Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm 50 (gasp!)

A few weeks ago, I turned 50.  The big 5-0.  Fif-TY.  Yes.  Me.  But before you worry too much about my mental state (other than the normal worries...which...never mind) you'll discover that it really wasn't an earth-shattering event for me at all.  Other than having to check a different box on surveys and realizing that I am old enough to be somebody's grandmother (not rushing that...seriously)'s all good.  My husband, Big Dave, is five years older, and I have pretty much acclimated myself to this realm since we began getting AARP mailings in his name five years ago.

Now I'm getting them.

And they can keep on sending them...because we aren't joining.  Not because we don't want the discounts...but because we don't agree with their mission politically.  And not only that...but because I find it more than a little bit creepy that they knew of my impending birthday.  Hey, AARP, if you'd give folks a month or so to adjust to being might not hit the trash can tossed in like a rotten potato with words like "ewwwww...." emanating from their lips along with an overly dramatic shudder.

I'm just saying.

No, I'm not ready for the senior citizen discount.  Yet.  Okay, unless you are Publix, and you are giving me 5% off.  But I won't get that one until the next zero birthday.  Officially, anyway.  I've found, though, that 5% off really isn't worth it because the day that they give the discount is Wednesday...which is also incidentally the day when the sale paper comes out.  If you dare to venture into Publix on that day because you have inadvertently forgotten something...and have lost your mind and forgotten what day it'll find that you have to bob and weave around the motorized scooters only to find that whatever was on sale has not been restocked after the coupon ladies cleared the shelves.  Thanks, Southern Savers! (not)

Anyway, this birthday has been the one that has made me really think...because I'm having to let go of so much of what I assumed was "my life."  I am "ma'am" to almost everybody, and nobody is really fooled by the fact that I've remained blonde all of these years.  I've topped out on job advancement, I prefer comfort over stylishness, and my children are either grown and out on their own or headed that way within a few years.

I have friends that I've known for decades, have crossed out many items on my "to-do" list in life by either doing them or because that time has passed for me and now it is NO.  Just no. (Anything I might wear to the beach, high heels, and jumping out of planes fall into this category).  I actually now get tired from being on my feet for extended periods, and I have to say "I really can't do that..." sometimes...not because I am so over scheduled ..but because I just don't want to do some of the things that people want me to do with or for them.  Because, truth be told...the older I get the more I realize that I know who my real friends are and they'll love me even if I turn them down...and I also know how short weekends are.

And that's perfectly okay.  I've earned it.  Or so I'm told.  After all, I'm fifty.  5-0.  Yeah.

Three weeks before my birthday, my daughter told me that she'd like to throw me a party because I missed having one for my 30th and my 40th...and she didn't see Big Dave tearing it up trying to pull one together.  I gave her names and addresses of various friends and family , and told her to invite whoever she wanted to and to do whatever she wanted to pull off.  I didn't want to know the details,and I wanted to be surprised at what she could pull together.  I mean...this child was a Marketing Major at the University of Alabama, and she had the idea that she might enjoy event planning at one point in time.  I haven't had the heart to ask her if she still does.

This not knowing the details is a very dangerous thing...just so you know.  And far more stressful than one can imagine.  Because planning an event at age 50 and planning one at age 23 are completely different animals.  I could just imagine her serving a tub of French onion dip and a bag of Fritos and calling that "refreshments."  She will, of course, be horrified to read that, but most of us get into some kind of a crack without adult supervision when we are planning a party in our 20s.  I know I did.

She called around for a location, and realized that there was only one obvious choice after balking at paying a huge amount for an clubhouse in a local apartment or neighborhood.  Those that weren't already booked, by the way.

Our house. the my gosh.

A little backstory is probably necessary here, but I don't want to delve into the gory details of our private life here at Casa Mixon...any more than I do every single day of my life online on Facebook.  But just so you won't think I'm ultimo tacky, let's just go with the old standby excuse that I use that pretty much covers everything.  Big Dave is a contractor.  He works on other people's houses all day long and gets paid for doing things such as building pergolas, painting, repairing ceilings, finding water leaks, replacing toilets, and moving walls from A to B.  The last thing that the man wants to do when he comes home is even look in the direction of a paintbrush, saw, or anything even remotely related to construction.  He will clean the pool, mow the yard, and occasionally do yardwork and housework without a whimper.  He mops like some kind of domestic Thor (he needs a haircut and during Prom Season he can't manage to just walk right in...and since waiting five minutes is apparently not an option...he looks a little Jerry Garcia-ish as I write this.)  He rocks a broom and can clean a kitchen so well that Martha Stewart looks like a slacker by comparison.  I'm serious!  He cooks.  He grills.  He can even do laundry (although the concept of putting it away completely escapes him.)  Making beds?  No problem.

