Saturday, February 13, 2016

Spring is Coming!


I hate using the word 'busy' so I won't. I'm not. Just a bit preoccupied with the stuff of life, likely like everyone else. We've actually got some big things going on around here, but they won't be revealed for another month. Changes in the wind.

So what I will say we're up to:

Still working away at getting healthy on the inside, and sleeker on the outside. Still showing up at the gym three times a week, unexcited but doing it anyway. I had my bloodwork done yesterday, and from there drove immediately to McDonalds and ordered a sausage mcmuffin. Breakfast never tastes as good as after you've fasted, and McDonalds tastes pretty great after a three month breakup. Throwing away my hash browns made me proud of myself the whole live long day. I'll meet with the doctor next week to find out if my blood is happy or not. I'm not a big taker of prescriptions so if there's notable improvement at all, I'll ask for another three months to keep improving. I also have a  tendency to be stubborn - I hate being told what to do - (doesn't everyone?), so we'll see. I'm not a fan of prescriptions for life.

Keeping it real, if the doctor tells me, next week, that my numbers are greatly improved, I will quite possibly drive back to McDonalds and order a large french fry and sit in my car and eat every single one slowly. If he tells me things haven't improved I might well do the same.

The painters were here most of this past week, and we so appreciated all their work. We were also so very happy when they packed up their tools and went away for good. We've still got a layer of fine grittiness on much of the upstairs, but I'm chipping away at it.
We've got littles coming later today to spend some time with us, while their Daddy and Mama go away on a Valentine's date. For years our son was my valentine, and the girls were their Dad's, so Valentine's has always been minimal for us - a good steak, perhaps a soak in the outdoors hot tub with a non-breakable glass of merlot, then some DVR TV. We'll do that Sunday evening. And hurray, the painter guy liked all things technology so he unpacked our new 60" TV that had been sitting in the box for two weeks, and installed it for us. I like technology that works, not necessarily the journey to getting it to work.

I just finished listening to Snowflower and the Secret Fan, on audio, for next week's book club. I'd read it five years ago and had forgotten much of it. I also read the library copy of Jen Hatmaker's newest book, 'For the Love'. It was good enough I sent copies to both of our daughters. Very encouraging, freeing words for women. I'm going, with my DIL, to hear her speak in early March. She's a firecracker so that should be fun. I checked out, again from the library (because I spent six months allowance on a surprise for our two girls while we're on our cruise so I have no book allowance money!) Bettyville. A fellow book club member told me about it. I had to request it. It's a new write, but at the very first page I was hooked. The author's writing is compelling, real, fresh and the story resonates with me as he is dealing with his 90 year old mother who is still trying to live at her home alone, but suffering from being 90 and dementia. The author is George Hodgman. I whipped through several chapters last night.

I'm heading out on a cruise with my two daughters two weeks from today. I picked up a used copy of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, and plan to take that along to read. I like taking a paperback, when I travel, that I can leave behind. I lent my copy to my sister when she was with me in Idaho last summer, and she read it, lent it out, then sent it back to me with high recommendations.

I also decided to not attend the Bible studies our church was putting on; rather I ordered Love God Greatly's study on Prayer. For under $11 I got the journal, then bought a spiral notebook and have been enjoying starting my mornings with it. I send out prayer requests every week, to our three kids' families, and want to do a better job of being faithful and fervent to what they send back to me. I think this study will help bring that about.

Other than that, and our secret reveal coming up, we're not up to much. It's February in Texas and we haven't really had a winter yet. I'm okay with that. After spending most of my life in places where winter was cold and grey and hung on for dear life until sometime in April, I find snow overrated. I'm just praying now it doesn't do what it did last year - freak out the last two weeks of February and cover us with snow and ice and miserableness.
I was talking to a daughter yesterday, re-remembering when we lived in southwestern Pennsylvania for 15 years and winter paid no attention to the calendar hanging on my fridge. March 21 meant nothing. Still I circled it, highlighted it, hoped for it. When it came, I'd go out in my yard, and dig around in the snow that was surely still on the ground. I'd dig with the toe of my shoe, looking for green shoots of promise poking their heads up from the cold, wet ground. And sure enough they were there - the hostas, the day lilies, the daffodils. There were no tulips as they'd been munched up by the deer long ago, but signs of spring were there in the ground. I just had to dig for them.

Right now I'm seeing birds at the feeder outside my living room window; when I walk Miss Lily the trees' tiniest branches have tips that look fluffed up and ready to burst forth. I even spied a lizard at the edge of the pool last week, and told him he might be a little premature in coming out from under that rock where he'd spent winter.

