family

The R-word.

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Disclaimer:  Racism, police brutality, and racial profiling are not always connected topics.  Each can be as dangerous with or without the others present.  This post is in reference to a particular book and specific incidences of the three intertwined.

 

“But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day:  Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains.  If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”  Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, All-American Boys

It’s easy to sit in my culturally diverse suburb, and teach at my 40/40/10/10 school, and feel like a well-adjusted, culturally blended, superior-minded adult.  I, thankfully, grew up in a home that didn’t judge based on things the eye could discern.  And I sit in my house as I write this with my sweet black widow neighbor to the left, an Asian family across the street, a black couple next to them, and a multi-generational Hispanic family to my right.  AHHhhhh, what a lovely world it is that the pot is finally melting us all together!

But what about when the news stories hit.  What about when another case of police brutality involving an unarmed black man, or child, tops the headlines.

What then?  Oh, we don’t riot or vandalize each other’s lawns.  But our neighborhood quietly, politely starts to show lines of division.  Helen next door solemnly dons her “Justice for Michael Brown” shirt, while Dan down the street quietly applies a “Back the Blue” bumper sticker to his new truck.  Helen probably feels like the police are the new KKK, and Dan down the street can probably quote you all the times police have shot unarmed white men who don’t make the news.  And the family of the cop around the corner probably looks over their shoulder a little more for a while.  But neither will engage the other in any sort of debate.  Neither will call the other foul names.  Because nobody’s racist anymore.  Right?

I just finished reading All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and I’m not sure why this isn’t required reading.  Right. Now. (For the record, I hate required reading…but hear me out…I’m making a point.)  Probably for the same reason the teacher in the book was discouraged (by administration) from continuing The Invisible Man after a student at their school was beaten by a security guard.  It’s too much.  It gets students all fired up.  Last year in the classroom across from me, an actual fight broke out after an essay about police brutality was assigned.  Oh, people talk about it all the time in one-sided discussions with like-minded friends.  But it’s no wonder people avoid the topic in mixed company.

For people like me, the “Oh I can see both sides and I know people on both sides so I’ll just stay quiet unless someone asks and then I’ll make it clear I see both sides” people, there is a lesson in a quote that expresses what has been tried and tested throughout history, through religious persecution, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, in times of war, and certainly amid the horrors of genocide:  IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN SITUATIONS OF INJUSTICE, YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSOR. – Desmond Tutu.  So, in essence, “seeing both sides” is the same thing as not standing for either, including the one you think is right.

Just as there are non-violent ways for police to apprehend innocent-until-proven-guilty-subjects and place the alleged crime in the hands of our multi-cultural justice system, there are ways to go about reading books like this one and discussing these topics with young people in a non-provoking way that promotes unity and affects change.

Just like this book.  Two writers from two different sides of American culture, who came together to write a book where the characters’ worlds were pretty well blended – much like the high school where I teach – but were fiercely divided in a time when headlines pit one against the other.  To them, and in the real world of 2017, being racist didn’t necessarily mean overtly hating other races…it meant subconsciously siding with your “own kind” regardless of the facts, or what is right.

And if you don’t think real old-fashioned racism still exists, ask yourself this:  Did your parents ever give you the speech?  The list of ways you have to behave if the cops stop you?  Never fight back.  Never talk back.  Keep your hands up.  Keep your mouth shut.  Just do what they ask you to do, and you’ll be fine (pp. 50, 289)…?  Just checking.

This chapter in American history has to end someday, right?  And it’s clear it’s not going to end with the older, scarred and divided generation. And it’s not going to end with or because of the polite generation I’m in.  It’s going to end with our kids.  Our students.  Our future.  They have to learn how to argue without fighting.  They have to learn how to disagree without hating.  They have to learn how to be different without excluding.

Because what if they don’t?

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Girl Power!

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{It’s not what you think.  I’m not a feminist.  Just defining some things that make life better.  And I’m a girl, soooo….}

The English language does an obscene injustice to the vast color-wheel of envy and coveting experienced by the common female.  Oh, we don’t like to admit it.  But admit it.  Even the best of us has experienced this little demon at some point in our life.

Looking back, my 20s and 30s were plagued with it.  I may not have been symptomatic, but I was a carrier.  Envy presented as “ambition”, but it was there.  Friends had higher paying jobs.  Other friends (or worse…the same ones) had *perfect* marriages (cough cough).  Other friends had nice homes (I realize now I was envious of absurd mortgage payments).  I longed for the country club membership, the nice car, achievements that would bait all the likes, the job that made me sound uber important, or the husband with one so that I could attain the highest of all female statuses…Housewifery.

So I joined the Junior League, bought the used Mercedes, spent money on clothes, got the Master’s degree.  Moved into the bigger house, bought tickets to Charity Ball, earned five half-marathon medals, and got a whole lotta likes.  Know where all that got me?  Exhausted and broke.  And even a little more envious because it appeared that others did it with such ease (cough cough).

Not that my 40s instantly propelled me into total WGAS-mode, but I must admit, I’ve been freed from the chains of the things I used to care the most about.  I’m sure this change was supported by moving out of Victoria and into a life of near-anonymity, as well as baptism into Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love way of thinkingEither way, I’ve found happiness in downgrading cars (come on and hit me with your best shot).  The last thing I want is no job (more jobs is actually what makes me happy).  And maybe even laster than that is wanting to dress up to go to a fancy restaurant or sit poolside with people who American Expressed their perfect lips and thighs.

After five years of half-marathons, I had one excuse after another – divorce, family in town, that little matter of the tib-fib fracture.  The last time I met up with my original running girls (why did we not call ourselves ORG?) was 2012 – I went to cheer for them and eat with them and hear their war stories from the course.  And I felt like a loser.  I love these girls with all my heart, but here they were, more fit than ever, obviously more reliable than me, and with more medals than me.  I was happy for them, but I was sad for pathetic old me.  Guess that was which friend I was.  The loser one.

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What. the actual. hell.  Same meet-up last weekend…they ran, I showed up to eat.  Guess what we discussed over Mexican food and the smell of Icy Hot?…Their run, of course. Their training.  Their journeys.  But also my book.  And my next book.  My happy grown-ass independent daughter.  My awesome new job.  Our years until TRS kicks in (I think this officially makes us adults).  Our amazing husbands and kids.  I’ve done a hella lot this year.  So training for a marathon wasn’t one of them.  WGAS!

