Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice???

Throughout most of my childhood, I dreamed of my future children.  I wondered what they would look like, what their likes and dislikes would be, what their names would be, if they'd like me, if they'd like brussel sprouts (I HATE brussel sprouts, so I always thought it would be weird to have kids who actually did like them), if they'd be smart, what they'd grow up to be like...  I spent a lot of time contemplating my future hypothetical children.  And like most little girls, I imagined I'd have girls.  Why does it work out that most girls want girls, and most boys want boys???

I even practiced my mommy skills.  I dutifully cared for my stuffed animals and barbies.  I saw to their every need; I mended boo boos, bathed them (my mom was soooo less than thrilled at me washing my stuffed animals in the bathtub, then dripping water from the bathroom to my playroom, where I invariably seemed to leave the towels), fixed their hair/fur, fed them, read to them, did all the mommy things that needed to be done.  I even doctored them.  Growing up I had two uncles who were doctors and only too happy to send me care packages of doctorly things for me to play with.  My barbies and animals all got very regular care.  I performed all manor of medical procedures for them.  Mr. Badger's recovery from his hysterectomy was a little touch and go, but he pulled through just fine.

In short, by the time I got around to being a mommy, I was already an expert.

Except that I didn't end up with my imaginary hypothetical children.

My first born was a boy.  Despite the fact that I'd gone shopping for all manner of girl attire for him.  I'd bought countless dresses and pink, frilly blankets, little pink shoes, and hair doohickeys.  Then, of course, he turned out to be a he.  I wasn't at all bitter when I returned and exchanged all the girly stuff.  No matter, I'm pretty found of my son, anyway.

Next came my Hope.  Huzzah, a girl!  Only, I started to realize from a very early age that she wasn't like any little girl I'd ever met.  She's 16 now, and I've spent the last 15 years trying to remind her that's she's a girl.  This isn't at all how I imagined being a mother to a little girl was going to go.  First off, she repels all attire that bears any semblance to anything girly.  She likes playing in the mud.  She likes playing football (and has a rather impressive spiral!) and camping and fishing.  Admittedly she probably got those three from me, but that's not important.  She wrestled.  She wrestled rather well.  I was actually fairly impressed with her wrestling.  Until her wrestling career ended when her older brother broke her arm trying to wrestle her.  She has short hair.  No, no, she has short hair!  And its once naturally beautiful blond has been dyed black.  We met Julie Newmar at Comic Con a couple of years back and the lovely Ms. Newmar complimented Hope on her beautiful blond locks.  I died a little bit.  I love Julie Newmar.  Julie Newmar didn't comment on my hair.  Anyway, she dyed that lovely blond to black.  My imaginary child would have left the Julie Newmar complimented hair the fuck alone!

This isn't exactly the girl child I had imagined.  So, reality and the imagined expectation of reality aren't quite the same.  Shocking, right?

But, she's strong.  The kind of strength that must have been apparent when you met Rosa Parks or Joan of Arc.  She's so beautiful.  She's smart and quick witted.  She loves books and has an appreciation for all things musical and dramatic.  She wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.  She's ever so sassy.  She's good and compassionate and caring and empathetic.

These are things I definitely imagined my child would be.  I guess I can live with not being able to put her in a dress, in exchange for her being able to put to shame any boy with her throwing arm.

Next came another boy.  I was prepared for it this time.  I knew better than to even allow myself to believe I'd be the mother of two girls.  I'm pretty fond of this guy, too, so it worked out pretty well.

My last, my baby girl, was not at all what I was expecting.  For starters, I was entirely convinced she would be a boy.  I was so convinced she was going to be a boy that I made a bet of sorts with my then husband.  We made a deal that if she was a boy that I'd get to name her, but if she was a she, he'd get to name her.  I am no longer a betting person...

My Rosebud is something else.  She's scary mean when she's mad.  No, ha ha, she's really scary!  We're ALL pretty scared of her when she's mad.  She can whoop the snot out of my 16 year old, and she's only 11, and the 16 year old has about 50 pounds on her.  She's teeny tiny and has fists of fury.  She reminds me of Taz when she gets all worked up.  She doesn't like scarey movies.  She's probably the single messiest person in the house.  She has to be constantly reminded to brush her hair.  Like, multiple times a day.  She wants to be an actress when she grows up.  She's a bit of a hard core people pleaser.  Abignation hard core (if you get that, I love you).

