Monday, January 28, 2013


It's not hard.  It's like riding a bike, you never forget.  Well, it's like riding a bike if the bike was a tandem cycle with a grizzly bear on the other seat.  No, not Heather.  Heather's not the grizzly!  The grizzly is your LIFE, okay?  And all the stuff in it that you feel like you can't talk about on the internet.

Start.  Tell people you've moved out, you're going though divorce...that you've put on a whole dress size out of sheer panic and you seriously need to rethink the color of your hair right now.   People that write about divorce, or any relationship ending, often refer to it as a "journey".  They're on a "journey", they're meeting fellow "travelers" and using words like "destination" and "pit stop" and whatnot.   To me, it didn't feel like a journey,  maybe because by the time I left, I already felt like I'd travelled 5,000 miles from where it started.

Start working.  I was lucky enough to have a job I could get relatively easily, even if it did require the sacrifice of wearing crew neck t-shirts to work everyday and this time Heather isn't there to make sure we detract from the mannish attire by defensively accessorizing.

Start working out again.  I don't know what it is about massive life changes that make you want to a.) emotionally eat Skyline chili after years of never darkening the door of a Skyline Chili and b.) mysteriously forget the process of getting up, working out, going to work and working out again, but it feels like that part is getting easier.

Start blogging.  The hardest part.  Because when what you write about is your life and that starts feeling like something you can't write about, well... you see the problem.   But I'm sure I will write about it, when the dust settles.  And honestly, it's maybe not even about the details and the whys and the hows, maybe it's about the desire to open up.   Because sometimes you can have a lot you want to say, but not a lot you want to share.  And I guess it takes a while to want to share.

So there it is.  It's not much.  But it's a start.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm pretty sure that Preppy is the wrong vibe for belly dancing...

but I can't help it that when choosing my costuming, I just want pink and green.  Someone is going to have to stop me from sewing alligators onto my hip scarves.  That being said, I think belly dance is a great addition to a fitness routine.  When I first started classes, I found myself treating it like Zumba...workout clothes, ponytail...but I quickly realized that it was going to require something else...push up bras and heavy eyeliner.  That's because a really important part of it is tapping into feeling super confident and great about yourself.  Zumba makes me sweat but I'm not going to lie, I am grateful that we aren't in a dance studio facing a mirror at all times.  In that class,  I can look at our awesome instructor Beth and how cute she looks dancing and imagine that I do too, without the pesky reality of a mirror reflecting the truth back at me, since I'm sure I look red-faced and awkward with some of those undulations and salsa steps.  With belly dancing, I'm not sure my movement is any better, but it makes a difference that I think I look cute in my harem pants and dance shrugs.

The thing about belly dancing is that you kind of have to be simultaneously really into yourself and dance without vanity to get some of those movements down.  Whereas with most dancing, you are trying to keep your abs and stomach tight at all times, with belly dancing you have to let that go.  It's important to release your abs as often as engage them for some of those moves to look right.  As a result, you might have cringe worthy photos if someone is snapping them.  But in the moment, when you are looking at yourself in the mirror and a hip lift or a vertical figure eight REALLY looks like a hip lift or a vertical figure out, you're not really thinking about how it photographs so much as the fact that you are doing the damn thing and it looks awesome!

So thanks to Dana for turning me onto this, and to Tami for really making it fun and exciting, as well as  humoring our obsession with playing dress up before we start class.  I'm not saying I'll ever be good enough to take it to the streets, but this class has really introduced me to a new way of connecting with this body which makes it so much easier to do keep on track with working out and eating right.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Going into Girl Scout Cookie Season...

I feel like we need to talk about temptation and succumbing to it.  Everyone knows that Girl Scout cookies are like crack.  You think "Oh, I'll buy some from my niece or that nice little girl who lives down the street...I was a girl scout once.  It's a great cause and I don't want to be a douchebag who shuns altruism!  I have willpower and it's for the kids."  The next thing you know, you're initiating your book club emergency phone tree at 3:00am to find out who has unclaimed boxes of thin mints they're trying to unload.

