Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fitness philosophy (resolving not to kill myself working out)

I started to write "I hate to exercise," but that is not true, really.

What I hate is working out in a gym or my basement and using a machine and/or tools that were invented for the sole purpose of exercising.  I do not get into a "zone" from this.  I listen to music and mostly suffer through excruciating boredom.

I pay $14.99 a month for a gym membership and use it about 2-3 times a month.

It occurred to me, in the early fall when I was spending about 83% of my life up at the kids' elementary school weeding and planting flowers and laying weed-block fabric and spreading mulch, that anyone who pays for a gym membership but does NOT do their own yard work might not be hitting on all cylinders.

A few years ago I dug a trench in my backyard to put in a French drainage tile.  I basically walked less than 3 feet to dig the dirt and dump it nearby.  But I walked less than 3 feet about 4,000 times and ended up showing something like 2.5 miles walked on my Fitbit.

My yard is only .25 acre, but when I traipse back and forth across it pushing the lawnmower it adds up to quite a bit of mileage.

And housework....that is good exercise, too.

I don't understand paying someone to clean one's house and then paying for a gym membership, either.  Vacuuming all 3 levels in my house in one day, including carrying the vacuum up and down two flights of steps is a workout.  Or moving furniture and mopping the first floor???  I sweat a lot more doing this than I ever do at the gym.

My mindset has changed a lot in the past few years about fitness.  For a few years, I was trying to get a nicer body, especially after having M in 2009.....flatten my abs, mostly.  But then I used a trainer who is a female in her 50s, and she helped me recognize that fitness isn't just being able to benchpress 200 lbs.  Fitness, especially as a person ages, must involve balance and stability.  As a person ages, if she falls, it can be devastating to her overall health.

Plus, what I've realized is that I can workout like crazy to have flat abs, but my body is still going to age.  I can have the abs I want, but I'm still going to have wrinkles and not look like a 25-year-old.  My breasts are going to sag without surgical intervention.  I am going to have that weird flabby flap between my arm and armpit (right at the bra line) when my arms are at my side.

This acknowledgment has helped me rethink how much time and energy I want to spend on trying to make myself look 20 years younger. I'm at the point where I'm pretty happy if my triglycerides and cholesterol are good and my A1C is in a healthy range.  If I can get enough exercise to keep those in check, then that is good enough for me.

I look at my mother as an example of fitness.  She walks 2 miles or more every day, preferably outside since treadmills are boring (her words, not mine).   I think she has started using some small 2 lb weights in the past year.  She is 77 years old and looks really darn good, I think.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The love affair with Geronimo Stilton

It is interesting to me to see the kids' tastes develop as readers.

As new readers, neither N nor G stuck with The Magic Treehouse series for very long, although they both enjoyed them for a time (this was kind of a bummer to me because I rather enjoyed them.)

N was big into Junie B. Jones in early elementary (and I enjoyed Junie's wit and mouth, although I probably would not had those words been coming out of my actual child's mouth).  She dabbled in the Puppy Place series and Thea Stilton, but nothing really stuck.  I threw Newbury winners at her (and still do) and even though she fought me (and still does), she was (and is) always crazy about the book by the time she got a chapter or two in.

G has been on a Geronimo Stilton reading kick this school year.

Since school began he has read these:
#3 Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House
#6 Paws Off, Cheddarface!
#14 The Temple of the Ruby of Fire
#18 Shipwreck on the Pirate Islands
#46 The Haunted Castle

He sorta fought reading chapter books, so I am very happy he has taken to these books and continues checking them out.  He is a big fantasy, mystical creature lover so when he saw these mentioned in the back of one of the other books, he was very keen to read them.  I hightailed it to the local Scholastic warehouse sale and bought him the three in this series that I could find.

This is the one he is reading now.  It is a little like The Fellowship of the Ring.  There is a giant, the king of the fairies (who appears as a deer) and Puss in Boots.  D and I take turns having G read to us at night, so I can't follow the story much more closely than that.