Fixing things around here that need fixing?  Not so much.

So, imagine my horror when my sweet daughter announced that people were coming to this house.  THIS. HOUSE.  And seeing as I'd be gone out of town for business the week contribution to housecleaning would be pretty much non-existent.  Not that I'm a cleaning dynamo by any stretch of the imagination.  Too late though...the invitations were in the mail.


I made a list of the things that needed to get done...things like...recovering "The Albatross" (the ancient sofa that Big Dave inherited from his grandfather...who originally found it on the side of the road in Palm Beach, FL in the 1940s and which has been a family heirloom ever since).  Did I mention that it has real horsehair stuffing in it?  No?  Well, it totally does.

There was also the matter of fixing the porch (our "temporary ceiling" from 2001 really needed to be replaced - ya think?), some rotten wood that needed to be repaired at the back door, the front and back patios needed to be powerwashed, the driveway needed regraveling, a hole in the wall needed fixing from where we replaced our TV going on two years ago (seriously, a big gaping hole), and there was the matter of finishing some trimwork on the bookcase that he built two years ago but never got around to doing this last little bit.

Not that I didn't try whining.  I just found that it didn't work.  Like at all.

So, all of that needed to be done as well as yardwork, putting out pinestraw, trimming bushes, and making our house get off of the "least likely to win 'Yard of the Month' in our neighborhood" list that I'm not sure actually exists...but probably should.  Because we would totally win.

I'll leave out the tears, drama, sackcloth and ashes, and gnashing of teeth that went on regarding the decision to have people in this house because I don't want anyone referring us for psychiatric evaluations or passing our name along to Jerry Springer for an upcoming episode of "The Cobbler's Wife Has No Shoes" (or "The Contractor's Wife Has No Prayer of the Honey-Do List Getting Done in Her Lifetime" or something equally tragic.)

Fast forward.  (Please.  Just reliving that made me all stressed and depressed.)

Things started coming together...even though Big Dave was still insisting that it was all of it was going to get done and that it was going to end up all right.  Uh...yeah.  Seriously, this man is a contractor.  Do contractors have any sense of time whatsoever?  No.  No, they don't.  Not even close.

And I know this...because I'm the one asking if someone is about to be billed out...and he always has a reason why he has to go back one or two (or twelve) more times.  He forgets that I live with him sometimes.  Bless his heart.

We got the sofa recovered because I bought the fabric and was a royal pain in the behind until he relented and nailed the fabric for me.  I think he was concerned about what I might do with an gas fired nail gun...and with good reason since I have no mechanical "skillz" whatsoever and there really wasn't time for a trip to the hospital.

It isn't perfect...but you have to realize that we don't have a clue what we are doing, and that the thing is filled with ancient horsehair.  Seriously.  He managed to get the trim on the bookcase, the mailbox freshened up and the porch started.  A sweet friend came over and power washed the concrete so we wouldn't get divorced over this whole celebration.

When he looked so good that I almost cried tears of joy.  Okay, FINE, I did cry.

The porch was ripped down, the columns shortened, and I came to grips with the reality that the driveway was impossible to fix in the time frame established because one of the folks who was going to be begged to help us was out of the country.  Smart man.

Anyway, about this time I was leaving for Mississippi, and would not return until that Thursday evening.  The party was on Saturday afternoon. That's less than 48 hours if you are counting.

Did I really go into the fact that the house needed cleaning?  Badly?  Because Spring Cleaning around here is something we do all Spring...not in one weekend.  "All Spring" being defined as every weekend between March and July it is hit at in the blind hope that we will eventually be able to get it to a point where we feel like we can finally give up trying.  Because we are normal people like the rest of America who is not sitting on an uncomfortable row of bleachers somewhere, walking/running/golfing for charity, or doing something for the less fortunate this time of year.

Because this year?  I was the less fortunate.  In spirit, anyway.

