Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santa, Baby

Santa Baby, 

I've been bad more often than I've been good since your last visit. I'm sure that stoolie, the Elf on the Shelf has already gleefully relayed all of that -- unkind thoughts, jealousy, resentment, quick-to-temper, selfish, blah, blah, mother-fucking blah. Oh, and cussing, too.

Here's the thing, Santa -- I'm not going to make excuses or even offer explanations. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Guilty as charged. I'm working on it.


Some of your minions -- the good toy-maker type elves, not the tattletale snitch elves -- have been asking what I want/need for Christmas. I am at a loss to answer. What do I want? I want more counter space.  I want a real vacation. I want the will to make the mundane seem sublime. I want acceptance for all people and marriage equality and the de-stigmatization of mental illness. I want to be beautiful and vital and strong. Oh, there is such a long list of things that I want!

If I try really hard to behave better, maybe next year Santa Baby, maybe next year you could slip some of that under my tree. I'll pass on this year completely if you think you could make that so, big guy.

Sincerely Trying,

Friday, November 8, 2013

Radical Acceptance

Life has thrown me some curves.

This makes me absolutely the opposite of unique. 

For the past eight months or so, I have allowed my demons to consume me. I was helpless to change things -- so I accepted them -- but I did so while harboring a huge load of resentment. I resented the circumstances that changed my life. I resented everyone who wasn't dealing with those circumstances. I resented the people who were able to craft escapes from their own circumstances in one way or another. I became bitter and found it difficult to cultivate even the smallest seed of joy.

It was miserable to be me and it was miserable to be around me.

Then, things took a turn for the worse.

And the damndest thing happened.

I accepted it.

I accepted it almost calmly.

I accepted it rationally.

I accepted it -- radically.

I wasn't yet familiar with the concept of radical acceptance, but I was experiencing it.

It washed over me unexpectedly. This is my reality and I will be living with it. I may as well live with it harmoniously.

My thoughts had turned -- as I suspect the thoughts of many folks my age do -- to "What is my life worth? Is this all there is?" It's a really helpless, hopeless thought and it was difficult to bear.

Until I really considered it.

What if this really is all there is? 

I have the chance to see something beautiful every day.

I listen to music that moves me.

Every now and then I get to spend some time near the sea. I have mementos.

I spend time with clever people who make me laugh.

I have a hobby that feeds my creative side as well as my personal need to touch fabulous fibers.

I drink good coffee in the morning and good wine in the evening and I eat good food more often than I don't.

I love the people in my life and I suspect that they love me in return.

A kitten is purring in my lap as I type.

Like the song says, I've got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.

If that's all there is -- is that so bad? What am I looking for? What am I waiting for? Who could really want more?

Is my reality like yours? Nope. And yours isn't like his and his isn't like hers and so on and so on, scooby doobie doobie. But mine isn't so bad. I bet yours isn't, either. It's not what I would have chosen if I'd been provided with a drop-down menu, but it's not so bad.

Radical acceptance occurs in that moment when you stop fighting reality. When you accept things totally and completely as they are. No what ifs or if onlys or not fairs. Serenity, courage and wisdom, and all that.

I am completely at peace with my present. That feels pretty awesome right now -- almost blissful after all of that time buried under bitterness and resentment. I suspect that the bliss will wear off, but I hope that the peace will remain.

I couldn't really hope for anything more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Moment

Yesterday Lea and I went to our local Farmer's Market, as we have every Thursday all summer. It is a small Farmer's Market, but a nice one. Every week we walk through once to see what everyone has, then we walk through again and make our purchases. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. There was no reason to think that last night's visit would be any different. It was just another box to check off on our long weekly to-do list.

I would be hard put to tell you what shifted to make this visit different.

I suppose part of it is that my schedule is completely filled with meeting other people's needs. To be honest, I had allowed some resentment to build up around this. I'm not proud of that, but it's true. Give and take had turned into give and give and -- while I'd love to tell you that I rose to the challenge selflessly and without complaint, the truth is that I did indeed rise to the challenge, but I did so with a big-ass chip on my shoulder.

So there I was, in my usual-of-late grumpy state, completing my first round and ready to make my purchases when Lea ran into a couple friends. "Great." I sighed, "Now she's going to argue with me about leaving. Just what I need. Super." And then I stopped. As part of Lea's Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) she has been working on mindfulness -- on being in the moment. I looked at her talking to her friends -- happy -- carefree in that moment. Why would I want to take a pleasant moment from her? Was our schedule really that tight? It was not. I backed off and decided to appreciate the moment myself. 

Earlier in the week, a friend had said something that had really settled into my brain and made itself at home. Essentially, she said that if we don't make the most of the situations in which we find ourselves we are doomed to wallow in resentment. That was precisely what I was doing. I was allowing myself to resent everyone and everything that was causing me to put my own interests on hold. I was trying to think of ways to make my new situation palatable and I was hitting the wall with each suggestion. To say that I was frustrated would be a rather dramatic understatement.

So I looked at Lea -- just enjoying a late-summer moment -- and I followed her lead. 

I took note of the sunshine, and the way it felt especially nice after the light summer rain. I became aware of the smell of the homemade warm donuts that were being made and decided to treat us to a bag. The girls had asked for them before, but I'd always said no. This felt more like a yes moment. As I waited in line, I listened to the street musician, singing songs from my youth and from his heart. I thought about how much my dad loved homemade donuts and I missed him, but in a warm nostalgic way, not in a painful empty way. I took a bite then lifted the rest in a toast. Cheers, Tut. I turned the resentment aside and started letting the love flow in. How appropriate that Lea and Tut were the ones that created the impetus for this. The negative drained out as quickly as the positive flowed in. It was summer, I had a bag full of delicious fresh produce in one hand and a bag full of hot fresh donuts in the other. Yin and Yang. Balance. The sun was shining, my daughter was smiling, my thoughts were loving and all was well in my universe.

Just for a moment.

Of course the rest of the daily obligations remained. We didn't stay forever. It wasn't forever. It was a moment.

A really nice moment that put the rest of the day into perspective.

Maybe there's something to this.