Today I'm praying for those of you out there who are in a place, physically or emotionally, where you're seeing nothing but crunchy, frozen ground covered up in snow, with no visible sign of spring. So you go outside and dig with the toe of your boot; even if it means going to the park and poking about. I'll pray for you - inside out - to have a sense that the promise of spring is indeed just around the corner. In the meantime read Jen Hatmaker's book - it'll cheer you, empower you, free you, and give you something to hang onto until those daffodils poke their heads through.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Yoga Pants & Saggy Rears


I'm not doing great at getting here on a regular basis - I think of all these things I want to write about, but like fireflies on a summer evening, they flit away before I can catch them.
We've been busy working away at our goals for 2016 - it seems to me you either make them, and then give up within weeks or you - sometime in mid-January, decide you really are going to do 'them', whatever 'them' is, and they take on a force in your life. Getting healthy was a big goal for CS and me - per doctor's orders - and we're finding getting healthy takes time! Time being the biggest currency in our society these days, it's worse than money or willpower or anything else.

So I've switched from water aerobics, which was fun, but I was the youngest in the class by a good bit, and I never felt like I was really getting a good workout. Of course it's  hard to say if you're sweating when you're wet pretty much all over... Like Star Wars, I switched to the other side - moving over to the recumbent bike and weight machines.

Does anyone else relate to realizing at some point that whatever weight you were when you thought you were overweight, say ten years ago, or twenty even, that weight is now your goal, and you'd feel skinny as a rail if you could hit it again? We're slowly losing weight, and that's great but what is more important is lab results. I see the doctor next week to have some blood drawn which will tell the truth of what I've been up to since last November. I have a feeling he's going to be able to see every cheese nip or tortilla chip I ate, but hopefully all those salads and exercising will show up too.

Along that line, I started reading a book that, by title, sounds pretty stinking dry, but is pretty interesting. I got it at the library at my daughter's suggestion, 'The Healing Power of Exercise', by Goldberg and Elliot - two doctors. Which is preferable to say, maybe someone who eats sticks and leaves and runs 15 miles a day and wrote a book. Each chapter talks about an issue - blood pressure, cholesterol, losing weight, etc. and I've learned all sorts of stuff about how a body works, or doesn't. It hasn't made me excited to walk into the gym, but it has made me walk in. That's saying something.

I also started, last night, For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker. I'm going to hear her speak in a few weeks with my DIL, and this book has a subtitle of 'Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards' which falls well into my goals of getting into shape, etc. When I had my checkup the doctor told me he'd just seen a 55 year old who 'could still rock a bikini'. He did not say that about me. Nor do I want to rock one, but I do want the insides of my body to be healthy, and the structure - muscles, joints, etc. to be strong and able to hold up to whatever life throws at me. I'm enjoying that I finally do not weigh what I did when I last gave birth, 33 years ago, but my next goal is that my abdomen quit closely resembling a pile of unbaked bread dough.

Jen's chapter, 'Fashion Concerns' addressing the current leggings-as-tights, 'tights-as-leggings' is worth the cost of the book in itself. That being said by a person who seriously owns at least 7 pairs of leggings, thereby enabling me to wear them 6 1/2 days a week. I need guidance in that area.

Having lost about 10% of my body weight since sometime in November when the doctor gave me a good talking to reality check, this week I had the sad experience of putting TWO pairs of my ALL TIME FAVORITE EVER IN MY LIFE black yoga pants from New York & Company in the give away box. The - literally - rear view of yoga pants on a  60 year old backside is questionable anyway, and the only thing worse than stretching them out to the max in every direction they can go is having them sag. 

I once had a man whistle at me - it is still a dear memory - when I was at lunch with my co-workers, walking across the parking lot in a pair of red pants. (Oh yes I do remember it vividly, as I replay it now and then on those days when the sight of my unclad body starts the descent into despair.) He yelled nice a__! I acted shocked and blushed but inside I did such a happy dance as you've never seen. I was a mother with a 4 year old, and absolutely ate up that wolf call and shout out. That has now been 36 years, but who's counting, and nobody is yelling anything out about me walking away from them. So while I may not be a mile wide, the lift has left the building, and saggy yoga pants are just not going to work. I had to force myself to throw my arm out, extend it over the Goodwill box that permanently lives on my closet floor, and drop both pairs of yoga pants in it.

So - grab the books - both of them, learn what you can, change where you can, and I'll be back to report on the conference with Jen. I'm not sure what she's going to be wearing but I can bet what she won't have on. Hoping my doctor tells his next patient, after seeing me, that some 60 year old lady could 'still rock a bikini'...? I'm not seeing that happen, but you never know. I've still got 10 months of this year to get at it!