I owe this realization to a meal and conversation about running in that very same Mexican restaurant ten years ago with the very same friends (God bless Lupita, whoever she is).  I owe a lot, in fact, to watching them both (should I call them Sarcy or Marah?) and their desire to study and truly learn the sport (thanks, RPG, for everything), commit to something and stick with it, and support each other through accountability and lots of laughs.  I have those traits!…just didn’t use them in the same way.  And guess what?  I’m not sure if I was more proud of their marathon or if they were more proud of my book.

Moral of the story:  In good times, and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more.  That’s what friends are for.

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So yeah, that’s what friends do.  Sorry and sad it took me this long to enjoy it this much.

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The Year of the Titty-Baby

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Who knew a consecutive string of 365 days could be responsible for so much anguish in the world!  2016 killed people, I hear.  Politicians and media are at their all-time suckage level.  And worst of all – the Dab.

I have thoughts.

First, Liberia.  I’m writing a piece with a friend, and I’ve had to do some research on Liberia.  We may have a president with awful hair who is appalling and embarrassing and maybe even evil.  And we may have lost some people (who we never met) (most who were old) (who we stopped paying attention to almost completely until we binged watched/listened immediately after the news of their passing to show our love and devotion).  But guys.  Please.  We have homes with plumbing and cool air and heat and refrigeration and best of all Netflix!  We can walk out of our homes with our Netflix (without getting shot) and get in our car (without getting bombed) and drive to work (where we earn a decent paycheck) and hang out with friends (without getting Ebola) and go out at night (without being raped)…What a great year it’s been for US…Yay!!  If this has been your Worst Year Ever, you’re still one of the luckiest people on Earth.

The beauty of being American is, our politicians and media only affect you if you let them.  So you’re the one at an all-time suckage level if they bother you.  Plus, frown-lines, guys…don’t want ’em.

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Second, guess what.  Guess who made 2016 an embarrassment.  We did.  Maybe our ancestors contributed to our lineage of bad decision-making skills, so we can blame them a little, but we mostly did this to ourselves.  We gave the Kardashians an inch (big inch) and Donald Trump took a mile (big mile.  the biggest mile.  tremendous miles.)  We let news anchors fuel our thinking and GIFs and memes guide our emotions.  We’ve kinda been the weakest generation.  And our diplomas and degrees don’t mean much if we get our information from Twitter and mass media.

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So just flip the freaking calendar…it’s just another day on Earth.  People aren’t going to stop dying (especially if they keep getting old and/or shooting heroin).  Nobody decent is ever going to want to run for office again now that they see how that all works.  And the Dab will be replaced by something. even. dumber.

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I’m going to do the splits in 2017.  The center ones.  And I’m going to continue to gauge my happiness by the world around me.  The one I actually live in, the people I actually care about, and the life that’s actually treated me and mine very well lately, thank you very much.

The Green Piano Post

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Summer schlummer.  Whatever.  It’s over.

The great thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head.  The awful thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head.

This one’s been swimming up there for a while, but nonetheless, I give you “The Green Piano Post”.

So.  Sometime between 1970 when my parents got married, and 1975 when I was born, my folks spent their hard-earned G.I. money on – No, not a down-payment on a house…No, not stocks in McDonald’s – a piano.  God love ’em.  Such a beautiful hippie love story, and I’m proud of it to this day.  I’m pretty sure they were eating beans and rice or the equivalent, but By God they had a piano, and I know they sat at it night after night and played Kum-Ba-Yah and Puff the Magic Dragon and whatever else the Readers’ Digest Piano Book contained that was in a key that worked for their perfect triad:  guitar capo, piano, and vocal range.

Forty plus years later:  Their 1970’s flower child who grew up playing that piano now spends hours a week with her hot husband/love/bff/duet partner and his guitar/ukulele cranking out Kasey Musgraves and Symarip and Jack Johnson.  The same piano is featured in her newly renovated front room, and it hosts at least 12 different pairs of hands each week.

The variable:  Instagram and an obsession with paint.  So, you need some background here – I’m the girl who saw curtains she liked, couldn’t afford them, bought some similar curtains and painted each and every stripe the desired color…four pairs of 96″ curtains.  She wanted yellow and blue, not khaki and blue.  I’m the girl who bought a figure-flattering dress for her role as Grace Farrell in “Annie – the Musical”, but was told she couldn’t wear a red dress because Annie wore a red dress, so she spray-painted it with car upholstery paint until it was some weird form of black with a red sheen.  Also the girl who follows Annie Sloan Paint on Instagram because her motto is “Paint Everything”.

So when I saw a painted piano on her feed, I thought “huh.  I haven’t painted a piano.  I have a piano.  I have paint.  Why don’t I have a painted piano?”

Now, I’ve painted a lot of things, but nothing has caused me pause and reflection quite like this piano.  Nevertheless, with the kickass new home reno and no hope of a baby grand in sight, I just decided to close my figurative eyes and jump in.  LOTS of encouragement from hot husband, who, based on his experience with me, couldn’t believe that I talked about it and didn’t make it happen the same day.  I told him I needed to process this one.

So, after a couple of weeks of reflection, I stuck the brush into the green paint and touched it to the piano and knew that now I had to do it.  It made me a little sick.  Until two very strong feelings swept over me consecutively, in a very connected way.  In such a way that I’m not sure I’ll do it justice.

First, I was overwhelmed with the realization that those two hippies who could have bought food or a television or something else more conventional – bought a piano.  And then they made a baby, and their combined DNA created a baby who wanted to paint everything and play every song and sing every note and love everything deeply.  And I realized that they can’t get mad that I’m painting their piano – they made ME, and so it’s their own faultslashcredit.

Then, without warning, I was overcome by the feeling of gratitude for having a Nike husband.  To anything I want to do, his response is “Just Do It!” or something like it.  And he MEANS it.  It my past life (ex-life), I wasn’t even allowed to play the piano when ex was home because it “made too much noise”.  I was discouraged from painting all the things I wanted to paint because I would “diminish their value”.  So what am I even here for?  Something in me was programmed to want to make things different from everything else…What was really going to be negatively affected, the painted furniture, or who I thought I was?

