About Me

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I'm the mother of four children who hopes to raise them to be productive, compassionate, humble citizens of our planet...who will also use their turn signals.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wow, four months go by QUICK!

I know I've been a complete blog slacker when it comes to new posts, but four months? Really? How is that possible? That's almost half of a school year! And I remember thinking those lasted FOR-EVER when I was in middle school.

Without going into all the details, I'll just say that life has had a few twists and turns as of late. And although I'm not one for making resolutions or particularly thinking that January 1st holds some magical power that December 31st didn't, I will say that I am very excited about 2011. I believe you can make a fresh start at any point in your life, whether it's 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in April or January 1st, but I'm optimistic that 2011 will bring lots of excitement, laughter, and love to us all. :-)

My last post, many moons ago, was about dear Cora. Since it's been so long, I'll remind you, dedicated blog reader, that I eluded to the fact that I was living and working in Norfolk, Virginia. When I first moved there, I started working for a temp agency and was blessed to be hired on as a full-time employee on my very first assignment. It's a job I'll never forget.

For those of you who have worked in the health care field, you'll agree that NOTHING is taboo. I firmly believe that one of the best coping mechanisms available to any of us is humor. Surely there are situations when laughter is completely inappropriate...I just have yet to find one. That especially holds true when working in reproductive medicine.

Our office was a bit of a dichotomy, we did contraceptive research and development (three cheers for the female condom! Hip, Hip...okay, maybe not) as well as seeing infertility patients. (This made for quite an odd mix in the waiting room on several occasions, BELIEVE ME.) Throw in a few menopausal ladies with hot flashes and vaginal dryness and you've got a PARTY!!! As you might imagine, working with this cross-section of women provided quite a lot of comedic fodder. I mean, where else can you openly discuss yeast infections, Astroglide, and sperm donations and not get funny looks? Church doesn't count.

One story that immediately comes to mind is the older, but evidently not wiser, lady who came in for a run-of-the-mill yeast infection. She was examined and sent on her way with a cream that would hopefully end the itching and burning she was having south of the Mason-Dixon. Much to our dismay, she called in three days later to complain that she was still suffering and the medicine was not helping at all. After a few basic questions, we were puzzled. When asked if she was using a FULL applicator to dispense the proper amount, she answered, "Why, yes! I fill it up and squeeze it on a bagel in the morning and eat every bite!" Clank. (That's the sound those old phones make when they hit the top of a desk). With one phone call, she quickly took all the funny out of the patient who had eaten suppositories for a week and never had hemorrhoid relief.

I mean, where do these people come from? Honestly. Would YOU not think it weird that your medication was individually wrapped? In foil? It's not a box of Russell Stover's chocolates for crying out loud. And what about the waxy nature of your "pills"? Is that for a gentle glide going down? And that vaginal applicator, does it look like a kitchen gadget to fill with bagel topping? Did she mix cream cheese in for her schmear? It boggles the mind really.

Genius was not limited to the elder generation either. A younger patient was having a laparoscopy. For those of you not in the know, a hole is made near your belly button and a tiny "scope" inserted to spelunk around your pelvis for a lookie-lou. Two days after her surgery, she called the office and asked to speak to the doctor. We often tried to field the question ourselves, if we could. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: "Dr. Archer's office, may I help you?"
Patient: "Hi, Stephanie. Can I ask the doctor a question?"
Me: "Jane, is there anything I can help you with?"
Patient: "Well, I'm not sure. I wanted to know if I could get a perm on Thursday."
Me: "Please hold."

Now keep in mind, these scenarios all took place circa 1990-92, well before the whole Brazilian waxing craze. But where in God's name was this woman getting a perm that she thought it would effect pelvic surgery? I got back on the horn and told her to go ahead with her perm, but just don't get her brows waxed unless she wants a one-way ticket to the ER.

Obviously, our office saw mostly women. But on certain days, when inseminations were taking place, men were obliged to visit our facilities to make a "deposit". To this day, I still think it was as uncomfortable for me as it was for them. I honestly felt sorry for them, on some level. Not that I thought it was painful, or that it was something that they hadn't done 1,000s of times, unsupervised, but it was the fact that it was all so public. So clinical. So hilarious.

We had an Andrology lab with several rooms that provided privacy, as well as a few girlie magazines, for this very purpose. However, this was the institute that had the first successful "test tube baby," so it was a popular place. When the other rooms were occupied, we used our exam rooms for the gentleman to do their thing.

I guess awkward is the best word to describe the atmosphere. Yes, we're all adults. Yes, it's for a good cause. Yes, it's very sterile and scientific, but let's be real for a moment. We ALL knew what was going down in that room. And it's difficult to know exactly what to say when you are in that situation. I was always friendly and tried to be reassuring, handing them their cup, accompanied by a gentle smile or a grandmotherly wink-of-the-eye and tip-o-the-hat (okay, maybe I never wore a hat). And I always kept in mind the lines that I definitely did NOT want to use in these situations. Here are just a few that come to mind:

- I can hear you in there!
- That paper I hear crackling on the exam table can be distracting, I know. Just take your time.
- You've been in there awhile now, sir. Is it the music? I can change the station. What do you prefer? Country, classical, HARD ROCK?
- Clean-up, aisle 4.
- Let me know if you need a hand!
- Wow, aren't you quick! You must have had a LOT of practice.

It didn't help that we were in an antiquated setting that consisted of the lab being across a MAJOR four lane road. The emotional, nervous patient was up in stirrups, likely praying this was the day she'd conceive, whilst I was dodging Ford pickups and school buses, trying to retrieve the sperm that would facilitate such an event. I would grab the vial from the straws that were kept in dry ice and hold it in my hot little hands all the way back to the office. This HIGHLY scientific procedure was timed just right, so that when I arrived back, insemination took place. I couldn't help but think that if I ever took a step off of the curb too quickly, I'd have one heck of a hit-and-run situation to explain.

In a stroke of irony, while many women were aching to have a child, others were trying everything short of bricks and mortar to avoid it. Our contraceptive research and development arm of the practice was just as interesting, I thought. I remember asking the doctor early on why there weren't more products in development for men. He laughed and that was pretty much the end of that conversation. As we approach 2011, with no major developments in MALE contraception, I guess I understand now why he thought the question was so humorous.

The female condom was one of our bigger studies. It was being touted as the next major offering to women, as far as barrier methods. I think we all knew it would never take off. Visualize a bread bag, but smaller (obviously) with a rubber bracelet on the end. Now if that doesn't just SCREAM, "Come to mama!" then I'm not sure what does. I think it would probably be 100% effective...because no one would get NEAR you once they saw that thing hanging out. What the heck? I'm not superficial, but let's be honest here. The only thing that device made you "Wonder" was whether you were going to get white or whole wheat. Next!

There was also the development of Leah's Shield. It was a solid plastic device that a foreign researcher named after his wife. (Note to self: If a man wants to name anything after me, make it something that doesn't develop an odor if not properly cleaned.) Imagine solid white rubber-like plastic, in the shape of a hockey puck, but it has a little valve on the end. Oh, and did I mention it weighed the same as the hockey puck? That's probably important, I think. We were each given one to try over a weekend. We were STRICTLY told NOT to use it for contraception, but just to report back on comfort, ease of placement, etc.

I guess if you could get past the psychological part of a "barrier" device having a valve on it, it wasn't so bad. That is if you don't mind weighing an extra four pounds and hearing a constant whistling when you go outside and it's windy. Other than that, it was a stellar product. Not. Sorry, Leah.