How about you? Resolutions going strong, dying a slow death, or completely buried? And tell me about the last time you got a wolf call or good ole' whistle! Let's re-remember it together, so it's easier to call up the next time you need it. In my book that's fighting for grace!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carrying Albert Home


I'm not generally one to walk into the library, with no idea of what book I'm looking for. Rather, I have requested books online, and they're sitting waiting on the shelf, with my name on the binding. I at least have a little slip of paper, or ten, with the codes needed to locate them on the shelf myself.

For some reason, though, I did just that about a week ago, walked into the library, headed over to the 'new books' area spotted this gem of a book. The title intrigued me, and the picture on the front cover absolutely grabbed me immediately! Who wouldn't want to read a book about an alligator riding in the back seat of a car?

I love that the book is described as 'the somewhat true story'. Part fact, part fiction, part memoir, and all round delightful. It's by the author of Rocket Boy, which I've never read, or seen, but CS has and recommends. This is apparently the prequel to it.

It's a bit Fanny Flaggish, 99% clean, endearing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll never read another story of alligators spotted at the golf courses and  neighborhoods of Florida without thinking of Albert, and Elsie, the woman who loved him so. It has enough substance to be read for a ladies' book club, with a lot of great discussion topics, but it would appeal to men and women, and all adult ages.  Perfectly fun read in my opinion.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Barbie - Trying on a New Look


If you're a male - leave now. You won't be the least bit interested in this. If you're a female, and anywhere from 60ish down to 3 or 4 years old,  you possibly will.

Barbie is changing her looks. After 57 years, she's getting a major makeover, according to the news. What worked for most of those 57 years is now starting to have less than stellar sales results, so Mattel is doing what they refer to as 'body transformations', and the new Barbie should start showing up on the shelves around March of this year.

Barbie used to be 11.5 inches tall, with a very skinny waist, legs that didn't end, and a less than realistic bust line. At least nobody I've ever known was that naturally well endowed and also had skinny legs and waist. My Aunt Jessie Mae's bust line could put Barbie's to shame - you could literally get lost in her bosom, (and trust me, if you'd seen it, you'd call it a 'bosom' too.) But her waist was pretty generous too, and her legs were the type any good farm wife needed - stocky and strong and straight. Aunt Jessie Mae's ankles weren't terribly discernible. I don't know that anyone would rush out and buy an Aunt Jessie Mae doll, but I would think she was pretty great! Hugging my Aunt Jessie Mae poured life and comfort and safety into every fiber of my little body back then. Eating a glass full of her cornbread and milk was pretty great too.

So Mattel has decided Barbie may need to have a more current, correct look. The new Barbie will have three bodies - curvy, tall and petite. She'll also come in seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 25 hairstyles. 

I don't believe my older sister, Barb ever had a Barbie - she was just enough years older than me to miss that stage, but I got my Barbie when I was 8 years old, in 1963, for my third birthday. She had black bobbed hair, looked like she was sporting a nice tan, red lipstick, tiny white pearl earrings were shoved through her ears, and a beautiful Miss America-style red bathing suit. Her feet were shod with the teeniest of black slip on heels. She was all I wanted for my birthday that year, and to this day she is still my most exciting birthday present ever given to me. I'd put Miss Lily, my 8 lb Shih Tzu above her, but Miss Lily doesn't count because I gave her to me, myself, just because I needed her.

My mother bought Barbie for me, likely at a cost of around $3.00, and then sewed me a few beautiful dresses Barbie could wear when she was going places. In particular I remember a beautiful black satin dress with black tulle netting around it. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and Barbie was a vision of loveliness when she wore it, that black hair, that black dress - stunning!


Never once did I look at Barbie and think her waist was ridiculously small, or that she was much more well endowed than I was or would ever be. I didn't think her thighs were too slim to be realistic, I just loved her in the simple way most eight year old girls would. When my father moved us from Texas to Colorado, and I wasn't there to choose which toys would make the move with us, Barbie was left behind, given away to somebody. For my fiftieth birthday, my mother sent me a check to repurchase another Barbie just like mine, off Ebay, for $50. The same hair, the same red bathing suit, the same little pearl earrings. When she arrived and I took her out of the package, I still didn't look at her and think, 'I wish I looked like her'; rather I was just happy to be reunited, even if it was another one and not my original. 