So.

I love my green piano.  It is fun.  It says, “come play me…I don’t bite…we’re all just here to have some fun while we can.”  It speaks volumes about how much I love the way my parents raised me.  It sings a melody of the freedom that comes from finding your one-and-only who wants you to just keep being more of you.

And hey (this could have been my life’s motto), if you have to be an upright, be the funkiest one in town.

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ENFP -Why it’s fun/terrible being one

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One thing my boss learned about me in my final weeks at my job is that I’m a tightly-wound ball of loose, fun, colorful, frazzled yarn.  Or maybe I’m a loosely-braided ball of really hard, tough wire.  I don’t know…Who knows?!?!  She looked at me with great sympathy and said, “It must be really stressful being you – you’re a walking contradiction of OCD and ADD.”

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I was known as the free-spirit, the hippy, the rule-breaker, the “what box?” person in our office of 16.  So it seemed strange to her when I melted down in my office and busted out with the admission that my house was in disarray because of the reno, my treadmill was out of commission, and it made me feel like my whole life was falling apart.  Okay now that does sound dramatic.  However, I thrive on structure and schedules and to-do lists, yet I operate in un-structured spontaneous irreverent ways.  I finally realized that the lists and order are coping mechanisms I’ve developed to survive in the real world.

This got me thinking…Is there any part of me that is wholly and completely any one certain way?  (These things are probably not unique to ENFPs, and certainly not unique to me…just a little self-realization at 40, that’s all.)

Political views:  With regards to taxes, government-involvement, economic policy, domestic and global protection…completely Republican.  With regards to personal decisions …completely Democrat.  I realize this pretty much makes me a Libertarian, which pretty much makes me screwed.

Religious views:  My dad, grandfather, and uncle are/were Southern Baptist ministers.  I was raised in the church and am so thankful for it.  I like believing in the things the Bible teaches.  I like the way I feel/am/behave when I leave church.  I think a lot of the world’s problems would be solved if more people knew and followed Jesus.  I don’t believe everyone else has got it all wrong and are doomed to hell.  I don’t believe science had no part in this.  I don’t believe we should look any differently at people who don’t believe like we do.  I don’t believe what Christianity is taught to be, in most cases, was what was intended. And even if I’m still afraid to be so brash as to claim that any parts of the Bible are wrong, humans are.  All the time.  And we’re the ones trying to read/teach/impose it.  Language and metaphors and translations and interpretations are real actual things.  Jenn Hatmaker says it best in her book, For the Love…”If it isn’t also true for a poor, single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”  Fact check, mic drop.

Career:  I need someone to tell me exactly what to do, and then I want to do it completely differently and them not get mad.  Good thing I’m going to be a teacher again.

Homosexuality:  If you’re going to use the Bible for reference to claim something as a sin, you have to use the same Bible as your reference that God created everyone in His image.  Never met a gay person who was faking it.  Never met a gay person who hadn’t tried to be straight.  I have lots of friends who are gay.  Some of them are the very best at showing God’s love – why should I care who they show it to?

Gun control:  Guns should be controlled, but if I want one, please sell me one.  I don’t care about privacy when it comes to this topic.  I believe in lots of regulations here.  But I think the sudden surge in taboo-izing guns is part of the problem.  I want to be the one to decide who gets to buy guns and who doesn’t.  I think that might help.

Marriage/Family/Divorce:  Going to have to make this one a separate post.  Stay tuned.

Parenting:  I want to give them tons of structure, bedtimes, schedules, rules to follow, expectations to meet, with tons of independence, freedom, and self-expression.

Media:  I hate the media.  100% completely.  There!!!…I found something without a “but”.

**The Myers-Briggs Personality test categorizes ENFPs (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception…also known as Campaigners, Champions, Idealists) as constantly contradicting themselves because they genuinely see multiple sides to most situations.  Sorry not sorry.

In search of summer…

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I’ve had five days off since my last day on the job, yet, in typical fashion, I’ve managed to make sure I don’t feel like it’s summer break.  Not sure what’s in my head (single-mother syndrome?), but I’ve always tried my derndest to make sure no one has an opportunity to see me as “lazy”.  I feel like I’ve always been so excited about summer, but never really really done what you’re supposed to do with it.  Today might be different..

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This looks like what I feel like, minus the hat.  I don’t feel this confident in a white fedora.
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This is an actual photograph of me, for reference.

I’m going to justify some down-time today to write.  Kwame Alexander answered a fourth grader’s question, “What is the hardest part about writing a book?” with the response, “BIC.”  Butt In Chair.

Well my butt is in the chair, it’s 10a.m., I have a glass of Skinny-Girl wine in front of me and no bra on, so, by golly, it must be summer so I’m writing.

I’ve had a lot of posts swirling around in my head, and though I haven’t made time to write any of them down yet, I’m going to make a list of the posts I want to write over the next three or four days.

  1.  My soon-to-be-published book, Where Poppy Lives – past lessons, present timeline, and future plans
  2.  My conflicting views on just about everything & why they make me happy-slash-sad
  3.  Inspired divorce (this one might merge with #2)
  4.  Home reno update
  5. The boys of summer

I’m going to try something new for me…I’m going to leave this page right now, and I’m going to set up the drafts of each of these pages.  Then I can add to them as I think of things – this technique more closely resembles my brain anyway, so it might be a better mode of operation for me.  I will set them up, type a little, go get on the treadmill (better not take a second sip of this wine), and come back to each of them as required.

We leave for the lake (hallelujah) this Saturday, so my goal is to complete(ish) each of these by then because I want to be free of all brain activity by the time we get there.  THAT will truly feel like summer.  (Right?…I think…not sure I know what it’s supposed to feel like.)

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Wah, wah, wah. (ABC Challenge)

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I just deleted the whole post I had started (and almost finished) here because of how whiny it sounded when I reread it just now.  I’ve been crying a lot.  That’s it.  Don’t know why (maybe job-change, house in boxes for upcoming reno, band seemingly slowly dismantling, treadmill isn’t working, watching Call the Midwife, allergies, lack of sleep, being 40, maybe.)