However, my Rosebud is everything girly.  She's girly enough for both of my daughters.  She's girly enough for 10 average girls.  At least 10.  In fact, she's so girly that she actually might out girl me.  And that's really saying something.  My room looks like it belongs to a 12 year old girl.  Or Anne Shirley.  I actually have an Anne Shirley doll in my room.  She's one of my most prized possessions and I love her.  She sits on my dresser next to an old fashioned looking (girly) bear.  She keeps Anne company.

Sorry, I digress.

She's pretty damned girly.  If there was an award for being girly, she'd probably win it.  She loves pink.  And purple.  And nail polish and perfume and makeup and accessories and dresses.  She's also caring and compassionate and she's a helper.  She's gorgeous.  She loves to read and dance and sing and act.  She's as sharp as a tack.  She likes to do girly activities and she can be dainty.  She's very polite and sweet and can be quiet and demure.

I say "can be" because she's not always, she is part me, after all.

So I didn't exactly get the children I had imagined all those years ago, I still think I won the offspring jackpot.  I've seen/met some other people's kids, I could've done soooooo much worse!

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Book Bucket List

Growing up, my mother tried to expose me to as much of the world as possible.  I've been to plays, musicals, and live performances of all kinds.  I've been exposed to music of all kinds.  Dad loved all things old timey country music, which explains my love of Johnny Cash, while mom was a total Elvis and Streisand fan.  I've met all sorts of people.  We traveled a lot when I was a kid.  As a result I've visited 49 of the 50 states (Alaska remains the last state left to visit), been to the Bahamas, Canada, and Mexico.  I've seen and experienced quite a lot in my lifetime.

But for the most part, my worldly exploration would take place from the comfort of my own home, in the form of books.

While my parents wanted me to see and live as much as possible, they also wanted me to be able to visit these places without having to leave my own room.  My mom was usually only too happy to enable and feed my book addiction.  As a result, I was a pretty well read kid.  I liked everything from L.M. Montgomery to Stephen King.  I didn't (and still don't) have a favorite genre.  I'd read anything that was put in front of me.  I'd even go so far as to read the cereal boxes, since books weren't allowed at the table.  As a kid I was a smaller, female version of the character Henry Bemis from the Twilight Zone (btw, if you get that reference, you're tops in my book!).

My best friend, Tammi, and I have spent some time discussing things we'd like to read before we die.  A bucket list of books.  A booket list.  There are a lot of books that I'd love to read and I've been doing some research about what should be on my to do list.  I recently found a list of 100 books to read before you die, and I feel pretty good about it.  If I counted right, I've read 18 of the books on this list.  Not too shabby.  I've started a few and failed to finish (have any of  you ever tried to read a badly translated copy of Anna Karenina????), but didn't count those.  I like this list, it seems pretty well rounded.

What I really wanted to talk about are some of the books I've read that have influenced my life in some way and have found a permanent home on my book shelves, both the wooden variety and the cloud variety.

I've sort of separated them into three different stages of my life: when I was young (preteen), teen years through twenties, and my "grown up" years.

Those that most influenced my life as a child, and still haven't left me after all these years, include:

  • Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McClosky - just a truly beautiful children's book!  I still have a super old copy that was mine as a kid.  It's a much loved book!
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl - this is quite possibly my most favorite book of all time.  I loved it as a kid, and I love it still today.  Every time I wanted to escape my horribly mean and unreasonable mother life, I found James and we escaped to the peach with Ladybug and Miss Spider.  Always a good read!
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks - I loved trying to anticipate what kind of trouble Omri was going to get into with his cupboard.  None of my cupboards were remarkable.  Not a single barbie was brought to life.  Ever.
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - arguably my second favorite book of all time.  It's a contender for first, it was a close call.  I still have a stuffed badger doll (named Mr. Badger, of course).  I have an affinity for talking animals.  And also toads.
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I grew up in California near a little school house that always reminded me of Little House.  I wanted so badly to be Laura.  
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien - might be a close third.  I love this one so much that I've read it with all of my kiddos.  I remember reading it with my mom and just couldn't wait to read what happened next.  I was so worried that Timothy wouldn't make it.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - what little girl didn't want to find a secret garden?!?!?  Mary seemed like a bit of a spoiled ass biotch, but c'mon, of course I wanted to go with her to find the garden!
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery - oh Anne, Anne, Anne.  What's not to love about Anne Shirley???  I've read this book so many times I feel like I know Anne personally.  I think every girl ever should read this book.  So  much love for that carrot headed girl.
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls - another one I've read with all my kiddos.  This one calls forth a real range of emotions  Admittedly, the last time we read it, I had to keep pausing my reading so I could ugly cry.  We read it aloud and at the end, when Billy buries Old Dan and Little Ann loses her will to live...well, it wasn't pretty.
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - two sort of loners who create a beautifully imagined world to escape to...yeah, I could totes relate.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by  Madeleine L'Engle - this is really a remarkably well written children's sci-fi book.  I loved reading about Meg and the tesseract.