Truth be told, these stories just scratch the surface of material I have in my gynecological vault (yes, that's what I said). Maybe I'll do another post. Maybe I'll just save them for the next class reunion. If nothing else, I hope you got a laugh, along with a dose of confidence for your next visit to the doctor. Whatever question you have, it's nothing they haven't heard before. And more than likely, it's never going to be wacky enough to make it into a blog.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is this thing on?

Hello! For those three of you who are still checking in on my severely anemic blog, I send you greetings...and apologies. I won't make you jealous with the reasons why I've been MIA, but suffice to say it involves my vocation, a hospitalization, my son's new mode of transportation, a graduation, a girls mini-vacation, all the -tion words you can think of basically. Oh, except masturbation. Unless you count that case I was on where I had to listen to three full days of details about that very topic. File that under "strange but true", friends.

So just when you thought it was safe, I'm back. This time, I thought I'd introduce you someone who I, myself, haven't even had contact with in over 15 years, but she's been on my mind. Her name was Cora.

Lemme give you a little background. In 1990, I moved to Norfolk, Virginia. My husband was a proud member of the U.S. Navy and I gathered up my cosmetics and hair products and moved myself down to the largest Naval base on the east coast. I found a job at a medical school and was able to find an apartment that was "cozy, charming, and with character" (read: small and old). Although my husband would leave a few months later for "Operation Desert Storm", I was determined to make the best of being a landlubber in a strange town until his return.

If you are a child of my generation, you may remember "Melrose Place". You know how they lived in that uber-cool apartment building? Stucco walls and courtyard with a pool? Well, the place I found was sort of like that. Emphasis on "sort of". It had the stucco walls, but the tenants weren't nearly as fashionable, there were weeds in the courtyard where the pool should have been, and there was a "manager", Mrs. Shockley, (and I use the term manager in the least effective sense of the word) who I'm pretty sure was skimming some Benjamins off of the top when she asked that we all pay in cash because it was easier for her to just send one check to the property owner. I have no proof of her embezzlement, because I was too busy being impressed by her vast array of Mrs. Roper-style muumuus.

A one-bedroom apartment was available on the third floor so I put pen to paper and signed a lease. I was looking forward to making this little plaster palace home for at least the next year...or longer if good old Mrs. Shockley was ready to cut a deal.

It wasn't too long after I moved in my casserole dish and curling iron that I heard a knock on my door. I had a neighbor! A friendly neighbor! I was so excited! That was the day I met Cora. The one-and-only, Cora. She was also a 20-something Navy wife, having moved from Ohio just a few months before I arrived. I was happy to know that, with all the time I'd be spending alone in a strange town, there was someone in a similar situation just right across the hall.

In the beginning, we would say hello at the mailbox or while passing in the hall. I noticed that they didn't seem to have a car, so I offered to let her know when I was running out and she could tag along. She was sweet and seemed grateful.

Having grown up in a great little suburban town in Maryland called Joppatowne, I guess I never realized what a homogeneous place it was. I kinda feel like everyone there was "middle-class". We all pretty much were of the same means and lived very similar lives. Cora was about to teach me a lot about how, without my ever knowing it, I had lived a pretty sheltered life.

Living on low-ranking enlisted Navy pay meant you had to get creative with the food budget. I was lucky to have lived in a house where my mom, too, had a grocery budget but was still able to put a nice meal on the table each evening. With my list and coupons, I took Cora to the not so appropriately named grocery store Be-Lo. (About which I would soon coin the phrase, "I don't know why it's called Be-Lo because their prices Be-High!). She opted to share a cart with me, which was fine. I tossed in some produce, bread, tuna, meats. With each item, she'd say, "Wow, are you really going to cook that?" This went on for about four aisles, my adding items and her just following along.

That was, until we reached what she called "potted meat". Quite frankly, I had never even HEARD of "potted meat" until I had to duck as she threw about 36 cans of it in the cart. It's only 25 cents, she exclaimed! I hated to harsh her mellow, but I had so many questions. Meat? In a can? And in a 2 ounce can at that. This is when I knew Cora had a LOT more to teach me about life. And "meat".

It wasn't long before Cora started greeting me after work. The minute she heard my footsteps coming upstairs, like a lovable puppy excitedly wagging its tail, she'd wait by my door. In the beginning, it was fine. But I would be lying if I said that some days, I wished she was more like a cat.

Getting to know each other meant that she also felt more comfortable calling me at home and at work, in addition to the personal visits. Keep in mind that these were the days before caller ID (and, thank God, before cell phones). You never knew who was going to be on the other end of the phone until you heard their voice and it was too late. Just when I thought I'd slipped in unnoticed, the phone would ring and it was....Cora. Here's how one of our conversations went:

Me: "Hello."
Cora: "Hi, neighbor! What are you doing?"
Me: "Oh, just got home from work. How was your day?"
Cora: "Good. I watched soaps and played video games."
Me: "Wow! Sounds fun! Did you need something, because I'm really --"
Cora: "Actually, yeah. We're having hot dogs and beans for dinner and I was wondering if I could borrow some hot dogs and beans."
Me: (Silence)
Cora: "Steph?"
Me: "Um, sure. Let me see what I have. Come on over in a few minutes."

Okay. As I said before, I was raised in the suburbs, so the very idea of borrowing something from a neighbor isn't foreign. But I gotta tell you, we NEVER, EVER borrowed the main dish and the side dish. I mean, are you REALLY having hot dogs and beans for dinner if you don't actually HAVE any hot dogs and beans? Cause in my world, you're just having hot dog rolls.

And the requests didn't stop there. Cora's husband had some sailor buddies that were going to be staying with them for a few weeks (one of which I would later come to find out she left her husband for, but that's a WHOLE other blog post). She was fretting about getting the place in order. I had just stencilled a border on my walls(STOP laughing right now. It was in back then, I swear) and she wanted me to give her quick-and-dirty seminar on how to spruce up her place as well. With stencilling brush and acrylic paints in hand, I went over and gave it my best shot. I did one wall and then left her to her own devices for the other three, fully knowing that this would probably be the event that would lead to my never being offered to renew my lease with Mrs. Roper.

A few days went by and Cora called again, this time asking to borrow a lamp and a chair. Again, where I come from, you borrow sugar. Maybe borrow a cup of sour cream. Even a lawn mower if yours is on the fritz, but furniture? By this point I'm thinking that Ohio is not a part of the United States.

When I went to bring the lamp and chair over, she asked me to come in and see her stenciling work. She said she knew it wasn't the best, but she didn't care since she was only renting. Now I am FAR from Martha Stewart, and I'm certainly not perfect, but I also will say that I know a straight line when I see it. Her stencilling...well, it sort of gave you the impression that she either (a) was hitting the bottle when attempting this project or (b) she has undiagnosed vertigo. That floral pattern had more waves than Ocean City.

The requests went on...she borrowed a table (which I should have expected because it was crazy for me to loan her a lamp with nothing to put it on) and a phone. She borrowed food. I was excited for her when she branched out from the potted meat and said she was actually using her oven, but of course that meant she had to have me come over to peek in her oven and see if I thought her Tuna Helper was fully cooked.

And although I joke about it, the requests really didn't bother me much. That was until her husband went out to sea for three months and she asked if I could do her a favor. She wanted to know if I would take nude pictures of her to send him. I don't consider myself a prude, but to ask someone you barely know to photograph you in all your glory, it just struck me as odd. Well, that was until she told me that she had her mother take the last set of pictures.

I could go on and on with my Tales of Cora. My husband left for six months, her husband returned. I helped her decorate the building and make a special dinner. Obviously I had underestimated the aphrodisiac qualities of "potted meat" because, within a month, she told me that she was pregnant. I was happy for them, but I'll confess that I thought I should probably buy a few cans of baby formula so Junior could get a meal or two...at least until she realized babies can't eat Tuna helper or meat in a can.