In the meantime I blamed everything else imaginable.  I know it’s not my husband’s fault, or lacrosse’s, or his band’s, or anything else I accused.  But I can’t really fix any of the likely culprits.  So I’m going to stop whining.  (I might not be able to stop crying, but I can stop whining.)

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That’s it.  Short post.  If I keep going it’s going to turn into whining.  (And probably crying.) 

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Victoria Days (ABC Challenge)

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I spent 13 years living in Victoria, Texas, after spending ages 5-21 living in a small town just 25 miles away.  Previous to my life in that area, I lived in Kennedale, Burnet (at a boys’ home), and La Porte (another boys’ home) – all in Texas.  For brief smidgens of time in early adult-hood, I lived in Plano, Dallas, Vanderbilt, and Bay City.

I ran in various circles in Victoria – from teachers to piano students to church small groups to CAbi parties to volleyball moms to band gigs.  Through all of that, I probably had something to do with almost everyone in town at some point.  During my later years there, I came to the hard realization that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with the lifestyle of my peers, and I found myself resenting where my circles had led (too much wine and spending too much money) and regretting the expectations my daughter had established growing up around friends with money and entitlement.  She was about to fall off the edge in various ways, and in an attempt to save us both, I moved us here.

I moved to our current city – a suburb of Houston – almost four years ago, and – other than the town where I lived most of my childhood – never had I felt more at home.  My husband has been here and involved for more than 13 years, and I do a lot of things with a lot of wonderful people here.  Yet, it seems like when I least expect it, my Victoria friends show up in the most extraordinary ways.

I posted an “offer” on Facebook to take old books off anyone’s hands – I need to fill my shelves with great books that freshmen will embrace.  I expected my current local acquaintances to chime in and help.  Not a peep.  Over ten offers from old Victoria friends in less than an hour though.  One offered to hook me up with hundreds of books leftover from the Victoria Public Library purge.  One offered me whatever I wanted from her school library purge.  One drove an hour to meet me to bring me a box of books (and drink mimosas).  And at least four others have offered to drop boxes of books off with my daughter for transport to me here. (One of hott husband’s H-town friends also offered books…I don’t want to neglect to mention her 🙂

I know it seems like a small, impersonal thing (books), but it puts a lump in my throat to think about it and feel the outpouring of support these folks show each other – and even me.  I miss that.  People in Victoria rally together.  People in Victoria don’t do anything alone.  People in Victoria are some of the most generous people I’ve ever known, and though I once felt like something of an outsider by the inherent “elitism”, I know they balance all of that out with their philanthropy, and then some.  It’s a little bit like a cult, but they didn’t disfellowship me even when I moved away and haven’t talked to them in years, and even though I never had to resources to help them in the same way they helped me.

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Our band’s second album.  Didn’t feel the nostalgia it refers to at the time.  And it might not have been my best of times, but they are truly the best of people

Social media helps maintain bonds that otherwise would fade away with time.  I know I gripe about Facebook, but I know in my heart that if I moved to Botswana and was craving Whataburger and one of them found out, somebody would raise enough money to build a Whataburger in my village.  I may not be one of them anymore, but I want to return the love and goodwill any way I can, and I will be eternally grateful for the way our lives intersected while they did.

Updates (ABC Challenge)

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The A-Z Challenge was over for most people yesterday…I’m a little behind, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to evaluate progress in the areas I’ve been challenging myself.

A- Acceptance:  Took the A-Z Challenge…still with it.  Took the new job…still excited!

B – Boys:  I’ve stopped trying to understand boys.  Boys and girls are not meant to understand each other.  I am still trying to educate my boys (the little ones) about girls and mostly how to navigate the differences and not piss off the ones you like.

C – Confidence:  Meh.  Wearing a short-sleeved shirt today – does that count?

D – Diet:  Bummed about this one.  Stopped most carbs and alcohol, started Insanity and Workweek Hustle with my FitBit (getting in no less than 10,000 steps a day)…Not a pound lost.  Depressed and discouraged, I rage-ate pizza and wings a few times.  Even besides that, probably not doing too well with this one – and DEFinitely not doing as well as I know how to (as my skinny gynecologist pointed out when I expressed concern about recent weight gain.  Bitch.  Jk, I like her.)

E – Expectations:  I’m realizing that my internal clock ticks really fast…that’s helped some.  I’ve also had a conversation with my hott husband that might have given me more insight than before on how his brain works and why some things don’t happen the way I expect them to.  Besides, I would hate it if I knew what went on in my head went on in his too.

F – Facebook:  This one took for a while, but then I found myself stoplight-scrolling uncontrollably.  Today, I’m going to make the conscious effort once again to not look unless I have something I specifically want to find.

G – Grout:  Picked it…going with the one that’s the most like taking me on a date…cheap and easy 😉

H – Husbands:  Great success in loving without fear.  It isn’t as hard of a task as I thought…and it feels so good.

I – Intoxication:  Went drink-free for 5 1/2 days.  Have had many nights without, a few nights with one (none while home alone), and a couple of nights with two.  Probably need to do a 5-day drought every few weeks.

J – Jeri:  Called her so she could keep rubbing off on me.  Need to do it again soon.

K – Keuka:  57 days on the countdown!

L – Learning:  Learned how to delete a row on an inserted table in Word today…so I’d say this one is a success 😉

M – Magazine Perfect:  I have forced myself to leave a few things out that are not bothering anyone.  I haven’t straightened the pillows on the boys’ playroom couch in over a week.

N – News:  This one has been great – not tempted at all.  And the couple of times that I’ve caught the news, it’s been glaringly obvious how terrible it is.  It’s like eating super-sweet desserts after you’ve given up sugar for a few weeks…bleh.

O – Over-analyzing/Obsessing/Over-observing:  Caught myself reading every license plate the other day and then spending way too much brain energy arguing with myself over what year model a particular car was, but otherwise pretty good, maybe?

P – Plans:  Kinda had a grip on this one, then had a long discussion with hott husband that made me shift my grip, if that makes sense.

Q – Quixotic:  Still me.  Still happy about it.

R – Reading:  Haven’t read in a few nights.  Might put down the pedagogy and pick up a YA novel that I’d want to recommend to my future students.