Sometimes when my granddaughters are here visiting, I take my Barbie out and let them play with her because I always think it's sad when toys sit on shelves and are unloved.
Mattel is saying 'one size doesn't fit all' but that wasn't true for me. She fit me perfectly, even though we had different shapes then and they never did match. Mattel also says for the new Barbies to be a success, from a marketing standpoint, they need to appear on Youtube, movies, videos, and on apps. Mine just needed to show up in some birthday paper, with my name written on the package.

There is one improvement they are making to the new Barbie that I'm pretty excited about: Barbie's foot, for the first time, will be moveable, 'allowing her to kick off her heels and flats.' That's something every girl / woman can identify with.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Digging into the R-Rated Version

January is about 2/3 done, which I'm okay with, and I've been writing A LOT but not here. I started on January 1, writing my NaNoWriMo book, typically done in November of every year, but for me it was this month. I'm 31,400 words in, and plans are to hit 50,000 when January closes shop.

Books on writing will tell you that remembering makes you remember. They're right. It also helps if you have an older sibling to remember with you, or for you. As I've worked to get a timeline for our family's 18 moves in 13 years, my older sister has been a tremendous help in nailing things down. She'll remember something that happened, and then I'll remember, and on it goes. We've had mostly fun going back in time and it's been interesting to see how the perspective is different when less than five years separates your ages. Of course there are literally worlds of difference between an 8 year old and a 13 year old, and planets separate a 13 year old and an 18 year old, as it should be.

One of my writing books says that the first thing almost every writer writes is their childhood story. It doesn't matter if it's memoir, as mine is. They might do a mystery but it will have elements of their childhood, or humor, or whatever genre they choose. It's the book you have to get out of the way, then you write. So I'm writing about lying on the San Augustine grass in our front yard, hunting for four leafed clovers, picking the stems and making them into necklaces. About learning to play jacks, tossing that red rubber ball up in the air to just the right height, so I can sweep my hand down and pick up all the foursees, about building tents under the clotheslines with our mother's freshly washed sheets, and only now as an adult, seeing her sacrifice in letting us do so.

 I'm looking on google maps and seeing the streets of our neighborhood, where I ran wild and free on Halloween night, going along with the kids who suggested we egg the houses whose lights were out. Still feeling ashamed about it, knowing likely there were old people inside who weren't up to answering the door 100 times that night. A remembering that I should have said no, done the right thing, but I went along with the crowd, and still regret it 50 years later.

January has never been my favorite. I actually don't love any of winter very much, dislike being cold at all, and my definition of 'cold' is anything below 60 degrees. I'd much rather sit and sweat in the heat of the sun, than have to bundle up in puffy outerwear and go slide down a hill over cold, wet snow. But I was right in choosing January for a time of reflecting and getting it down on paper. The days don't hold a lot that has to be done, the weather outside isn't calling my name, and projects are easily put off for another day.

I've also read that the first, rough draft of anything should be poured out, not sifted much, and the R version - the truth that nobody will read. There was a lot more to our lives than a carpet of green and clover. Once February comes, with a shorter calendar, I'll put my writing away and start looking forward more, rather than back. Right now, I've got 10 days and 18,600 words to get down, and because I'm writing chronologically the hard parts are still ahead of me. I'll have to think back, trying to see when the tide changed and our family went from eight people joined together to offshoots where chaos began to reign. Or maybe the splinters were always there, too small for any of us to see, but it was inevitable they would grow and spread and split us apart, so that it was a miracle we survived, and some of us did so barely.

There's value in looking back, but it's also okay not to stay there forever, to turn your head forward and look to the future. We used to live in a house that had a walk in attic, a huge rambling room where I could stand up in the middle but had to duck down in the corners. We lived in southern Illinois at the time, and the heat and humidity would just about suck the life out of you at times. Because the attic was big it became the holder of many things. Over the year it would become a discombobulated mess of things we didn't quite know what to do with. In January, when I'd inevitably get a rotten cold I'd choose that day, when I felt miserable already, to go up and clean out the attic. It was my thinking that I felt terrible already, so use that day, rather than wasting a day when I felt well, to go up and do the dreaded task.

January still feels right to me for writing the R version of my life. From the very start until I was 25 and my life finally took a radical 90 degree turn to the good. That memoir, when my life took on hope, would be better written in June, when flowers are blooming, the days are sunny and warm, and taking the dog for her daily walk is something to look forward to, rather than something I have to talk myself into.

The truth is February isn't generally that great either - here in Texas it's more sunny but we get crazy ice storms and it's the coldest month of the year, but I'm not going to dwell on that right now. I'll never say this time of year is my favorite - but it serves a purpose. I just have to dig deep. Doing so will make March even more of a joy.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Catch up

It's been a bit since I've been here. Solid proof that good intentions never get a body anywhere. I was going to tell everyone about a new ministry I joined, "Nana's Nails, where we go into nursing homes and pretty up the nails of the residents. But I'll save it for later. It's too good to rush through.