Maybe I can find the good in this less than optimal situation I find myself in. 

I've been looking at the big picture.

Which is sometimes the right thing to do.

But for me, right now, I think I might fare better if I put the big picture in the background and concentrate on the details.

Take the time to smell the donuts.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

People Are People (No Matter Where They Shop)

It has taken me almost a year to be ready to write this post.

Last fall, we were all geared up for a high school football game with our cross-town rivals. Both teams were undefeated at that point and it promised to be a great game. I think I was more interested in high school football last year than I was when I was in high school myself. We pre-purchased our tickets because a sold out crowd was anticipated. I wore team colors -- purple and black -- to work that day, as I did every Friday, so that we could head straight to the game when I got home. I was psyched.

It was a rough day at work. My supervisor kept me after my shift was over to deliver a nasty blow. This was not only devastating personally and professionally, but it made me late getting home which made us late for this sold out game. Being late, of course, meant that we had to park farther away which made us have to walk farther which made us even later. Still stinging from my supervisor's words, I had barely spoken to my family throughout this -- fearful that words would lead, as they so often do when I am vulnerable and hurt, to tears.

There's no crying in football.

When we finally made it into the stadium -- still a few minutes shy of the pre-game show -- the stands were packed. There was absolutely not a single place to sit. The throngs of people standing on the sidelines were thick. As I am on the shorter side of tall, any glimpse I got of the field was stolen. Awesome. I listened to the pre-game show, then followed the game as well as  I could by listening to the announcer and watching the score board.

By half-time, my back was in as much pain as my ego. The arthritis in my knee was screaming louder than the pep squad. Feel free to throw in some other figures of speech of your choice to illustrate my physical and emotional misery and/or exhaustion. I was miserable. I was exhausted. You could've put a fork in me kids, 'cause I was done.

At this point, I just absolutely needed to give my back some relief. I knew it would look stupid, but I couldn't go another moment without stretching it out. As I bent over to touch my hands to the ground I heard a girl say, "Oh my God!" and mid bend I caught a glimpse of her nudging her boyfriend and pointing at me. As my fingertips grazed the track and I experienced a millisecond of relief, I saw a flash and heard a click.

She had taken my picture.

She. Had taken. My picture.

I know there are cultures that believe taking your picture steals your soul and in that moment I briefly grokked that notion. She had stolen something from me.

I rose to standing and narrowed my eyes at her. She caught my gaze then quickly dropped it, turning and walking away. She was pretty -- in a generic teenage girl sort of way. Not drop dead, head-turning, oh-my-God pretty, but pretty the way hoards of high school girls seem to be. Pretty because she was young and her hair was long and blonde and her jeans came from the smaller end of the juniors department. She was no different than dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of other girls there that night. She oozed a casual confidence that she would be young and pretty forever. 

I wasn't a person to her -- I was just a punchline. She didn't know what lead to me feeling compelled to bend over in what I knew was an unflattering manner -- nor do I imagine that she would have cared. A fat lady bent over. That was all she needed to know. That's funny stuff right there, kids, I'll tell you what.

People of Walmart are still people.

People who don't dress well, or who have the unmitigated balls to be fat in your presence, or who deviate in any other way from the arbitrary norms are still people. They deserve to go about their daily business as much as well-dressed people with perfect bodies do without being exploited for the amusement of the lowbrow masses. That we, as a society, find it so generally acceptable to shame and dehumanize those who don't fit into our personal aesthetic standards is deplorable.

A few months later a woman was in my office telling us a hilarious story about how she had been shopping with her teenaged daughter and they saw a transgendered person in the store. They -- this adult woman and her teenaged daughter -- nudged each other and giggled. Then the mother encouraged the daughter to snap a picture because her own phone was not charged. Her daughter refused, saying that she didn't want to be caught. Think about that. The mother was encouraging her daughter to dehumanize someone whose appearance she found bizarre. The daughter -- while amused -- refused to take it to the next level, and good on her for that, at least. Do we need a clearer example that this hateful behavior is taught?

Taught, and encouraged and widely accepted as harmless.

It is not harmless.

When someone I used to call a friend recently posted a picture of her neighbor -- a woman who clearly did not meet her standards of beauty -- getting the mail -- I was afraid to walk out of my door for days; fearful that one of my own neighbors might be lurking in the bushes, ready to expose my not-usually-exactly-carefully-polished mail-retrieving look to the world.  It was the football game all over again. (We won, by the way. So there was that.)

My heart broke for this woman whose adult (A very vocal Christian, by the way. WWJD - Who Would Jesus Dehumanize?) neighbor viewed her as nothing more than an opportunity to attempt to make a few of her friends giggle.

But I'll bet she has a story.

I have a story.

You have a story.

Every single person of Walmart has a story, too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Groundhog Day

I have followed a pattern my entire adult life. 

The world tells me that I should be unhappy with the way I look. It's hard not to listen. But every now and then I break through it and decide: screw that action.  I'm big. So what. I can be the best looking big girl it's possible for me to be. This shift in attitude usually leads to a shopping spree. Out with the outfits designed to most effectively hide my bulk -- and me -- from the world and in with the outfits designed to fit and flatter and make me feel great. This shopping spree inevitably leads me to the makeup counter where I decide that an updated wardrobe deserves an updated overall look. New clothes and new makeup lead to renewed confidence and I start to feel good about who I am. When I feel good I am more active. I am able to completely accept and indulge -- almost celebrate -- who I (temporarily) unapologetically am.

This is a very good place.

I ALWAYS end up at the gym from this place. 

This is also, of course, good.

Because I love lifting.  I really, really do. But it is hard to drag oneself to the gym -- even for something one loves -- when one feels frumpy and lumpy and worthless. But when I feel good, it's one of the first things I want to do.

Then I lose a little weight. My proud new wardrobe becomes loose and I start to replace key items in a smaller size. This is exhilarating! This is the point in the pattern where I stop being content with myself. I don't want to lose a little weight, I want to lose a lot of weight. I want to lose ALL the weight! Maybe if I change my eating habits... 