But sometimes normal people get into extraordinary situations.  Like vacuuming the walls at midnight on the night before the party because it was a mite dusty all up in here, naming the dust bunnies before extricating them, and begging Brian to clean the windows because they were blocking the view of the pond.  Not "hoarders dirty" or even "call the Health Department dirty"...just "we live here, people, dirty."  Because we totally do.  And when you live in the country, have animals, and you don't want to spend every waking moment cleaning house...well...THIS happens.

Needless to say, thanks to some very solid help...primarily from Brecksyn and Brian, we got the house in order.  Big Dave went into grumpy mode...but he got it done...and we didn't even need marital counseling.

At least got it to a point where the house looked presentable.  So, there's that.  And the good news is...most of the stuff that I've been on the Harpy Express over is now done.  Yay for that.  Of course, just because my life can't possibly be perfect, I should admit that Big Dave still has some finishing work to do.  And I'm not letting up this time until he does it.  Because we are oh, so close...

Just know that the preparation mode for having any event at your house is almost enough to kill you.  Or at least...that was our experience.  On the bright side, the house has stayed fairly clean and the long list of projects to be done is far shorter than it was.  We have a lot to be thankful for, and I'm grateful that I can sit today and look around and enjoy what is here in this home.  That I can see very little dust, and the view of the pond is unobstructed.  That time made me make quick decisions about moving things along that should have seen the curb long ago.

Of course, the day of the party...this house was beautified with the floral arranging of my sweet friend, Nedra, and the beautiful faces of my sweet mother, daughter, other daughters, and my friends.  Which was the best part of turning 50, by the way.

Here's to turning 50!  And can kiss it.  Seriously.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Open Doors

It is currently 5:56 a.m. and I am listening to the sound of the birds chirping outside and sitting here in almost total darkness.  I can feel the temperature outside and it is cool and inviting.  I know this because I left the door open when I let the dogs out because it feels so much better outside than inside since we are so anti-air conditioning until the last conceivable moment every Spring.  I'd go outside and sit and take this delicious coffee and sip it quietly while tapping on this laptop, but why do that when I can enjoy everything from here?  Simply by opening the door.

I have always loved open doors.  Bosses who say "come on in" instead of leaving you languishing outside the door while they finish a conversation.  People with storm doors or screen doors who leave the main door open so that they can let light or air in.  Or the generous soul who anticipates your arrival and hops up or stays put so that you can walk through an open door .  Especially when you have a stroller or your hands are full.

In my job as a banker, I've seen that I'm not alone in my love of an open door.  I've seen churches with that name, and I've had customers wander in my office and ask for assistance.  Not that I could help most of them since my customer base is actually the employees of the bank.  But every once in a while, the phone will ring and someone will ask for my help and I'm happy to assist.  I pretty much like for people to see me less as an open book...and more of an open door.

An ""open book will tell you everything about himself whether you need to know it or not.  An "open book" prides herself on letting it all hang out and not worrying about what you think.  I'm a little too Southern to be an "open book" I'll settle for being an "open door" instead.  To me, an "open door" is someone who welcomes people in without hesitation, but who will rise and escort you back out of his or her life if the need arises.  An "open door" shows hospitality, but can also shut that door and put some space between you and them if there's too much drama or too little appreciation.  It has a welcome mat right outside, but can also tell you where to go and to not to let the door hit you on the behind on your way out.

Been there...done that.  Had to.

Recently, sweet Brecksyn made me a wreath for the front door for my birthday.  It is on there to remind people that this is a welcoming place and that we value the trouble that they took to come all of the way out here and pay us a visit.  It still makes me smile when I see it...which is really the best kind of gift, don't you think?  I rarely leave that door open, though, because we want to know who all is coming up our it the UPS man, one of the neighbors, or friends or family.  The back a different story.  We can open it wide and invite the world (and Black Dog from next door) to come right on in.

In a few minutes, the sky will lighten and I'll be able to see the pool and the pond...and I'll remember all over again why I love living out here so much.  And maybe it will finally get cool enough in here for me to rise and shut the door...but maybe not.  I'm just enjoying leaving the door open for the little dogs to run in and out and for me to feel the cool air that will be more and more of a rarity in the coming weeks.  After all, it is Spring in the South.

Fortunately, the pollen count is down after the rain last night, so that's good.

