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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Weekly Wellbeing: Joining an Exercise Class

The gym that I checked out over the weekend turned out to be a success. One of the key factors that impressed me was the number of classes that are offered. You see, for years I have worked out alone. Walking on a treadmill, rollerblading, jogging, yoga (done from a DVD in the privacy of my own home) all workouts that worked for me then but aren’t working for me now. It took me awhile to figure out why but I have finally identified the critical component for my success: I need other people. Right now I spend a lot of time alone. I eat breakfast alone. I eat lunch alone. I do errands, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, and all other at-home-mom jobs alone. I am alone as I type this blog. When I worked full time I relished the solitary workout on the treadmill. I needed time to be alone with my thoughts and my (then) Walkman. When my daughter was not in school I craved time alone. Showering alone. Going to the bathroom alone. Driving alone. All became rare treats to be savored. Now that my daughter is in school all day and my friends all live 800 miles away my life has changed but I hadn’t changed my workouts to reflect my new circumstances.

Joining an exercise class has changed all of that. I am no longer alone when I workout. I have camaraderie, energy, and encouragement. I am getting to know people. I am making friends who live in the same state. I am connecting.

Now, every day I spend in an hour in the company of other women with whom I have something in common. It is good. It is fun. It contributes to my wellbeing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grace #6 Steve

Originally I was going to make this grace about Girl Scout cookies, but as y'all know I am no longer sacrificing to the refined-white-sugar-gods-though-tasty-they-may-be and so I decided to mention someone even sweeter than cookies, and that would be my main man Steve.

Steve can be the tiniest bit bossy (!) and he kind of demanded that he be mentioned (finally) but I suppose it really is time. Steve is a big part of the reason I am successful as a human being. When I was moping around the house bemoaning my lack of friends, he was the one who harrangued me into joining a new gym by trying to make friends for me at his gym (ewww!). When I was disgusted with my recent weight gain he was the one who agreed that I did look pretty bad (thus destroying my illusion that no one had really noticed) and encouraged me to return to exercising, even offering to work out with me. When I worry about the finances, he's the one who suggests I spend less. When I get frustrated about the old house we rent, he reminds me that we could be stuck in an apartment trying to dodge the perverts whenever we go to check our mail. If our interactions and his encouragement all sound a little rough, well, they are. And somehow, that's exactly what I need. I don't know if I spent a past life in a prison camp or what, but I just seem to respond better to the plain-talking-no-frills-Beth-get-your-head-out-of-your-ass type of advice than a I do to a lot of gentle platitudes.

It is amazing to me how much good advice Steve has given to me over the years. He has seen me through friendship breakups and facial breakouts, weight gain and financial loss, misery and ecstasy and managed to maintain the same even keel of wry humor and practicality. I never would have had the courage to face marriage, motherhood, unemployment, and illness had it not been for Steve.

He is the wind beneath my wings.

I don't care how corny it sounds, everyone needs someone who lifts them up, brushes them off, and sets them back on the path of life every once in awhile and I know I'm lucky to be married to that someone. Steve is never my go-to-guy when I want to chat, or vent, or discuss, or examine. He doesn't really want to talk to me much. He doesn't necessarily listen to me all that much either.

But he loves me.


And that, my friends, is a Grace.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Never get your hair cut at a wig shop!

My husband gave me that advice when I was searching for a new stylist. I had seen a cute shop, great downtown location, inviting storefront but Steve said "no, you absolutely must not go there!" and when I asked him why he pointed to a display of wigs in the front of the shop and said that you must never never never get your hair cut at a wig shop.

I see his point.

I was thinking of these words today not because I was looking for a haircut but because I have been looking for a gym. Currently I workout or at least say I'm going to workout at the gym at the college where Steve is employed. It works out nicely when Steve and I can coordinate our workouts and see each other during the day, but that doesn't happen very often and so usually it's me and a handful of really old alums or really young coeds. Neither of those groups are very appealing. So I did what all modern, computer-savvy-types do and I looked online for a gym in my area. The first website that came up was for Curves, a national chain that caters just to women. This gym may be an excellent place to workout, but their marketing pictures may need some work:

The image of these out-of-shape-and-much-older-than-me ladies did not inspire much confidence in the results I could expect.