During my teens and twenties, these were the books that were making an impact:

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell - we are all pigs.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding - I have never been terribly afraid of monsters or demons or ghosts or boogie men.  I fear humans.  This book here is a good example of why.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I've read this book so many times I have to buy new copies because the old ones fall apart.  I'm so in love with Katie Scarlett O'Hara.  She's so feisty and headstrong and stubborn and driven.  A woman who is used to getting her way.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - I love visiting with Jem, Scout, Atticus and Boo Radley.  Such a great read!
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - "It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done."  Might be my favorite line ever.  Probably not the easiest read, but so worth it!
  • Needful Things by Stephen King - this book just says so much about the human condition.  We are greedy and selfish and quite often very ugly.  Well done Mr. King, well done.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - really a depressing read, but paints quite the picture about a time in history where life was hard and grim.  My grandmother once recounted to me her life during the depression.  Lots of hardship and struggle.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I still remember with vivid clarity the first time I read about the rather gruesome scene of the woman being hit by a car.  Loved Daisy. 
  • Cujo by Stephen King - this book terrified me.  I'm always afraid of being trapped in my car by a big rabid dog, anytime I go down a dirt driveway.  It's a silly irrational fear, I know.  But it's a fear I still have now.  Thank you Stephen King.

Now, as an adult, these are some of the books that I've loved most:

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I'm so jealous of Harry.  The whole constantly fighting for his life thing aside, he led a pretty magical life!
  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley - like I previously stated, I love Katie Scarlett.  I just had to read (and re read) this book.  Not quite as Margaret Mitchell as Margaret Mitchell, but it'll do.
  • Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I love these two books.  I took British Literature in high school and that's when I fell in love with Ms. Austen.
  • The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz - there is something about this short order cook that I just love.  He's so sweet and pure and oh so loveable.  I'm always dying to find out what kind of trouble my odd one is going to get into next.
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - really kinda gave me something to think about.  I'm not religious or terribly spiritual, but this book spoke to me.
  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins - I volunteer as tribute.  'Nough said.
  • The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis - sadly the only Narnia story I've read, to date.  Not sure if I should've started here or not, but I did.  Great read!
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - the only book I've read in this series, but it was so effing good!
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - nasty teenaged asshole kings, a dragon tending chick, a crippled kid, and Hodor.  Need I say more???

At this point I feel my list may be getting a tad bit out of control.  However, I'm not wrong, these books are amazing!

Books have long been an escape from my world to another reality.  Books take me to places I've never seen.  Books allow me to meet new people.  Books teach me about things I previously knew nothing about.  Books are my companion on long trips and have seen me through many a sleepless night.  Books are an invaluable resource we should be sharing, freely.  Books are my friend!

What books have influenced your life?  What books can you not live without?  What is your absolute most favorite book ever???

Go lose yourself in a good book!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Stairway to Heaven. Except, not.

So, I recently talked about some of the things I've done on my weight loss journey.  I've literally tried a million different ways to lose this bit of extra me.  But sometimes life has a way of kicking our asses, and motivation (for whatever reason) to keep trying and keeping fighting gets lost.

It's not easy changing your life.  And truly, any weight loss journey is about changing your life.  You need to commit to the journey and it takes a certain level of serious effort.  This isn't one of those passive hobbies you just sort of pick up and work on every now and again.  It's something that demands daily attention and effort.

My best friend, Tammi, and I have tried a lot.  We got gym memberships and spent damn near every day at the gym.  We did a little bit of everything at the gym.  We did the treadmill, the 30 minute room (dear God, that was no joke!), the weight machines, the bikes, the elliptical machines (ok, so we didn't do those very often, they really hurt!)...We basically tried to incorporate the entire gym into our workout routine.  We were killing it at the gym.  Crushing it.  Just not enough to be happy with our weight loss progress.

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure we're still getting charged for the gym, actually...