We talk a lot about weight loss on here, and in our actual lives.  Even so, don't mistake our interest as obsession with the numbers and the counting and the score-keeping of it all.  Heather and I both work hard at it, and despite a competitive nature that could easily turn very catty (you've met us, right?) there is a definite support system at work here for each of us.  Sometimes that means that Heather is fielding phone calls at midnight so that I can say to someone who's NOT an enabler (yes, I'm looking at you, Mr. who-cares-eat-what-you-want-24/7-husband-of-mine!), "I have wanted to eat ALL DAY and I didn't FEEL like working out because there was a really good "West Wing" marathon on Bravo and I now I suck and feel fat and am a mess!"  We've both been at this long enough to know that when you want to hoover your cookie jar or blow off working out, it's rarely because you just want an entire jar of cookies or because you hate working out.  We don't hate working out.  We do it often and it makes you feel great.

Backsliding on whatever fitness goals you've set for yourself is rarely because you are too lazy or too ineffectual to accomplish them.  But you can set yourself for failure if you look at losing weight or keeping it off as a competition with your heavier self.  Unfortunately in weight loss, as in many other worthwhile pursuits in life, you don't really get to spike the football in the endzone.   That's bad news for people who like to approach challenges with an deadline in mind.  It's good news for the rest of us.  It means that if you have a day, a week, a month where you are consciously or sub-consiously prioritizing something else over getting fit, you still haven't failed.  The more you can look inward, figure out why you are prioritizing self-loathing over self-love, the more you can step away from the scoreboard of it all and just live a healthier life.

Heather saw someone somewhere talking about the difference between the pleasure we might get from "treating" ourselves to fast food or cheesecake or those damn Girl Scout cookies on a daily basis and actually treating ourselves right.  One thing I've learned over the past two years is that if you don't love yourself, right this minute, at whatever weight you are,  it's hard to convince yourself to make choices that are actually good for you.

Reason tells us that if you hate yourself when you're overweight, losing weight is the only thing that will make you love yourself.   But the reason why diets fail, the reason why exercise commitments get abandoned is because it doesn't work like that.  Not even a little bit.  Think of it this way:  you're not going to get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and drag yourself to the gym everyday before work for someone that you don't like very much.  So find out why you're just not that into you.  Here's a hint: It's not the weight, it's probably whatever made you put on the weight so be sure to ask yourself the right questions.  Or better yet, find a girlfriend to ask them for you like I did.  Long term success in this endeavor, like any other, is not defined by moments when you feel on top of the world or totally in control.  It's defined by how you handle the other times, by who you can reach out to and who can help you tap into that well of self-acceptance and love that is more important than any exercise class or any diet plan.

So don't shun the Girl Scouts, they're awesome, but here's some advice.  If your office is like the offices I've worked in, those cookies will be more readily available than ink for the printer.  If people offer, just take them, it's the polite thing to do.  Then when they leave, before you throw them away, spray those fuckers with Windex so you're not tempted to dig them out of the trash.

Note:  I finished this post today because I was inspired today's post on Natalie's blog, So thanks, Nat...and namaste.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How sweet it is.

No, not Heather, even though she wrote an entirely too flattering post to me for my birthday which immediately made me feel like a douchebag for not ever writing a post about her that explored the depth of my platonic love for the awesome friend that she is.

I'm speaking of the fact that my hoarding tendencies seem to be shrinking faster than my waistline...(don't hate, I'm still quite pudgy about my upper arm area). Tonight was my turn to host our book club. It's daunting, in part, because most of the women in said book club have homes and entertaining skills that rival the Martha Stewart pre-prision days. It's always a little surreal to see them all perched on my hopelessly old, slip-covered sofas in a back room that is probably one hard rain away from rotting and collapsing on top of us, surrounded by (among other things) 3 discarded television sets, laundry baskets full of old notebooks and romance novels, the remnants of at least two previous Christmas themes and a partridge in a pear...well, you get the idea. It's junky back there. I've posted pictures before and despite my deep longing for the tranquility of well-ordered spaces worthy of HGTV, the reality is more like an episode of "Hoarders: Buried Alive" or "Sanford & Son". Tracy and I are both a.) hopelessly sentimental and b.) apparently lazy enough to count the packet of Splenda that has been tossed carelessly into a bin and stayed there, undisturbed, for the last 2 years among our sentimental treasures.

