This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wellbeing #2 Expensive, gourmet whey protein

Every morning for the past 7 years I have had a whey protein smoothie. Every single morning. It is the single longest commitment to a food I have ever had, with the exception of chocolate. Yet for some reason I always feel really bad spending the $10 a month it costs to buy whey protein. I don't know why I feel badly about spending the money, Steve has never complained, our child has never gone 'without' so that I may have whey protein, yet still I always cringe when I see the purchase price.

Well, that's over now. Ridiculous, right? This week I went to Whole Foods market and bought the fancy-shmancy whey protein, the kind with the seaweed built right in! Yum!

Just a little thing. A little way to care for myself. A way to ensure my wellbeing.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grace #4 Gum

Can you really be grateful for gum? Well, I am. I am really trying very, very hard to not eat sugar when ever fiber of my being is screaming for a Tastykake. I am succeeding, but only because of gum. Trident original is my gum of choice. I can't fathom how gum ever came into being because it was first marketed in 1848 which, to my not-always-historically-accurate-memory, is during a time when people still had to work pretty hard just to eat, let alone to chew something that wasn't intended to be swallowed. (Yes, that's right I googled when gum was invented, I actually am that dedicated to bringing quality education to this blog!) If not for gum, I would have caved to the sugar cravings long ago. I would never have the confidence to talk to someone up close after just having eaten. I would not have been able to entertain my toddler daughter on long car trips by blowing bubbles. There would be nothing for the tooth fairy to leave under the pillow. No cool urban legends about how long gum takes to digest would ever have been created. Checkout lanes at most stores would have 2-3 empty shelves. My pockets would be empty thus leaving me without the wonderful washed-and-then-dried papers to find in my lint drawer. There would be nothing left in the world that still costs a penny.

Gum, it's what's for dinner..or..after dinner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I know virtually everything!

I am reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my daughter. My daughter and I are both alike: we are only on the second book and both of us have already become pioneer women. We both decided that we needed to learn how to knit and crochet, we both want to make our own soap, we have already eaten cornbread and molasses just to say we did.

It is probably not surprising that I know how to do none of these things. I may not know, but youtube does. I have learned to knit, crochet, make soap, create a gingerbread house from graham crackers, add beads to a knitted project, and make an envelope from construction paper all from watching youtube videos.

As part of my 'make all my gifts this year' project, I decided to knit Debbie a scarf for her birthday. Her birthday has long since passed and I am still knitting away, ripping out more rows than I keep, but studiously clicking away whilst the appropriate youtube video instructs, encourages, and cajoles me into believing that I can finish this project! Look how easy it is! Here we'll show you one more time!

I am part of a new generation of parent: want to learn how to build a rocket little Joey? Watch youtube! Not sure how to beat egg whites til they form soft peaks? Youtube can show you the way! I don't ever need to take a class, talk to another human being, or read a book again. All my knowledge can come from youtube.

Scary, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just because they make it in your size....

...doesn't mean you should wear it! I'm talking today about sweatpants with words on the butt. I walk into the grocery store this morning and coming toward me is this twenty-something. She's had a rough morning if I'm to judge by her appearance: dark, unwashed hair caught up in a sloppy bun, cigarette dangling from chapped lips, giant hoop earrings, tight pink camisole under dirty white sweat jacket, even dirtier white sweatpants, clog-style sneakers, no socks, sunglasses with bling all around the eyes and earpiece, but with one earpiece broken off, giant oversized metallic bronze shoulder bag, and lots of attitude. She is a young woman who is losing her figure rapidly: the camisole is too tight, the sweat jacket is too short and is tight in the arms and her sweatpants stretch perilously across her thighs. She grabs a cart and roughly pushes it toward the automatic doors, stopping only to crush her cigarette on the pad inside the store.

It's when she passes in front of me that I see it. A word. A single word written in glitter and jewels right on her butt: Sexy. Really? Sexy? Well honey, not today you aren't. Seeing her got me to thinking about the sweats with words on them. Are they really a good idea for anybody? Is what's written more important than where it's written? Should there be an age limit? A size limit? I found a few pictures to help me decide.

The athlete. The cute young tween in sweats with the writing down the side. Adorable.

Did I mention a weight limit for sweat pants? Though you gotta give her credit for having attitude!

The future porn star. Is there a parent involved in this wardrobe decision? A form of child abuse, in my opinion.

Probably the only woman in these United States who can carry off this look, but does that mean she should? It's like a before and after picture from the girl above, only add in the 'tramp stamp' (tattoo on lower back just above buttocks).

Let's face it, even the awesome ass girl featured above looks stupid with 'Juicy' written across her butt. We need to help all these fashion challenged individuals that treat their butt like the bumper of their car.
Hmm, bumper stickers on cars...that sounds like a blog for another day to me...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Steve is H.O.T Hot!

The house in which we currently reside is really, really, old. I mean Benjamin-Franklin-probably-has-a-kite-in-the-attic-for-our-electricity old. I mean ancient (an antique, as the realtors say...). So it probably goes without saying that our heating system is old, baffling, loud, expensive, and well, baffling. Most of the house is heated by oil heat which means that the radiators in all the rooms hiss, clink, thump, and even occasionally give heat. The kitchen and family room of the house are heated by a pellet stove. A pellet stove is, in theory, a marvelous invention: wood pellets that are the by-product of the lumber industry are burnt in a clean and efficient way, or at least that's what the brochures say. In reality it means that our kitchen/family room are either freezing or burning up and we have yet another contraption that is hissing, clinking, and thumping only this one also squeals like its dying until it gets "warmed up" and keeps the house smelling like a constant campfire from the matches and accelerant it needs to get started. Oh, and our indoor air quality probably rivals that of any night club with all the smoke that it pours out. I'm not a huge fan of the pellet stove.

