Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rock and/or Roll

So the 2013 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced. As usual, there were some glaring omissions, but two of my oft-mentioned faves made the cut: Rush and Heart.

I have become quite the clothes whore in the past month -- ever since I started fitting into straight size clothes -- and I bought a bitchin' new blazer last night.

No, this isn't one of those random thoughts posts -- I'll pull it all together, I promise.

I wanted to wear a Heart shirt or a Rush shirt under my new blazer today, but they were both in the laundry. I bought the blazer specifically to wear over the concert shirts and geek shirts that I spend way too much money on and then only wear to the gym and to bed. I reluctantly settled on a B-52's shirt as I set out my outfit last night and went to bed.

In the middle of one of the nocturnal fiery interruptions to my sleep (every two hours like clockwork) I remembered that I have another Heart T-shirt. The one I mentioned here, but that I never wore because it was too small. I had framed it so that I could look at it every day.

Today I won't be looking at it unless I'm in front of a mirror.

And that?  Rocks.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Every Fairy Tale Needs a Good Old-Fashioned Villain

It's a lovely day here in Central Ohio. 

The calendar says mid-November, but the sky is blue, the temperature is moderate and the breeze is heavily scented with drying leaves that crunch delightfully as we ride over them on what will probably be our last bike ride of the season. Tom rides ahead of me with his arms spread wide, looking so young and free that my heart almost aches with joy. Our life is not a fairy tale and no one would ever mistake it for happily ever after, but in this moment he is my handsome, carefree prince and there is a hint of magic in the air. All is well. All is so, so well.

I am flying. I am free. Riding a bike is transcendental. I am fifteen. I am eight. I am fifty. I am happy. I pass him on the left, smiling over my shoulder at him. He returns the smile and says something wildly complimentary about my posterior. It is inaccurate, but sincere and I smile even wider -- for no-one this time. For me. For the universe. For this moment.

"WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Look!" he says, interrupting my internal reverie.  I slow down and look over my shoulder. He has gotten off his bike and is looking towards the woods. I get off my bike and head towards him.

"What is it?"

"Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain. The words are Moriarity's but the role in my personal fairy tale was being played by a sinister serpent, lying in wait by the side of the road, replacing my peaceful sanctuary with cold fear",  I typed. 
"What are you writing?" 
"Blog post. Let me read it to you so far." I did.
"Sinister serpent? It was a garter snake."
"I'm scared of snakes. It might be irrational, but I am. You're afraid of some irrational things, too, y'know." 
He looked at the ground for a moment, temporarily chastised. "It's true, I am. But it was just a little garter snake. I can't believe you're going to blog about it." 
"It was horrifying." 
"It was taking a sun bath by the side of the trail." 
"I rode right by it without even seeing it. I would've never known it was there if you hadn't stopped." 
"No! That's the scariest part! I was completely unaware of the lurking danger." 
"You were not in any danger. It was a garter snake. It was camouflaged. It was not going to hurt you." 
"Lulling me into a sense of confidence and well-being before striking at me with its venomous fangs."  
"Garter snakes do not have venomous fangs." 
"I can't believe you're defending it." 
"I can't believe you're vilifying it!" 
"It vilified itself when it decided to be born cold-blooded. It's unnatural."

So. Cold-blooded, cold-hearted villain or misunderstood innocent? You make the call. I'll respect it, even if I don't agree.

Photo courtesy of Diane Wiegman.  Tom says our snake looked pretty much exactly like this. I wouldn't know. I didn't look at it long enough to make a note of any of its particular physical characteristics.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Very Fangirl Halloween

I usually drive Lea, Liv and Anna to school in the morning. But this morning was Halloween and we all know the rules change a little bit on the holidays. So this morning I was in the company of:


You know him, you love him (and heaven knows, man, woman or alien, he loves you, too) Jack Harkness. 

As portrayed by Liv:

I die for the awesomeness that is her Jack Harkness overcoat.
She's got the attitude.
And the Vortex Manipulator (She made it herself and it houses her cell phone.  Brilliant, no?)

And Supernatural's unconventional super-couple: Dean and Castiel, or, Destiel, as the Fangirls say:


As portrayed by Lea and Anna:

"Oh, hello dere. You are very attractive." "Why thank you. You are not too hard to look at, either."

"Anna!" I said, "What did you do to your pretty face?" "I runed it." Clever girl. She runed her hand, too.

Their love has been to hell and back.
Happy Halloween, friends. From the only photogenic corner of my house to yours.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tom and Not-So-Silent Tam

Isn't playing dress-up fun?

It's really the best part of Halloween -- being able to step into another persona and move around in their skin for a night -- acting like and being treated like a different entity -- entirely separate from the hum-drudgery that is your (well, my, anyway) everyday life.

Tom and I don't dress up every year for Halloween, but when we do get the opportunity we enjoy it. Is it any wonder that we've raised two kids who are committed to cosplay?

We've talked for years about dressing up as Jay and Silent Bob.

image source:
It works visually -- Tom is tall with long hair and I am short, dark and -- let's just go with ample. So, physically at least, the transformation would be easy and effective. Plus it would involve me needing facial hair, and who doesn't love drag? AND I would get to wear a bitchin' overcoat. Win, win and win.