So this week, in preparation for the book club ladies and partly out of a desire to prove something to myself, I decided to once and for all tackle our junk room. I would be ruthless, I would be unemotional, I would purge based on those rules like "If you haven't touched it in a year..." or "If it's broken..." Monday found me determined. I had a plan and a schedule, a deadline even. I made piles everywhere. I lifted super heavy boxes. Our dining room looked like the staging room at a disaster relief center, if the disaster was that everyone lost their scrapbooking supplies and Christmas decorations and urgently needed more. By Monday night, I had managed to clear a space about 4 foot square...and trash every other room of my house in the process.

Tracy was appropriately impressed by my progress and commented that the room looked better, and thankfully didn't mention that our dining room table was now piled so high with crap that collapse could be eminent. "It gets worse before it gets better", I told him, and hoped that was true. The truth was, after a day of hard labor, I realized the enormity of the project and worried that I would run out of time and resort to shoving things under beds and in closets. Knocking on the neighbor's door at the last minute and asking them if they would mind me leaving a couple of boxes in their garage didn't seem outside the realm of possibility.

On Tuesday I plunged back in. My 4 by 4 foot square seemed like bullshit in the bright light of day. Part of the problem was literally a mountain of clothes in the middle of the room that I would add to during the year as the weight fluctuated. I knew I wanted to donate, but I was seized by the same panic that always accompanies getting rid of clothes for me. I was torn. One last sort, for old time's sake? Or the rip-the-bandaid-off approach of just bagging and forgetting? I compromised. I would sort, but the clothes I KEPT would have to be given away also, just to more specific people. I even LOADED the stuff in my car that night. My little patch of reclaimed room grew and I started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the rest of the house was still carrying a distinct junkyard vibe, which again, we both politely ignored.

Wednesday. Two trips to local donation center and urgent plea to Tracy to carry the heavier bins down to basement for long term storage. Bonus finding of two bags of clothes about 6 years old which felt like manna from heaven for the shopless. I'm just going to say now, with a few exceptions, I have GREAT taste in clothes. I am taking the fact that I even WANT to wear clothes purchased (in some cases) ten years ago as proof. Wednesday provided some distractions from purging and cleaning goals as I became enamored of seeing myself in the size clothes I was wearing 10 years, and 40 pounds, ago. I needed to buckle back down. Wednesday was the day that our dining room table saw daylight again. I'd even managed to uncover my favorite place mats from the back room wreckage, black box style. By this time I'd realized that the solution to hoarding is giving. Giving stuff away that you outgrow, or even stuff that you really like, but don't necessarily need is cathartic. I had a great conversation with Lisa, a woman who manages the thrift shop for Operation Care in Shelbyville on one of my two visits that morning. She explained to me that they partner with many local organizations, and stockpile stuff for disaster relief as well. It inspired me to cut even deeper into my belongings, which I might not have done otherwise. Light fixtures and furniture...things that might have sat ignored for another year or two went on to do some good for someone. I went to bed last night feeling lighter.

Today was cleaning up the loose ends. Setting stuff to rights and staging as best I could without spending a dime. I felt good about it, even though the end result is still the "before" picture in an issue of "Real Simple" magazine. But one of the reasons for doing this that occurred to me was the simple act of working with what I have re: this house. It's old. It's quite shabby minus the chic. But I want to love its interiors right now just as they are. I don't want to use the fact that it's dated and dreary as an excuse to trash it up. I feel like this year, something is going to come into my life that I need to make room for (no, not a kid, Mom...JEEZ!). Maybe it's just going to be a feeling of acceptance and care for this place that shelters us. There will be improvements, undoubtedly, and I'm going to trust that the means to make them will arrive. But in the meantime, I'm going to show it some damn respect. I'm going to take care of these scratched up floors and this mismatched furniture and LIVE here, instead of bingeing on design magazines and thinking about what this place would look like "if only" or carelessly tossing Splenda packets in the back room because "Why bother?" Tonight, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that even though the house is still small, my capacity to love it is expanding exponentially.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Her My Beautiful Friend

My youngest Nephew, Max, has a little trouble with pronouns. He pretty much only uses "him" or "her".  In his defense, he's 4, and he primarily learned to speak while living in China, so sometimes his accent sounds like a Chinese person who speaks English as their second language.  Don't judge him.  He's super smart.  He'll be fine. 