The two systems also mean that I get to pay for 2 kinds of heat: oil and wood pellets. Sigh.

But none of that has anything to do with why Steve is HOT. Allow me to set the scene: early Sunday morning, the kitchen and family room are freezing cold, Steve wants to start a fire in the pellet stove so he fills it full of pellets and then realizes we don't have any fire accelerant. I come downstairs to see him wandering around the house with a box of large kitchen matches muttering "what do we have around this place that will burn...?" Now my ears perk up, I will admit, but this is not the first time I heard Steve mutter these words and I am no stranger to him burning things. About 15 years ago when we lived in our first house he decided to burn the leaves instead of carting them to the curb. Unfortunately he received a phone call during the leaf burning and left me to "tend the fire." The wind picked up the second he left and the little leaf sparks that were gently floating on the warm air currents began blowing around the yard and starting little fires. I was screaming, pinwheeling my arms, and running around the backyard trying to get his attention and hook up the hose. By the time he finally came back outside I had turned the hose on full blast and put it (and my face so I could see what was happening) into the large barrel in which he was burning the leaves. The resulting steam and ash that shot out of the barrel singed my eyebrows and completely covered my face with soot. I should not be left alone with fire. So, yesterday when Steve was looking for something to burn in place of accelerant, I knew enough to give suggestions ("how about we go to the hardware store and buy some?") and then get out of his way. Luckily at Christmas Deb gave me some hand sanitizer samples she had and Steve saw those and his eyes lit up! Alcohol burns! He poured sanitizer all over those pellets, threw in the match and we all watched as the gigantic blue flames grew larger, even as our room smelled sanitizer sweet.

I like the addition of the sanitizer smell to our damp, musty, and smokey smell. I think it adds a little "eau du public restroom" that had really been missing.

I have to give credit for ingenuity though, when it comes to starting a fire, that husband of mine is hot!

Friday, January 23, 2009

52 Weeks of Wellbeing

I really enjoy Julie's 52 Graces and the subsequent inspiration it has given to Deb and Chellie as they count their own graces. The things I really noticed that were missing from my life after I started focusing on the things for which I am grateful were the little things I do for myself to keep/encourage my mental/physical wellbeing. There are so many times when I could do something nice for myself and I simply forget to do it. Occassionally in the past I have tried keeping a journal or writing things down on a calendar to remember to include a nicety for myself but the writings and the reminders have always ended up going by the wayside for one reason or another.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I could be accountable to myself if I included a goal each week in my blog. Something I do just for me: could be large, probably will be small, but a nicety, just the same. Something to pamper myself. Add comfort to my life. A small indulgence perhaps. I'm starting small: just one thing I'll try for one day just once a week. I'd like to just see where this leads., immediately after this post, I am going to sit down and do my nails. My hands are dry and chapped, my nails are too long, and one of my cuticles is looking ragged. I have laundry to do and food to prepare for a party we are having tonight, and a house to clean. That's okay, all those things can get done after I take a moment for me.

52 Weeks of Wellbeing. How different could all our lives feel if each week, just for moment, we concentrated on our own wellbeing? I, for one, am going to find out!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Powerful women

My friends are all forty-somethings. I will soon be joining their ranks. My husband will be a forty-something in 42 days. Lots and lots of forties around me lately and I love it. My friends are fabulous women. Sure, I had fabulous women friends in my twenties and thirties, but by gosh if you really want a friend who knows how to be a friend, find a forty-something and sit back and enjoy.

Forty-something women are real. If a forty-something woman is laughing or smiling, laugh and smile with her because this woman has lived enough to know real pain, which makes her real joy that much more to behold. By forty a woman has herself or had someone close to her give birth. She has probably had someone close to her die. She has had herself or known someone with a serious medical condition. She has been brought to her knees and humbled by the pain of a lost love, loved one, or fear for a child. She has known joy and given joy to a child, a lover, and a friend.

A forty-something woman knows herself. She knows her strengths, her weaknesses, knows where she struggles and knows what looks good on her, knows what she likes, knows how to juggle priorities, stretch a dollar, make a meal, and create a home. She has been tired like she never knew tired could be and has astounded others with her energy when she focuses on a task. She has performed miracles: she has healed the sick, mended the broken, comforted the downtrodden, and loved the unloveable.

She is pure energy, power without limit, a spirit just beginning to understand her divinity.

A forty-something woman has been called "ma'am" by a twenty-something, been overlooked by another forty-something, and been admired by a sixty-something. She has seen her body change, her face change, her hair change, and her life change. She has considered whether she likes these changes or not. She has enough wisdom to know she is a work in progress.

It used to be the attitude of a forty-something woman was that she was nearing the end of so many things that her forties were the beginning of the end: the end of child-bearing, the end of being useful, the end of youth, the end of beauty, the beginning of a slow and relentless decline. I feel sorry for our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and beyond because of that attitude. I wonder when that attitude began because all the ancient wisdoms know the power of forty: Moses wandered the desert for forty years, Noah built an ark to withstand the rain that came for forty days and forty nights, Jesus stayed in the desert 40 days while being tempted by the devil, the number '4' in feng shui means change, and numerology states that the number '40' symbolizes when what is good and true in a person is challenged (a state of temptation). Forty is a powerful time of beginning, not ending.