I am no longer unapologetic or accepting at this point, but I am motivated and encouraged. I can do this! I start projecting. If I lost THIS much weight and THIS many sizes in THIS amount of time, then by THIS date I should reach my goal.


Let's backtrack for a moment.

Shouldn't the goal be to be happy? Didn't I reach that goal earlier in the pattern? The part where I was -- um -- happy with myself and with my life? Isn't that ALWAYS the goal? But by the time I get to this stage I am no longer happy with myself as I am. I am, however, pretty sure that I can get myself to a place that will make me happy if I just work hard enough. I'm not happy NOW, but I can BE happy. I'll DESERVE to be happy when I'm in a smaller dress size. Oh, boy -- I sure will be happy then!

So my workouts become less fun and more -- well -- work. Meals are obsessed over. They are still delicious -- I'm not a TOTAL martyr -- but food becomes almost all I think about. I am eating one meal while thinking about the next. There is no spontaneity at this point, and if there is it is horrifying rather than delightful.

The scale moves a little, but not much.

And then it stops.

We're not talking about a plateau for a week or a month or a couple weeks or a couple months. It stops. I up the exercise. The scale won't move. I cut out more food. The scale won't move. Nothing works. 

I become desperate.

Then sad.

Then desperately sad.

I don't want to lift -- why bother?

I want all the carbs -- who the hell cares?

Quickly quickly quickly I regain all the weight I've lost plus a little for good measure.

Eventually, I start to accept myself.

And the cycle begins again.

This cycle has repeated itself more times than I care to tell you.

This time, though -- this time it is a little different.

Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I learn little lessons each time the same events repeat themselves. 

This time, I never completely stopped lifting. I backed off. I didn't hit it with the intensity with which I hit it when all is well, but I never quit. I gained back a third of what I'd lost then stopped. I stopped before I gained it all. I stopped well before I gained it all and then some. 


Lately I've been buying clothes like it's my job. And I've noticed that I linger in the beauty aisle -- I've brought home new eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish in the past couple weeks. Could I be getting back on at the top of the cycle before I completely bottom out? It would appear that I am. This has never happened before. The cycle is changing.

Woo and might I add a hearty Hoo.


The trick will be to stay here -- to stay here at the top -- exercising and eating well and dressing in a way that makes me happy and generally feeling good without falling into the formerly inevitable traps that await me.

Can I do it?

I hope so.

If not this time, maybe the next.

Like Mr. Murray, I am damned tired of repeating the same cycle over and over. It's stupid and it's futile and life is too short.

It's time to learn my lessons and get it right.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All the World's Indeed a Stage

When things get particularly out of control with my life, one of the coping mechanisms I turn to is to picture the events as they are unfolding as if they were a movie. Maybe that's crazy, maybe that's egotistical maybe it's a form of disassociation but it has often helped me to gain perspective. Would I be rooting for my character? Would I like her? Quite often the answer is no.

While that bothers me immensely, it doesn't always result in a change in my behavior. Real life isn't the movies. Traits that come across as plucky, quirky and delightful in the movies are often just plain weird in real life. And NO ONE wants to watch a movie about a mature adult making rational decisions. It's boring. When that character exists, it is presented as a stern and oppressive foil to the free spirits that surround it. The spirits that we root for. We root for the characters who live on the edge. We want them to be enough like us to be recognizable but they need to take chances we can't, won't or shouldn't take.

Lately I am certain that if my life was a movie and you were watching it, you would be rooting for everyone but me. I'm surrounded by people who are living -- or at least pursuing -- the lives they want. They are plucky, quirky and delightful. You would love them. They take risks; I advise caution. They pursue their interests;. I gripe about practical concerns. I resent being cast as the straight-laced repressed middle-aged resentful fat woman. Is it bad form to use two versions of the same word in one sentence? Technically, yes. But it's a word that would be used multiple times in describing my character. I resentfully resent being resented.

So I think -- if I were writing the story, how could I give my character a redemption arc? How could I -- as the playwright -- manipulate things so that this character was able to have her needs met without squelching the enthusiasm of those around her? 

I'm just not that talented as a playwright. Clearly this character needs to be less of a bitch if she is to gain public approval. (Or more, if we're going for the anti-hero angle.) But she can't just roll over and play dead -- she can't be given a supporting part in her own story. Nobody likes that character. I certainly don't.

I don't have the answers yet. The rest of this story is unwritten at this point. But isn't that exciting? It could go anywhere! I've cast the role in my head, though. The actress has the convictions of Susan Sarandon with eyes that are determined and maybe more than a little bit crazy. She will defend her children like a mother bear and dance with her friends with wild abandon. She is non-traditional yet classic and not too hard on the eyes. She'll also have a little Sandra Bullock in her -- she's in over her head and frazzled and the worse the situation becomes the more adorable she appears. Obviously there's a little Melissa McCarthy in the mix as well. She's sassy and brassy and cusses fluently, but more importantly she's the current fat girl. And whoever played me would have to be a fat girl. It shouldn't matter, but it does. It puts a different spin on every situation. These are not necessarily my favorite actresses, but I think they would combine well to play the part. Now I just have to feed this gorgeous hybrid some saucy lines and turn things around for her. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Everybody Sings the Blues Sometimes

On my way to Kroger this morning, I was struck by the particular blueness of the wildflowers on the side of the road. ( I think if I ever searched my posts for all of the times I've used variations of the phrase "on my way to Kroger" I would die of embarrassment. Or sheer depression. But I've digressed.) These flowers -- some might call them weeds, because they are unplanned and not carefully placed in carefully tended gardens, but I've always liked wild, unplanned flowers more than I like cultivated ones -- really called to me today. Perhaps it was the way the early morning sun was lighting them -- giving them an almost unearthly glow and definition. Perhaps I was just in the right frame of mind to be beckoned by something wild and beautiful. For whatever reason, their role in the landscape took on more importance than it perhaps deserved as I made my emergency run for half and half.

I mused on their lovely hue -- and how it resembled the blue of the sky when the sky is such that you can't help but be happy. Blue flowers, I thought, blue skies, blue jeans, blue moon, blue blue my world is blue, blue jean baby, somebody turned the blues on me, I got the Sunday morning out of half and half running to Kroger blues.