My concerns were validated when I offered to pick her up from her first doctor's appointment. She got in the car and I asked how it went. She said that everything seemed to be fine and that she actually learned something! I can safely say that, for as long as I live, I will NEVER forget her disclosure, "You know, I was sitting on the exam table waiting for the doctor and they had a poster on the wall. I was looking and looking. It was like a poster of all your lady parts. I couldn't believe it because I never knew there were three holes down there!"

I'm pretty sure this was when I heard the gravel from the shoulder of the road hitting my car because I had blacked out from sheer fright. This is a woman who is giving birth to another human being...a little person she will be responsible for the feeding and care of, and she has NO idea of how many holes she has "down there". Forget that she had never had a driver's license, forget that she borrowed the main dish on her dinner menu, forget that she was married to a man that insisted on answering the phone in the voice of cartoon characters, at that moment, it all paled in comparison.

And all these years later, I do wonder what she's doing now. Is she sleeping on a mattress borrowed from a neighbor? Did her son become a rebel vegetarian? When we last spoke, she had left her husband for his friend, was trying to get a driver's license, and had decided that she wanted a career. And of all things, she wanted to be a mortician. It was the LEAST frightening thing I had ever heard her say.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pull up a chair...

Yes, it's me! I'm back. It has been awhile, but I've been kind of busy with life. I had a son that went to prom....

and a reunion with spectacular high school friends.

So life has been kinda hectic. In a fun way.

As most of you know, I've been dutifully reporting for weigh-ins on Sunday mornings at my local Weight Watchers. Since you likely have never been to a WW meeting, I thought I'd invite you to join me, inside my own head (where I'm guilty sometimes of spending WAY too much time) to pull up a chair and take it all in, from my perspective. Admit it, you've wondered what goes on behind that store front.

First off, just to give you the idea of the setting, this is my local Weight Watchers. For me, a necessary evil.

This, however, is completely UNNECESSARY and very evil.

What commercial real estate broker thought it would be ironically funny to rent out space to a BAKERY, right next to Weight Watchers? Someone who apparently never struggled with their weight. I'm not even going to show you the 180 degree view of this location. I will tell you that it includes a bistro, Chinese take-out, an Italian restaurant, McDonald's, Chili's and Taco Bell. Not that I've really ever noticed.

So upon arrival, you are greeted by three smiling ladies, eager to grab your $12 and have you hop on the scale. They have conveniently placed chairs next to each scale, because disrobing is not at all unusual. Ladies are peeling off their jackets, shoes, keys from pockets, emptying loose change. I even saw one lady pluck her eyebrows before weighing in. From someone who has, in all honesty, considered a pre-meeting enema on many occasions, I'm not here to judge.

Your representative will scan your record book as you step on the scale. This is right about the time I start hearing the Jeopardy theme music playing in my head. I look at her face and try to read her expression. Wait, why is she furrowing her brow? Great. Now she's squinting. I gained. I know it. But last week's topic was "Stop the Negative Self-Talk", so I need to get positive here....and QUICK.

Hold on, now her eyes just got kinda bulgy. Either she has the new onset of a thyroid condition or I have just set a Weight Watchers World Record! GO. ME. I TOTALLY kicked butt and lost like 18 pounds in a week, didn't I? I knew it! I am a Weight Watchers MAS-TAH'. Go ahead, hit me with the digits lady, cause I've got some random dance moves to celebrate that you will NOT believe. Okay, why is she still clicking that mouse? I bet she's deleting my weight loss! Because she'd have to give me a free box of Smoothie Mix for my efforts and she just doesn't want to put out! She absolutely is! UN-REAL. I knew this place sucked. It always has. I'm quitting...I'm quitting as soon as ....

WHAT? I lost 4.3 pounds? Oh. Em. Gee. No way! I ask to jump the counter and hug her. She giggles, but politely declines. That's okay. I'm not letting that Gloomy Gus bring me down. I mean, who doesn't like a free hug from a skinnier person? (Skinnier being a relative term.) I get my book back, put my pants, shirt, and undergarments back on, and head on into the meeting room, my head held high. And really, I don't mean to brag, but I SO don't need to stay for the meeting. Obviously, I've got it completely figured out. Hello? 4.3 pounds! But since the leader has gone to all the trouble of planning and gathering materials, I guess I'll hang. Plus I know that all the kids at home right now are probably yelling out their breakfast orders, so Mamma's gonna stay put.

The leader goes to the front of the room and begins her topic. She often has a chart or some information to share. Luckily, I really LOVE this leader. She's got a great sense of humor which, to me, is CRUCIAL. I mean, she could be 850 pounds and gaining, and I'd still consider her to be a great leader if she made me laugh. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that.

As she proceeds into her presentation, she'll often make open-ended remarks, waiting for a response from the group. As hard as this may be to imagine, 99% of the time, I say nothing. I'm actually quite shy when it comes to public speaking of any sort. I'd rather be the listener. Plus, I usually have so much witty banter going on between the voices in my own head, I need to keep my mouth shut so I can focus.

I've noticed there are others, however, who are BIG TIME into sharing. I know the philosophy is that we learn from others, but there comes a point when I just don't want to hear from you anymore. That may sound harsh, but I also know that all of you have been in a meeting at work or elsewhere where the "teacher's pet" insists on over-sharing. Like, they have no filter. They don't even realize that the rest of us are sitting there because it is ALL about them.

There is one over-sharing lady in my group who was there the last time I joined Weight Watchers...THREE YEARS AGO. Yep, she's still showing up. By my calculations, she has paid $5,250 to lose 11 pounds. While she may get high marks for persistence, three years into it, do you REALLY think it's wise to tell everyone how you ONLY eat steamed vegetables and you hike 5 miles every single day? I mean, I'm not saying you're lying. But you are. Because if you really did that, you'd be rockin' the size 6, sister.

Then you have the men. I happen to love the men that go to meetings. All three of them. One is an older man who is a truck drivin', motorcycle ridin', lifetime WW member. He's usually quiet, but when he does have a remark, it's STELLAR. It's like he saves up his wit and then just smacks us with it. He's still struggling, but he's still attending. I like that about him. I also like that I saw him at Panera after one of our meetings.

I'm not trying to rob the men of their accomplishments, but we all know that men lose weight differently than women. Obviously Weight Watchers knows it too, because they give them a free 8 points just for having a third leg. What the hell? That doesn't seem fair to me. I mean, I'm carrying around two somewhat heavier breasts (well, maybe not heavier than the fella in the third row, but still) AND a uterus that bore four human beings. Shouldn't that count for something? A point maybe? Come ON.

My adoration for these metrosexuals who are manly enough to join WW ends, however, when they decide to raise their hands and share. "Hi, everyone. I'm Jim and I only lost 7 pounds this week, but I'm not giving up!" (insert unenthusiastic clapping from one participant, who I think may be drunk, and the leader.) Okay, did he just say SEVEN pounds in one week? And I did NOT just hear him say "ONLY". Well, guess what, JIMMY...I only lost 1.2 pounds last week. And I was proud of it until you opened your pie hole and had to announce your so-called failure. So, you know what buddy? Bite me. Isn't there some fishing show you could be at home watching? And by the way, I hope you lost that ENTIRE 7 pounds, and a few inches, in the only place a man doesn't want to.