All my friends are in their forties. I will be honored to take my place among them. I hope I do them proud.

After all, 40 is the new 20.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grace #3, I'm Grateful It's Over

I am not a very political person which is very ironic since my degree is in Political Science (only because I thought I'd go to law school, which is a whole 'nother story), so I tend not to get very worked up about any candidates, regardless of how well qualified, well spoken, unusual (well I actually might get worked up about an unusual candidate!), or historical they may be.

Barack Obama was no exception. I like the guy. Heck, I might have even voted for him had I been able to vote in this election (why I couldn't vote is also a whole 'nother story), but I did not feel the need to devote an entire day to worshipping him.

That's right, I said it, WORSHIPPING.

The media coverage (circus) that was yesterday's inauguration coverage was nothing short of religious fervor combined with political-correctness-one-upmanship. I was disgusted. Not by President Obama, I felt his 18 minute speech was very good. They could have ended there, commended him for a great start, and returned us to our regularly scheduled programming like they have done for every other president. Not this time. I was disgusted by the Chicago minister's prayer that ended with a jab at white people "when black will be back, when brown will stick around, when the red man can get ahead man and when WHITE WILL DO WHAT'S RIGHT." Excuse me? This is considered an appropriate prayer for an inauguration?

And the celebrities...I just kept expecting Joan Rivers to jam her microphone in celeb's faces asking them who they're wearing! It was a ridiculous see-and-be-seen event. I am miserable every year for Dick Clark when they drag him out at New Year's Eve and I was miserable for Aretha Franklin when they drug her out for the inauguration.

Not to mention the cost: four times more than any other inaugural event. In this economy? Almost every president has been inaugurated, how many of those inaugurations generated the media coverage of this one? How many others did you watch?

I am glad we have a new president, I didn't think W. was ever qualified. I never voted for him. I voted for his dad though. I would have voted for McCain 8 years ago if he had been a choice. I do however think that the failure of CNN to cut away from coverage of people dancing in order to show former President Bush speaking his farewell address was at best tacky and at worst cruel. The media may feel that they are President Obama's best asset but right now in my opinion their pettiness, over-the-top praise, and biased commentary only serve to hurt the President. Guilt by association, be careful the company you keep, and all that.

I am grateful we have a new president. Sadly, because of the media, I am even more grateful the inauguration is over.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Handy Andy or Stalker Stan?

Anyone who has ever been home to greet the cable guy, plumber, meter reader, or even the UPS guy can identify with my encounter earlier today. It was handy-repair-guy day at our house whereby Handy-Guy Phil was bringing over the closet door he had been gluing together for the past 3 months (I’m not kidding here, he took the door in October!). HGP has been at our house several times as he is the repair man of choice for our landlords. I have found him to be a quiet man with a strong New England accent: you know, the kind described as “keeps to himself, never causes any problems” when neighbors are asked if they ever suspected he was eating people-burgers for lunch. Anyway, Phil called, asked if he could come deliver the door, and arrived about 15 minutes later. He enters the house, installs door, door doesn’t fit, he goes outside, planes door, comes back with door, door doesn’t fit, he takes door back outside …you get the picture. He had been coming in and out with the door so frequently that I was no longer taking note of his coming and going.

Meanwhile, I am talking on the phone with Debbie as I help her figure out whether or not she can import data in a comma delimited format (yes, our conversations really are that highbrow and technical). I am sitting at my laptop, chatting away, oblivious to HGP. We finish our techie discussion, I turn off laptop and when the screen goes black it reflects like a mirror. I am looking into this mirror and I give a short high scream as I see HGP reflected in the screen standing right behind me and not saying a word. I quickly get off the phone with Debbie (a move I would not make again because after all she is the only one who knows HGP is with me and she may be my only lifeline if things get weird), and ask HGP if I can help him. He says he is finished with the door and would I like to see it? I don’t really want to see the door, I mean if you’ve seen one door you’ve seen them all and it isn’t even my house, but I am a little on edge right now, so I go look at the door.

Yep, it’s a door.

I admire the door for a moment or so and then try to head him toward front door. He stares at me intently for a moment and then says “I made a mess.” I am again taken aback. He made a mess? In his pants? What is he talking about? He gestures toward some saw dust on the floor. Relief floods me. “It’s okay” I say, nodding encouragingly and once again starting for the front door, “I have to sweep the floors today anyway.” He nods and finally starts walking toward the front door. I am giddy with relief when suddenly he stops, turns around, looks at me intently and says “your floors look fine.”

Okay, I am creeped out now. Thankfully he leaves. I lock door, watch ‘til I see his truck is out of the driveway and call Debbie letting her know that I am still alive and from now on, if I scream, don’t let me get off the phone because someone may need to be my audio witness of the crime scene.

Now, to be fair, HGP should be equally afraid of me because frankly I have been sticking to my “no sugar” plan and I am a woman on the edge. Add that to the fact that I have a dirt floor cellar…

…I can hardly wait ‘til next week when the furnace guy comes…

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Wanna Be Queen of the Trailer Park

It's house hunting time. The lease will be up in six months, the house in Toledo is sold, it's getting close to spring when all the lovely New Listings come out, and I have a Buyer's Agent. I am pre-approved, pre-qualified, and saving for my closing costs. I have surfed the net, driven the area, and asked around.