S – SCR (aka Hott Husband):  Love. Him. So. Much.

T – Testing and Treadmills:  Too soon.

U – Updates! – Done!

SCR (aka hott husband) (ABC Challenge)

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Today, on the 44th anniversary of my hot husband’s birth, I submit to you a small pictorial sampling of the things he does that make me smile.

The vast majority of these are from events related to music, sports, water, or motorcycle rides (several are even a combination of more than one) – things I enjoy the very most in the whole wide world.  Though I would still be the happiest girl in the world if we never did anything or went anywhere and had no money and no friends, I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to ride this ride with him…my dream guy.

I think he was put on this earth to do so many amazing things, and he blesses so many people with his gifts and his love and his passion.  But it’s a big enough task to thank him for what he does for little ‘ol me, so I’m sticking to that for this post…

Happy Birthday, My Love!…Thanks, People Makers! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OverAnalyzing/Obsessing/OverObserving (ABC Challenge)

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I wish – so badly – that I knew how other people’s brains worked.  I don’t feel like mine is normal, if there even is such a thing.

It would give me some peace to know that everybody’s brains were completely unique – like a fingerprint – so there was no “normal” to compare to.  But I have a feeling that there is a range of brain and thought patterns, wide as it may be, and mine is way outside the range.

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OVER-ANALYZING:  I wish I didn’t always care what people’s motives were.  When someone does or says something, I like to interpret what they really meant.  I like to try to figure out what they’re hoping my response will be.  When I was single, this was bad enough, but then I had a child, and now a husband plus two, and I do it for all of us since none of them seem to care to do it for themselves.

OBSESSING:  As I’ve probably explained quite well so far, I obsess about a lot of things.  But the thing that probably qualifies me for medication and possibly some federal funding is the obsession I feel when I find out I don’t or didn’t know something I should have known (fill in the blank with just about anything that either didn’t affect me, didn’t matter, or wasn’t at all a big deal).  I want to know why, I want to know who’s job it was to tell me – is my email broken? do people not think about me? do I even really exist???  I will obsess until I get to the bottom of it – which usually involves knocking some people down along the way and talking really fast (and not listening to “answers” that don’t do anything to “answer” my questions.)  Apparently.

OVER-OBSERVING:  If you’ve been an acquaintance at any time in my life, I’ve known what you drive, and if I’ve passed you ever on the road, I’ve seen you.  I probably waved and you didn’t.  I’ll notice every discarded tag in the bathroom trash, any set of blinds that is turned a slightly different angle than I turn them, and any Q-tip that doesn’t look like it came from any of our ears.  I should have been a detective, because this super-power does me no good whatsoever in my everyday life.  Also, I seem to be the only person at work to utter the words “Y’all match!” It’s a wasted gift, really.

What I want from all of this is to be Oblivious – some of the time anyway.  I don’t want to take prescriptions or do illegal drugs.  I think it’s probably why I like a little drinkiepoo every now and then.  Any suggestions?  Meditation?  (Just so you know, I’ve tried to be a pray-er, but I don’t focus very well, and before I know it I’m planning dinner or remembering to return my Stitch Fix, and then a few hours later I remember that I need to say in-Jesus’s-name-I-pray-Amen.)  Anybody?  Same?

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Magazine Perfect (ABC Challenge)

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I just Googled this term, and it’s not even a thing.  It was at 510 Brodie when I was growing up.  This term, apparently made up by my mother, embodies so many wonderful things about my upbringing and heritage, and so many things I can’t seem to give up.

Are all obsessions bad?  I feel like this one is just one of my quirks (I think I’m justifying a lot of these post topics that way lately…)  But it is an obsession nonetheless – one that causes undue stress almost every day.  I’m not expecting – or even wanting – to turn this one completely off…just moderate my expectations.

If I was going to cast someone to play my mother in a movie about her life, I would have a hard time deciding between the proper Hyacinth (from the BBC) and the oh-so-southern Paula Dean (from the South).  She’s the juxtaposition of keeping up appearances and lovin’ Jesus while cookin’ with bacon grease.  Her mother (more like a mixture of characters from Dallas and The Beverly Hillbillies) wasn’t too much different in her appearances/housekeeping/presentation standards.  On more than one occasion, I called to ask if I could drop by and see her while I was in her area, and she declined because her house wasn’t presentable.

Much like my grandmother, I don’t want people to see my home in any state other than “Magazine Perfect” – the term my mother used to distinguish whether she wanted me to merely clean my room – dust, vacuum, empty trash – or arrange it for the magazine photographers who were inevitably going to drop by unannounced to take pictures of our interior for Southern Living magazine – bed made, throw pillows and blankets strategically staged, frames placed on shelves by height and in odd numbered groupings, and stack of classic novels innocently gracing my desk…and of course I want it to appear effortless. (She never told me these were the things I had to do – I just created that as a definition.)  As a kid, I preferred “magazine perfect” to cleaning.  It involved throwing un-pretty things in my closet and desk drawers (’cause what kind of wackadoo photographer would take pictures of desk drawers???) and making things look pretty.  Nowadays, I enjoy cleaning too, but I still – honest to God – have the thought in my head that a magazine photographer might show up on my doorstep, and By God I’d better be ready.

Like I said, this obsession isn’t ALL bad.  I love living in a tidy house.  I love the compliments from people who drop by.  I love things looking nice.  But most people really don’t care.  I don’t get that, but they don’t.  This probably goes back full circle to my Confidence post.  I don’t feel like I judge other people if their houses are messy (I kinda do if they’re dirty), but I do find myself grateful that I live like I do, and I do expect to be judged.

Here’s what I need to focus on:  Who do I feel like I need to make happy?  The answer should be me and my family.  It does take a regular cleaning and a regular picking-up to make me happy.  It takes very little to make my family happy – I want them to care, but they just don’t.  And I should see this as an opportunity for some freedom from stress…I’m going to try.

*voice in my head* I’m going to be SO mad if a magazine photographer really does show up on a day I’m practicing not caring.  SO mad.

(in my head, that’s me below)

this one

Keuka (ABC Challenge)

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In 73 days, this family will make its annual pilgrimage back up to the holy land – known to others as Keuka Lake.