Yep -- visually it was easy. Playing the parts? Oh, that's where things got sticky for team Howard. Tom doesn't talk much, but when he does it's usually because he actually has something to say and it's almost always worth listening to. Sounds a lot like Silent Bob. I am definitely the more verbose of the two of us and inarguably the more profane. I'll fill a silence with whatever pops into my head and spend a lot of time afterwards thinking, "Why the fuck did I SAY that? Was that really OUT LOUD?" Save the reflection part, I am much more suited to Jay.

But a challenge is good, so we decided to try to rise to it. Assuming, you know, that you figure the ability to emulate foul-mouthed drug peddlers is something to which one might endeavor to rise.

Tom had a hard time with Jay. The day before we were to head out, I reminded him that I would not be talking. "So if anyone asks who we're supposed to be, I won't answer and you will say....."

"Jay and Silent Bob?"

"Try: I'm Jay and this is Silent mother-fucking Bob."

"How about I'm Jay and this is my hetero lifemate Silent Bob?"

"Yes. Absolutely that. But dude. You are totally gonna need to cuss. This will not work if you don't cuss."

"I don't know if I can."

"Sure you can, motherfucker. It's easy."

"Easy for you to say."

"Easy for me to fucking say."

"Shit. I'll never pull this off."

"Now you're getting it!"

He thought the costume would help him to get in character, but it didn't. The thing is, Tom is a really good guy. He does, by the way, say most of the words -- but almost never frivolously. And as for using pejorative terms in regards to women -- it just wasn't going to happen. I think he was disappointed that the costume didn't help him to channel his inner obnoxious child -- but I get the feeling that even Tom's inner child isn't all that obnoxious. Lest you think he behaved like a choirboy with straightened hair wearing track pants and boots, though, I will tell you that when one of our friends hugged us good bye I'm pretty sure he humped her hip.

I tried diligently to remain silent all evening and I mostly managed. I slipped a few times, but I succeeded more than I failed. At the end of the night my facial muscles were sore from attempting to emote with them so much. But I feel compelled to share what I learned in my couple hours as Silent Bob.

I listened more intently. To everything. I listened to what people had to say without thinking for a single second about how I was going to respond to it. A well placed nod, a raised eyebrow, a wanking motion  -- often offers all the response that people actually require when they're speaking to you. I listened to the music more intently, too. I was more observant. It was awesome. It was freeing. It was -- almost Zen.

And that really sums up Silent Bob for me. 

Jay is pure Id. His life is the pursuit of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Or rap, anyway. He is unhindered by the internal nagging of the ego. Silent Bob sometimes plays the role of conscience, but then follows Jay's lead anyway if silent appeals to the ego go unanswered. Silent Bob accepts every situation that he finds himself in and is comfortable right where he is -- whether that's in the middle of a wacky stunt or hanging out in front of the convenience store -- where ever he is is exactly where he's supposed to be and he's cool with it. No stress. No boredom. It is what it is and what it is is good.

How. Awesome. Is that?

Is the key to that sort of masterful peace in silence?

Fucked if I know.

What I do know is that it was a fun part to play for a couple hours.

I've also been told by a few of my female friends that, as a dude, I'm pretty doable.

You can't see me, but I'm raising my eyebrows suggestively right now.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dream Lover

A few weeks ago I attended a bridal shower.  One of the games we played required us to write out the characteristics that would make a perfect husband, then the bride-to-be was to read them and determine which dream husband belonged with which party attendee. I misunderstood the rules. I think I was thinking about cupcakes or something. So I just wrote Benedict Cumberbatch. 

To be clear, I don't really have a crush on this man who is young enough to be my son. But I have a major thing for his Sherlock character.  Same deal with Thor.

And The Doctor.


But now that I better understand the rules, I can -- and would like to -- provide a more thoughtful (and age appropriate) response.

First and foremost, my dream man would be very smart and very funny. These are the two traits which are non-negotiable. He would be clever. Witty. Think Jon Stewart.


It would be great if he were musically talented in addition to being smart and funny. It's a secondary requirement, but a nice one. Think Geddy Lee. So smart. So silly. So freaking talented.


It would be perfect if he could combine the above qualities with a well-defined sense of what is right and the convictions to stand up for it. Think Henry Rollins. Smart, witty, and outspoken spokesperson for all that is good and true and right. Also he is not terribly hard on the eyes.

photo: IMDb

It would be beyond perfection if he was all of those things and would also love me when I was unloveable and get me even when he couldn't understand me. Think Tom Howard. Smart, funny, talented, believer in all that is good and true and right, and, as a bonus, pretty darn easy on the eyes.

photo: Groovy Doodle Photography

I'm a lucky girl.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm Great

When I was a young teenager, one summer at the beach, there was a group of kids who hung out together. None of us were from the same town -- we had all just landed in the same family vacation spot during the same time period and we were around the same age. No deep lifelong friendships were formed -- it was just a summer at the beach. Couplings occurred, but they were casual -- you're here, I'm here, we'll probably never be cuter in our lives, so why not? -- sort of couplings. No hearts were given and no hearts were broken. It was just a summer.