Now all I have to do is marry my tastes and my budget.

Housing prices are just so fluid right now. I don't want to get myself all excited over a house that costs $100,000 over my budget only to find out that the sellers won't budge, it really is that price, and I'm left looking stupid. Nor do I want to confine myself to houses only within my current budget because housing prices are still falling and frankly I'd like to be in this house for awhile so I want as much land/house/upgrades as I can get while the prices are still down.

I don't want a big house with all sorts of extra rooms that no one with ever go into and that just gather dust and need to be furnished.

I don't want a cramped house with not enough storage or with low ceilings or with rooms that are so small my furniture looks like its crammed into a clown car.

I want a medium house. Just enough rooms for comfort and occasional guests. Lots of natural light and high enough ceilings that Steve doesn't have to duck when going through the doorway.

I don't want to be the only house for miles around.

I don't want to say "God Bless You" when my neighbor sneezes inside her own home.

I want a medium yard. Enough distance that I don't know intimate details of my neighbors' chewing habits but not so much yard that I devote all my time to its care and feeding.

Add to all this "wanting" my desire for a house with beautiful curb appeal that brings me joy everytime I drive up to it and is a pleasure to show off to friends and family. A house that inspires comfort, friendship, homey-ness, and maybe just a touch of envy. Just a touch.

I have seen beautiful houses with all the upgrades but awkward floor plans. I have seen houses with great bones but in desperate need of updating. I have seen houses that were just "blah."

I just haven't seen my house. Yet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Grace #2

Wow. These two. Need I say more?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gosh darn it, people like me!

The hardest part of starting a blog is working up the courage to put your thoughts out there in the world and see how they're received. It's not too bad in the beginning when you suspect that only a friend or family member is reading, but it gets a little tougher when you realize (with exhilaration!) hey, somebody I don't know just read my blog. I have decided to take the Stuart Smalley approach when I blog. I am going to hang a mirror above my desk and each day as I type I will repeat again and again "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me." I will then give myself 2 thumbs up (as best I can considering that I usually need my thumbs to work the space bar) and get to blogging. An unfortunate side effect of having a mirror above the desk is that I'll notice that there is really quite a resemblance between my hairstyle and Stuart's. Then I'll notice my eyebrows are a little Stuart-like. Then the sun will cast aglow this single-oh-my-god-is-that-really-growing-out-of-my-neck gray hair. So I'll have to pluck my brows, pluck out the oh-my-god hair and then begin blogging. Well as any plucker knows, once you begin plucking you tend to notice other things too: there will be a pimple forming on my upper lip (I'll have to mess with that 'til it is red and painful) and then I'll be aware that I have almost no lower lashes under my right eye, (I won't know when they disappeared), and I'll see how chapped my lips are so I'll have to find some Burt's Bees (which means searching through a "junk drawer" which means fuming about why we have a junk drawer, which means deciding to clean out said drawer and then losing interest and returning to the mirror), then I'll notice a bit of blueberry stuck in my bonded retainer from my morning smoothie, so I'll dig at that for awhile...

Anyway, if I sit down to blog at 9 a.m. I'll finally get to post around 3:30. I don't know if that's a mirror or a porthole to another dimension, but I'll probably lose about 6.5 hours of time once I hang it.

And once I realize how much time I've lost I'll feel bad about myself for not being better at time management and I'll have to look into the mirror and repeat again and again...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

52 Graces

I have finally come out of the closet with one of my new favorite past times: watching Oprah. Oprah has been my dirty little secret for the past 2 years. She merits "dirty little secret" status because I always thought it was just a little too cliche the stay-at-home-watching-Oprah (and eating bonbons, yes?). Well, I don't care if it's cliche, I think Oprah has a great mix of the practical, the spiritual, the political, and the entertaining. I finally got the nerve to add her to my Season Pass list on TiVo. When I was a-watching my TiVo'd Oprah show yesterday I was really impressed by her message that everything starts with gratitude. First be grateful for your situation then you can assess if you need to change/improve it. This statement rings true in the same way that hearing a priest once say "If the only prayer you ever said was 'Thank You', that would be enough." rang true to me.

BUT there was dinner to cook, laundry to do, and a litter box to scoop so the gratitude message kinda got shelved.

Then my friend Deb calls and urges me to check out one of her favorite blogs I check it out and there is Julie, talking about her commitment to being more grateful this year.

Then I read Deb's blog and she is blogging about her Graces.

Okay, God, I get it! Three times in one day is a really powerful way to deliver a message. How often am I banging my head saying "Give me a sign, Lord!" Well, I got this one.

Gratitude. Gratitude.

So I am jumping on board with the 52 Graces and will include each week something for which I am grateful. Deb and Julie photo document their graces, but I don't know if I'm cool enough or committed enough to figuring out how to upload photos to do that, so I might just have to paint a visual picture for y'all.

No time to start like the present so here it is: I am grateful for Oprah, Julie, and Deb. These three women are on the right track and are inspiring me to get on track too.

Thanks, ladies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

With any other job I'd have been fired by now

Steve has been mentioning (complaining) lately that I don't say anything nice about him in my blogs. Clearly he hasn't read many of my blogs because I constantly wax on about how much I love him and find even his minutest personality detail to be adorable. BUT, never let it be said that I don't take criticism this one's for you babe:

I am a stay-at-home mom of an at-school-all-day kid. I admit it, my life is softer than that fake cream filling in a Twinkie. Not that I don't sometimes work hard because I do, I just don't always work hard. For example, this is how our room sometimes looks...