These are the other two he will read.

We sent in for a special "gift" from Geronimo and got this back.  G was pretty excited to get it and specifically mentioned that Geronimo says writing stories isn't as hard as you think.  

One of the things I like about these books is the way some of the words are highlighted, colored, or in unusual fonts.  Not all of the words are big or difficult or mean anything particularly helpful, but some are/do.  If nothing else, the unusual lettering makes the reader pay attention because the word might be important.  Or it might just be cool the way the font mimics what the word is, like "frozen" is done in white/blue and looks like ice.  

G is enough of a vested reader that he has asked me to define a number of words that he has read in the Geronimo books, which is a good sign, I think.  He cares enough and/or is paying attention enough to want to know.  

So until it ends, the love affair will continue....

Thursday, December 24, 2015

As close as I'm ever gonna get to doing Pinterest-y, elf-on-the-shelfy stuff

I mucho disliko Christmas.

I dislike the clutter of putting up and then taking down decorations within a month's time.  I dislike abhor the shopping.  I dislike the fretting over whether my children will be satisfied with what Santa brings them.  I dislike the busyness.  I dislike feeling like I have to make every second of the season so special.

As a result of these feelings, I do not engage in any type of Christmas tomfoolery.

Though I wish G didn't have anxiety, at Christmas I am happy for it because he is terrified of the elf-on-the-shelf.  He thinks they are weird and creepy and would throw an absolute duck-fit if I even considered bringing one into our house.

This is a win-win for me because I don't want to spend money on one, and I definitely don't want to have to think up activities for the elf that involve additional clutter and mess-making.  Some moms have gotten to the point where the elf has a broken leg and can't move.  I suspect my rage would somehow land the elf with a butter knife shoved in his gut.

However, this year, G set me a task that I did feel like I needed to address in a somewhat creative way.

He and his siblings wrote letters to Santa, which are answered by our local township/city, but he had included a very specific question in his letter.  The fine folks who respond to the hundreds, and maybe even thousands of letters from kids, do not have the time, money, or patience to answer my son's specific question.

So I did.

Here was his question to Santa:

And here is how Santa responded:

Writing creatively while sitting on my butt....I can do.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Into a fold, even if it's not the original fold

Many of my posts seem to begin with "I just finished reading....." and then I write about how the book relates to my life.  I'll do that later.

This one begins with....

My mom told me that the local Catholic church is having a "return to the fold"-type effort, whereby they ask attending members to give the names/contact info for Catholics in exile (that is my term, not theirs).  Fortunately, my mom has the good sense to not give my name.  

Had she given my name, I would have been ticked off for a variety of reasons.  First, I know where to find churches, so if I wanted to return to the Catholic fold, I know exactly where to go.  Secondly, this effort is just too much in the way of "telemarketing."  Thirdly, I tend to me very much middle-school oriented:  if I am going to do anything, it is going to be my own decision, not at the urging of anyone else.  I hate to feel guilted, cajoled, or forced into doing anything, which is why evangelization just drives me bonkers.  

At the same time, I wouldn't have been mad at her, really.  I suspect that even though she is glad I attend a Christian church however randomly, there is some level of feeling rejected.  The feeling that what she and my dad gave me as in infant, the community of Catholics, isn't good enough, isn't something I want.  I get that.  That is a normal parent experience....

(and here is where I segue to a book I've read.....)

I finished reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and it simply devastated me, as both a child and a parent.  

When I think back to my earlier years, attending church and bitching about it the entire time, I suspect my parents knew that I would eventually do my own thing.  The older I got, the more "black sheepish" I became.  I seem to recall questioning the role of women and the dictates of the Catholic church, what I considered the narrowness of the dogma.  I didn't like the guilt associated with church, nor did I like the "have-tos."  Perhaps this is what drew me to D, in part.  I liked that he wasn't associated with any of that.  I liked that he had his own totally non-religious perspective.