One night, I had made plans to hang out with this one boy. Let's call him Bruce (because that was his name). I didn't love him. I didn't have a crush on him, even. It wasn't even a date, really -- just loose plans. He approached me that afternoon to cancel them. One of the other girls in our little group -- let's call her Cindy (because that was her name) had approached him and asked him if he wanted to hang out that night. "You're great", he said to me, "I mean, you're so great. But Cindy..." Cindy was, admittedly, out of his league cute. Bouncy blonde curls, chipmunk cheeks and wide blue eyes. She didn't look too shabby in a bikini, either. I liked her. We were friendly. But we had nothing in common. Girls like that lived in a different stratosphere than the one I was bumping around in. He had plans with me, but he had a shot at Cindy. It was a no-brainer.

More than three decades later, I still hear those words sometimes. "You're great. I mean, you're so great. But Cindy..."

So obvious that an ellipsis served as sufficient clarification.

I was passed over for a promotion at work yesterday. And my supervisor actually said to me, she said, "You're great. I mean, you're so great." The but and the ellipsis were unspoken, but evident to anyone with half a brain. You're great, but...

To add insult to injury, the person who is being brought in from the outside to make significantly more money than I do is being moved into my office space -- we will be officemates. I will breathe her air every day. I don't know her name yet, but I intend to call her Cindy. Her superiority to me is a no-brainer.

But I'm great. I'm so great. 

Do you think that will get my dishwasher fixed? Or put me in a car that isn't 12 years old with a dashboard that has more lights lit on it than the average Christmas tree? (Except at night, of course, when the dashboard lights don't work at all.) Do you think that will replace the furniture that my puppy chewed? My puppy who has grown up, grown old and died, by the way. Do you think that will get me out of this town for one damn night of vacation? Or fix the shower that we haven't been able to use for years? Will it put me in a winter coat that actually closes in the front? Will it put my kids through college?


That and $3.50 will get me a cup of coffee.


So great.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sally O'Malley

So Sally O'Malley and I have something in common. And it's not (just) an amazing camel toe. No, I don't do the splits. And I don't do the kicks.  I wear neither a fabulous red workout outfit nor a spiffy bouffant hairdo. So that only leaves one thing.


I'm fifty years old.

No more "Pushing 50" or "Bumping up on 50" or "Almost 50" - nope - now it's for realzies.

Some people say that means I'm over the hill.  I say, "WooHoo! I hope they're right!" - because when you're over the hill - when you hit the downhill part - well - not only do things get easier, they get a lot more fun.

I could use this space to tell you about the vast amount of knowledge I've amassed during my fifty trips 'round the sun, but that would be pretentious and also imply that I've reached some pinnacle of awareness or something. I have not. As it was when I turned 20 - then 30 - then 40 - I continue to learn and grow and change almost daily. I don't have it all figured out yet. I hope I never do. Getting there is more than half the fun.  Life is a journey - or is life a highway? Or is it a box of chocolates? Or is it a rock? Oh wait, no, that's love. Anyway.


I have found that every decade brings new questions without necessarily revealing answers to the old ones. And that's ok. As Professor Farnsworth figured out, when you've discovered everything there is to discover, there's not much worth going on for. 

I'm ready to hit the next decade strong.

Because one lesson I HAVE learned is this: strong is better than hot. First one to make a hot flash comment, by  the way, gets a punch in the throat. And it won't be fun. I'm stronger than I look. And getting stronger every day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Laundry Basket

In honor of my friends who have sent/are sending kids off to college this year for the first time, I thought I'd re-post this little reminiscence...

It sat there in the corner of the bedroom I shared with my sister, looking innocent enough. It was just a bright yellow plastic laundry basket. The cut-outs that provided ventilation were shaped like tulips. It was empty at the beginning of the summer, but as the weeks progressed, items were added a few at a time until it was overflowing.

I’d be heading to college in the fall and that basket was collecting the things I’d need to live outside of my parents’ house for the first time in my life. There were towels -- MY towels. There was bedding --MY bedding. There was a bucket to transport my toiletries from my dorm room to the communal showers. That was rapidly filling, too. A filled bucket within a filled basket.

I spent that summer recklessly. I had a boyfriend of sorts, but it was casual. We both knew it was finite.  I went to parties and hung out with my girlfriends. We were all headed to different schools in the fall and – even while we were promising each other that it would be like this forever, we knew it wasn’t so.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

I had a job that summer. I’d had a job since I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday. I saved a little, but most of what I earned went to clothes and albums and movies and concerts. I worked to support my habits, not to support myself.

I didn’t help much around the house. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy (although I was), it was just that not much was required of me. My mother was an excellent housekeeper and she took a great deal of pride in her home. I didn’t execute any of the household chores in a manner which was satisfactory to her, which caused both of us a great deal of frustration. By this summer – my last as a permanent resident of that house – we had both pretty much given up on me, at least in the domestic realm.

Our mutual long term hopes and plans for me were more in the academic realm.

My personal short term hopes and plans were more in the social realm.

So Mom cleaned the house and cooked the meals and did the laundry while I partied and played and worked just enough to finance it. I knew it wasn’t going to be this way forever. It wasn’t even going to be this way for long.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

It was there to remind me that college wasn’t going to only be all about mixers and sororities and boys.  It wasn’t even going to be all about classes and studying and grades. It was going to be about being accountable. If I did well, that was on me. If I screwed up, well, that was on me, too.