I hear all of the Finger Lakes are spectacular, but Keuka is the one where I’ve perched for two solid weeks of relaxation each of the past three years.  My hott husband has been there almost every summer of his life.  And last summer, it’s where we celebrated the 50th year of Maga’s Lake House and we were married on the dock in a perfect little gathering.

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His family home there is warm and welcoming, its hosts are laid back and gracefully hospitable, the lake is cool and clear, and the people are friendly.  But even if these things were not true, there’s something else extraordinary about this place…

They have a time-travel portal.

If you count their horses, the Amish might outnumber televisions, and they definitely outnumber air conditioners.  You might find some of what you need at the little grocery store, but you still need to stop at the butcher’s, the Amish market, and the fruit stand.  The summer days are long, the tables are large, and the windows are open.

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But here’s my favorite part of the time travel there:  kids get to be kids – without instructions or a plan or an itinerary or supervision, all day, all the while learning more than we could ever teach them.  Our kids and the neighbor’s kids run all day – All. Day. – up and down from the lake to the woods and around again.  They fish, build forts, make up games, swim, kayak, sail, paddle, run, run, run, did I mention they run?  everywhere?  When they’re hungry, they figure out how to eat while running.  When someone gets hurt, they clean each other’s wounds.  They celebrate the big catch together. They come up with creative things to make out of trash from the gully.  At dinner, plates get clean, stories get relived, brothers don’t fight, and a good hard sleep comes easy.  They strategize plans to most efficiently accomplish the assigned daily chores.  You can’t make this stuff up!  But they can.  And they do.  For four weeks straight.  They learn more there without adult supervision than in all the time and money we adults (collectively) try to “invest” in their development.  NOTHING is as important at their age as learning things for yourself.  That is hard to find in the suburbs, my friends.

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It seems like these days, if your kid turns out to be a self-sustaining adult, it almost has to be in spite of us, not because of us.  My father-in-law dropped this wisdom on us a couple of years ago – “Don’t handicap your kids by making their lives easy.”  But we do it every day.

My adult daughter is a walking reminder of this.  It is abundantly apparent what aspects of her life I kept out of and gave her independence, and which aspects I stunted her growth by  treating her like she couldn’t do it on her own (well, right, enough, etc.)

Challenge/Reminder:  I am going to stop doing for the kids what they can do for themselves.  Obviously, there are time constraints and bedtimes, but their ability-level is way higher than we give them credit for…and there’s a lot of things they should know how to do by this age, but they don’t – simply because we’ve never taught them.

So I might be the bad guy around here for a while, but in this whole step-parenting adventure, I’ve learned that my role is sometimes different than the parent – but just as important.

(Pretty sure it would be a big help if we do what we keep saying we’re going to do and cut off the cable…So many of these challenges are actually going to save us money – I’ve saved money on eating out, not drinking, not picking grout ((oops))…Feelin’ Pre-tee Good 🙂 )

 

 

Jeri (ABC Challenge)

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Geraldine Frances “Jeri” Nein-Nein Cox Wilson.

Lessons I’m still learning from my 90-year-0ld grandmother:

  1. Phone calls to say ‘hi’ can be quick.  Just let people know you’re thinking about them.
  2. If you work hard in your garden all day and eat what you grow, you can have ice cream every single night (with toppings).
  3. Almost every child ever is a handful – deal with it.
  4. Crafts and hobbies are wonderfully addictive.
  5. Squeal a little when things make you happy.
  6. Reader’s Digest is way better than television.
  7. Playing in the woods is way better than Reader’s Digest.
  8. It doesn’t matter what a person looks like, where they come from, what they’ve done – every single person deserves the same amount of love.
  9. You don’t need any more than you need.  If you have too much or can make more, give it to someone else.
  10. Walk fast – there’s lots to do.

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Husbands (ABC Challenge)

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My soon-to-be new boss and I shared a few mom-to-mom moments at the conclusion of my interview a few weeks ago.  We found out we had both recently married the man of our dreams, both after raising kids and graduating them off to college, both gained young step-kids in the process – mine boys, which I had never done before, and hers a 12-year-old girl who they had permanent custody of, after she had raised only boys.

Early Friday morning, she got a call at work that I can’t even begin to imagine.  The 44-year-old love-of-her-life had a heart attack on the treadmill at his gym and died instantly.  Gone.  There are no words.  I can’t think straight when I try to describe how devastated (the English language is inadequate), completely world shattered, stopped, exploded, I don’t even know…can’t even finish the sentence.

How do you go on?  How do you even move your body from one spot?  My natural reaction to this was to cling to my husband.  I felt, in the depths of my soul, the fear of losing him and I began to program my brain and my actions based on this fear.  I realized that I was loving him even harder than ever, but it wasn’t fun.  It was emotionally draining.

I’ve only had a few long-term relationships in my life (that seems like it should be a given), but in the first two or three – beginning in high school – there were major issues with fidelity and truthfulness.  Since these were during my developmental years, I never learned what it’s like to trust – wholly, completely, without fear.  Even as much as I know, like KNOW know, that my husband loves me and is committed to me and would never hurt me, I also know we are humans and humans make mistakes, hence there is always something to fear.

I have been working on this for a while now – like intentionally and intelligently, and it’s definitely gotten better.  As time goes by, I have less “flare ups”.  In fact, I feel like I can truthfully say that I’m not afraid right now.  I have realized – finally, and due to the terrible news of a husband’s passing – that if it WERE to happen, it would have happened whether I was a blissfully oblivious wife or a paranoid untrusting one, and which way would I rather live?

With the news of my boss’s husband, I had to make myself make a quick U-turn from deciding to live like I might lose him tomorrow to living like we’ve got forever.  I want the same to be true with my trust.  I want to live this wonderful life with him and love him madly forever – but not from a place that’s founded in the very things I fear the most.  There’s too much fun to be had.  Challenge:  Cherish and treasure, but relax and enjoy or it was all in vain.

Facebook (ABC Challenge)

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I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook right now.  I’m kinda getting over most social media, but Facebook has particularly been bothering me lately.