Would you think I was making it up for the sake of the story to say that I parked next to a blue van when I got there? Because I'm totally not.

We almost bought a blue car this week.

I am not a car chick. Tom will argue this point -- because I turn to goo at the sight of old muscle cars or new muscle cars that look like old muscle cars or even some high end performance sport cars. They appeal to me on an almost visceral level for one and only one reason -- they are beautiful. My attraction is entirely superficial. I like the sexy, powerful lines. Open the hood to show off the hooziewhatsits and that's where a true car chick or car dude will start to show signs of what often appears to be physical arousal. I'll take a glance at it then wander back to reverently touch the upholstery or the dashboard. True car chicks and dudes are cringing -- amazed that I don't want to wax rhapsodic about torques or valves or any other number of things that hold absolutely no interest or meaning for me whatsoever except for the fact that they're housed in a bitchin' chassis.

My favorite favorite, bar none, is a Mustang. Make it a convertible and I become sort of incoherent.

My Accord is on its last legs and my life is -- hmmmm -- not where I'd expected it to be in these, the middle years. Tom thought maybe putting me in my dream car would put me back on the road to things making sense. I do like that Tom. Long story short, we ended up test-driving a couple Mustangs that we thought were in our price range. Both were blue. Like sunny skies and wild flowers and everything that is good and right and sweet and true. But when we actually brought ourselves out of the clouds and thought about it we realized that it is not quite the right time for us. I could run to Kroger and pick up half and half, maybe, but I couldn't haul the groceries for the four of us for the week. I could get the girls to their appointments and lessons and practices, but it would be cramped and uncomfortable for them. It just wasn't worth pushing our budget to its absolute limit so that I could soothe what is probably essentially a midlife crisis. 

Opting out was the right thing to do and we both slept better once the decision was made.

And we did just buy an uh-maze-ing new tandem which we should take possession of by the middle of this week. Tom says we'll need new shoes and helmets. Maybe they come in blue.

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Three Gripes

Since becoming a stay-at-home again, I have had to make a lot of adjustments. My self-esteem took a hit, my financial situation took a hit and my schedule took a hit. I am actually busier now than I was when I was working. The major difference (aside from the aforementioned hits), is that now I get to watch TV between chores.

We gave up cable years ago and dedicated ourselves to Netflix, but recently friends gave us rabbit ears so we can get a few channels. It's enough.

I had a little routine for my daytime watching, saving all the Netflix business for when Tom gets home. In case you're interested, my days looked something like this: Local News, My Three Sons, Donna Reed, That Girl, I Love Lucy, Leave It To Beaver, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper, Local News, Days of Our Lives, The Talk, Katie, Ellen DeGeneres. It's not like I watch all of those shows straight through every day -- I don't. Ever. But that's the schedule. That's what's on when I'm home. And to continue to be clear -- just because it's on, doesn't mean I'm sitting passively watching it. I do knock out a chore or two throughout the day. And when I AM sitting, I'm knitting. And you know what? I don't have to defend myself to you. It's not like every minute of your every day is filled to the brim with scholarly pursuits. If it was, you wouldn't be reading this.


Most of it is just background noise, but I almost always sat down and attended to My Three Sons and Donna Reed. My Three Sons is an old favorite, so there's a nostalgia factor, but there's more to it than that. First of all, like me, Ernie is adopted. Just like in real life, this is totally not a big deal. It is not ignored, but neither is it emphasized. It just is. I love that. But Ernie isn't my favorite, oh no. Like a good parent, I like all of the sons equally. The sons are not without their charm, but that Steve Douglas...  Now there's a man worth watching. What I love the most about his character is his ability to put everyone he encounters at ease. Sometimes he does it with a little twinkle in his eye, but he always does it. He is my parenting role model. He allows the boys to make their mistakes and pay the consequences in a spirit of gentle lovingness. He is the Mister Rogers of TV fathers. I want to be the sort of parent and friend that Steve Douglas is. I'm not. But I really want to.

And speaking of role models -- next on my viewing agenda is the venerable Donna Reed. I have never watched Donna Reed before. It was a little before my time when it was first run and I always sort of thought of it like a Leave It To Beaver sort of sappy salute to a perfect time that didn't really exist. I thought she was the quintessential submissive housewife and I really wanted no part of it. What a happy surprise it has been to discover that I was wrong. 

Of course ALL of the sitcoms mentioned also give me the added bonus of teaching me a valuable social lesson every day. Thanks to my viewing habits, I now know that it's wrong to lie to or manipulate or use people. I know that family is more important than money. And, thanks to Lucy and Donna and June I know that just because I'm unemployed doesn't mean I can't wear a nice new fit-and-flare dress and fix my hair. Even if Ricky -- I mean, Tom -- thinks I already have enough dresses.

So this morning, after dropping Liv off at school, I hurried home to pour my coffee and enjoy my daily dose of gentle wholesomeness with Steve and his boys.

I was not pleased when the familiar instrumental did not involve three animated sets of shoes tapping their toes and junk. MeTV had changed their schedule without consulting me, which seems rude, since they have Me right in their name. Family Affair is not the same. It's not even a good substitute. Now, if I want to spend a half hour feeling reassured by Fred MacMurray, I'll have to do it at 5:30. Which is, I suppose, a more pleasant way to wake up than the Local News. I'll adjust, but I won't be happy about it.

I looked into the rest of the changes -- I Love Lucy has been subbed out for The Lucy Show, which is NOT the same thing.


I adjusted to staying at home and to a new normal. Fine. But now I have to adjust my TV viewing habit, too? Enough. 

Uncle Bill is no Steve Douglas.

Mr. French is no Uncle Charley.

And I? Am crying uncle.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

There Is Beauty In It

Isn't this pretty?

I took it on my deck last night.

I bet you think I have a beautiful deck.

I sure was able to take an awfully pretty picture there, and everyone knows the camera doesn't lie.