And this is how our dinner sometimes looks...

And frankly, this is how our child sometimes looks...

So I know the truth, from any other job I'd have been fired. The cleaning is haphazard, the cooking is boring (or worse), the child is dirty. My only responsibilities are to keep the house clean, the family fed, and the child clean. I don't always live up to my job description but I rarely ever hear a complaint.
So, thanks Steve for being such a good sport.

...and that's why I have a prosthetic finger!

We went roller skating on Sunday. I am a very good roller skater. In Toledo there was a 12 mi round trip trail that I skated on daily. I usually did all 12 miles. Did I mention I'm a good skater? In the '70s when I was in school I faithfully attended every skating trip our school offered. I logged endless hours in my basement, stirring up the dust as I went round and round and round. I begged for my own skates and cut my teeth on the metal adjustable kind that need a skate key and are guaranteed to face-plant you as you navigate the seams in the sidewalk. I finally graduated to the boot-type and thought I was the queen of Egypt. Good times, good times.

As part of her search for a new best friend, my daughter asked if we could take her and a classmate skating. No problem, Steve and I like to skate. We pick up classmate and go to skating rink. I love skating rinks: the disco ball, the oh-so-cool-skating-referee-in-his-black-and-white-shirt-trying-to-look-not-embarrassed, the middle-aged roller queen wearing spandex and neon, the little kids in Fisher-Price plastic skates pinwheeling madly as their wobbly parents try to help them, the smell of scorched popcorn and sweat, the ringing of the arcade, the garbled PA announcements -- the roller rink has something for everyone. I was blithely skating along when the garbled announcement (are they even speaking English?) crackled something about a limbo contest. I hadn't had a skating limbo contest since 1982! I immediately skated to the center of the rink, lined up and prepared to limbo. First round: no problem. Second round: confidence up, I glided beneath that bar with panache if I do say so myself. Third round: a little less panache, a little more grunting, but I cleared the bar. Fourth round: grunting, sweating, trying to suck fat roll in so I can get lower, barely cleared the bar. Fifth round: disaster! Had too much speed, wasn't low enough, crashed into bar, bar went flying, I went sprawling and somehow, in all that mayhem, I managed to roll over my pinkie finger.

Fast forward about 2 hours: finger is throbbing. Finger is black. Finger is so swollen and shiny that I wonder if a finger can burst. I worry that I'll lose that nail.

Fast forward another 2 hours: finger is a dusky blackish-gray. Forget about the nail, I wonder if I'll lose that finger! I have trouble sleeping because I see explosions of stars everytime finger is touched by blanket.

Current update: finger is still attached, blackness is giving way to purpleness. Hitting the 'A' key on the keyboard is an exercise in pain. I think I'll live.

Did I mention that Steve won the limbo contest?

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm not a transvestite I just wear men's clothing

Not any men's clothing, just my husbands. I have to, it's wear his stuff or go naked. You see, I was already at maximum capacity in my jeans before the holidays (well, let's face it, the holidays were just a final straw, I was at maximum capacity basically since Halloween) and while I'm not sure exactly what it was that tipped me over (it could have been the breadsticks that I made, no one else liked, I ate them all) but something finally gave way in my fat cells and I have nothing that fits. My upper body rivals that of a professional football linebacker and my lower body rivals that of any 6 months pregnant woman.

So, I did what any other suddenly fat woman does: I looked in Steve's closet to see what he might have. In the beginning it was a freeing experience. No longer squeezed into girl clothes, I felt wonderful as I enjoyed the roominess provided by his man-wear. Then I began to notice my reflection in store windows and mirrors: I looked a little like a homeless person and a lot like a woman who was trying to camouflage recent weight gain by wearing her husband's clothes.

It wasn't my best look.

I can't understand how this happened, I say to myself, I mean I go to the gym and I don't overeat. Well, I used to go to the gym. I haven't actually been there since Dec. 11 but I should have some calorie-burning-workouts stored up, shouldn't I? And I don't overeat at any one meal, but since I have been eating about 8-10 meals a day I guess it's been adding up.

Like any major life changing event I have had to work through the stages of my recent weight gain:
1. Denial : I think these clothes may have shrunk in the wash
2. Anger: I eat 4-5 extra meals a day for a month and look how quickly I gain weight! It isn't fair! I should be able to eat anything I want and never leave the couch!
3. Bargaining: okay, jeans, if I don't eat anything but salads without dressing for a week then you'll all fit again, right?
4. Depression: I'm always going to look like this. I don't even care. There are plenty of people on The Biggest Loser that are bigger than me! Where's Steve's sweatshirt? Gimme some chocolate.
5. Acceptance: okay Beth, you got a little wild with the lonely-snowed-in-isolated-bored eating thing and now it's time to get back to the gym and eating sensibly.

I'm happy to say that I'm at stage 5 and have even painfully buttoned my girl jeans. My upper body still has a lot of linebacker but my lower body is down a trimester. I am seriously considering returning to an all vegetarian lifestyle as I never had the weight swings when I was veg. I abandoned veg because it was so much work preparing 2 dinners each night when I don't even really look forward to preparing one. But...