I have 476 “Friends” on Facebook.  I know, we’ve all heard the talk around who’s really your friend, why you have certain people in this category at all, how some of your “friends” wouldn’t even speak to you if they saw you in real life…But that’s not really what’s bothering me.

I’ve recently developed a perceived physical sickness from scrolling ad nauseum.  I’m sure it has something to do with staring at a little screen, and probably NOthing to do with my aging eyesight.  But it’s even more than that.

I feel physically sickened by knowing so much about so many people – their kids, their jobs, their political and religious affiliations – only the parts they’re proud of, of course – and I don’t know why I need to know all of this, and I honestly wonder if parts of my brain are being overrun by irrelevant bits and pieces about people I may or may not actually care about – along with beautiful scenes in Italy and mouth-watering culinary masterpieces.  I certainly don’t need to take up space in the emotion department of my head with car accidents that happened near Lubbock, men being arrested for abusing dogs in rural Indiana, and a football player I’ve never heard of who has been accused of abusing his kids.  I love the quippy little smart-ass quotes, but I find myself replacing real human conversation with the recitation of funny things I read.  I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids grow up, and I hope they enjoy the moments that I decide to share, but at times it almost feels like exploitation.  Most of the kids featured – mine included…most recent pic was a car-ride-napping pic – didn’t make the choice to have their picture passed around to hundreds of people.  And referencing my “Confidence” post, I too often find myself critiquing/judging things that have nothing to do with me or my business.

And I can’t leave the Facebook quizzes off my list – I don’t really need to know what state Facebook thinks you should live in, and I CERTAINLY DON’T NEED TO WASTE MY BRAINCELLS WONDERING WHAT STATE I SHOULD LIVE IN.  BUT I DO.

 

Next Self(ish)-Improvement challenge.  No Facebook until Sunday.  I know that’s only three-and-a-half days away, but it’s a first step.  I want to see how I feel, even though I already know.

This theme I’ve created has kinda turned into a monster.  I’ve sort of created 26 years worth of Lents into 26 days.  I’m not even Catholic – I don’t need this kind of pressure!!  Just kidding – I do.

Expectations (ABC Challenge)

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Last night, I was thinking out loud to hott husband on the phone (he’s in Atlanta on business) about what my “E” post should be.  Since the theme of Accepting Self(ish)-Improvement Challenges has poked its little head out, I now have parameters.  He first said “Exercise“, to which I explained, unsuccessfully, how yesterday’s “Diet” post was really more about Exercise.  I reminded him of my theme, and he – without hesitation – blurted out “Expectations“.

Ouch.

I know this is the one thing that sometimes tries to divide us.  I’m sure it’s really at the root of most people’s problems.  But we’ve definitely identified it as a big difference between the two of us, and my way of managing expectations as being the spark that starts most of our very VERY few conflicts.

Example:  I walk very fast.  I do everything very fast.  I can go to the store with a list of 20 items, get in get out and get home in thirty minutes.  I walk in the door, and hott husband says, “Oh my gosh…you did that in like two minutes!”  Husband doesn’t do anything hastily.  He – as people should – enjoys everything.  He loves to look at items in the grocery store, even if he has no intention of buying them.  He’ll see jelly with a funny name and make up a song about it, dancing in the aisle for a good solid five minutes.  He also doesn’t spend any brain cells trying to strategically plan his grocery run…He might meander from one side of the store and back and back again four times, and it doesn’t stress him out.  All being said, it takes him for.ev.er. to make a grocery run.  He walks in the door, I’ve been running through the three most rational scenarios that could have caused his delay (accident, phone call from family member, fire in front of the exit), so not only has my expectation of time not been met, but when he walks in the door I’m expecting his “Oh my gosh you won’t believe what happened” story to explain his delay.  Instead, he be-bops in the door singing his new jelly song, and the instant he sees “the look on my face, he knows what’s about to happen.  It shouldn’t be a big deal.  It shouldn’t even be a deal.  Why do I make it a deal?

He acknowledged on the phone last night that I haven’t done that in a long time.  But there are still little cases-in-point from time to time.  Not that our relationship is comPLETEly perfect, but it’s pretty dern close.  And I can control one of the tiny little things that blemish it on a monthly-ish basis.

I look at him – Mr. Positive – and wonder how it is that he doesn’t even seem to ever have any expectations that those around him need to try to meet.  And I realize that’s just it.  He’s positive.  I am much more of a Negative Nelly when put up next to HIM, and I’ve never had to see myself that way.

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I need to let him rub off on me.  Not only do I need to Let it Go, I need to not have IT to begin with.  This one’s going to be tough.  (I think I’ve said that about Acceptance, Boys, Confidence, and Diet.  Guess it’s part of the theme too).

In about four minutes I’m resigning from my job.  New chapter.  I don’t even know WHAT to expect, so I’m going to look at that as a good thing.  This might birth tomorrow’s topic.  🙂

Boys (ABC Challenge)

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I’ve known a lot of boys in my life.  I’ve liked some, loved some, hated some, and been irritated by many.  But you don’t know boys until you’ve lived with some.

Not just one – not just your dad.  Dads are different – they can do all the boy things and you don’t notice because you’re a girl and it’s your world when you’re the kid.

I live in a house with three boys now, ages 10, 12, and 43.  They are not like girls.  And they have no interest in learning the ways of the girls.  The big one has at least known enough girls to be adaptable, and my goal is for the younger two to learn to do the same.

I’ve raised a girl – seemed much easier to me.  Critics will tell you otherwise, but they’re probably boys.

My goal as step-mom has evolved from wanting to be one of the boys to being one of the girls they get to learn about early.  I no longer feel bad asking them to do “boy” things, in fact I delight in it.  I no longer make apologies for wanting things to be clean, for curtains to be straightened out after rough-housing, for the certain reward for “hmmmm!s” and “ahhhhh!”s at the dinner table, and for the proper arrangement of throw pillows on every couch and bed in the house.

They will remember me when they meet girls that expect the same.  They may not remember me fondly, but they will not be shocked or dismayed by this behavior – and for that ONE day, they will be thankful.

Boys are great, and I love these with everything in me – the big one more than anyone I’ve loved in my entire life.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t make a boy into a girl, and you shouldn’t want to.