That picture was taken with a macro-lens focusing in very closely on a tiny little part of this:

That's right. To the embarrassment of everyone in my family and, no doubt, the chagrin of many of my neighbors, weeds grow right up through my deck. It is wild and ugly and out of control.

Kind of like my life has been recently.

And yet -- when you take the time to look really, really closely -- just like the weeds on my deck -- there is beauty in it.

At first glance, it's a mess. Things that I do not nurture or welcome are growing and tangling around themselves and ensnaring everything in their path. They are manipulating the environment and dominating it. I cut them down, but they come back. They render me helpless.

Things only make sense when I slow down and accept them for what they are -- when I take the time to sort through the mess and magnify and emphasize the tiny instances of unexpected beauty.

Because they are there.

They are always, always, always there.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 100

It's the 100th day of 2013. 100 is a nice, round, even number. Why wait until December to reflect upon the year that was? I am a reflective sort of chickadee -- I'm going to use the 100 day mark as an excuse to reflect.

I know it is the 100th day of the year because of the photo a day project I have embarked upon along with a couple friends. I tag my daily offerings pic a day, but one of my friends has numbered hers which -- in retrospect -- was a really good idea and if I ever do this again it is one I will almost certainly use. Her photo yesterday was day 99, so being the smarty-pants that I am I was pretty quickly able to surmise that today would be 100.

This project has been a real learning experience for me and a lot of fun.

Originally I intended to be in every picture. I thought it would force me to do something worth documenting every day. I also thought it would allow me to get used to the way I look in pictures, because looking at pictures of myself has always been a sort of shocking experience. I figured if I was ever going to get comfortable with myself, I better know what I look like. At the 100 day mark I must admit that I strayed from the goal of being in every picture pretty quickly. It turned into a documentation of my life rather than of me. Nobody wants to look at a new picture of the same old person every day. Ain't nobody got time for that. Plus, I think it portrayed me as someone who was really into herself and that was not how I wanted to present at all. So I branched out and took pictures of other people and of things and of places and I think the project is better for it. I still make sure to get myself in there on a pretty regular basis.

Some things I have learned from this:

When I posted this pic in early January, I got a pretty positive response. It documented my first time buying jeans in a straight size store since I don't even remember when. People said nice things. I said this:

I really ought to learn to wear makeup -- and I have such healthy DARK hair -- it wouldn't kill me to spend a few minutes styling it -- and I need a better fitting bra -- and I still have a crap-ton of weight to lose...

Tom called me out on that comment -- as he tends to do when I get too self-deprecating -- but after I wrote it I realized that (almost) ALL of those things were in my control.

So I got a haircut, bought some makeup, picked up some new bras (boy, was I wearing the wrong size!) and proceeded to feel a whole lot better about myself.

Thanks, pic a day!

I missed a few days -- when I was just too sad to bother -- but I quickly learned that it was a great tool for that, too -- finding something positive or beautiful or worth documenting every single day. Even on those lowest days there is something. There is always something. I forgot that a couple times in the past few weeks, but I intend to try to use it in the future to motivate myself. Visual gratefulness. Make it a goal, on a bad day, to find that one good thing -- just one, no matter how tiny -- then photograph it and post it and make it real -- make it as real as the bad things -- make it MORE real.

Or, you know, skip a day here or there.  Whatever.

100 days in I would say I am definitely well on my way to achieving my goal for this project -- recognizing myself. Embracing the flaws I can't do a thing about and working on the ones I can.

It's a process.

Here's to the next 100 days!

Monday, April 8, 2013


If you want people to be interested in you, you must first be interesting.

This is pretty obvious advice, but fits pretty neatly into the easier said than done file.

How does one go about making oneself interesting?

I think the answer lies in reading, in learning, in doing -- in never becoming stagnant. The people I find most interesting are always trying new things. Mostly they succeed. Sometimes they fail. Always they try. They are eager and enthusiastic and learn from their failures rather than allowing them to define them.

Interesting people are interested.

Bored people are boring.

I have been bored.

More than that, I have been sad.

Not very interesting, is it?

The day-to-day has become overwhelming. Do you want to hear about it? Of course you don't. We all know what overwhelmed feels like. Nothing unique or interesting about that.

It's time to read new things -- to learn new things -- and -- most importantly -- to try new things.

I'm shaking off a long winter fog. 

I'm just, as The Boss says, tired and bored with myself.

But no more. Because it's stupid and it's boring and I have no desire to be either of those things anymore.

I will close my laptop in a few minutes. I need to throw a load of laundry in and get the kids to school and go to the gym and go to work and get a kid to an appointment and go back to work and get another kid to a practice and do a favor for a friend and all of that will take me straight to an hour before bedtime. I can spend that hour doing the same thing I always do, or I can spend it stepping out of the mundane and trying something new.

Will I?

I can't say for sure. It's a long day and just typing it out was a little exhausting. I deserve an hour to knit and watch TV. And I just might. But I also just might devote that hour to trying -- or at least reading about -- something new.

And I, my friends, am open to suggestions. You name it and I promise you that I will look into it. I just might try it. I will, of course, keep you informed.

I'm bored with being bored.

I need to shake off the mundane.

I need to be the sort of person I'd want to talk to.

I'm not that person right now.

It's not too late.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Somebody needs a hug.

Aw, I know you. You'd give them one if you could. Heck, if you knew I needed a hug, you'd probably reach right through the interwebs and give me one. Maybe you would squeeze me really tightly for a second or two then release me and continue to hold me at arms length so we could look at each other while we talked. Maybe you'd hug me so hard my feet would leave the floor and you'd shake me like a rag doll for a second or two (wow, you're really strong). Maybe you'd pull my head to your shoulder and pet me like a child. Maybe you'd put your arms so far around me that I disappeared in them or maybe you'd pat me awkwardly on the shoulder because you never cared for the whole hug thing but you understand that sometimes it's just a thing one does.

Why are you squeezing me with your body?
Hugs are awesome.