Believe it or not, some of these men are accompanied by their wives. This is a strange, strange phenomenon to me. Part of me thinks it's kinda cute. But most of me thinks it's sick and delusional. And are you ready for this? Last week I even saw a woman open her book, turn to the page with her weight, and VOLUNTARILY show it to her husband. What kind of dysfunctional relationship is THAT? I'd rather be kidnapped and held hostage in a dirty hotel room by terrorists than to have my husband know my weight and put it on a missing poster. But if that kind of closeness, sharing, emotional support, and kindness works for them, WHAT-EVER.

Last, but certainly not least, is the "I've got an excuse" member. There's one in every group, except for Sundays when there are about four. If I sucked at WW that week and ate an entire sleeve of Oreos in my car on the way to work because I was PMS'ing, I would keep that to myself. I mean, is that something you want to broadcast? For some, apparently yes. Shortly after that confession, she throws in how she can't help that she went over her points because a pregnant coworker had a baby shower, and then her Uncle had his bunions removed and she had to visit him in the hospital and all she could eat was from a vending machine and...(just about now is where the excuse-maker's voice morphs into the voice of the teacher on Charlie Brown). I mean, when the group starts pilfering their purses for some high calorie contraband, it may be time to end your story. If not then, how about when you hear the sticky name tag labels being peeled from shirts and the lights are being turned off? Either one.

The meetings end with the leader grabbing her little tray of "rewards" and asking who needs recognition. I understand the concept of positive reinforcement, and certainly we all like to get credit for our hard work from time-to-time. Like maybe when you lose 5% or 10% of your body weight, or when you've hit a 25 or 50 pound milestone. But when she says, "Who needs a bravo because they are just happy to be here?" I think you need to slither on out the door quietly. As a grown woman, do you REALLY need a little green star sticker for putting your tush in the car and hauling it to a 30 minute meeting? Really? Cause that's a bit much. And a bit ridiculous. Move along.

Since I hate to end on a sarcastic, biting note (well, not really but the peace and harmony part of me who is trying to be a better person is bringing on the guilt), I will say that even with the cast of characters, and the over-priced crappy snacks they peddle, Weight Watchers IS working for me. I've shed 24 pounds thus far and I'm still motivated to melt away more. I know it's not for everyone. But for me it's accountability, it's educational, it's motivational and, above all, it's entertainment for all those voices in my head.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Believe me, you'll thank me later.

With this post, there will be no pictures. For reasons that will become obvious, I have no images of my latest fitness endeavor.

Apparently Weight Watchers not only wants me to calculate points, keep a journal, and attend weekly meetings, they also expect me to exercise. Or, as my leader puts it, "move my parts". I'm happy with my 15 pound weight loss thus far, but have come to accept the fact that, if I plan on continuing to lose, I'm going to have to institute something a little more strenuous than carrying laundry up the stairs and running through the aisles of Target to get to the bathroom because of the MASSIVE amounts of water this program has me taking in.

I have a few workout DVDs that I somewhat enjoy, but thought if I joined something a little more "organized" I'd meet with greater success. But what to choose? I didn't want anything that would be so crazy difficult that I would immediately feel defeated. I like to just go, blend in, and quickly leave before I hear the snickering about how out of shape I am. So what class do you think of for someone who is overweight, shy, and out of shape? Why pole dancing, of course!

I've seen it on Oprah and read about what a fun, fantastic workout the "tease" classes were providing to women everywhere. Moreover, it was supposed to boost your confidence! And who doesn't love that? Even here in suburbia, I easily found a business that lets you pay-as-you-go with no long-term commitment. They had an introductory class, 30 minutes of chair dancing and 30 minutes of pole. That has me written ALL over it! I like situations where I can calculate, down to the minute, how long I'll be publicly humiliated.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the super-friendly owner, wearing her "Got Pole" t-shirt and surrounded by shelves of thigh-high boots and clear heels. Dorothy, you aren't in Kansas anymore! We were brought to the studio where they had chairs and mats waiting. Of course, I immediately staked my claim on the back row real estate. No way was I flaunting my wares in the front row. Plus it wouldn't really be fair to anyone behind me that was forced to view the show I was about to put on. I care too much for my fellow man.

I looked around at the other ladies who were there. There were a few young girls who looked great and were definitely having fun. I got why they were there. But the lady in the front row, I'll admit, had me a bit puzzled. She was probably in her fifties, no make-up, un-done hair, and very nondescript. As she looked around, I figured she was probably discovering that this was NOT the place she meant to go to. Maybe she took a wrong turn and was supposed to be at the copy center next-door? Yep. I was right. There she goes, walking away and going ... hold on. What is she doing? Why is she going over to those -- OH. NO. SHE. DI'INT! She did NOT just go over to those baskets and pluck a pair of CLEAR HEELS out and put them on! WTH? She has her own SHOES? That she keeps HERE? This is not for real. I'm being Punk'd, aren't I?

Luckily, the instructor took the stage so I would stop staring at Connie Clear Heels. She got her boombox a rockin' with some warm-up music. This isn't so bad, I thought. She was a 20-something who was very sweet and encouraging. She even got me a little choked up, talking about how we women are much too hard on ourselves and that we ALL should be comfortable in our own skin and find our inner "sexy".

I was actually starting to believe her....well, that was until she went all mud-flap on me. Yes, mud-flap. Apparently one of the first moves we had to learn in chair dancing is the "mud-flap". I know you've seen them on the trucks going up and down the interstate. It's the Pamela Anderson-type silhouette with long flowing locks, perky breasts, and legs that reach up to her armpits. Yeah, those. Unfortunately, I've got short hair, post-breastfeeding breasts, and legs that go from a cankle directly to a thigh. Yay me.

Moving quickly, she introduced our next move, the "kitten crawl". I don't have a cat, nor do I want to pretend to be one, but apparently the opposite sex finds this maneuver BEYOND sexy. You have to get on all fours and put your chest toward the ground, rear up in the air, and crawl. I guess, in the right lighting and with the right amount of alcohol, I could make this look sexy. And by that I mean that alcohol would be involved for both parties. In large amounts.

And speaking of the other participant, one thing that did kind of bug me was her referral to the other party as "the victim". I realize she doesn't want to generalize by saying husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mailman, etc., but "victim" just seems a bit crass, don't you think? Although midway through this erotic dance, I started thinking that anyone I'd be performing for might readily agree with the classification of "victim".

We did 30 minutes of what turned out to be quite intense exercise. I'm hoping they didn't inspect the chair I used, because I'm pretty sure I left some indentations from my fingernails during that little episode of hyperventilation I had. Come to find out, the chair would be my friend, when you compare it to the next piece of apparatus...THE POLE.

The "pole room" had about 16 poles and mirrors on every wall. They are quite clever with the mirror placement, thus throwing off my equilibrium and making it difficult to determine how I could grab a spot in the back row. I took the pole in the corner and hoped for the best.

We were given coaching on a few basic moves and then the music started playing. The instructor did an AMAZING demonstration. How ever you feel about strippers, pole dancers, etc. they have to be quite flexible and have tremendous strength to do what they do. I was basically moving forward on a wing and a prayer, and hoping that my hours spent on the jungle gym in elementary school would finally pay off for me in a BIG way.

First up was the basic walk with a spin around the pole. It looked easy enough. She would gracefully and slowly glide around the pole and end up back where she started, unwrapping her legs as she went. It started out well, but apparently I gave it a little too much gas and went flying around the pole for about three revolutions. When I heard myself quote George Jetson by saying, "Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing!" I knew I had gotten a little too big for my dancing britches.