So I tried a few other websites but was uninspired either by the gym's location or the 'Silver Sneakers Program' promotions. Finally I broke down and asked Steve if he knew of any gyms. It's not that I don't want Steve's advice, it's just that I have been staunchly resisting all his attempts thus far to get me more involved in the classes held at the college gym that are attended by his female co-workers. Not my scene, thank you. As it turned out, Steve had heard of another gym, (recommended, of course, by one of his female colleagues) that allegedly catered to the younger side of 40 and was the place to be during the summer. Today I went to check it out and while I will definitely use my free one week trial membership this week, let's just say that the initial impression was of this:

In fact the lady who gave us the tour was so slow going up and down the stairs that I wondered if we should be installing one of these:

Now you may be thinking: hey, this is ageism! How dare you judge a gym by its geriatric employees! Well, you'd be right, I'm withholding my opinions until after I have actually taken a few classes there. AND the octogenarian who gave us the tour may actually have been an extremely fit centenarian...

...I'm just sayin'...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ummm, you get PAID to do this...

Lately I have decided that my realtor and I are not going to have a lasting relationship. Let me begin by offending all realtors everywhere by saying what a scam being a realtor is. You get paid a commission on the sale price of the as my listing agent you want me to sell for the highest price possible, right? Hmm....yet you are incurring expenses (allegedly) to market my home and the longer my home is on the market the more expenses you incur so that would lead me to believe that you want my home to sell quickly and how exactly can one sell a house quickly? Lower the price?

Looking at the numbers on say, a $300,000 home, this is what really is happening: Selling my home for $290,00 less means $10,000 less to me, but only $300 dollars less for the realtor (assuming their half of the commission is 3%) for a total paycheck of $8700 vs. $9000. How motivated to get that additional $300 is an agent really going to be? As the Buyer's Agent, the commission is still based upon the selling price of the home, so using the same formula each additional $1,000 I pay for a home is $30 more for my agent and all the agent has to do is advise me that she thinks this is what the homeowner will accept.

The current situation is that I am one finding the houses online, emailing my agent with the MLS number, she sets up a showing, lets me in the house, I decide if the house is right for me, and then we start the process all over again. If I pay $300,000 for a house my agent will make $9000 for unlocking the door. That's all she has done. She has not found any houses for me, she has suggested I "drive by a property before requesting a showing since neighborhood is so important to you" so I don't "waste either of our time" and several times she has tried to talk me into houses that were obviously not a fit by proclaiming that "there's just not a lot out there right now!" Does this woman read the news? It's a BUYERS market and I'm a buyer. I am pre-approved, pre-qualified, and don't have a house to sell. I am real estate gold right now and she is letting me slip away because she is lazy.

What do I want from my real estate agent? I want her to find house for me. I want her to email me the listings and suggest neighborhoods. I want her to say "always bid low the first time. You can always go up and they just might accept your initial offer." I want her to suggest new communities that I may not even know about since I have only lived in the state for 6 months. I want her to work for the $9000 paycheck. I shouldn't have to drive by a listing using my own not-tax-deductible car and gas -- that is her job!

I want someone who shows some pride in their profession and some motivation to get the job done. I want to buy a house, is that too much to ask?

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

It has not escaped my notice that while everyone else is on Grace #7, 8, or 9, I am still slogging away on Grace 5. That's okay, I'm frequently a little late, just ask any of my friends/family when their birthday card/gift arrived in relation to their actual birthday. Part of the problem is that I have a not-very-positive relationship with the US Postal service and try to avoid them at all costs. If I can't send it directly from the website from which it was ordered, chances are good it's going to take a lonnnnng time to get to you.

I tell myself that my tendency toward procrastination isn't a problem because I work best under pressure. I think the truth is that I get a bigger high from "pulling it off" than I do from crafting a reasonable schedule and accomplishing my goals.

I'm also not so good at confrontation. Recently I have been "confronting" a lot, and while I thought "the more you do it, the better you'll become" the truth is the more I do it the more I realize how much I don't like confrontation. I have taken on the Massachusetts RMV (record: 1 loss, 1 win), the insurance company (1 win, 1 draw), BMW (2 losses, 1 win), and the Social Security office (1 win, and it was soooo satisfying!). Frankly I probably wouldn't have had to do so much confronting had I not allowed myself to get into a do-or-die timeframe due to ...yeah, I'll say it...procrastination. Now I know I have one more confrontation to make: my realtor, but I'll blog about that another time....