But what happens after the hug? Oh come on. I hear you singing "bow-chicka-bow-wow". It's not that kind of post and it's not that kind of hug. But when somebody needs a hug -- and we give it to them, literally if proximity allows and figuratively if it doesn't -- what happens next? Because realistically -- as nice as it sounds to say it -- you can't hug all day -- or even longer than a moment or two. Consider the lovers who wanted to spend eternity in one another's arms. The first few moments were bliss. Then their arms started to cramp. Positions were shifted, but nothing was sustainable for long. Eventually they became hungry. At the risk of being crass, bodily functions became necessary. Spending eternity in someone's arms is a romantic notion, but one that can never actually be achieved.

photo: AP
Ok maybe these two, but...
What happens after the hug? Think about the times we say, "I need a hug". We're usually feeling kind of crummy. Sometimes -- when I'm feeling crummy -- that well intentioned hug brings tears rather than comfort. I never mean for it to happen. I'm just hanging in there -- feeling crummy, but holding it together -- then I  accept a hug and -- bam -- some kind soul has a less than delightful mascara stain on their shirt. Oops. It's like that hug grants permission, "You rest. I've got this. You don't have to be strong anymore." Okay -- a good cry can be cathartic. So that's a possible result. But thankfully, it's not the usual one. Nobody likes a cry baby.

Why is a three second hug so wonderful, then? Does the shadow of a good hug linger on us like a ghost? Does it make a physical impression on us that keeps us warm long after the embrace or is the impression merely figurative? Does any of this matter? A hug feels nice -- even if only for a moment. Sometimes a moment is enough. Hugs remind us that we are loved and safe and cherished.

Things have been rough.

I need a hug.

I know you'd give me one, if you could.

Knowing that feels pretty nice.

I'll try not to wreck your shirt.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Post I Didn't Write

A couple days ago a friend posted that in the year since he has begun his journey to health and fitness he has lost 140 pounds and his doctor considers him a model patient and would like him to provide motivation to other folks facing that same long road. 


I was -- am -- so happy for him -- so proud of him.

What a helluva thing he accomplished!

I had one of those posts planned, too.

March 20th marked the one year anniversary of my journey.

I won't tell you I wrote that post in my head last March, because I didn't.

But shortly thereafter...

No -- last March I joined the gym, went back to the doctor and modified my diet because I wanted to feel better and I wanted to be strong. Feeling good, I reckoned, should not be solely the domain of the slim. I knew, then, that I could not be slim -- but I deserved to be happy and healthy and I was neither of those things.

Also? I really love lifting.

Almost as soon as I started, weight started falling off. I couldn't believe it. I felt better almost immediately. Shortly thereafter I started looking better. Then I dropped a couple sizes. My focus shifted. I was no longer doing this to be strong and healthy. 

I wanted to lose weight. 

That's about when I started writing that post in my head. I would lose over 100 pounds. I would feel 20 years younger. People who hadn't seen me in awhile would be amazed at my transformation. My doctor would look at me approvingly. EVERYone would look at me approvingly. People would ask me how I did it and -- oh boy, did I have a response planned for that. I would trip over myself to stress the point that this is what worked for me but that it wasn't a universal answer -- that there isn't a universal answer. I would tell people who asked -- and oh, they'd ask -- to stay away from gimmicks and the whole weight loss industry (the very root of all evil, I am completely convinced) and just figure out what worked for them. I would be encouraging without resorting to annoying platitudes or manufactured inspirational bullshit.

And there would be pictures.  

Oh yes, there would be pictures.

I didn't write that post, though.

Because my anniversary would've been in March -- but it all went south in January.

I completely stopped losing weight -- unless you count the same 4 pounds that I put on and took off over and over several times each week. For a few weeks I didn't worry. I'd hit plateaus before. They just need to be ridden out. I could ride it out. I'd proven that over and over. Head down power through.

Except four months is an awfully long time for a plateau.

This was something different.

This was -- is -- a new set point.

Towards the end of that time period some personal events took place and I had a rather major backslide. I ate things I shouldn't eat and drank things I shouldn't drink. I gained a few pounds. I went back to eating properly and immediately dropped the extra weight I'd put on -- but continued carefulness would not make that scale budge one tick lower.

A new set point.

I can apparently eat and drink with abandon and remain this weight or I can diligently watch every bite and work my ass off and remain this weight. For about a week now I've chosen to go with the flow -- not bingeing anymore, but not watching either. Through it all I've rarely missed a morning at the gym. And my weight is not moving.

I don't know that it ever will again.

I need to find my way back to the mindset I had when I began my journey more than a year ago. I didn't get where I wanted to be -- but I'm not where I once was, either.

I didn't lose over 100 pounds.  I barely lost over 50 pounds.

I don't feel 20 years younger. I feel exactly my age and am starting to look it.

People who haven't seen me in awhile do notice a change -- usually -- but their response definitely falls well short of amazement. Which makes sense. I do not look amazing.

My doc? He was happy with me at my last appointment. Not because I was still managing to move the scale at that point, but because my bloodwork was perfect. My triglyceride levels were perfect for the first time since I'd been seeing him. I don't believe that bloodwork done today would yield the same results. I have a good doc. He is more interested in my health than in my appearance. I need to find my way back to that myself.

It is what's important.

It was what put me on this road in the first place.

Straying from the lifestyle that put me there is not making a difference in my appearance (I don't think). But I feel worse, and I know I'm not as healthy as I was.

It wasn't supposed to be about weight.

It wasn't supposed to be about appearance.

It was about health.

It IS about health.

So I won't get to write that post.

I don't get to be a success story.

I don't get to shake my head over the amazing before and after pictures.

But I can reach those original goals.

I can be healthy and strong.

Now I just need to figure out a way for that to be enough.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Wore Red

I'm not terribly political. I believe what I believe and I vote how I vote and I don't make much of a secret of it, but I don't make much of an issue of it, either.

This week the Supreme Court, in case you've been living under a rock and missed it, has been hearing arguments on Prop. 8 and DOMA. I hope your Facebook wall is as full of red and pink profile pictures as mine is. It warms my heart to see all of the support this issue is getting. I changed my profile picture.

And on Tuesday, I wore red.

Now I'm a reasonably intelligent woman.