Next, we moved onto doing things like the squat challenge and the plank challenge, etc.  There were more than a few times when I wanted to kill Tammi, every time I heard her say "I found a new challenge!"  Some of these challenges are downright mean!  We twisted and contorted our bodies and pushed them to do things we hadn't previously imagined our bodies capable of.  And held it for long periods of time.  But, we were still left unfulfilled with our progress.

The ones I can do, and the ones I can't do.
I've tried doing yoga.  I actually find yoga to be quite nice.  I enjoy the stretching and trying to find my center and using my core.  I have HORRIBLE balance.  Dude, seriously, it's bad.  When I did my first (aptly named) awkward pose, I couldn't lift onto my toes without falling over.  It was a sad, sad sight.  I still can't quite breath through the half moon.  And you'd better give me a wide birth when I do the balancing stick pose.  My favorite is the warrior pose.  Not sure why, it just is.  But I still feel like it's just not enough.

We've tried walking and hiking and we've found that we really like hiking.  We get outside, soak up some vitamin D, connect with nature, and get to enjoy some really beautiful scenery!  Even when our hikes have gone horribly wrong (and some of them really have), we still end up having the time of our lives.

So  many effing stairs.
Last summer (back when we were still hiking noobs and didn't know wtf we were doing) we got it into our heads to climb the Manitou Springs Incline.  I'm still not entirely sure how we managed to survive this beast, and not just once, but twice.  Now, before I let  you get too terribly impressed with just how awesome we are (and we are), I feel I should mention that we only made it about 2/3 of the way up.  We left the stairs at the "bailout" and were quite happy to have made it that far!

The incline was/is a true test of strength.  I don't mean just physical strength, it's also a test of mental strength.   We had to endure quite a bit to get up this beast.  There are numerous points where we each wanted to give up.  Instead we cheered each other on and encouraged each other to propel ourselves further and further up the stairs.  I know there are probably a few people who would say "it's easy, I've done it in 30 mintues..."  To that I say, can you do it with an extra hundred pounds on your back???  No?  Well, I did!  That's right, I did this when I was still about 100 pounds overweight.  It hurt so bad I wanted to die.  Every inch of my being was screaming at me to stop.  I don't know what my driving force was those two days.  Could have been the desire to finish something I started.  Could've been I was too stubborn to call it quits.  Might have been that someone didn't think I even could and I needed to prove them wrong.  Maybe it was a need to say that I did it, even though I was sure I couldn't.

It took us just under three hours to make our treks.  I want to be sad that our time wasn't better.  I want to be sad that we didn't make it all the way to the top.  I want to be sad that there were people twice my age on the incline who passed us as we climbed, then passed us a second time as they made a second ascent.  I want to say I'm sad that I cried at a couple of points going up.

I want to be sad at all the shortcomings, but it's hard to be sad when you reach that "bailout" point and look down and see just how far you've come.
Couple of smug bitches.
We are total bad asses.  I'm so proud of us.  We've come a long way since we started.  We plan to keep going until we are standing on the top of this mountain, queens of the mother fucking world!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ch ch ch changes...

First off, if you didn't sing that title in your head in your best David Bowie voice, then you didn't read it right.  Try again.

I learned long ago that I am not the same person I was when I was 20.  I'm not the same person I was at 30.  Hell, in many ways, I'm not even the same person I was a year ago.

Life has a way of changing us.  Those of us who are paying attention and who are receptive of the changes, that is.  Some people are quite content staying the same.  Some people fear change.  Me, I embrace it.  Some changes are made consciously, some are born of necessity.  Life is constantly evolving and I'm just doing my best to keep up!

I recently long ago decided I needed to make some changes in my life.  I recently started making an effort to make these changes.

My ex husband could never understand my obsession with tattoos.  He was convinced I must have some ulterior motive for getting so many...surely I must be trying to impress someone.  I tried in vain to make him understand that the only person I was getting them for was me.  Nothing I do to my person is for another living soul.  My body is mine and mine alone and I would NEVER make a permanent change to it for another person.  My tattoos are an expression of who I am, worn on my body as a reminder to ME of who I am, where I've been, and things that I hold dear.

Along those same lines, I don't wear make-up to look good for someone else.  I don't dye my hair, buy certain clothes, pluck my eyebrows, shave my legs, exercise for ANYONE but me.

I've spent a good portion of my life trying to impress other people: my parents, my husband(s), my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my dog walker's second cousin... But, as the years came and went, it began to dawn on me that the only person I needed to impress, was me.

I am the only person I need to impress. 