It cannot be easy for a parent who very much subscribes to a way of life to see his/her child choose something different.  Even if it is not a rejection, it feels like a rejection.  A person almost can't help but take it as a rejection, and there is sadness and loss.

But if a parent is paying attention, it is probably not a surprise.  A child lets a parent know very early on, I think.

This December marks 3 years that the kids and I have been attending the nearby Christian church where they went to preschool.  The kids are getting a foundation in some kind of organized religion, but I don't know where that might lead them.  If nothing else, it gives them something to question, something to consider as they grow up.  Going to this church, although we are not every-week or even every-other-week attendees, gives me some of the ritual that I missed from attending Catholic church.  And I like that there aren't hoops my kids have to jump through to attend and participate in "communion."

The other day G said something like "Everyone should believe in Christmas" and I had to explain Judaism and Islam to him, that not everyone believes in Christmas, and that is ok.  That these other religions have their own special holidays and holy days.  At 8 years of age, G has already shown me that he is a questioner, a doubter, a skeptic.  He said he doesn't believe Jesus is the actual son of God, but rather that he was God's helper.

If he grows to be an adult who "rejects" anything and/or everything that I have tried to instill in him, it would not surprise me.  And even though I have always wanted my children to figure things out for themselves, I would probably feel like he was rejecting me and what I thought important enough to give him as a foundation and point of reference.

I would have to reflect on my own choices and the things I rejected or reconfigured from my parents in my effort to be the person I am.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The boys....explaining how babies get made and other things

I really have explained to my children how babies are made.

At this point, N would be mortified if I tried to bring it up to her given her tweeniness, but she has been told.

G and M have been told, as well, although tonight's conversation makes me think a review is in order.

It began by M saying that N grew in my belly, while he and G grew in D's belly.  I had to straighten that out.  When I told him boys don't have babies, that a baby will never grow in his tummy, his reaction was, "YES!"

With a double arm pump.

It was at this point that G launched into his explanation of the birds and the bees.

He said that a mom and a dad cuddle together.  The souls come out of the dad's belly button and go into the mom's belly button.  All of the souls rush to find an egg.  The first one to get into the egg becomes the baby.

I didn't correct him because 1. that was just a cute explanation and 2. he then asked who took care of the first baby because the first baby wouldn't have a mom or a dad because then it wasn't the first baby because the mom and dad had been babies.  I do not like being the "chump" in the "Stump the Chump" game, but I usually am when it involves my middle child.

At some point, dinosaurs and wooly mammoths (which sounded to me like he said, "Willy Amos," and I asked, "Who is Willy Amos?") were brought into the conversation.  I'm not sure how or why.

After that we watched a video of cats doing stupid stuff just so I wouldn't have to think so much.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

The thing that is currently stuck in my craw

As a rule, I do not get my feelings hurt easily, so I'm gonna blame this on perimenopause weirdness. Or on general Christmas-associated grouchiness.

I love quirky things, and I especially love quirky, homemade things.  I'd say probably 60% (and possibly more) of the decorative items in my house are not from stores.  They are items I've purchased from artists and/or craftspeople, things I've made or up-cycled, or things other people have made for me, or things other people bought from artists/craftspeople.  

While I might look at store-made stuff at Target or Hobby Lobby, I generally don't want it because those are what zillions of other people have in their homes.  I like seeing the stuff in my house and remembering who made it for me or who bought it for me during their travels.  I like for my house to have a story.  

The problem is that not everyone values this.  Some people really, really seem to value gift cards.  

Now I am not anti-gift card at all.  I think gift cards are the perfect gift for teachers because if even 10% of their students give them gifts every Christmas or teacher appreciation week, they will run out of room in their houses very quickly.

My family does a dirty Santa gift exchange every year, but it has gotten increasingly less fun because all everyone buys is gift cards.  Gift cards with a little bit of candy tucked in the bag with the gift card.  

I have made the mistake of trying to give fun, quirky gifts.  A few years ago I painted a picture (the one with the rust-colored flowers), which I thought was actually kinda pretty and gave it as a gift.  

