his birthday was to attend this concert featuring 2 of his favorite bands (along with 2 lesser known bands). He'd shared a few of their songs with me and, although it's not my particular brand of entertainment, MC and I decided to get him 2 tickets--one for him and one for a parent. No one else was able to go but I figured I would just hang out in a corner somewhere and try not to embarrass the kid by being so obviously his parent. Easy peasy, right?

When anyone asked what kind of concert we were going to, neither of us knew how to categorize the bands we were about to hear. I decided to slap a makeshift label of Alternative Rock to the music. Oh, how wrong I was. It turns out the bands are considered Post Hardcore, Deathcore, and also Screamo. Never heard of it? Me either.

Let me explain the musical line up...

Band #1, while starting out a little shaky, actually produced some pretty good music. It was like hearing
verses from bands like Blink 182 or All American Rejects with screaming choruses thrown in. An odd mix, to be sure, but somehow it worked.  As one of the singers/guitar players hit his first chord, it was obviously off-key. He looked at his guitar, looked at the other singer, then shrugged his shoulders and carried on. Talent is not a concern here.

Band #2 had better instrumental skills but the singing...well, in my limited view of music it should not be considered singing. The singer would spew out words in a such a deep, snarling voice that it sounded like his open mouth was really a portal into hell and he was stuck gargling on hordes of demon spawn.

Band #3 was my favorite. (Other than the cussing; I could do without that.) But the music was really good. It sounded like taking all my favorite 80s rock bands--AC/DC, Kiss, GNR-- and ramping up the metal, tossing in a bit of screamo, and then mixing liberally with tattoos, piercings, and anti-establishment fueled angst.

Band #4 (saving the best for last, apparently) went farther into the screamo side than #3 but actually sounded more like music than #2. While it's Howdy's first pick, I have to stick with #3.

This is a whole musical culture that I've never experienced. One in which flipping the audience/band members the bird is considered a sign of respect and slamming into other shirtless strangers in a mosh pit is the height of entertainment. And while I love loud cars, loud motorcycles, and the kind of loud bass in music that you can feel in your chest, I have never heard anything as loud as the music played at that concert. After it was over, I not only felt like my ears were underwater, but that minuscule creatures had become trapped behind my eardrums and were trying to push their way out.

But, believe it or not, I enjoyed it. We were on our feet for 6 hours in a pit of people squished in tighter than
Kim Kardashian in spandex, I pointed out the smell of weed to Howdy, we helped along those who were crowd surfing, we marveled at the people in the balcony who were able to stay seated and seemingly unaffected by the music (I suspect they were parental units), and while we didn't actually participate in the moshing we did travel with the waves of the crowd.

It may not sound like a great night on the town to you, but I got to enjoy it with Howdy and I got a rare glimpse into the life of a teenage boy. That alone was well worth the price of admission.