That bears repeating...I am the only person I need to impress.

To that end, I've been doing some serious soul searching and have started making some changes that I hope will impress me.

For starters, I've finally convinced myself that I am in fact important.  I am not second class and need to stop treating myself as such.  I don't EVER cook for myself when my kids go spend the weekend with their dad.  I've started doing so.  Not always.  Not even often.  But enough that I actually feel good about it and enjoyed it.  I don't often spend that kind of time doing something "just" for me. 

I've also started pruning my circle.  I've eliminated some of those whose negativity/drama/whining/life sucking ways were dragging me/keeping me down.  Their presence is missed.  I miss the good times we had, but that's about it. 

I've also stopped letting myself feel so much fucking guilt.  I was holding onto so much guilt that it was tearing me apart.  I was holding onto guilt for things that I probably, in all honestly, shouldn't have been feeling guilty for in the first place. 

I stopped allowing myself to be manipulatedI stopped allowing myself to be manipulated quite so easily.  I'm aware of the manipulation, and I'm working on not being such a pushover. 

I've been working on my parenting techniques.  Because, you know, parenting is the single hardest job a person could ever have.  And the kids don't often assist with making it any easier.  At least not the teenaged ones.  I've given punishment a total reboot.  My kids absolutely hate it.  Just means I found a keeper! :-)

I rearranged my bedroom, moving my desk to the dining room.  Doesn't sound like a huge deal, but it kind of is.  I was spending too much time at my desk, in my room, isolated.  Time to re acclimate myself to civilization.

And one of the changes I'm most proud of, I've given up a great deal of my more deadly vices.  Yes, I'm a quitter.  And I'm not even ashamed.  About 9 months ago I quit smoking.  I've flirted with quitting, off and on, over the last few years.  I quit in October and haven't looked back.  I honestly don't even miss it.  I gave up drinking.  I don't drink often.  Having a progressive allergy to alcohol tends to kill the urge for it.  Just a tad.  And the one that I'm most proud of, I've given up soda.  It's been 13 days since my last Coke.  And wouldn't you know, I've been finding Coke bottles ALL OVER with my name on it.  Spelled correctly, even.  I spent the bulk of my life not having a key chain or vanity plate with my name on it, because my parents thought it would be nifty to give me an (at the time) uncommon name.  They certainly nailed that one...

I've been a devout soda drinking for about 25 years now.  That's longer than either of my marriages, combined.  Longer than my oldest kid has been on this planet.  To say it's been a difficult split is putting it mildly.  I tried, in vain, several times before to quit.  I quit quitting.  Caffeine was definitely my own personal form of heroine.  It actually took me two solid months to wean myself off.  My final push to quit came when my youngest son's doctor thought his mood disorder was being affected by his caffeine intake.  Now, I'm not a drug dealer/pusher.  I don't buy soda for my kids (except as a once in a while sort of treat), I just use it myself...  Hearing the doctor say that caffeine affects our mood, and greatly, was all I needed to hear to make that final sprint to the finish line, and quit. 

It's been 13 days.  I don't miss it one little bit.  I miss it every day.  At first I missed it nearly every minute of every day.  But, now, it's getting easier.

Since quitting, my stomach doesn't hurt nearly as often as it did before.  I'm not so irritable when I wake up in the morning (those of you who had to work early 5 am shifts with me, well, you can appreciate this most).  I'm actually able to sleep more (still not at night, though).  I don't have near daily headaches.  And (this is the best one!) I've started losing weight.  So far, I've lost about 10 pounds.  Not a huge deal, 10 pounds.  But 10 pounds in 13 days, is. 

I've literally spent years trying new fad exercises, new routines, got gym memberships, tried the South Beach Diet, thought about purging, climbed 2/3 of the Manitou Incline (will have to blog about that another time), walked, hiked, yoga'd, changed how/what I eat, and generally done damn near anything else I could think of.  None of it did anything like this.

My heaviest weight was 290.  I'm now down to 235.  I'd gotten it down to about 230, but with the inactivity of not working, I put a little back on.

What can I say???  I'm flawed, I'm  human.  But, I'm an impressive human!

I'm finally starting to impress myself.  Huzzah. 

I've basically decided to rewrite my own story.  I'm changing everything I don't like, throwing it all out.  Now, I'm deciding what to let in, and what to keep out.

I've still got a long way to go before I sleep, but I'm getting there.  I'm not done changing just yet.  I'm starting to impress myself.  But I'm not fully impressed, just yet.