I know that me donning a pair of red Chucks is not going to result in equal rights any more than me buying a pink Mixmaster is going to result in a cure for breast cancer. Changing my profile picture will not result in legal marriages for everyone who wants to be married any more than -- well -- changing my profile picture will help to prevent child abuse.

But still, I wore red.

I wore it not because I thought it would actually change anything -- it won't -- but because I wanted to make an outward show of my support. I wore it for the same reason I wear the colors of my favorite team to a football game -- or even just to watch the game in my own home. Go team. This is a lot more important than a football game, though. This isn't about numbers on a scoreboard, this is about the rights of my sister, my daughter and so many of my friends to enjoy the same legal privileges that I have just by virtue of the fact that I am hetero. It wasn't a choice. I was born that way. 

So I wore red.

I wore red because I am madly in love with a man who can, by virtue of our marriage license, cover me with his insurance and visit me in the hospital should I need to utilize said coverage and make decisions regarding my medical care should I be rendered unable to do so. The thought that that same right -- that same protection -- is not extended to everyone who is equally madly in love is repellant to me.

I wore red.

It didn't change anything.

But it reminded a lot of people who I love that I'm on their side. And also some people I like. And also some people I don't even know. And also some people I don't like very much at all. I'm not passionate about this issue because it has an effect on people I love. (It does.) I'm passionate about this issue because it is right and it is fair. 

Peace. Love. Equality.

Monday, March 4, 2013


When I was teaching, I got into a heated and passionate exchange with a student when we talked about the potential of the mind. Every person is born with a wide range of potential -- they can choose to achieve at the lower end of that potential, the upper end, or anywhere in between. My student felt that everyone has unlimited potential -- that if they put their mind to it, anyone can achieve anything. It's a nice thought, but it's not so. While that range is vast and most of us do not ever reach that higher limit, that limit is indeed there. 

Go back to school with me for a moment. I'd be willing to bet a hard-earned dollar that there was someone in your class who earned straight A's with little or no effort. I'd be equally willing to bet that there was someone in your class who worked their ass off for C's. I guess I was pretty lucky in the school arena. I could pretty consistently pull B's with no effort at all and could bring it up to an A with a little bit of work.

My parents were fond of telling me that I did not live up to my potential.

God, just typing that made me roll my eyes.

I believe it's like that with our bodies, too.

Some people have nice bodies, according to the grading system known as society, and maintain them with little or no effort. Some will catch themselves losing a little bit of tone and put a little effort in and be right back where they want to be with just a little bit of effort. Some work consistently, every day, to maintain their above average physiques. Some work their asses off just to be average. That last one is me. And, in almost a year, I haven't QUITE achieved average. I guess I'd be a solid D student, if we were extending the analogy. I get tutoring. I study hard every day. I'm hoping to one day bring my D up to a C. 

A C would be a huge win.

For some people -- for a LOT of people -- a C is as good as a fail. But not for the people who work really hard for that C. A hard-earned C beats an easy A any old day in this former teacher/mother's book.

I have to work really hard to achieve the physical goals that most people meet just by waking up and breathing.

Just like the student who busts their ass for a C, and is judged poorly next to the person who just rolled out of bed and pulled a B without even cracking the book.

I've already confessed that -- in the student analogy -- I was one of the lucky ones. Not one of the luckiEST ones, but pretty darn lucky. But I've worked with those students who wanted it BADLY and had to really really work for it. The day that D student pulls a C+? Well, that's a happy day. That is an honest, hard-earned grade that he/she deserves to be ridiculously proud of.

And so it is with my feeble progress in the fitness arena. I am not good at any of the things I do. I grunt and posture and pose like I am sometimes -- and people indulge me, the way one would indulge a child who felt the need to announce how great they are at everything. But the truth is -- even though my achievements might not look like much on paper -- I have worked hard for them. 

And I have to keep working -- keep working hard -- just to maintain the progress I've made.

If that student we've been talking about missed a class or two, he/she would have to work like crazy to catch up. It wouldn't be a matter of just reading a couple chapters -- like it might be for someone with a different range of potential.

It's like that for me, too.

If I let things slide -- even for a couple days -- I get so far behind that it's hard to see how I'll ever get back.

I want to reach the top of my potential. 

That point, I've come to realize. will not be an A on life's report card. But if I could just pull that C... 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Feel Like a Morning Star

Each morning of this vacation I have risen well before the sun so that I might have the privilege of watching it break through over the horizon in a glorious colorful display of anticipation, optimism and potential. Sunrises are the best wherever you may be, but sunrises over the ocean are magical. This week there has been a morning star just above the horizon in the hours before sunrise. I watch it rise higher in the sky each morning until it is obscured by the light of dawn. It does so with no where near the drama that the sun displays following the same course, but it is lovely nonetheless.

I keep hearing the refrain: I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star going through my head, but I'm not really sure what it means. A quick google search reveals a variety of possibilities and I decide -- since there is not a universally accepted right answer -- to allow myself to interpret it in a way which rings true to me.

A morning star is out of place.  An anachronism. A remnant of the night sky existing in the early light of day. It doesn't belong. 

A morning star is solitary. It shines alone. It doesn't seek approval -- it just does what it does.

A morning star does the same thing the sun does, but gets none of the glory.

It does what it does and it does so dependably and with no need for recognition. It does it because that's what it does.

I have scientific friends who will no doubt want to point out that the morning star I'm seeing is probably not a star at all, but a planet -- making my comparisons to the sun invalid.

I have spiritual friends who will no doubt want to point out the mystical significance of the morning star.

I also have friends who will take these words for what they are: the early morning musings of someone who is just trying to figure out her place in the cosmos.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So You Had a Bad Day

Things were going well. A little tooooo well. I started saying (ok, typing) things out loud like, "I am ridiculously happy" and "things are really coming together" and "ain't gonna let the elevator bring us down" -- ok, that last one was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but you get the idea. I was walking on sunshine,  I got up and nothing got me down, baby I was a star. Apparently I had also time traveled to the early 80's, but that's ok. That's better than ok. That's awesome. That's TOTALLY awesome. We wore great colors then. And those shoulder pads really balanced out wide hips.