 

Stage Crew Credits

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Being a step-mom is weird.  It’s nothing you can learn about from anybody else.   And I hate the term “Step-Mom” for all the reasons one would expect – including the only two adjectives I’ve ever heard preceding it…evil and wicked.  There are no (or if there are, I can’t think of them) popular examples of step-moms who are loved, appreciated, or revered.  There’s even a show devoted to stepmothers who murder their families.  As if.

I blame Disney.

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For the first year playing this role, I felt like a new mom – The boys’ bio-mom was scarce at best…I was Mom #1, and unmarried, so without the “Step-Mother” label.  It was great.

This past year, the ex-wife has re-emerged as Mom #1.5, and I have had to learn to play the role of Mom #1.5, and be introduced and known as Step-Mom.  It’s much harder.  They say “Step-mom” but it feels like “Step aside…we’ve got this”.

 

I started dating my dream guy when my daughter was 16.  Small-child-parenting days were over.  When she and I were on speaking terms, it was about jobs, colleges, ACTs, careers.  My dream guy had eight and six year-old boys.  It was never a decision – I never contemplated NOT being with him.  I would have taken him von Trapp style if that’s how he showed up.

But any of you who have been here know that it’s nothing like raising the first, biological one.  Older, wiser, less self-absorbed, and much MUCH more worried about screwing someone else’s kids up than your own.

So many things are different/harder with steps, boys, siblings.

Weekend before last, we had two events Friday night, two lacrosse practices, two lacrosse games, a birthday party, junior high solo and ensemble, and a high school musical on Saturday.  Then another birthday party, team photos, a grown-up painting party, and Scouts on Sunday.  I was joking with my hott husband (and the ex) that We Did It!…relieved that we hadn’t left any kids behind, hadn’t missed or forgotten anything (that we know of ;-/), and that was all with my parents and her sister in town.  Then I realized that I did nothing of logistical value.  I was merely the calendar keeper…I made sure everybody knew where everybody was supposed to be.  My hot husband did all of the transporting or arranging of transportation for everything.  He physically drove everyone everywhere they were supposed to be, and was the parent of record for both kids at each and every event.  I felt like I needed to take my “WE Did It!” back and apologize for not pitching in.

I felt bad – until I remembered these seemingly small but critical things (to which few people give/get credit):

Everyone had home-cooked meals, the little athletes and big coach had chilled water bottles, the birthday friends had wrapped gifts, everyone sported clean uniforms and nicely pressed band gear, we had reserved seating at the musical, and everyone slept on clean sheets.  I finally know what the home fires are and what it means to keep them burning.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who praises every little thing I do to contribute, but I’m sure there are many who don’t, and THAT makes me understand why second marriages run an even higher risk of divorce than firsts.  I work harder raising your two kids than I did my own but I’ll never earn the endearing title that implies unconditional appreciation – “Just Plain Mom”.

It’s his turn to be the actor on the stage who everyone knows his name, and it’s my time to work backstage to make sure he has his props and sets and zipper up to deliver the thrills without a hitch.  It’s a role I’ve not only made peace with but become fond of, and it’s a love language I didn’t even know I had until I became Step-Mom.

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P.S. –  As I’m writing this, I’m picturing my hott husband driving around in an eighteen-wheeler (which he does not), with dark glasses and Ronnie Milsap hair singing,

“She keeps the home fires burning, While I’m out earning a living in a world that’s known for its pouring rain…
She keeps the home fires burning, Ooh and it’s her warm loving that keeps me returning again and again.”

🙂

 

This forty got me feelin’ like…

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I don’t like it.  So far, not so good.  On a personal level, my life is still awesome.  Hott husband, adult daughter who is proving to be more and more mature every day (or maybe more accurately, more or less mature every day), a job that allows me to do the things I am passionate about (even if there are facets of it that make me want to hide in bed), younger kids who are pleasant, smart, and healthy, finances are in order, book is being published, etc, etc, etc.

Body-wise…ick.  Oh, people told me, “just wait until you’re forty”, “you can’t lose weight after forty”, “your eyesight goes after forty”, “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  In my mind, I always thought they were just super grumpy people who finally found something on which to blame their afflictions.  Not me – no way.  Why on earth would, one day – suddenly – my eyesight, health, AND metabolism all decide to abandon me simultaneously?

Guess what has happened in the two months since I’ve turned forty…  I can’t see a thing up close without cheater glasses on.  I’ve gained five MORE pounds – totaling 10 since the school-year started.  I’ve developed panic attacks, acute occasional anxiety, vertigo, my first back-ache, and a whooshing sound in my right ear that sounds like a baby’s heartbeat in an ultrasound sounds, except it’s mine.  My heartbeat.  Now projected through my right ear so loud at times that I can’t pay attention to what people are saying.  Nice.

Had my hormones tested.  Normal.  Had my ears checked.  Nothing.  Got off the holiday junk food kick.  Gained five pounds.  W.T.F.???

Every day I just want to come home and get in bed.  I want to watch tv and scroll through Twitter and drink Prosecco.  I have to get over/through/past this, but suddenly it feels like that would require going backward in time, and that hasn’t been invented yet.

I need to feel obsessed with something healthy again.  Tonight, we started a writing group at my house.  There are five of us at this very moment.  Five of us, sitting, writing, conversing with some one or some thing via hands and words.  I don’t think we’ll change the world.  I don’t think we’ll change our own worlds.  But I do think this is the vehicle that has motivated me before, and it’s the method of choice for me deciding to whip my body’s ass back into the land of the living again.  And I’m grateful for the time and kindred spirit that we all can share so that I’ll leave the tv off, stay awake, and write.

So as before, here are my professions:  1)  I will eat right this week, 2) I will exercise with the enthusiasm of a model, 3) I will drink more water than alcohol, 4) I will pretend I’m 39 until my body stops acting like it’s 40, 5) I will write at least twice a week.

When President Obama speaks, I always seem get caught on something he said that just bugs me more than the vocal majority.  During his executive order speech about gun control a couple of days ago, he stated something about the fact that gun violence in America has little or no correlation to licensed gun owners.  Then the very next thing out of his mouth was a very stern, presidential, “I reject that thinking!”  If he can reject a fact, then so can I!  I am 39 and 14 months.  Forty is for suckas.