I don't know what life is throwing at you right now.  If you are barricaded behind a door refusing to let the bad things on the other side into your life anymore.  I don't know if you find it easier to let people stay in their spot and you in yours...or if your heart just can't take a cool refreshing breeze because it could easily turn into an emotional tornado and make it even worse.  I can relate...because I've been there too.  But today as you go through your life...notice the doors that are open to you.  The welcome of old friends and the promise of new ones.  The sweetness of being able to walk through some doors freely, even if the others are locked down tighter than a prison.  And if you are behind a prison door due to some addiction, someone's bad behavior, or because you feel all alone out there...remember that this is just an illusion.  You may be boxed in...but Someone is knocking at the door...He always is.  And when you are in times like can be sure that He is out there waiting for you to respond.

Have a great day...and may it be filled with lots of open doors and open hearts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weighing In

Tomorrow I am supposed to join my teammates in "Scale Back Alabama" to weigh in.  The goal was to lose ten pounds and to hopefully cultivate some healthy habits that would keep me on the road to weight loss success.  Okay, FINE, my friend Sharon asked me to do it and I couldn't turn her down...and there's that off-chance that we might actually qualify for prizes.

With my luck, one of the prizes will be a fried chicken platter from the local Publix.  Not that I'd turn it down.

This journey of weight loss began back in November when I got on the scale in the doctor's office and was mortified.  I have been slowly gaining weight through the years...and then I'd take about six months and beat it back down...only to have it creep back up again.  I'm one of those people who can talk about food and gain weight.  Probably because I translate all of that talk into actually attempting to make something I want...grazing through the pantry until I'm either eventually satisfied or so full that it requires a crane to remove me from the couch.

Many Sundays are spent in this manner.  I'll admit it.

So, back to the scale.  I hopped up there and immediately knew that I was "running out of real estate" as they say on the upper end of OMG!  I had actually crossed over into weighing more than 90% of the Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team.

And I don't mean the scrub team.  I mean the starters. folks probably know that I've been here before.  I started Weight Watchers at age 14...only to end up with a bit of an eating disorder and so many more trips back to Weight Watchers that I began to refer to it as "rehab."  Seriously, Lindsey Lohan has nothing on me.  She has her problems...and I have mine.

I've sat through so many hours of lectures at rehab that I honestly believe that I could teach the class.  And yes, once I actually attained my goal weight.

Once.  I don't think I ever made it past the six weeks of maintenance.

I'd listen to people talk about their struggles with food, how their hearts were broken, and how angry they were at themselves.  I'd see other people prop them up with encouragement and clap enthusiastically when they lost 1.2 pounds after eating nothing they wanted all week.  I listened to the lady who had lost 95 pounds jump into every conversation as the resident expert, and I'd see other people roll their eyes along with me.  I have bookmarks, ribbons, gold stars, and more paraphernalia than you can possibly imagine.  Yet...I couldn't find success.

Not for long anyway.  And putting myself and my wallet through that numerous times was just more than I could continue to do.  So the problem grew...literally.  The last time I was at rehab, I was sitting there with my iPod listening to music when the song "Heavy" by Collective Soul came on.  It was entirely too hilarious.

Oh, come on, you know you would have laughed too.  So, I endured the rest of the meeting about how to get through Thanksgiving with your relatives pushing food on you or some such nonsense and then I never went back.

I just couldn't.

I believe that Weight Watchers is a wonderful program.  But it is designed for people who have already made the decision to get the weight off...not for the "I'd like to drop a few pounds" crowd.  You have to really stick to the program, write down everything, and drink a lot of water.  And then there's the whole focus on exercise which is referred to as "moving."  Frankly, the only exercise I was getting at the time was walking back and forth to the bathroom to pee.

Sorry for the TMI.

Anyway, I finally got sick of myself again and tried not eating carbohydrates and stuck to a plan of very limited foods with good success.  And had I been able to stay away from sugar...I might have made a success of that program.  In fact, right now I am doing a modified version of that plan.  And it is still working.  Just more slowly.

But the weigh-in last November showed me that I had achieved a new frontier in weight...and that I needed to take matters in hand so that I'll actually be able to walk in 20 years instead of being put on my side and rolled around the mall.  Because that was where I was headed.

Not that my son hadn't been trying to get me back into the gym.  Not that my daughter hadn't asked me if I knew anyone who would be a good gym partner.  Not that I didn't face my closet every day dreading the attempt to find something to cover my massivity.  (I know it's not a word...but it should be.)  I was all kinds of in denial.  And shame.  Let's not forget that.