Last year I went to a local business that sells fair trade items made in developing countries and bought a bowl made of curled magazine pages and a wooden sculpture for holding one's glasses.  I like that these are handmade items and that the money generated from them goes to sustain people.  

This year, I made a mug and a vase in pottery class.

Every year, I feel like my gifts go over like a lead balloon.  

I know this is not a statement about me, although the middle-schooler who lives inside my head tends to say, "See, you've always been the black sheep, and you always will be."  

I know this is more of a "We like different things" issue.  
Which makes me think I might be done participating in the dirty Santa gift exchange.
I don't want to buy gift cards.  I think it defeats the whole purpose of a dirty Santa exchange. 

The worst part of this is it has me looking at my pottery and thinking it's crap when I know it isn't crap.  It isn't great pottery, or even good pottery, but it is my pottery, and I enjoyed making it, and I think it is cool.  

The above is a small bowl/tray.  

 Another small bowl/tray.

I am keeping this one. 

These will be hung together in my house.  

A little dish for kitty treats.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

My wedding album is proof I've always been an old lady

For probably a decade,  I've had all of my photo albums in my closet because my living room storage center has been overrun with toys.  Plus, I've never wanted to subject the albums to sticky and/or grimy little hands.

In the past few months, I have moved them all to the center, and my children, particularly G, have discovered them.

A couple weeks ago, G found my photo album of Shankers and Gonzo.  He began to cry because he hadn't been able to see and play with them when they were kitties.  He asked if we could take the album downstairs and show it to Slippers and Skits.  Although Slippers and Skits didn't care about looking through the album, it made G feel better.

In the past few days, he has discovered my and D's wedding album.

He saw the picture of me smoking a cigar (a long-held tradition of my dad's and his Air Force buddies, who have smoked cigars at all of their own weddings and all of their children's weddings.) He said, "Mom is smokin'," which I took to mean, "Smokin' hot."

Thank you, son.

He loves seeing photos of his Papaw T, who died in 2004 when N was a baby.  He asks questions about my aunts and uncles who have passed away.

I don't look at my wedding pictures often, but when I do, I am reminded of how much of an old lady I was at 23- and 24-years of age.

Given how young I was, our wedding was very much like something a couple in their 30s-40s would have.

Instead of a disc jockey, we had a string quartet at our wedding ceremony and reception.  We had two attendants:  my best friend whom I've been friends with since 1988 and D's dad.  We didn't smash wedding cake into each other's faces (I've never understood that concept; it seems to set the tone for a not-exactly mature relationship.)  We didn't blow out the candles after we lit our own joint candle, which I never understood since your family of origin doesn't just drop off the planet after you exchange vows.  Given how much our families of origin play a role in the goings on of the family we created together, it seems ridiculous to symbolically blow those relationships out.

Honestly, if I did my wedding all over again, I would do much of it the same.  I wouldn't invite as many people (I didn't want to invite as many people, but parents will have their way at times).  And I would choose a different location for the reception.

But the dress, the music, the attendants, and probably even the husband would be the same.

It is comforting to know that some fundamentals about myself haven't changed over all this time.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trying on this ad stuff and pondering whether I'd ever want to "market" my blog

A friend of mine posted a photo of Karl Marx on my feed when I complained about shopping, which I hate at all times, but especially now, at Christmastime.

I think that is funny since I just recently thought about (and am test-driving) ads on this site.

Apparently, based on the ads, my blog appeals to people who like Victoria's Secret and are schizophrenic.

How did it know that I took $50 of the money I earned for next semester's teaching and bought myself 13 pair of VS undies?  I have decided that at 42 years of age, with a master's degree and nearly 12 years of mothering under my belt, I am DONE with buying cheap underwear that stretches out after two washings.

I still buy cheap a$$ socks, though because socks don't ride up into unpleasant places.

Sometimes I've pondered being intentional about "marketing" this blog...about actively trying to promote the blog.  In doing so, though, I'd open myself up to a whole bunch of nonsense.  A whole bunch of opinions I don't want.