With my newly found confidence, I attempted the spin with both feet off the ground. I was giving it all I had, concentrating on hand placement and speed. I was doing it! Do you have an advanced class because I am SO signing up! Look at me, Lady Pole Dancing Instructor, look at me, right over here, I'm -- wait, where'd she go? Holy CRAP. She has TOTALLY moved on and climbed the pole all the way to the CEILING...where she hanging with NO HANDS. Is David Copperfield behind one of those mirrors, levitating her? Okay, she's phenomenal. I get it. But while she was busy showing off, she totally missed how great I was doing. Apparently she's not one of those teachers that gets joy from seeing her students excel. Whatever.

We learned a few more fancy tricks and then, how to gracefully dismount from the pole. The teacher gave a demonstration and then had us try. As we were coming back around and ready for our big finish, she said, "And this, ladies, is where you bend down and pick up ALL those $100 bills!" She smiled gently at me when I asked what you should do if all you find is a nickle and a piece of lint.

Thankfully friends, I'm not in it for the money. Despite my less than desirable performance, I plan on going back. It was a fun workout and I was actually sore the next day, working muscles that I didn't even know I had. If you've secretly wondered what these classes are like, I say GO. You only live once and, as the saying goes, if you work it just right, that will be enough.

Monday, April 05, 2010

You could saw out my heart with a meat cleaver...or just show me his writing journal

More than half-way through the school year and I was feeling comfortable that my little kindergartner had adjusted pretty darn well. You see, I tend to have those children that, if given the choice, they'd rather stay at home with me. I truly don't know what the attraction is, other than our genetic link, because I'm not really THAT exciting.

All of my children have been criers, which I will admit they come by honestly. I'm the mom at the bus stop tearing up as they board the bus on the first day...and the tenth day. And it's not so much that they are leaving me that tugs at the heartstrings, I think it's the bigger picture of how fast time flies and how days turn into years in what seems to be the blink of an eye. What can I say, I's likes my babies close.

Having an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old means I should be an old pro at this. But every year, I still have the teacher telling me that they are fine when they get to school and that they forget all about me and immediately jump right into their day, happy and curious. I really want to believe them.

By Christmas of this year, despite Rowan still asking me every single morning if he could PLEEEEEASE stay home, I was believing his teacher's reports that he was a well-adjusted little learner. On my volunteer days in the classroom, he certainly looked to be comfortable on his blue square on the carpet. And I'll admit I watched with amazement as he folded his towel and properly put it into his cubby. Those feats of organization NEVER happen at home. It was almost magical.

Last month, his teacher sent home their first writing journal for us to enjoy. I loved seeing the pictures he drew and accompanying sentences. It reinforced to me everything his teacher was saying. He WAS doing well! He WASN'T missing me and feeling heartbroken all day long! I was convinced....that is, until I saw this:

OH. MY. GOD. The poor child is so devastated that he couldn't even muster the strength to pick up a crayon and draw a picture to illustrate his anguish! I bet he barely eeked out the words to his plea! I can't even bear to think about it.

I don't remember his mood when he returned home on January 12th, but I sure hope it was one of those days that he was greeted with a pan of warm brownies and a hug and not me waiting at the bus stop in the van, shoving him into his car seat, and yelling that we've got to hurry because Olivia needs to be picked up at the library, we're out of shampoo, and the library books are three days late.

Thank goodness the teacher didn't send this home until later in the school year...I may have had to resort to homeschooling just to ease the guilt. And trust me, I am smart enough to know that I am SO not qualified for that gig.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hooray for....

I guess there are people who discover a hobby, learn more about it, and spend their lives enjoying it. I'm not one of those people. As part of what I have self-diagnosed as adult-onset ADD, I seem to flit from one thing to another, with high hopes of finding something that will provide me with a sense of accomplishment and, perhaps, even some relaxation.

Through the years, I've test driven many a hobby. My basement "studio" is filled with remnants of what I see as failed attempts at a life outside of court reporting, medical transcription, motherhood, and housework. If you are someone who found your hobby niche quickly, I commend you. It's not so easy for the rest of us. And if you continue reading, you'll get an idea of how, for some, it takes a little trial and error.

If you know me, you'll know better than to look for any athletic-type hobbies in this line-up. Even as a child, my very first hobby could be practiced indoors and in a sedentary manner, two things I still consider as positive criteria when evaluating a future hobby. And what SCREAMS sedentary more than ...

stamp collecting. Yeah, I'll admit it. As a youngster, I experimented with philately...but I swear, I never inhaled. Along with screaming sedentary, I'm fully aware that stamp collecting also screams DORK. Just the thought of me clutching my allowance in my sweaty palms and heading, on a Saturday morning with my mom, to the Joppatowne post office, makes me giggle. They had themed kits for the low, low price of just $2.00 (which was probably four weeks of allowance, back then). I'd come home and carefully hinge each stamp into place.

And don't EVEN get me started about the time I found the "Mystery Cube" at K-Bee Toys! For only one dollar more, you got a cardboard cube filled with 1,000 stamps from all over the world! If that ain't the stuff dreams are made of, then I just don't know what is. Who cares that they were all cancelled stamps that were still attached to part of the envelope and you had to soak them all in warm water first? That was part of the FUN! Yeah, you read that right...I said FUN.

I've held on to my collection through the years. And just between you and me, one of the reasons I've kept having children was in the hopes that I'd produce an offspring that might find the same delight in postage that I did. Instead, I've gotten nods of the head and questionable looks from my kids when I dust off the old albums and give my "You, too, can STAMP out boredom!" presentation. And now that my ovaries are winding down in their production, I'll just have to tuck these gems away and hope that I can one day amaze my grandchildren with how people used to actually WRITE letters on paper, with a pen, and adhere a colorful stamp to them.

Only a few years later, I set my sights on a hobby involving textiles:

It began, and ended, during a seven week summer vacation I spent with my cousin in Austria. She was (and is) quite a talented knitter and I was envious of her beautiful creations. I think the Alpine air must have been clouding my judgement, because I was delusional enough to buy several skeins of yarn to make my first sweater. God bless her, she did try her best. And I did complete two grey and one white stripe of what could have possibly been a lovely piece of apparel...that is, if I would have remembered a single THING that she taught me after I returned home. It's as if when customs searched my luggage, they also picked out of my brain every single knitting nugget she taught me.

I purchased yarn again, years later, thinking maybe knitting was too difficult and I should try my hand at crochet. I learned the chain stitch in about 30 seconds! I was a chain-stitchin' fool! I even made a chain that stretched for the length of my living room. Unfortunately, there's not a big demand for a ten foot long yarn chain. So, in case you're keeping score, sports fans, that would be Yarn 2, Stephanie 0.

That was, until I remembered you could make tassels with left-over yarn!

We used to make them in cheerleading and attach them to our shoes. Give me a "C", give me a "U", give me a "T", give me an "E"! Whaddya got? CUTE! Unfortunately, when I offfered them to my 21st century daughter, she gave me an "N" and an "O". And honestly, even if I did add them to shoes, you only ever needed two. Not really a long-term hobby. And the only other purpose I could think of for them still only required two:

When I was pregnant with my first child, my quest for a hobby turned to something related to motherhood and my new little bundle. I took up cross-stitching and made this piece for my son's room.

Some people call it CCS, counted cross-stitch. I called it contraceptive cross-stitch. I never wanted to have another baby if it meant I had to do THAT again. Next!

Before scrapbooking was the rage, there was stamping. I wasn't a hard-core stamper, but I did dabble in it a bit. It would allow me to make cards, invitations, gift wrap...and all for less money! Or at least that's what I was told. I invested in a few good stamps and stamp pads.

I cut and I folded. I went to demonstrations and classes. I got stamp cleaner and embossing powder and a heat gun. I flipped through idea books and went to websites. All of this research, just to find out that my stamping

And then, when I had just about given up on my hobby search, along came scrapbooking.