So instead, I'm just going to catch up on what I'm up to:

Reading:  Fannie Flagg's All Girl's Last Filling Station, for our neighborhood book club. Sweet story, but if I wasn't in book club I'd be reading Lakehouse by Kate Morton, which is sitting by my bathtub, not being read and my time to have it is getting used up! No renewals since there's a waiting list a mile long. That in itself is what makes me go back and forth about book clubs. I love them in theory, but when I'm pushed for time, I want to read what I want to read.

Doing:  Going to physical therapy, for my lower back, and realizing we should all be forced to wear bikinis for our entire lives, not just until we're 18. If we had to do so, we'd stay in better shape, we'd keep those stomach muscles strong enough to be presentable, rather than letting them go soft and hide under flowing tops. So I'm the recent purchaser of a stability ball (third one, gave the other two away), a gait belt, 5 lb hand weights, and a notebook full of pages of core exercises. The bad news is that I have to do those exercises several times a day. The good news is that it's really helping, I'm getting stronger where I need to, and more flexible where that was lacking. Like most really important stuff in life, it's not much fun, but helpful.

Knitting: A hat for ME! In soft mustard with some to be decided grey accents. I found out the hard way that fingering weight yarn is not a 3 in yarn, rather it's a 1, and if you knit a hat using a 3 for a 1 you get a hat that will fit Shaq, or his big brother. I have knit a good dozen or so hats, but never for me, and it's chilly right now in Texas - don'tcha know? Walking Miss Lily 45 minutes every morning we're needing a hat. Me, not her.

Listening to:  DAB, or Daily Audio Bible, with Brian somebody narrating. My dear friend, Cathy, recommended it to me, and I started it January 1. He reads a different version every week, with a bit of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, divided up into 365 slices of reading, then a commentary at the end. It passes our walking time so quickly and I am absolutely loving it. I look forward to it every single day. If you're interested, it's a free app at the app store, for your phone or pad.

Going: Nowhere. Blessed nowhere. I'm loving staying home, and my next travel plans are for our girl cruise - me and my two daughters, the end of February. I'm getting excited. They're giddy - but then they are up in cold, snowy Idaho and still at the diaper changing stage. Can't wait, but happy to be home for now.

Writing: My book. The book. I mentioned previously that I'm doing a NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month challenge, held in November of every year, but January for me. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word rough draft in the span of one month. It took me a solid week to figure out the outline of the book, since I'm doing a memoir. The genre is, officially, coming of age, survival, memoir that is creative non-fiction, which means I can add or change stuff, in the spirit of the book, to protect people who might hate me afterwards if I told the complete truth with their name attached. I'm at 15,000 words today, behind by 7,338 but making progress. My sister, Barb has been a wonderful help since she is five years older than me and can remember details I can't. If anyone else out there is interested in doing the same, writing a memoir, I'd recommend "Breaking Ground on Your Memoir" by Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner - great help in getting started and figuring out where to go from there. I also read No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the guy who came up with the idea for NaNoWriMo.

So that's what's up for me. It's Thursday, date day at our house, so we're off to see the new movie about the housing crash, The Big Short, starring Brad Pitt and other people.

Oh yeah, CS and I are still doing the DASH diet, and exercising a lot more than normal. He's down about 20 lbs, and I'm down a little over 10. We're both glad we didn't know we needed to lose so much when we started this, but both of us are feeling better all around. That being said, I'm off to eat an entire bucket of movie popcorn, which means I'll be having salad for dinner. Some things are worth it.

Back soon,

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Asking and Answering the Right Questions


“People often ask themselves the right questions. Where they fail is in answering the questions they ask themselves, and even there they do not fail by much…But it takes time, it takes humility and a serious reason for searching.”

William Maxwell

I'm asking myself, in keeping with my word of the year, DARE (Do/Don't; Achieve; Relationships; Explore/Educate):

What do I want to achieve this year?

What do I want / need to do?

What should I stop doing?

Which relationships need more of my time?

Which relationships need less of my time?

What should I study this year? I'm leaning toward the solar system, the process of electing a president, and how to use my camera better.

How about you? What questions are you asking, and are you answering them?

I use Sally Clarkson's method of an early morning quiet time - up by 7:30 am, light a candle, turn on some soft music, grab my devotional and Bible, then after that a bit of reading in a book - non-fiction, then my calendar to check that the items on my calendar will actually bring about the goals I'm working toward. Prayer at the end. Coffee throughout.