Yep, things were going very well indeed.

Things going well is one thing.

Saying it out loud is another.

I acknowledged the good and sent my gratefulness out into the cosmos. Thank you world. Life is good and I am lucky. I'm lucky, you're lucky we're all lucky. Thank you.

It's like the world heard that as a wake up call - wait! - did she just call me a slacker?

Within 24 hours my vacation was cut short by a day and my feelings were ridiculously hurt by the circumstances surrounding it, I tripped and fell HARD bruising and jarring my whole right side, there was an epic kiddle meltdown, my gmail was hacked (Some of you reading this are aware of that. Sorry again.), and I found out that I thought Tom was paying a particular bill and he thought I was and it turned out no one was and I got a not-so-friendly call about that. By the time that call came, actually, I was almost giddy from the rapid downward spiral. 

Beaten up physically and emotionally, I debated my options. Curl up on the couch and shut down, laugh like a lunatic or head-down-power-through. I opted for all of the above. I figured I deserved to climb into myself for a second or two, because - Come on! - to go from so good to so silly bad in a 24 hour period is unsettling. I don't have a lot of patience for people who live in a constant state of feeling sorry for themselves, but I do believe that sometimes we need a few moments (or hours or days - depending on the severity of the setback) to just allow ourselves to digest things. So I took a moment to internally wail, "Why me?" And then I had coffee with a friend and bitched and moaned the way you do when you're with someone who you know won't judge you. She offered validation, which was exactly what I needed. Then came the laughing. Not just because I was passing time on a school night with a friend, but at the general absurdity of the situation. The crying is a necessary step, but the laughing is where the healing begins.

Guess what?  My bruises are getting less tender, my vacation is still on -- it's just shorter by a day, the bill got paid and the computer virus -- well -- while I am still terribly sorry that I passed it along, these things happen. We survive.

I may not be back to feeling like a boss, like I'm on top of the world, like I am the champion (my friend) -- but that's an extreme anyway. I'm feeling strong and even and ready to give the world a hug again, if not quite ready to teach it to sing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Stay Weird

I had to work on New Year's Eve.

No big deal, except that it felt like the rest of the world was off -- including my whole family -- and I was feeling a little sorry for myself. All three of them had been off for a week and a half and I didn't get to spend any of it with them. So much was to be accomplished over that week and a half. We'd discussed it -- I thought we had a plan -- I didn't think I was a bitch on wheels yielding a honey-do list -- I thought we had mutual goals. I was mistaken. Throw that on top of my resentment over having to work -- even on the weekends -- when it felt like the rest of the world was off -- shopping, going to movies, watching marathon sessions of whatever, partying with friends -- add in a little bit of not drinking anymore and -- I think you might be able to understand why no one wanted to share their NYE with me. 

I was a big fat ball of disillusioned miserable.

So I was at work on New Year's Eve, resenting people who are less dedicated, less educated, and less experienced getting more money, more benefits, more respect and more privileges (I told you, I've been a true joy to be around this week) when one of my co-workers looks out the door and says, "Get ready, here comes a bunch of weirdos."

It was my family, bringing me lunch.

Feeling wicked, and knowing they'd find it amusing rather than hurtful, I called her on it right in front of them. She was mortified. She apologized profusely. Later she said that she had always been strict with her children -- with how they present themselves to the world -- because she wanted to protect them from -- and here she blushed -- people doing to them exactly what she had just done to me and my family.

I spent the rest of the day worrying that maybe I'd called it wrong and maybe my family WOULD find it hurtful. What she said -- that was on her. But if my family was hurt by it -- that was on me -- because if I hadn't told them, they never would have known. And ignorance is supposed to be bliss.

I didn't want to hurt them. I never want to hurt them.

Besides -- they ARE weird. WE are weird. It wasn't a missed call on her part. An ignorant call perhaps. A mean call for sure. But not a missed call. 

Like many brilliant weirdos before them, they know -- and generally embrace -- who they are. Weird is interesting. Normal is boring. I love quirky people. My idea of hell would be to be trapped in a social situation with a bunch of normal people. I have to be around normal people sometimes. They make me want to scratch my eyeballs out just so that something interesting will happen. And that's drastic, because I have a real thing about eyes. Such is the extent of my distaste for normal -- for suburban conversations. I drop the girls off at school and watch the other girls walking from the parking lot. Pretty. Vanilla. Interchangeable. Nobody would ever call them weird. Nobody with any sense would ever call them interesting. Their lives will be easier. Things will come to them because they have chosen -- or their parents have chosen for them -- conformity. They will marry clean-cut men who wear golf shirts and they will sport the right hairstyles and go to jobs they hate -- or, if they're really lucky, stay at home while their husbands go off to jobs THEY hate -- so they can have the latest countertops in their kitchens and the latest SUVs in their garages or whatever status symbol will be deemed relevant at the time. It will all be very tidy and predictable and no one will ever call them weird.

And maybe that will make them happy.

I don't know.

It doesn't seem to. But what do I know.

I have always been envious of my family and my friends who truly walk the weird walk. (That's sort of like a silly walk. Only weirder.) I tend to walk the line. I want to be weird. I'm weird at heart. But I always feel a little out of place. Too weird among the normal; too normal among the weird.

If I were to make a resolution for the upcoming year, I think it would be to be truer to my inner weird -- not to try to hide it or even sand down its edges -- to live it loud and large with every bit of myself. To geek out about the things that I geek out about -- even if they're not the things the people around me grok. To put myself in situations where creativity and intuition are valued as much or more than lobotomized conformity.

I have a head start. I don't socialize much, but when I do it is generally with people who would not exactly be considered average. Are they super-cool or super-weird? Well, that just depends on your perspective, doesn't it?

A friend sent this to me last year, and I printed it out and pinned it to my bulletin board at work:

Weird isn't for everyone. If there wasn't a norm, how could one deviate from it? 

I wanted normal once.

I held on to wanting some of the vestiges of normalcy long after.

I don't want a bit of it anymore.

Take it, if it's for you. I won't judge (much. I'm working on that...)

As for me and mine? We're gonna stay weird.