Grace #5 My laptop

Look at that little beauty. My lifeline. How will I find a house? I'll search online! What am I going to make for dinner tonight with only kidney beans, one onion, and mayonnaise with which to cook? I'll do a google search for recipes! Email, paying my bills, keeping our budget on track, keeping my daughter in touch with friends in Ohio via's all done on that sleek little beauty that goes anywhere in the house, car, and country, and makes my life happy.
I know, it's a little risque, but I'm going to show you its backside anyway.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weekly Wellbeing: Losing my mind

I have lost my filters, lost my temper and lost my composure. I have turned into a screaming banshee who is incapable of discussing things rationally. I disregard time, place, audience, and appropriateness of content. Sound like a description from a mental heath journal? Well, it probably is a description of someone: someone who has lost their mind.

Usually I am the master of keeping cool under pressure. I used to have such a tight rein on my emotions that I defied even a botoxed southern belle to keep a straighter poker face than I could.

Recently, I seem to have lost all that ability.

I am not sure that it's necessarily a bad thing to be expressing my feelings. I mean all that the tighter-face-than-a-Botox-babe thing really got me was irritable bowel syndrome and a brain tumor. It's not having the feelings that is bad, it's how they are being expressed that is not really working for me. Or my marriage. Or my parenting ability.


Once upon a time, a very healthy time, I did yoga, didn't consume sugar or animal products, and regularly got together with other women for some good ol' fashioned girl talk. Now I couldn't do a downward dog to save my life, I eat anything that doesn't run from me, and I live in almost complete isolation saved only by my cell phone and 2 dedicated friends.

How is all this a weekly wellbeing? Well, sometimes it takes hitting bottom to really begin to look up and let me tell you: my head aches from hitting bottom so hard. So now I wake up, pick myself up, stop feeling mixed up, hook up with some friends, clean up the house, open up to my husband, fix-up our marriage, count up my blessings and move on (up, of course!).

I'm exhausted. I think I'll have a few doughnuts as a pick-me-up (just kidding!).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pity Party or Mardi Gras?

Last week I had no posts. No weekly wellbeing. No grace. Nada. What was I doing, you may ask? Well I was wallowing in self pity of course! I couldn't take time away from my own personal pity party to write, I had to concentrate on financial ruin! Single car-dom! Homelessness!

But like all parties, this one had to end, the house had to be cleaned up, and life had to go on.

I was recently telling my husband that I'm the one you want in a crisis. I'm the calm, cool, collected character who can stop the bleeding, pack up the house, bake the 4 dozen cupcakes, or pay the bill. It's after the crisis that I fall apart. Sometimes it's so long since the crisis has taken place that even I don't immediately understand why I am falling apart. In this case, it has taken me 5.5 months to really feel the move from Ohio to Massachusetts. Last week, I felt it. Usually in these situations where I might have uncomfortable feelings I like to self-medicate with sugar. Enough chocolatey-goodness and I can't remember ever having had a bad feeling. This year I've decided that I'm just going to see what life would be like without sugar.

Well, it's not good, I can tell you that much.

I haven't returned to sugar, but like any recovering addict I can tell you that I am taking it day by day, hour by hour and Dear Lord do I need a sponsor! And how did I get through, you may be wondering? Well, I'm glad you asked: I bitched. Almost nonstop. I bitched to Chellie. I bitched to Debbie. I bitched to Steve. I would have bitched to more people if I hadn't gotten their voicemail (perhaps the tone of my voice gave my intended topic away...). I sang the blues 'til even I couldn't stand the sound of my voice anymore. Steve had to spend so much time "talking" to me that he has had to play violent war games on the Wii every night for three days running just to recover. I feel a lot better though and I discovered that one way to ensure my own wellbeing is to occasionally have a little-bitch-fest, so I guess I did have a weekly wellbeing last week even without knowing it. AND I discovered how grateful I am for 2 friends and a husband who will by-god-listen-to-the-endless-litany and not hang up/leave the room. So I even discovered a hidden Grace during the week.

Still, I did begin to wonder how long I could keep the pity party up, I mean if it had gone on any longer I was going to have to hand out purple and green beads, flash my boobs, and call it Mardi Gras!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I need an adjustment

I don't need a chiropractor, I need an accountant. We did our taxes last night. I fully admit that I know nothing about tax laws and I fully admit that I was guilty of 'counting my chickens before they were hatched,' STILL I was stunned by the unfairness I felt doing those taxes. We took heavy losses last year. Our total loss selling our house was $62,517.29. I don't know about you, but to me, that's a lot of money! Our total un-reimbursed moving expenses were $6,355.29. Again, to me, a lot of money. But all through the move, the expenses, the credit card debt, the worrying about how we would buy another house, I just kept telling myself one thing: don't worry, you lose now, you'll gain on your taxes.