Like this gal.
Holy heck!  What a sh*tstorm.

I may not agree with her shopping choices, but she also isn't asking me to pay for it, so what does it really matter to me.  I'm certainly not going to lambast her on her blog.  But so many small-minded people will and do.

If I promoted this blog, if I went on blogher and networked to get it "out there," then I would have to deal with whatever fallout occurred as a result.  The small amount of meanness I got on here, before I stopped allowing anonymous comments, was all I needed of that.

I've always questioned the wisdom of not appreciating smallness, or of aspiring to awesomeness no matter the cost.  I remember our city posted signs around a number of years ago that read:  "City name:  16th largest metropolitan area in the US."  I just thought this was so stupid.  Top 3---I can totally see making signs about that.  Even top 5.  But 16th?????

That was a perfect example of a perfectly fine city feeling like it needs to aspire to greatness, when it would be better served to be what it is and get over that desire to grow and gain and be bigger, better, more metropolitan.

I am probably a perfectly fine city who shouldn't bother with signs.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thoughts on addiction

I finished reading Jennifer Weiner's book, All Fall Down, last night.  She isn't an author I would have picked up if not for my book club.  I think I had sorta stereotyped her into "chicklit-lite," although this was based on nothing other than her novel title, Good in Bed.  Until now, I'd never actually read her stuff.

Anyway, All Fall Down brought up some interesting things to consider, especially in light of recent NPR broadcasts about the rate of suicide and drug abuse among white people ages 40-54(ish).

I jokingly refer to drinking on Facebook at times, which might give someone the idea that I imbibe often, especially during summer when my kids are with me or on snow days.  The truth is that I usually have 1-2 glasses of wine per week.  I buy 6 bottles of wine at a time (to get a 10% discount) and those bottles last about 3-4 months (since D will also have 1-2 glasses of wine per week).  If I go out and purchase a drink at a restaurant, I have 1 drink, and I always have food with that drink.  I know what I can handle, and it is not much.

When I think about why I am able to "control myself," I might like to think that it is because I've got such strong willpower, but it is probably just good fortune.  My dad's dad was a violent alcoholic, and I know that is why my father will not have more than 2 drinks.  For me, having a 5-day hangover at age 21 helped me realize that getting too far gone isn't fun.

But I also think I probably just don't have that addictive disposition.  Genetics are working for me, which is nothing I can control.  I never became addicted to cigarettes because I didn't like how they revved me up and made me feel jumpy.  It wasn't willpower.

My OCD, in a strange way, I think, helped/helps keep me off cigarettes and alcohol.  I am scared to death to get sick and die, so doing things that could lead to getting sick and dying aren't appealing.  My fear is greater than my need to numb myself, perhaps?

All sorts of thoughts ran through my head while reading this book, like

*why do some people refuse counseling?  (like Allison's husband, which if he had agreed to it, might have resulted in her doing things differently.)

*why didn't Allison ever think she might have anxiety (she seemed to worry an awful lot about fitting into uppity Haverford society), and if she had, could an antidepressant have kept her off painkillers?
(Of course, we learn something about Allison's mom that explains Allison's own choices a little better and helps us see a pattern.)

*overcoming addiction is a full-time job
(Although I personally know people who have become addicted to painkillers and gone through rehab, reading this novel helped me see how hard it must be to get off and stay off these highly addicted drugs.)

*addiction and stigma
I wish Allison had told people she was in rehab because this helps destroy the stereotype that addicts are poor, lazy, weak, uneducated, etc.  It is easy for someone without the genetic addictive disposition to think it is simple to quit, just as it is easy for someone without anxiety to tell me "Don't worry."  If I could just tell myself to stop worrying and stop, why wouldn't I have just done that????  The same goes for addiction.

Although fictional and probably a "lite" depiction of what addiction actually looks like in the real world, I liked how it made me consider my views of a life I am fortunate not to know.