...Let's face it: I'd rather be built like a stalk of celery than a hamburger!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Annie's Used Books

As I've said before, I love books. I love bookstores. I also love libraries but am soon to become persona-non-grata at our local library consortium because I reside in a city that has so mismanaged its money over the years that it hasn't bought a decent book in 8 years. The other cities' libraries (who receive STATE money let's not forget) have decided to punish us lesser residents by not letting us borrow books from their libraries. It is a sad, sad tale, I know.

All of this to explain how I found myself travelling far afield in search of a decent used bookstore. I happened upon Annie's Upon entering Annie's I was immediately greeted by Granny Annie herself who gave me a full tour of the store. It was intoxicating to breathe in the aroma of so much ink and publisher's paste. It was a feast for the eyes to see towering shelves filled to capacity with books, all at half price. Mostly though, it was a treat to meet Granny Annie. Her silver nails embellished with poinsettias sparkled as she pointed her bejeweled fingers at the different book sections. Her tour was thorough and businesslike, no laughing at Steve's jokes for Granny Annie. My mind boggled as she explained the pricing system which seems to have something to do with the alignment of the planets and how much Annie feels like charging at that particular time. I couldn't wait to dig in.

I found everything -- well -- almost everything. There was one section of books I wanted to peruse but couldn't work up the nerve to ask some one's grandmother where it was: the smut section. I tried to hint, but I'm not very good at hinting and Granny Annie thought I was looking for books on the occult. I am really not a good hinter. Still, it says a lot about my personal hang-ups and inhibitions that I felt more comfortable with Granny Annie thinking I wanted to pray to a pentagram than read smut.

I finally left the store $58 lighter, about 10 books heavier, and eager to dig in to my new cache. Granny Annie valiantly asked me to be sure to come back soon which I felt was a real honor considering she thinks I'm a devil worshipper.

Don't worry Annie, I'll be back and maybe I'll even purchase some books on religion just to keep her on her toes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Can you feel the love tonight...?

Well, not in our house, and certainly not tonight. I am fed up, I am done, I am ready to throw in the towel, go down for the final count and say "okay, you two want to act like idiots go ahead. I'm changing my last name so no one will know we're related and I can't be counted on for bail money."

I am the Bad Guy and my husband is the Good Guy. He gets to propose irresponsible, sometimes dangerous, usually in poor taste antics and I have to be the one to put on the brakes. Or do I? What would happen if I simply gave up my role as Voice of Reason and allowed him to go ahead full throttle? I'd like to think that the fun would get old and Steve would actually burn out on acting immature and return to responsible parenting. I'd like to think that, but I'm not so sure. I actually think it's more likely that my daughter would take over my role as parent and begin parenting her father. It's already happening to some extent. She is impatient and irritated with the constant 10-yr-old-boy-hair-pulling-and-being-gross routine that is Steve's usual milieu. She is already aware that if dad says she can eat it she should probably check with mom. She is already coming to me for the important stuff and relegating her dad to good-times-only status. That is the downside of always being the Good Guy.

Of course I frequently feel like the parent of 2 children. I have to hear constantly "stop harshing our vibe" , "stop being a buzz kill", "Oh Beth, lighten up!" Times when I want to plan something and have fun are getting to be fewer and fewer because we've usually spent all our "fun" money on unplanned, spontaneous things that are fun for Steve and our daughter but not always so fun for me. That is the downside of always being the Bad Guy.

I sometimes feel like a fifth wheel in my own home. I see our situation as "them against me" and it's isolating and depressing.

A lot of this is gender-related. I once read an article that talked about how while men would frequently laugh hysterically at a Three Stooges routine, women found the Stooges baffling, immature, and not really all that funny. To be fair, some of Steve's comments are certainly warranted: sometimes I do forget how to have fun. Sometimes, just because their idea of fun isn't the same as mine, I condescend, as though I somehow have the rules for what shall be considered fun and breaking them is a crime. Also, I am wise enough to know that our daughter comes to me more for the "important stuff" because we are the same gender and I am the one who is home.

Still, I'd like to develop a more balanced relationship in our home. I'd like to create an atmosphere that is fun, a little whacky, a hint of danger every now and again to keep everyone on their toes, and mutually inclusive and loving.

I think I'd like perfection (sigh).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wow, now that's a blog!

I recently read my sister-in-law's blog. As a blogger, it may be surprising to some that I don't actually read many blogs. I don't read blogs not because I don't like them, but because I have this horrible affliction of being a mimic. Basically, I am afraid that if I read a blog, think its funny or like its content, the next thing I know I'll be writing about the same theme, using the same phrases or just plain plagiarizing another person's thoughts! It's horrible, I know, and I really don't do it on purpose, I just seem to absorb parts of other people's personalities/thoughts/accents/mannerisms/vernacular like a brainless sponge.

It's not my best personality trait.

It has been especially difficult living in Massachusetts. In the Midwest, there wasn't really much of an accent to pick up. Here it is a veritable feast for the ears and I find myself constantly trying to keep myself from mimicking the way people talk.

Now, back to my sister-in-law's blog. Her blog I am able to read without worry of duplication or copyright infringement. Her blog is raw. I thought my blog was honest but dear me, she has taken honesty (and creative use of the word f***) to a new level. I haven't decided yet if I hate it or am just frightened by it, but either way, it's certainly mesmerizing (not completely unlike a 6 car pile up on the interstate, complete with bodies). The irony of course is that she will probably have hordes of followers and a sponsor by the end of the month because let's face it, do you buy the newspaper when it is advertising pictures from a flower show, or when it's advertising pictures from serial killer? Morbid fascination and human nature are a profitable combination.