I was naive, to say the least.

Last night I couldn't wait to sit down at the computer and do those taxes. I felt impatient as Steve installed Turbo Tax. I felt impatient as Turbo Tax loaded our previous year's information. Let the refunds begin, I thought with a lot of excitement. I was thinking double digit refund. I was thinking the end of our remaining revolving credit card debt and the closing costs on a new home. I even ventured so far as to hope it may cover the down payment on a car (my husband's lease is up) or the funding of our daughter's tuition. I had hope.

Obviously, it didn't go the way I planned. While Turbo Tax walked us through our deductions I noticed that the refund was hovering at $1600 and not really changing much. I dug through the closing information on our house in Toledo, both from when we bought it and when we sold it. I carefully went through each itemized list of the hundreds of items we donated to Goodwill before the move. I had multiple copies of the receipts for all the new appliances and carpet added to the house in hopes it would sell faster and for more money. I had documentation for the months we were without subsidized insurance and had to pay the COBRA all on our own. I had carefully saved every single gas, food, toll, and lodging receipt from the move. All that paper, all that careful saving, all that time. All that hope. For nothing. Not nothing, I suppose that isn't fair. Slowly and painfully the refund inched its way to $3000. Slowly and painfully I realized that the system isn't fair. The words 'unfortunately, personal loss is not tax deductible' kept drifting across the screen. Personal loss. Too bad. Victim of the economy. I felt hopeless.

I thought, hey, if two educated people, fairly young, hard working, pay our taxes, keep our grass cut, wouldn't have had any credit card debt if not for the move, only moved because my husband's job was in jeopardy -- if people like us can't afford to buy a new house, pay off our credit card, buy a car, and pay our daughter's tuition -- who can? We are the middle class. We are the backbone of the country, the people who don't take handouts and don't take advantage. We are the ones who are keeping social security alive. We buy American. We buy local. We vote (well, usually, the bureaucratic red tape that is residency laws did prevent us from participating in this last election!).

As I watched Turbo Tax calculating the amount we paid versus the amount we could expect to receive I actually felt sick. As I paid taxes on the state refund I received last year. As I paid taxes on the reimbursement I received for part of my moving expenses. As I saw what I paid in federal, state, local, medicare, and social security taxes, as I paid and paid, and paid some more. I started to feel angry, I definitely felt bitter. Mostly I just felt sad.

I feel sad that we'll probably have to go down to just one car. I feel sad that I can't even afford the closing costs on a house. I feel sad that I can't afford my daughter's tuition. I'll put every dime I receive in refunds toward the credit card. You see, I don't believe in having revolving credit card debt. I don't think it's good for our family and I don't think it's good for the country. I feel sad that the wife, sister, daughter, niece, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and beyond of veterans cannot even buy a car, a house, or send her daughter to school because of the losses I incurred through no fault of my own. I didn't cause the housing crash. I didn't have a balloon mortgage I couldn't afford. I didn't spend more than I took in. I keep getting stuck thinking 'it's not my fault!'

But who ever wins at the blame game. I am supposed to be counting my graces this year. Okay, here are the positives: I am getting a refund, as opposed to owing (if I had owed money on my taxes I think I would have lost my mind!) My husband did find a wonderful new job, as opposed to being unemployed. I did sell my house in Ohio, as opposed to still paying a house payment and rent. Steve is a veteran, therefore we are eligible for a no-money-down VA loan if we can save the money for closing costs. Only having one car is better for the the environment. I don't know what I'll do about my daughter's tuition, but God works in mysterious ways and I'm just going to have to have faith. And probably, most importantly, I never had to go to the screen on Turbo Tax that talks about your health care costs. We are all healthy, and on a day when my friend Colleen is right this very minute having a mastectomy due to breast cancer, I know that health is never to be taken for granted. We may have had a rough year financially, but money can be replaced. People can't be. We will recover. We will save enough to cover closing costs. Or we will rent another year. Either way, we won't be homeless, as so many people are. We will survive.

I have hope.