As an incoming freshman, I was scheduled to have a meal plan, so someone was still going to cook for me. But no-one was going to clean for me. No-one was going to tell me when it was time to study. No-one was going to tell me that partying on a Wednesday night before an 8:00 am Thursday class was a bad idea.

No-one was going to do my laundry.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

The summer wound to a close, more quickly than I ever could’ve imagined. It had been a wonderful summer and I’d lived it to the fullest. Sincere promises were made to keep in touch, amid hugs and tears. In most cases, those promises would be broken in less than a year.

The laundry basket moved from the corner of the bedroom to the trunk of my parents’ car.

It was a quiet ride. No-one had anything to say that hadn’t been said before. I understood what I needed to do to live independently, even if I was a little unclear as to how, specifically, I was going to actually do it.

The laundry basket moved from the trunk of my parents’ car to my dorm room. It was plopped rather unceremoniously onto the little dorm bed, along with a suitcase and a couple armloads of clothing. I’d brought an orange crate full of albums, but my roommate was bringing the stereo. She hadn’t arrived yet.

My parents, who I hadn’t had much time for the past summer, kissed me good bye, slipped me a couple bucks, and left.

I sat on a little corner of the bed and cried for a moment. That was a surprise! I’d been so excited about the prospect of not living in my parents’ house anymore. And now I didn’t. Right this minute, I didn’t. It was a lot scarier than I thought it would be. I pulled myself together and began to unpack and move in.

I hung the clothes in the closet and unpacked my suitcase. My roommate arrived and we set up her stereo and organized our albums.

I was left with the laundry basket.

I made my bed with the new bedding and hung my new towels neatly over the towel rack. I found a spot in my closet for the shower bucket.

There was a mixer that night to welcome incoming freshmen as part of our orientation. I decided to shower and change clothes for the occasion. I threw my dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

Who was going to wash them?

I was, that’s who.

That realization scared me. It terrified me. It made me ridiculously proud. That laundry basket was my responsibility. My life was my responsibility.

I was ready to handle it.

I was a grown-up.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Too Magical to Touch

Soft fuzzy sweaters, too magical to touch...
~J. Geils Band

Those sweaters were, without a doubt, angora.

I had an angora sweater once. It was a pale aqua which wasn't, perhaps, the most flattering hue to complement my coloring, but it was soft as a cloud and made me feel sweet and sexy and powerful all at the same time. I just got a little shiver thinking about it.

I decided, with this milestone birthday looming large in front of me, and a decent discount available to me at the yarn shop, I'd like to treat myself to some angora. Not a sweater's worth - it's a good discount, but not THAT good - I decided on 50 grams. It seemed like an appropriate amount of indulgence. I needed to narrow it down though. We sell angora that's good. We sell angora that's REALLY good for a few bucks more. For twice that? We sell angora that's - well - how do you spell the sounds one makes when one is rolling on the floor dying of joy and bliss and overwhelming sexy soft? Yeah. That good.

When presented with the options, my family overwhelmingly encouraged the purchase of the latter. It's a treat, for Pete's sake, nothing I'm going to make a habit of. And it's only 50 grams. One gram for every trip 'round the sun. 


What to make?

Lately Tom has been musing about Woody Allen. I bring it up for a reason, I promise. While Tom is neither slight of frame nor Jewish, he is indeed brilliant, funny, dry, self-deprecating, lacking awareness of his own genius - note to self: do not adopt children... anyway. It got me to thinking about the kind of woman who is attracted to The Woody Allen Type. You can't ride a thought train like that and not land on Diane Keaton for a little while. Diane Keaton wears gloves. Like Barbara Bush wears pearls. She wears them, I think I read once, like all the time now. I think that is ridiculously cool and more than a little kooky. Affectations are so great when they're done well.

Maybe I'll make gloves.

But it's hard to get a lot of things accomplished while wearing angora gloves. Diane Keaton may not have to get her hands dirty, but I, occasionally, do. Nope, gloves, lovely as they would undoubtedly be, will not work.

Maybe I'll make a scarf.

A scarf would be nice. Not a long or generously sized one with that small amount, but something to wrap 'round my neck. I'd feel the softness next to my face which would be swell. One problem - the internal thermostat tends to - um - run a little on the warm side. A scarf would start out looking and feeling wonderful, but in no time at all I'd be clawing at it screaming "Get it offa me!" Nope, a scarf is not a good idea.

Maybe I'll make a hat.

I look good in hats.

I wear hats whenever I can.

Maybe my affectation can be a fluffy angora tam.

And my NAME is Tam.

Oh, kids.

I think I'm on to something.

Fifty is going to be GREAT.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do I Look Good in Green?

I'd always heard about the phenomenon of mothers becoming jealous or even resentful of their daughters as they come of age. I sort of thought it was bullshit. I understand that it's their turn - their turn to be beautiful, vital, relevant. Sometimes there's a little twinge - I wish I could wear their cute clothes or that I had their soft skin - but those feelings are fleeting. In all, no jealousy.  I look at the  grown women who get caught up in all of that as vain and silly.

Today, though...

Today I sort of related to those women.

We took Lea on her first college visit today.

And I was excited for her.

As we walked from building to building, hearing the stories and traditions of the institution, I felt so much anticipatory joy for her.