I was always a fan of photography, so it seemed like a natural fit for me. And when you've got a lot of kids, you NEVER run out of material. Or catch up, for that matter. But that's okay. A layout here, a layout there, albums for family or friends, it's gratifying. And it's INSTANT gratification. I especially like that.

So finally, I've found two things that make my creative juices flow and give me inspiration. And not to sound too hokey, but scrapbooking and photography truly do make you look at life differently. When you look for the beauty in the everyday, you see it more readily. Even the little details become special.

So if those future grandkids start looking for the door when I start to show them the amazing and colorful stamps from Romania, I'll have all my scrapbooks, with their stories and images, waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Houston, we have a problem...

Even though I've got child number three entering elementary school, I'm still excited each day to open his backpack and see what he's done while away from me and in the care of his lovely kindergarten teacher. I'm thrilled with his progress and have never second-guessed our decision to send all of our kids to public school. That is, until I reached in his backpack today and pulled out this:

What in God's name are they teaching my BABY? I thought the Family Life unit wasn't until fifth grade! Was this an art project? Was there a model? Get me the number of Jayne Miller, that investigative journalist from Channel 11 News! Breathe in, breathe out...

After deciding how to hold this sculpture in the least offensive manner, I figured I should calmly ask my little Michelangelo what he had in mind when he created this masterpiece. As it turns out, while my mind was thrashing around in the gutter, I completely forgot that they are working on a space unit. And it's a ROCKET.

I'm terribly ashamed of myself. As I should be.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Good Eats....

After that thoroughly depressing post about diet food, I'm back. This time, I'm bringing with me some ideas for foods that are diet-friendly AND satisfying.

Because I love to cook and bake, I've been on the prowl for dishes to add to my repertoire. I consider it a bonus when it is something that not only I will enjoy, but the rest of my family as well. I'm not going to drag them, kicking and screaming and clutching their bags of M&Ms, into my diet world. However, if it's nutritious AND tastes good, I think it's a win-win! Okay, so there was that ugly situation with a Weight Watchers chocolate cake recipe I was able to PEEL out of the pan and actually FOLD, without breaking it. But let's be honest, where else can they go to get three squares a day for FREE? Other than prison.

The problem, I find, is that often low-fat or fat-free often also means flavor-free. I frankly don't care if it is a magic concoction that will allow me to be a skinny supermodel that lives to be 127, if it has no taste, I'm outta there. In order to stay with this gig, Mamma's gotta have some good eats.

So, here they are. Some of the "staples" in my dieting desk drawer. Even if you aren't looking to drop a few hundred pounds, you might want to give them a try! After all, with the state of America's arteries, I think most of us could use a few more healthy meals in our lives. So, without further ado, and before I launch into my "Fiber Is Your Friend!" speech, let's enjoy some food porn.

You'll look forward to breakfast when it's this fast, easy, and good! If you haven't tried the sandwich rounds, you should. They are super low in fat, high in fiber (and we all know why that's good), and much more nutritious than that lousy white bread. I fry an egg, sometimes add a piece of Canadian bacon or low-fat ham, and put it on the sandwich rounds that have been slathered in:

Laughing Cow Cheese. My fridge ALWAYS has at least three boxes of this cheese. I'm not really sure why the cow is laughing, and it's quite possible she's laughing all the way to the bank with the price they charge for this stuff, but when it's on sale and I have a coupon, I'm laughing right along with her. I also use it to make omelets, baked potatoes, and on pasta.

And speaking of pasta, here's another one of my favorites:

This is super easy and very filling. Just boil some whole-wheat pasta (which I think is much more satisfying than the traditional pasta). While that's cooking, spare yourself from folding yet another load of laundry and, instead, saute some mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and fresh spinach in a pan with a splash of whatever red wine you have lying around, left over from breakfast. I mean leftover from the last time your mother-in-law came over. When the pasta is done, toss it together with the veggies and add a tablespoon of Alouette Light Garlic & Herb cheese. Another one of my stand-bys. This stuff is SO good and melts into a much creamier sauce than the Cow. I make this for lunch for my nanny (or, as I call her, my mom) and she gobbles it up. It's delish!

Something else that will have you saying, "Oishii" (and no, that's not short for "Oh, Shi----". It's Japanese for delicious, you bunch of sailors).

A steaming bowl of udon! It is just a basic beef broth, toss in some mushrooms, thinly-sliced carrots, some lean slivers of beef, and some green onions. Ladle it on top of cooked udon noodles, throw your meat cleaver up in the air, and you're one of them there Japanese chefs!

Another stick-to-your-ribs lunch or dinner, which is crazy easy, is black bean soup.

Now, if you're not a fan of the black bean (Hi, Stacey!) then you'll want to pass this up. If you are, this is a great recipe from my dear friend, Kathy. And take it from me, she KNOWS what's good! Just throw two cans of beans into a crockpot, a cup of chicken broth, one cup of salsa, and the juice from a lime. THAT. IS. IT. Seems too good to be true, I know, but when you smell this simmering away, you'll have to put a combination lock on the lid of your crockpot until it's finished (I know of what I speak). You can put a dollop of sour cream on top and some shredded cheese, if you're feeling daring. If you live in a home with a high census, as I do, you'll need to double this. In addition, make sure your sheets, blankets, and upholstery are not flammable before you take a seat after soup consumption.

And last, but certainly not least, dessert.

I guess this would be a good time to emphasize my INTENSE love of chocolate. I can't remember a day in the last 30 years that I haven't digested chocolate in some form. If you are shocked and horrified, that's a shame. I knew if I was going to be even minimally successful, I'd have to find some alternatives to the triple chocolate cake, dark chocolate truffles, and chocolate peanut butter cookies that served as the base of my food pyramid in the past.

I can't pretend that these are out of this world magnificent. They're not. I can think of probably 50 other forms of chocolate I'd RATHER have. But apparently this whole dieting thing isn't all about ME. There's some greater good I'm supposed to be keeping in mind...something about cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, erectile dysfunction...oh, wait. Never mind the last one. Anyway, I've had to settle for these chocolate muffins in an effort to stave off those not so attractive maladies that come along with packin' on the pounds.

If you are willing to give these babies a try, just stir together a box of low-fat brownie mix and one 14.5 ounce can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, but just PUMPKIN). Spoon them into cupcake liners (I usually get about 16 per batch) and bake for approximately 15 minutes at 350. That's it! If the mention of pumpkin made you recoil, I'll say that you really don't taste it that much. There are definitely hints of it, but it isn't overwhelming.

So that wraps up the latest dispatch from my little corner of the planet. I'm working on my next post, where we'll leave diet-land (you're welcome) and enter the hobby graveyard, a.k.a. my basement "studio". Before joining me, you might want to make sure your affairs are in order and your immunizations are up-to-date.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Dieting isn't as fun as it sounds....

Approaching week seven of my dieting experience, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and observations.

I think one of the first things you realize when you are dieting is how much time you actually spend THINKING about food. I don't know about you, but when I look at the clock, 9 times out of 10 it is to see when my next meal or snack will be. And this society we live in sure isn't doing a SINGLE thing to help me out. Food on every corner, drive-thru access, Food Network on television, covers of magazines with pictures of decadent treats, food courts in malls with people EATING, refrigerators in EVERY home. What the heck? How's a girl supposed to be successful at silencing the hunger when the whole village is shoving all its tasty goodness in your face 24/7?

Of course, there are exceptions to the "tasty goodness". Unfortunately, those exceptions are what I'm supposed to be eating. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of lovely vegetables and filling grains to choose from, but some of the other options just leave me hungry, angry, and asking why. Here are a few that come to mind:

I'd like to first introduce you to this UFO...Unidentified Food Object. It is actually marketed as food, but between you and me, I have my doubts. Here's a flattering photo of what I'm speaking of.