I don't think she and I have the same readership, but if you want to take a look, here it is:

Be warned, her blog, like a TV show after 10p.m. it is rated MLVS (mature for language, violence, and sexual content)!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Christmas Miracle

I was taking down the Christmas tree, one of my favorite things to do because I love how open and bright the room looks afterward, when "it" rolled out from under the tree. "It" turned out to be an unexpected and quite unwelcome Christmas decoration: poop. Dog poop? Human poop? Cat poop? Hard to say really, though due to the um..size..and ...density...I would say that my poor cat is not a suspect. That leaves human or dog. We don't have a dog. We don't have a dog, but we were gone for 8 days visiting family and friends in Ohio while a housesitter was at our house. The housesitter has a dog. The housesitter also has a colon, leading one to wonder if perhaps the housesitter herself left us a little Christmas present.

Why did we even have a housesitter? Looking back I have to shake my head in disbelief that we actually paid someone to come and stay at our home to feed and water the cat, and clean the litter box. First of all, the cat was rarely seen by said housesitter, as our cat is not a people cat. Secondly, when we got home (the housesitter had plenty of notice we would be arriving) the cat needed some water. Thirdly, the litter box definitely needed to be cleaned.

It would appear that I paid someone $130 to poop under my Christmas tree. If you're a little stuck on how the amount $130 came about, let me explain my thinking: $10/day for 8 days seemed a little scant. $20/day for 8 days seemed like too much. I split the difference between $180 and $80 and came up with $130. At the time it completely made sense, but now, with the poop development, it seems like I may have overpaid. I'm not sure that I even needed a housesitter, but certainly not one who is unable to control the colons with which she surrounds herself.

Now the obvious next question is: why? Why would someone poop under a Christmas tree? Well, I'd like to think that basic human goodness and potty training would rule out a human doing this (of course we do have to factor in potential New Year's Eve intoxication...) so again the dog is cast as villain. Steve asked the housesitter about the poop. She denies all knowledge, insists her dog was never at our house, and at no time did she, or anyone else, poop under the tree. Well, honey, I hate to disbelieve you, but the brown, stinky evidence is hard to ignore. It seems like this may become one of those happenings that is never explained. It certainly is a family story that I plan to pass down to future generations "The Christmas Poo" will become a family favorite, I'm sure.

My daughter has explained the poop by saying that one of Santa's reindeer probably had an accident. Frankly, this explanation is the only one that makes me feel happy.

If only you could have seen the look of horror and disbelief on my face when that poop rolled out from under the tree. Priceless, I'm sure.

Needless to say, I'll be washing the tree skirt this year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mirror, Mirror, On the wall...

How I see myself is vastly different from how others see me, well, at least some "others", those who buy me Christmas gifts. In particular I received two gifts this year that are "me", only the "me" from 10-15 years ago.

The first gift was a book on sewing aprons purchased by my mom. Only problem is: I don't sew. Now to be fair, Mom's gift is not without basis, I used to sew. I used to sew quite a lot. In fact in a complete underestimation of time involved and overestimation of my sewing abilities I once handmade stockings for everyone in our family, including my mom's partner and her family. That foray into sewing nearly cost me my marriage and my sanity. Not one to learn quickly, I continued trying to sew: for myself, for others, for "fun" but each attempt ended the same way: me crying in front of a jammed sewing machine at 11:oo at night while Steve looks on in despair and frustration wondering how I could have done this to myself again! Finally I accepted a truth about myself: I am not detail oriented. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of seamstress and that always leads to fabric cut too short, seams not lining up and tears. I am more of a counted-cross-stitch kind of girl, preferably with the pattern printed on the cloth to reduce counting. Steve is grateful the sewing machine is still jammed and I cannot torture myself or him any longer.

The second gift was gourmet salt purchased by Steve's aunt. This gift makes an assumption about my cooking interest and skills that is completely removed from reality. Sure, I cook. Every night, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth I manage to put something on the table. Steve and our daughter stare balefully at my offering, courageously dig in, chew thoughtfully, and end up just eating the salad. My offerings are always healthy, whole grain and/or organic, but completely without interest or much taste. I am not interested in cooking. I have no flair for cooking. I used to cook. When I lived in Cincinnati and had a kitchen the size of many people's homes that was flooded with natural light and tricked out with all the latest appliances and gadgets I was pretty interested in cooking. That was 10 years ago. Since then I have had to make do in poorly lit, cramped spaces with appliances that didn't work properly. It kind of killed the cooking buzz. My family eagerly awaits my return to cooking.

I am a work in progress. I am constantly changing. I like gifts like these because they help me to get in touch with who I was years ago, remember why I changed, evaluate whether those changes still work for me, and feel grateful that I can see movement in my life. I'll keep the book on aprons, who knows, maybe I'll feel like whipping one up (using fabric glue, mind you, I'm not completely masochistic!). I'll keep the salts, I am planning on using them in my new-found interest in creating homemade bath salts. They'll be a fantastic addition.

I appreciate the gifts and the givers. I hope they appreciate me as I am now.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ahh, the Budget!