But I wanted it to be for me.

I wanted to be anticipating those years instead of looking back on them fondly.

I really, really wanted it.

Now don't go telling me about the opportunities available to non-traditional students.

I know all about that.

That wasn't what I wanted.

But you knew that.

I wanted the whole - thing.

I wanted it bad.

There was talk of classes and dorms and social clubs and service clubs and academic teas - Oh. My. God, ya'll. Academic Teas. I almost squeed right out loud. I never attended an academic tea. It's hard to picture my girls attending one. But it's nice to know they exist, in all their leather elbow-patched glory. No, they'll probably never attend a tea. Oh, but what they will do...

I had it, though. I had my turn. I lived those years without regrets - happy, happy years. They are not, however, years one can extend or relive. It's a snapshot. I can pull it out and look at it and remember it fondly, but I can't have it back.

And that's as it should be, of course.

It's almost my girls' turn.

I'll relive it as a mom.

It won't be the same.

Despite what I'm told is a striking resemblance, neither of them is me.

It won't be the same.

But it will be good.

I'll try to keep the jealousy under control.

And if I fail from time to time, well, I always did look good in green...

Friday, August 3, 2012

The World in a Paper Cup

Love the girl who holds the world in a paper cup.
Drink it up.
Love her and she'll bring you luck.
 ~ Loggins and Messina

When I was young, my parents would often take us camping in New England towards the end of summer. I have vague memories of the rocky shores and lovely villages, but one thing I remember clearly - on a much more visceral level - is picking wild blueberries then taking them back to the camper where Mom would wash them off (all of us maintaining the facade that we HADN'T been eating them the whole time we were picking them) and put them in a paper cup with a little bit of sugar and some milk.

It was divine.

As I got older, when blueberries would start showing up on the shelves I would often indulge in that very same treat.  The sweetener changed - sugar to Sweet 'n Low to Equal to Blue Agave to Stevia - but always blueberries and always milk (the higher the fat content, the better) and always - ALWAYS - a paper cup.

This week I've been having mixed berries as my fruit with my breakfast every day.  This morning there were no more strawberries or raspberries.  When I looked at those blueberries, all alone in my bowl - well - you know what I did.

And it was good.

Really good.

But something was missing.

In an attempt to be as environmentally conscious as possible, we pretty much never have paper plates or cups around.  Now I love the environment and the world and all that - but for a couple weeks here - while blueberries taste amazing - there will be paper cups in the house.

And breakfast will taste like youth and summer and freedom.

I love the taste of youthful abandon in the morning. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two Rules

So the doc says to me, he says:  One meal. Every 7-10 days. Anything my little heart desires. Two rules.

Rule #1:  Never have this free meal for breakfast. His reasoning was that eating something not-so-good-for-you first thing in the morning will make you feel like crap all day. Later in the day it will effect you for the same amount of hours, but you'll be sleeping for most of them.

Now I feel compelled to share a story at this time. I told you that in the past two months I could count the amount of times I'd - for lack of a better word, although I sort of hate using this one in relation to food - cheated - on one hand.  Out of those times, only two of them involved sugar - and I felt crummy afterwards.  Like - REALLY crummy.  Curl-up-in-a-ball-make-the-world-go-away crummy.  I says to Tom, I says, "So there really is something to this. This food makes me feel awful."

"But you've been eating like that your whole life and it never made you feel awful before."

"I was pretty accustomed to feeling awful. I just accepted it. Awful was the old normal. Now I know what it feels like to feel - not awful. I prefer not awful."


Never for breakfast. 

Not a terribly invasive rule.

No law against pancakes for dinner. It wouldn't even be unprecedented.

I got this one.

Rule #2:  Never booze. Not even on free-for-all day. Never. He said my body does awful things with it and instead of screwing me up for hours it screws me up for days. It is the one and only thing that he said is off-limits, never okay ever.

This poses a bit more of a problem.

I have always been a social drinker. That's the box I check. I drink socially. I meet people for a cocktail. I join people for a beer. I celebrate with champagne. I relax with wine. I never do these things alone, but they are things I really, really enjoy doing socially. Actually, I find it hard to imagine being social without it. Living without it? Sure. I can do that. I don't - like - wake up and crack a beer before breakfast or anything. On a day to day basis it will not really be all that difficult. But how in the world am I expected to be social? I do not particularly want the life of the permanent designated driver.

Rule #2 blows.


My birthday is in a month. The big 5-0. I've been practicing saying it for two years. "I'm pushing fifty." "I'm almost fifty." Saying it out loud. Getting accustomed to it. Making it fit.  Making it normal. I guess I need to start practicing "I don't drink." "I'm a non-drinker." 

Oh, man.

That doesn't feel right at ALL.

I have to do it, though.

I don't want feeling awful to feel normal ever again.

I love how I feel now.

But nothing good comes without sacrifice.

No thanks, I don't drink.

I can say good-bye to booze. It could be worse. Karen Carpenter said good-bye to love. 

Patty Smyth said good-bye to you. 

Rhonda Weiss said good-bye to saccharine. 

I can say good-bye to booze.