Right about now you are probably wondering if the lack of calories I've been consuming is somehow affecting my brain function. You are thinking, "Surely, she's kidding!" Maybe you are even trying to guess what this REALLY is.

Perhaps a manufactured fire-starter, eliminating the need for kindling and newspaper?

Or is it some sort of new building product, sold in aisle 6 of Home Depot?

Something that was left behind by a square dog?

Alas, my friends, it is a nutritional snack! Who wouldn't want to turn down the sleeve of Oreos or pass by the sack of Doritos when you can have THIS kibble! I mean it even has JOY in the name of it, how bad could it be? (Hint: BAD).

And it's not just the looks of things, it's the texture. I give you Exhibit A, the rice cake.

I shouldn't be selling them short, as I actually "enjoy" (a relative term) the cheddar version. And these babies pull double-duty! You can snack on them AND, in a pinch, use them as packing material for that precious glass ornament you are mailing to Aunt Mildred.

Last but not least in my food rant, the portions. I understand that portion control is a big part of losing weight. Honestly, I never really had a problem with portion control, until I started seeing the portions that the fine folks at Lean Cuisine dish out. Good God, no wonder it's only 4 points...it's only four freakin' bites!

To prove my point, I'd like to document a little experiment. Step into my laboratory...

...or to most of you, a child's play kitchen. You're thinking, why is she showing me this teeny tiny pot on a fake burner, aren't you? Well, I'm going somewhere with this people, if you'll work with me. But I'll warn you, the place I'm going ain't pretty.

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. In that pint-sized pot on that wee little burner is an ENTIRE Lean Cuisine meal. EVERY. BITE.

Now I really don't want to come off as if the only thing I'm drinking on this diet is the HATER-ade, but you can only push a person so far. Apparently week seven is my breaking point, in case you hadn't figured that out.

I'm not giving up though, just venting. And to prove my point, my next post will be from Sweet Stephanie Sunshine (the good twin). I'll be posting some of the more delicious things I've come across on my journey to weight loss. I have a funny feeling it will be a much shorter post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hi, I'm Stephanie....

a.k.a. WW Client #114464029.

Yep, that's me. The little one in the lower portion of the frame is completely innocent (well, at least when it comes to weight gain) and just wanted to be a part of all the picture-taking excitement. Some may believe he is responsible for part of the belly I'm still carrying around, but I'm not here to place blame. You can make your own judgement as to his involvement. (I'll add that he was two weeks late and weighed 9 pounds, but don't let that affect your opinion.)

The repeat offender (me) is back at Weight Watchers. As hard as they try, by switching up their programs and their methods, I keep coming back for more. Sorta like I do with dessert.

What kills me is that it's not like I don't get it. I'm no genius, but I understand that when you take in more than you burn, it becomes part of you. That fettuccine finds a way to your thighs and the dark chocolate and marzipan chocolate bar implants itself directly below your belly button. I get it. But when I'm in the moment, when the food looks and smells incredible, when the kids are fighting, the laundry is piling up, and I've got hours of work ahead of me after I finally wrestle everyone into bed, food is my comfort and my therapist, all wrapped into a calorie-packed bite. The problem comes in when I try to implement this vast knowledge I have of nutrition on my own, with no program. Apparently I'm not so good in the accountability department. I've come to realize that I NEED to pay that $12 to the nice lady behind the scale. I NEED that public humiliation. I NEED to have the little sticker placed in my book saying whether I lost or gained.

I've been riding this roller coaster for a few years now. Having a baby when you're pushing 40 kinda does things to you. I go from being sick and tired of the extra junk in my trunk and doing well, to feeling sorry for myself and making up excuses. Maybe you're familiar with this method of justification. Some of my favorites are, "Well, at least I don't weigh 800 pounds like that lady they had to cut out of her house on the Discovery Health channel!" or "I don't smoke, I don't drink, and I don't do drugs...can't I have SOME enjoyment in life?" or "You know, I HAVE had four kids. What do you expect, me to look like, some sort of a -- wait, what? OctoMom was just on the cover of InTouch in a bikini?" Damn her.

So I'm back at it again, journaling what I eat and tracking my points. Some days it's easy and others it just feels like another chore. Some days I handle it well and think I've got the whole healthy eating thing down pat. Other days, I look at everyone else's plate on the table with an icy stare while I choke down yet another veggie burger.

I really don't have a goal weight in mind yet and, even if I did, I sure as heck wouldn't be sharing it here! I'm not foolish enough to think I'll be knocking anyone off the cover of Maxim, but I just want to feel healthier and make better food choices. I also don't want to keep putting on ten pounds every year, only to find myself having to purchase an entire row of seats on an airplane when I want to travel in my retirement.

Hopefully by this point, you're feeling incredibly sorry for me and are wondering if there's anything you can do to help. Well, I'm glad you asked. If, God forbid, I'm ever the victim of a crime or in a car accident, and you happen to be a witness, I'm counting on you to step OVER my body and grab my PURSE. In the small side zipper compartment is my Weight Watchers booklet. It has my WEIGHT in it...like my REAL weight. Not the weight on my driver's license. It's been verified by the highly accurate scales at Weight Watchers and, I believe, double-checked by that accounting firm that tabulates the votes for the Academy Awards. You, my friend, take that documentation and you RUN. You run for the hills and you bury it. Deep. I'll forgive you for not resuscitating me or applying a tourniquet. What, with medical technology like it is today, chances are good I'll eventually overcome my injuries anyway. And if I had to do so wondering if anyone saw my poundage, I just might not have it in me to fight.

I know I can count on you.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pop Quiz!

Everyone please take out a blank piece of paper and pencil. Okay, you don't actually need a paper or pencil for this pop quiz, but I'd like you to look at the picture above and tell me what you think it is a price tag for. (I'm sure many of you have recognized it is a product sold in Target.)

It's $14.99, so I guess that means it could be a number of things. Maybe a DVD on sale? A children's board game? A cookbook? Even a cheap pair of summer sandals could be had in Target for $14.99. Have you made your prediction? Well, hold on to your drawers because THIS, my dear friends, is a tag for PAPER TOWELS. BOUNTY paper towels, to be specific.

Does the answer seem as alarming and ridiculous to you as it does to me? It's CRAZY! I mean, you use them and throw them away (which also applies to my disgust at the cost of garbage bags, but that's another battle for another day). And did you notice they were on SALE? The regular price was $17.99! And if your family is anything like my family (and for your sake, I hope they're not) they use the Quicker-Picker-Upper faster than you can say Quicker-Picker-Upper. It's ridiculous. And the insanity is going to stop right here and right now.

Although I do drive a car and don't buy all organic, I have become much more mindful of what we are doing to our one and only Mother Earth. I've got four little freeloaders, I mean children, that are going to inherit these landfills, so I feel like I could do a little more to keep the planet healthy. Not to mention the savings I'm hoping to see by just consuming less.

So without further ado...Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you (drumroll) the cloth napkin.

When you get back up off of the floor and stop laughing, I'll tell you that I realize most people will think I'm completely delusional to bring back the cloth napkin. (I'll share that I did try to bring the "sexy back" awhile ago. I'm hoping my venture to bring the "cloth back" is much more successful and a bit less embarrassing.) I know that kids and cloth napkins don't necessarily seem like a good match, but I am really hoping to instill a little bit of environmental consciousness in them and maybe, just maybe, teach the little savages about some of the finer things in life.