One day in late November I walked into Hogan's Gym and walked by the mirrors in the big room and I didn't die from embarrassment.  On the contrary, everyone was and still is extremely supportive.  I've had one person who told me that maybe I should wait until the summer to try to do more...but I think that she was just trying to be encouraging in a roundabout way.  She saw me struggling through the Pilates class...and since she'd been heavy once herself, she was probably remembering how embarrassing it is when your brain tells your body to move a certain way, and the body is stopped from responding by something blocking its path.

I refer to that as my "abs."  (Or lack thereof.)

Since that day, I have tried to be faithful about being at the gym at least three days a week, most often four times, and when I can five or six.  I never go on Sunday.  But then again...I am trying not to do my pantry diving on Sunday afternoons either.

I've learned that I can have pretty much what I want, but the sugar has to be very minimized and the carbs as well.  I am as happy with a bowl of cut up strawberries (Big Dave just brought me some) than I would be with a pint of Ben and Jerry's.  Okay, that's primarily because I don't like their politics...but whatever.

I now do an hour of cardio, do weight machines, and although I've been slacking in March due to my birthday, a stomach virus and oversleeping...I love my classes on Saturday morning.  I love the people and how wonderful, funny, amazing, and encouraging they are.  I can have a bad day...but if I walk through the door of the gym...I'm better.  Well...unless someone is a horse's behind and won't turn the TV off of NBC News...because I go all Towanda over that.

In fact, that happened tonight.  But let's not dwell on the negative, shall we?

Jill works out with me...which means I get to see her most days.  Brian works the front desk several days a week.  I've gotten to know a lot of people who I wouldn't have gotten to know had I just gone home and curled up in front of the TV with a bag of Lay's.  In fact, I now know what it takes to burn 400 calories.  It takes an hour of my life.  Which at least makes me think twice before I go to cramming something in my mouth that I don't need, isn't good, or isn't good for me.

I'm down 27 pounds so far...and have a long road ahead of me.  But I ran into a girl at the gym yesterday who is running the Boston Marathon soon.  She's down 70 pounds and looks fantastic.  Good for her!  I saw pictures today on a guy's phone of the half-marathon that he and his wife ran last weekend.  He is always on the stairmaster when I'm in the cardio room.  He's also shed a lot of weight and is running his first marathon later this year.  You know what I think about that?  I think that's fabulous.  And if by osmosis I am able to catch their enthusiasm and stick with it...then yay for me.

I don't know what your story is right now.  I don't know if you are like my Facebook friend, Jodi, who is doing a bikini/figure/fitness competition this year and looks amazing.  Or like my friend, Sue, who joined a gym where she lives and she is rocking her new and improved sassy self.  Maybe you are like me who is just proud to be hanging with the big dogs.  If you proud.  Be proud for anything that moves you a little closer to where you want to be.  I don't care if that is surviving a Pilates class or running a mile.  Just do it.  Seriously.

As for me, I'm going to spend the next few months trying to fine tune my exercise routine and pick up some more good habits.  Yesterday, one of the trainers, Jimmy, told me to just go up and down the steps four times to see how I feel.  There are seventeen steps...and I did it.

I. Did. It.  Without an elevator.  Or oxygen.  Rock. On.

If you are trying to figure it all out...just start with a small change.  Give up diet sodas and drink water.  Give up candy bars and eat fruit.  Give up your TV time and go for a walk.  Just do something.  Anything.

I have to admit that I was really excited to go to the doctor's office this past week when I found out that my weight was down.  Not that I'm proud of the number that it is now, but I know that if I stay faithful...this too shall pass.

Get up, get out there, and do something positive.  Join Weight Watchers or join a gym.  Maybe do both.  You can do whatever you set your mind to do...just pray for the strength to get through the time when your effort turns from a duty into a habit.  Today I thought I might take the night off...but when 5:00 came, I went on to the gym and did my cardio.  And I'm tired.  But I'm happy knowing that I did something positive for myself today.

And that totally rocks.

Wish me luck at the weigh-in tomorrow.  I think I've lost the ten pounds required...and if so...I'll have that to celebrate as well.  And who knows, we may be winners!  But even if we aren't...we still are.  So there's that.