I can.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When it Counts

This past Christmas a beloved cousin who I don't see very often pulled me aside and said, "Are you okay? You look -- tired." In case it is unclear, she is a very nice lady who would not say "You look like shit" to a person on Christmas, but that's what she meant. And she was not incorrect. I decided, in the spirit of the holiday, to continue the conversation using her word.

"I AM -- tired."

"What's up?"


I began the litany. She'd asked for it. And then - when it didn't send her screaming - I decided to confess, "I went off my meds right after Dad died. My prescriptions ran out and I just never bothered to fill them."

My meds, for what it's worth, control my rather extreme hypothyroid issues.

Her eyes widened. That was a long time to go without meds. "Do you feel better on them?"

"Of course I do."

She put an arm around me and nodded, seeming to grok the entire situation. And then she summed it up. "You don't want to feel better."

Dagnabbit, she was right. It had been such an awful year and I felt so BAD and feeling better seemed almost wrong. I WANTED to feel bad.

Eventually I decided that I didn't want to feel bad anymore. I wanted to get back to the world of the living. But how could I go to my doctor and ask him to refill my prescriptions after all that time? How could I face him - the man who had always tried to help me through this - puffy of face, dragging of ass, and lacking of thyroid hormones? I was afraid. But I pulled myself together and made the appointment and when I told him why I'd done such a stupid thing he didn't yell at me - he hugged me. "Ready to get back on track?" I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I'd cried in doctors offices before and always felt ridiculously stupid afterwards. I didn't want to cry. Crying time was over. It was time to feel better.

He refilled my prescriptions then told me to come back in 2 months for blood work. I felt a lot better in a couple weeks. Before the 2 months were up I was back at the gym and JUST before the 2 months were up I'd started working with a trainer. I felt great.

Until he read me the results of that blood work. He hadn't yelled at me when he found out I'd been off my meds for 6 months, but he yelled at me but good when he went over those results. A lot was going on, but the most concerning issue was triglyceride levels that were through the roof. He said, "It looks like all you eat is carbs!" Of course this was not true, and I tried to protest, but he stopped me, "You need to cut them out - your body does horrible things with them."

"Cut out - like - fruits and carrots - and stuff?"

"Cut out - like - breads and pizza and rice and pasta - and stuff."

"I'd rather cut out carrots."

"Cut it out - and come see me in 2 months."

So I did. Mostly.  I can count the amount of times I failed to stay within his parameters in that 2 month period on one hand. I lost weight, as I mentioned in the last post. I feel that it might have been unfair for me to mention that, though. To folks fighting with a vanity 4-7 pounds or something it probably sounded like a huge accomplishment - but I wasn't kidding when I said that it really isn't even noticeable to the casual observer.

It wasn't about the weight.

I wanted to get those levels under control.

He called me yesterday. Perfect. That was his word. Perfect. My triglycerides are perfect. My cholesterol is perfect. My blood work was perfect. I am healthy.

I may not lose another ounce or another size or another inch, but if I can remain healthy, I will consider what I'm doing a success.

I have met my goal. Now the hard part - maintaining it.

As I was leaving his office, he said, "Every 7-10 days I want you to have one meal - not one day - one meal - where you eat anything you want."

"No rules?"

"Two rules..."

I was never much of a fan of cliff hangers, but I'm going to have to complete that thought in another post...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Perfect Outfit

I have a secret. I have recently lost a little weight. Not a lot, nothing noticeable by any means. Enough, though, that my clothes were starting to fit loosely. All of my pants with zippers? I could step out of them without bothering to unzip. That's kind of a kick. I would catch myself at work playing absentmindedly with the folds of fabric I could gather up on my thigh. It was kinda cool.

It looked sloppy, though.

It wasn't only my pants - I could grab up a decent sized fold in my bras, too. When I mentioned that to my doctor as he was praising the weight loss, he said, "You don't need new bras."

"Yes I do!  I'm rattling around in there!"

"Guys like that."

"Guys are weird.  I'm buying new bras."

I decided that I deserved more than new bras. I deserved one perfect, new, head-to-toe outfit.

Everyone I mentioned it to agreed.

Not a wardrobe, just - one perfect outfit.

So off I went, with visions of the perfect outfit swirling all around in my head. It would be casual but cute. The sort of thing I could wear to work then out after. I could picture myself in it - still big, of course, but not so sloppy - polished and chic. 

I left for my shopping spree in a very good mood indeed. I'd earned this. I deserved this. A few months of six days a week in the gym - three lifting, three cardio - plus my bike rides on Sundays had left me with a better body image than I've had in a long time. I was standing taller. I was feeling stronger. I was woman - did you hear me roaring?

I don't know why I was so optimistic.

Shopping doesn't work out that way for me.

The good news was, I was able to confirm that I had indeed gone down a size. Maybe a size and a half. Two cup sizes, if you're still stuck on the bra thing. With pants, though? I was sort of going back and forth. That was the first snag in the quest for the perfect outfit - nothing fit quite - well - perfectly.

The reason for that was obvious.

While I'd lost almost 30 pounds, my general shape hadn't changed at all.  

It's hard to feel fit and confident when you spend the day mostly naked in front of full length mirrors.

Well, maybe not hard for you. But it was wicked hard for me.

All of these amazing muscles that I feel remain hidden under an awful lot of - me.