Anyway, this week while I was over at Mom and thems, I mentioned Andee and he turned to me and said "Her your beautiful friend?"  To which I replied (mildly choked up) "That's right, Max.  Her most definitely my beautiful friend."

Andee turned 40 this past week, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little relieved she had to go first.  I get to be in denial for four more months.  Andee handled it well, though.  We worked out any mild apprehensions we might have had about it by drinking a box of wine, watching the Sex and The City 2 movie, verbalizing our feelings at an unnecessarily loud  volume, and drunk dialing her friend it's all good.  I also got to witness her husband giving her a beautiful Tiffany necklace over a extravagant dinner at Ruth's Chris.  Never let it be said that that dude is anything less than a class act.  No one makes me feel richer than he does. (Thanks, Tracy)

2010 was hectic for me, and that is the candy-coated version of the truth.  And I'm certain, without Andee, I would have had to spend all of my very limited disposable income on therapy.  But instead, in 2010, my life got BETTER.  Even with all the crazy shit that went down.  My relationships, my mental health, my mind/body/and sprirt, all IMPROVED.  And it's not because I'm so smart.  It's because she is.  Or maybe that's just what happens when people feel unconditional acceptance.  All I know is I've never been happier.

The point is this...and I don't wanna get all sisterhood of the traveling pants about it...but it is always Andee who is pioneering the way for me. She always goes first. She's my safety net.  She clears the path, reminds me that we will always have enough, encourages me to be all of me (no matter what the consequences), and makes me feel like none of it is that big a deal.  And for a person like myself, who's prone to histrionic behavior, that is no small feat.  

She's the yen to my yang.  The half full to my half empty.  The Oprah to my Gail.  To quote the eloquent and wise Celine Dion, I'm everything I am because she loved me.  And I only mean that in a mildly tongue and cheek way.  Saying I love her doesn't seem big enough, but since I can't think of anything bigger, I'll say it anyway...I love you, beautiful friend.  Whatever age you are will always be the new 30.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So, You have a Tea Party Senator...What now?

First of all, DON'T PANIC. This happens from time to time when you live in a conservative stronghold. I know you'll be casting about for someone to blame right about now, but calling your 70 year old grandfather and cussing him out because he doesn't want government to interfere with his salt consumption is NO WAY TO GO. You'll only hate yourself in the morning. Here's what I'm going to do:

Go to bed. Get up in the morning and go to my job where I interview about 80 people a day for $9.00 an hour warehouse jobs. I'm going to try and hire anyone I can and try to give some constructive advice to those I can't that might help them in their next interview.

I'm going to try and avoid cable news chatter telling us that all of a sudden, Obama is going to hard time getting anything through Congress and avoid acceptance speeches saying that we are taking our country back! I'm going to assume that the country is not going anywhere. Even more so when tea party candidates become tea party senators and start getting paid by the "big-government" they are pledging to put on financial lockdown.

So, live your life. Do your job, care for your kids. WE'RE ALL FINE. Now...if Bristol Palin wins Dancing With The Stars, THEN we can all freak out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I have been wanting to write this post for quite some time.

It's hard for me, because the subject is a divisive one and personal.  I don't know many people who are in lockstep politically with everyone in their family or their immediate circle of friends.  I'm not someone who looks at people through a purely political spectrum.  I have republicans in my family that I love and would defend ferociously.  I have friends who vote in opposition to me but that I could talk about Harry Potter with for hours.  None of us live in a bubble, or shouldn't, when it comes to the people around us.  Elections can absolutely serve to make these relationships more contentious, bring politics to the forefront, but at the end of the day, I believe that the people I know are just trying to be the best people they can be and take care of their family and friends and live their lives in the best way they know how.