As you can see, I've also invested in some new color-coded washcloths for kitchen clean-ups. Don't get me wrong, I am not banishing paper towels all together from the home. I do draw the line at cleaning up dog and/or people vomit with cloth....I'm just not willing to go there. But I do think we can cut back dramatically on our paper waste. And with as much laundry as I do, I don't think I'm going to see a big difference. These items are small and I can toss them right in with the towels.

So there you have my first installment in my quest for "LESS". I'd love to hear your environmentally friendly ideas as well!

Oh...and lest you wonder, I will say that, yes, I'm still buying toilet paper.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I've never been athletic...so I guess I'm an athletic supporter.


As far back as I can remember, I've NEVER been athletic. I mean, I took tennis lessons when I was younger, played kickball in the street, but when it came to REAL sports, it just wasn't for me. I'm sure it doesn't help that I'm really not competitive and am definitely not aggressive. I remember going into gym class at Riverside Elementary and breaking out into a cold sweat when I saw the dreaded rope hanging from the ceiling that we were expected to climb. And of course I always ended up in line behind the person who was part monkey and would make it nearly to the ceiling. Figures. I get up there, place my hands on the rope as high as they would go, pull with all my might, and would move about 3.2 inches. And just when I was getting my rope climbing groove on, I'd hear the gym teacher yell, "NEXT!".

Fast forward to middle school, where my gym experiences caused further nausea and vomiting. Our gym teachers would design units that were approximately four weeks and you could pick between three different choices of what you'd like to do. We'd all line up against the wall, wearing those dreadful polyester blue shorts that gave you a permanent wedgie, and wait to hear our name called. You'd have to tell them your first and second choice out loud. Some of the kids had a hard time picking between the three because they LOVED all the choices. Yeah, whatever. Just give me some line dancing. Is that too much to ask? I've got braces and a zit on my forehead and now you're going to make me run up and down a field with a Velcro belt around my waist to play flag football? I don't think so.

Our middle school was even "blessed" to have an indoor swimming pool! Woohoo! I will say that I did fine in swimming and actually preferred it to other sports they offered, but the after effects of having swimming at 10 a.m. were not attractive. You spent all this time primping in the morning, only to dive into a pool and spend the rest of the day with your hair stuck to your head. Not to mention those humid, moldy locker rooms. You'd have to peel off your bathing suit, dry off, put your bra on, and try not to drop your drawers into the inch of water pooled on the floor. I think that portion of the class taught me more coordination and balance than any other instruction they gave.

I guess the closest I got to athleticism was my cheerleading stint in high school. I know some people consider cheerleading a sport, but let's be honest, most people think it's not. Including me. At least not back in the day when I cheered. Yeah, we practiced. Yeah, we went to cheerleading camp in the 100 degree heat. Yeah, we withstood freezing temperatures wearing nothing from the waist down but bloomers and a mini-skirt, but I just don't see it as being the same as a "sport". It was too fun to be a sport. Decorating the boys' lockers for a home game, painting signs for pep rallies, getting yelled at on the bus by the football players because we were talking and they were trying to "concentrate". I call that a good time.

So on this play-off day for the Ravens, I'll probably watch a few minutes, but mostly I'll be doing what I do best. Supporting my team from the kitchen. I've made a huge pot of chicken fettuccine Alfredo and some purple cupcakes. And you never know, perhaps one day I'll learn more about penetration in the end zone....or maybe I'll learn about football.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is it just me?

And so it begins. My blog. In all honesty, I probably need to be blogging like I need a hole in the head, but Facebook has reconnected me with so many great friends from days gone by and it's been REALLY fun. I have loved having them be a part of my everyday. Being a work-at-home mom sometimes means you are pretty secluded, but Facebook saved me from taking the next step as a shut-in, which obviously would have been my becoming a recipient of Meals on Wheels. It really was getting that bad. Don't judge.

So what will this blog be about, you ask? I guess the short answer is, "I don't know." That's also the long answer, by the way. I'll share my photos, my recipes, fun stuff, and, because I'm a court reporter, the stories from the ugly underbelly of our legal system. I guess it's a good thing that I have the ability to laugh at just about anything, because you need it in this career. But mostly I guess I'll just spout off my thoughts on life. Life as a mother of four, life as a wife, life as a middle-aged woman in suburbia. And that, my friends, is a segue way into my first topic. Being a middle-aged woman in the year 2010.

Is it just me or do you sometimes feel that we got the shaft from that whole lets-burn-our-bras-equal-rights-movement? Don't get me wrong, I wholly believe that women deserve equal rights, equal pay (which we're STILL waiting for), yadda, yadda, yadda, but somewhere along the way I kinda feel like we got SCREWED. My theory was confirmed after my past birthday. I'm very grateful for my gifts, but they highlighted, in my mind, the demands that we all seem to be facing. Let me explain.

I got three gift cards for my birthday. I love gift cards. You use it and it's gone. It's not some dust collector that you move from shelf to shelf for the next three years because you don't have the heart to throw it away. I got a gift card from Ikea (LOVE!), a gift card from Williams-Sonoma (ALSO LOVE), and a gift card from Victoria's Secret (LOVE not so much after 40). It hit home with me that I am supposed to make a lovely home, cook delicious, healthy meals, all while wearing a thong and sporting voluptuous cleavage. Good God, do the demands EVER end?

Here are some of the thoughts that run around my head on a daily basis. It's kind of like a verbal to-do list that you can never complete and that speaks in a condescending tone. Enjoy it with me, won't you?

- We've got to be educated, devoted, sympathetic, and creative mothers.
- We have to make all meals homemade and healthy.
- We've got to be there for our friends and make ourselves available for "girl time".
- Don't forget the housework! I mean, you don't want your house to look like the houses they break into on "COPS" do you?
- What about exercise? If you want to look great and stay healthy, you'd better
fit a workout once or twice a year. Unless you're just a lazy blob and want to die sitting on the couch with the remote in your hand. Or, even worse, while sitting on the toilet.
- And when you're done cooking, be sure you recycle all that trash. And why don't you start
a compost pile? What, do you hate the earth?
- And if you were a REALLY good parent, you'd check Edline EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
- Once you've checked those Edline grades, you'll be helping with more homework. You'll have plenty of time to do the homework after you run out to the compost pile and before you ....
- DO THE LAUNDRY. It's not like you have to go down to the river and beat the clothes on rocks. Sheesh. Live like Nike and "just do it".
- And don't forget to check your email when you've removed your head from the dryer. The personal email, the work email, the email that shows kittens sitting in tea cups. If you don't keep up with these things, you'll never know that someone in Nigeria is trying to send you a million dollars.
- And speaking of a million dollars, have you done your online banking lately? If your family has grown accustomed to electricity and water, you might want to get to that.
- I'm not one to gossip, but a few of the PTA ladies noticed that you didn't sign up to bake anything for Teacher Appreciation. They think you don't like teachers.
- And what about your "wifely" duties? You know if you don't keep your man happy, someone else will. At least that's what that cheatin' husband on Dr. Phil said. Make your appointment for your Brazilian wax, tuck your ankles behind your ears, and take one for the team.
- Speaking of the team, why aren't you coaching any sports this season?
- Since you're not a coach, maybe you can carpool the kids to practice and games. Of course, you'd better drop off those six bags in your car to Goodwill before you pick up those six kids for soccer. And clean out the cup holders. They're gross.

I'm pretty sure you can see where I'm going with this. And it only gets worse once I get out of bed in the morning. Do you feel frazzled, too? Do you feel like you're always juggling? Did the women's movement keep the same items on our plate and just pile another 60 more like I do at a bad buffet? Tell it to me straight.