That perfect casual outfit I had in my head? The nicely fitted pants top and sweater or jacket? That is never going to look good on me. 

I am probably never going to look good in jeans.

I look good - or at least feel like I look good - in dresses and skirts.

Which I cannot really wear to work.

So what did I buy during my quest for the perfect outfit?

Two bras. Smaller cup size, ridiculously bright colors. They were on clearance. I have a hard time giving myself permission to shop anywhere but the clearance rack.

One dress. It is very pretty. And completely impractical. I cannot think of one place I can appropriately wear it. But I couldn't pass it up. It didn't suit my lifestyle, but it suited me. I would've dreamed about it if I hadn't bought it. So now I have that.

A pair of absolutely neutral flats. That was probably smart. I have not been rocking the pedicures this summer. It seems impractical when I spend the vast majority of my time in gym shoes or Chuck Taylors. But every now and then a girl needs to feel pretty. And she doesn't always have the time and money for a pedicure. Nope. No buyers remorse on the shoes.

A sweater. I know. It's like a million degrees. But it was so cute and on such a good sale. I'll wear it in a couple months and be glad I bought it. It won't be so stinking hot forEVER you know...

Three tops - only one of which is something I'll really wear to work - but all of which are cute and casual and - most importantly - fit.

And a nightie. Because - while I still love sleeping in shorts and a T-shirt, something in me has been hankering for a nightie. Not a negligee and not pajamas. Besides - have you been paying attention? Clearance.

No pants. So I'll still be stepping right out of all of my bottoms. Belts are not just a fashion accessory anymore. I just couldn't bring myself to spend money on something I didn't feel like I looked good in - even if it WAS a better fit than what I've got.

Maybe the next 25-30 pounds will put me in that perfect outfit. Or maybe - just maybe - I need to rethink the perfect outfit and learn to dress the body I've got instead of the one I want. Or maybe I'll just keep developing a completely impractical wardrobe and always look a little over or under dressed for every damn occasion. 

And maybe - just maybe - I'll develop enough confidence to deal with that.

Surely ridiculously colorful bras are a step in the right direction.

Because maybe - just maybe - that's what it's all about.

Maybe the perfect outfit doesn't exist - but the perfect attitude can.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Adventures in Gardening

So I've mentioned that yard work isn't really our thing.  We have a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood.  We do not have a lot of money, and we have prioritized what we do have so that we are spending it on things that are meaningful to us and that we enjoy.  Keeping up with the Joneses is not on the agenda.

Every now and then, though, I go on a stereotypical why can't we have nice things? rampage.  I'll be reminded of people who have less means than us, but lovely yards or gardens or homes or whatever.  Maybe they don't have top of the line things, but they put the work in.  They put the hours in.  I start to think - well - we don't have the money to pour into the ideal of the beautifully landscaped and manicured suburban dream lawn - but that's no reason to completely resign ourselves.  Tom is kind of an all or nothing guy, but I am not.  I like to think of myself as more of a do the best with what you've got kind of guy.

Sometimes that goes terribly wrong.

The first spring that we lived here, I wanted wildflowers.  How hard can wildflowers be?  They grow on the sides of the interstate, for Pete's sake.  You don't have to patiently cultivate wildflowers.  So I chose a very small patch in the back yard and I pulled up the turf and sprinkled some seeds and built a little border from small stones I'd found elsewhere in the yard.  I watered it when I thought about it and in almost no time at all I had a completely random profusion of wildflowers.  Which was kind of the effect I was going for.  I had cut flowers in the house that whole summer.  I thought it was pretty, although not everyone agreed.  It was crowded and arbitrary and undisciplined.  It suited me.

The next summer, a few of the flowers came back, but it was sparse.  I didn't reseed it.  It became more weed than wild.  I chalked it up as a fail and turned my attentions elsewhere.

Because I had blocked it off, first with stones and later with railroad ties, the fine folks from TruGreen won't touch it.  The thistles have been known to grow to shoulder height before I get around to pulling them.  Nasty muthas that they are.

A year or two ago I decided that I was going to put pavers in in that spot so that we could move the grill there and give ourselves a little extra deck space.  I worked hard on it for a couple days - digging up weeds and stone and trying to level this tiny area.  I gave up.  It was harder than it sounded.  No one would help, because they'd all thought it folly to begin with.  It was abandoned.  Weeds now grow in the plastic tub in which I was collecting the rocks.

Now, when I do get a bug up my butt about fixing up the yard, it's one of the areas where we just don't even know where to start.  It is a complete disaster.  The space where I'd made an effort to create something beautiful turned into something completely unmanageable.

At least it's a small space.

The same cannot be said for what was once our vegetable garden.

No halfway for us.  We cleared a huge portion of our back yard and fenced it, sinking the posts in concrete.  We followed all of the rules and had a beautiful vegetable garden.  One year.  We probably spent as much for plants as we would have for vegetables from the farmer's market for the entire summer.  But that's beside the point.  It was a trip to be able to put a whole meal together just by walking to the backyard with a basket.  We had marigolds bordering three sides of the garden to discourage any critters able to make it under the fence.  We had sunflowers along the back wall.  We had several rows of tomatoes and peppers in many different varieties.  We had herbs. We had eggplant and zucchini and even carrots.

It was hard work, it was beautiful, and it was awesome.