I have put off forming a budget since we've lived in Massachusetts. I had many good reasons: with the house in Toledo still for sale we had bills for 2 houses, I couldn't yet predict what our expenses for utilities were going to be here in Mass., Steve's paycheck was variable as things like his health insurance and retirement started to kick in, I hate doing the budget, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Last night I knew it was time to take the bull by the horns, figure out how much we make, how much we spend, and try to reconcile the two.

We spend a lot.

I would love to say that I don't know where the money goes but with American Express providing a detailed billing statement I can see exactly where the money is going, when it's going, and how much is going. What I can't figure out is why. Why are we going out to eat so much? Why are we spending so much at Target? What happens to us when we walk into Barnes & Noble that we are unable to leave without spending at least $50? Why did we even join a warehouse club when we know how dangerous they are to our budget? What could we possibly have purchased at Kmart for $800????? (Oh yeah, the new snowblower...)

I suppose that my already overburdened list of resolutions is going to have to make room for one more: spend less, save more. This is not a resolution I can break if I really want to own a home this year. Steve's lease is up on his car so I suppose he'll want a new one and that's going to cost something too. When we move we'll need to buy a new bed for us or for the guest bedroom because we gave all our guest bedroom furniture away. School tuition is due in May.

I find it interesting that in the very paragraph in which I declare I must spend less and save more I manage to find no less than 4 things on which to spend money!

The truth is, I love to spend money on houses. I dread spending money on a car, I love spending money on furniture, and I am thankful I have enough money to send my daughter to a private school. I love money. I even love the structure, guidance, and goal setting possibilities provided by having a budget. What I don't love is when the love of spending collides with the budget, as seems to be the case occasionally but especially when moving and buying a new home. I can't be expected to put the same old kitchen towels into a new kitchen, can I?

You know what, I can. That will be the resolution: use what you have, buy only what you truly need, recycle whenever possible, and be thankful.

Most of all, be thankful.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Home is where the heart is

We just returned from an 8 day whirlwind visit to Ohio. Ohio has been home to me for about 37 years. I have lived all over Ohio, but almost always in Ohio. Ohio is home, right? I guess it's true that you can never go back, because being in Ohio felt familiar, but not homey. We went first to Toledo, our most recent home for the past 4 years. I loved driving on the smooth pavement, seeing the clearly marked streets and knowing where every street went, and how to get all the places I needed to be, but mostly I just loved seeing Deb and all my friends. I loved being in Deb's kitchen. I loved sitting in her den. I loved riding around in her van. Mostly I just loved the people - the place had little meaning to me.

After Toledo we went to Cincinnati. Cincinnati was once my most favorite place in the world. I loved my house there, my friends, the city, the shopping, the weather, everything. Now, Cincinnati is just where Chellie lives. Once again, the place has lost its meaning to me. I love being at Chellie's house. I love the natural light, the tall ceilings, the food she cooks. I love the ease I feel from our long-standing friendship. I love how settled she is in her home.

Final stop on the tour was my mom's house. I was done. I wanted to go home. I honestly didn't want to stop, but I'm glad we did. I love my mom's house too. I love her yellow walls and bright red furniture. I love how her belongings, decorating, and even the way her house smells are slowly morphing into one of my all time favorite places in the world: my grandmother's house. I know my mom will not see this as a complement.

Then, finally, we were home. The house smelled old, musty, like wood and damp. It's not our house, but right now it is our home. It felt so good to be home. We took this trip for many reasons not the least of which was to help our daughter feel more at home in Massachusetts by feeling not at home in Ohio. It worked. She couldn't wait to get home. She wanted to stay in all day on Sunday and just enjoy being home. I had gotten so used to thinking about how much I don't know in Massachusetts that I had lost track of how I much I do know. I do know which grocery store is my favorite. I do have a favorite dry cleaner, library, post office, and bookstore. I am creating a life here and it took leaving it for awhile to make me see that.

Ohio is a nice place to visit...but I wouldn't want to live there.

Happy New Year!

After a long hiatus I am back to blogging. It feels good to return to writing, kind of like putting on a comfortable pair of pajamas and rereading a favorite book. Our family spent the past 8 days visiting family and friends in Ohio. Whilst there I came clean about my blogging pasttime with Chellie and my mom. I was self conscious when I found out that Steve was reading my blog. I am self conscious knowing that Chellie or my mom may be reading my blog, but I couldn't hold the knowledge in any longer. I think I'd like to be a writer. I think I'd like to entertain, inform, and encourage people with my words. Debbie encourage me to identify myself as a freelance writer this year. Steve laughed saying that right now the emphasis is all on the "free" part. That's okay. Do what you love and the money will come.

I have so much energy for this new year: I will kick the sugar addiction, make all my own cleaning and beauty products, find a new house, decorate my new house in an eco-friendly manner, become a paid writer, buy only amazing quality organic sheets, and hand make all of the gifts I give. Sound ambitious? Well, it is. I am. I am ready. I am energized. I have been slumbering away the past 4 months, conserving my mental energy, building up my reserves, and learning what is most important to me. Now is the time for action!

I frequently feel this way at the beginning of a new year. I'd like to say that this feeling has historically lasted through December, but generally it has given way to apathy, despair, boredeom, disillusionment, and laziness sometime around Valentine's Day. This year will be different because I am different. I had never blogged before. I had never taken this much time to find a new home. I had never lived in Massachusetts. I had never regularly and thoughtfully explored what is important to me and why it is important. This blog helps me to do that.

So, onward and upward, Happy New Year, I am woman, hear me roar, and Get Ready, Get Set...

...I am Ready to Go!