Watching that Stewart/Colbert rally yesterday, I was struck by Stewart's closing remarks.  I'll post a video here, but the gist of what he said was that outside of Washington, in our own lives and homes, Americans are working together to get stuff done EVERY DAMN DAY.  We cooperate to get things done at work,  get kids to school, address concerns in our small communities.   We, as individuals, have a history of working across our own aisles to get from one day to the next.   I don't think about the individual politics of the people working to fix my car when it needs serviced, or the guy who delivers my mail.  I don't think about the politics of the people at our small community theater where I sometimes get to perform, or the politics of the people who come to the shows and afterwards tell me that they really enjoyed what I did up there.

I was struck last night, while sitting with my family on my porch and giving out candy to the many trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, that I wasn't thinking about how their parents who were walking them around were going to vote on Tuesday, or if they were going to vote at all.  We have a large population of Hispanics here, but no one was wondering if they were here legally or if they spoke any english and if they said "Gracias" instead of "Thank you" I was going to acknowledge it, even though it's one of only about 10 spanish words I know.  The conversation afterwards was not about how they should learn to speak the language, but about how adorable that kid looked in his costume and how he didn't want to come up to the porch until he had put his Captain Hook "hook" back over his hand.

Stewart said "We are living in hard times, not end times".   The expressions of anger that we are seeing now from the right (and earlier in the decade from the left) are scary when you are someone who is not used to acting out yourself.    It solidifies in your mind the idea that if you express your opinion, there will be consequences.  All of a sudden,  the stakes feel too high and even if you're not in the position of being wrestled to the ground and stepped on, it feels like you might lose friends or family, lose a job, lose some face if things you believe in don't turn out the way you think they might.  Talk about climate change...this is the political climate we live in today and it is absolutely getting more heated.

This country has real problems, hard problems.  I agree with something Matt Taibbi wrote discussing the rise of the Tea Party to prominence:  

"Our world isn’t about ideology anymore. It’s about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate will power to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power. On the other hand, movements like the Tea Party more than anything else reflect a widespread longing for simpler times and simple solutions—just throw the U.S. Constitution at the whole mess and everything will be jake. For immigration, build a big fence. Abolish the Federal Reserve, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education. At times the overt longing for simple answers that you get from Tea Party leaders is so earnest and touching, it almost makes you forget how insane most of them are."

I don't think that people like Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell are evil people hell bent on destroying America.  I think they are people who recognize that there is a real longing for things to appear simple and easily definable.  It's a nice idea, but it's not where we are.  Shit is hard, complex.  It's going to take people smarter than you, smarter than me to fix.   No offense to soccer moms or common sense, but climate change, immigration, wars and deficits aren't comparable to the struggles you've faced as a mom and if your answer to anything and everything can be summed up in two sentences involving the words Constitution and hard working Americans, then I think it's safe to say you don't understand the question fully.  

People work hard, and are still poor.  People work hard and still can't afford health insurance.  People work hard and can still face an impossible choice between necessities and even more necessary necessities.   People sometimes do everything they are supposed to, adjust their expectations, live inside their means and still end up having to rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps, unemployment, disaster relief or yes, something like health insurance legislation which allows their kids to stay on their insurance policy until they are 26.  People still end up with no car, no job, no place to live, no options because they were not able to anticipate any and all threats to their existence and simultaneously prepare.  I don't know.  That doesn't seem manipulative and spoiled and greedy to me, it just seems human.  And the human aspects of social spending are what I respond to.  It doesn't feel like something that only happens to the stupid, the lazy, the complacent.  It's feels like something that could happen to me, to any of my family or friends.  

I'm going to vote on Tuesday, and I hope you do too, whatever your political bent.  We are all right, we are all wrong and casting that ballot reminds me of filling in a box on a standardized test for a word problem that you're only guessing at. Trains leaving the station at different times and people making stops and changing trains.  There's a lot of math. I never thought they gave you enough information.  I don't know enough, couldn't possibly know enough to say 100% for sure if it's the right thing to do in the immediate or in the long term but the instructions were clear. "Fill in the circle completely and make your mark dark."