We hadn't realized that it would be exactly the same amount of work the next year.  I think I thought that once we had the area dedicated we would just have to go in and replant the following year.  I was wrong, of course, as you probably already know.  We planted about half of that garden the next year and weeds took over the rest.  I kept after them half-heartedly.  The following year, we left the weeds take over completely.  Such spectacular weeds took up residency.  We called it our butterfly garden, because it attracted butterflies and tiny birds like crazy.  It was an eyesore and we knew it, but we spun it and made it work for us.

For a year.

Then we just abandoned hope.  We knew we'd never bother with a garden again.  We took down the fence, but still have those posts defining the area, making it difficult to mow down the weeds.  Again, because it was not a part of the lawn when we contracted with TruGreen, they don't touch it.  Tom and I often say the only thing it's missing is a car on cinder blocks.  We're only kind of kidding.

There have been other attempts, failures and abandonments.  None of them quite so grand, though.  I think you get the picture.  It's the enthusiastic attempts to make things better that tend to result in making things so much worse.

You would think, perhaps, that the lesson was learned.

But no.

Last week I went on a little martyr-driven spree.  I weeded another of those little this-was-gonna-be-a-cool-feature-until-it-was-abandoned areas and then noticed a vine growing on the side of the house.  On it - in it - it was under the siding and all the way up to the second floor.  It's a cool effect on an old stone  building but on and in my vinyl siding it was less ivy league and more weeds growing right in and through an abandoned car.  On cinder blocks.  So I pulled.  It was stubborn.  I fought and won.  Well, at least as high as I could reach.  "I will dominate you, you stupid green bitch!" may or may not have been actually uttered out loud.

As I write this, a week later, my typing is interrupted sporadically for a mad scratching session.   


Welcome to the Poison Ivy League.

The first signs showed up Wednesday.  Today, Sunday, it has pretty much migrated everywhere - including my face.  It's getting hard to open my mouth on one side, the swelling is so bad.

This is crazy stuff.

THIS is what happens when I try to improve my yard.

I.  Give.  Up.

(till next time)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Talkin' 'Bout My G-G-G-Generation

A friend and I were recently discussing what comprises a generation. Defining a generation is rarely as easy as having a year that ends in a zero pop up on the calendar. For example:  I graduated from high school in 1980. You got an automatic visual, didn't you? 80's conjures up a certain image. But think about that. I graduated in May of 1980. I was in high school for 5 months in the 80's. I went to high school in the 70's. That conjures up an entirely different image. One didn't end and the other begin at midnight on New Years Eve, though. I belong a little bit to both and fully to neither.

So that can't be it.

But what DOES define a generation?

I have a rule of thumb. I made it up myself, so it is based on nothing but my own experiences and intuitions, but this is it:  People who are five years younger than me to five years older than me are my peer group. People who are ten years younger than me to ten years older than me are my generation. Try that on and see how it fits for you. I told my friend this and she found the fit to be good. We then set about discussing why that was. There were a few factors that we settled upon - political climate, clothing and hair styles, but most importantly - we felt - was pop culture.

We shared the same music, TV shows, movies, crushes - we have automatic common ground.

I mentioned to Tom that I was thinking of throwing a challenge out - I need some new music to listen to - but here's the thing - I started listening to popular music around 1972 and stopped around 1992. That is a twenty year span - the very span that I had arbitrarily decided defines a generation. Coincidence? Probably not. I wondered if that was typical of other people's musical history - to start at ten, peak at twenty and be done by thirty. If anyone were to truly manage to turn me on to new music there would have to be some little thread of recognition - it would have to connect easily to something with which I'm already familiar. There would have to be SOMETHING that sounded like SOMETHING that existed between 1972 and 1992.

And this leads me to my next point.

It's a confession, but I trust you guys. You won't laugh at me. You won't let me hear it if you do, anyway.

Now, it's no secret that I love hair bands.

I thought I loved them in a tongue in cheek, nostalgic sort of way.

But I don't.

I really love them.

This is what moves me.

When I listen to 80's rock on Slacker, and Motley Crue comes on, my energy increases by a million (that is a rough estimate). I never owned a Motley Crue album or CD! I may have owned a cassette or two - I honestly don't remember - I still have all of my albums and CDs, but the cassettes are long gone.  That's not the point. The point is - I wasn't really a fan in their heyday. I was aware, certainly, but it didn't MOVE me like it does now.

I stayed on the elliptical three minutes past it announcing that I'd reached my daily goal this morning because a KISS song came on.  (You can ask which one, but I'll either lie or I won't answer. I trust you, but not THAT much.)

I'm not proud of this, but it's true.

I am de-evolving.

At a festival this weekend, there was a band playing that Tom and I agreed sounded really good. When we got close enough to see them we were surprised and a little taken aback by their young age - it was a big, solid sound. As we walked on a little further - we could no longer see them, but could still hear them. There may have been a little bit of a dance in my step, prompting Tom to say, "I think I know why you like this band so much."

"Because they're good?"

"Because the singer has a Vince Neil quality to his voice."

"You lie."


"I'll be damned."

What do you think defines a generation?

And more importantly - do you know any good tunes I should be listening to? Apparently I appreciate things that are best enjoyed through a thick haze of Aquanet.