Friday, July 19, 2013

Just a Summer Day in July

As I am writing this, I am sitting out in my backyard under a patio umbrella that has clearly seen better days if the lichens at the bottom and the scary remnants of wasp nests past are any indication.  It is in mid-July and the sun is beating down ferociously over our little corner of the world in the thriving metropolis of Pike Road, Alabama.  Yes, it is hot.  And yes, there's a pool within ten feet of where I am sitting at this point in time.  I'm watching my niece and nephew, ages 6 and 7, respectively, jump off of the diving board playing some game that they have concocted as kids that age are prone to do.  Both are swimming in their underwear...not because they don't have perfectly cute bathing suits...but because they CAN swim in their underwear and nobody cares.

I know I don't.

My folks are in the air conditioning that we pay Alabama Power excellent money for this time of year, and we are most grateful for it when we open the door to let one of the four shih tzus who are currently residing under this roof in or out.

Or in.  Or out.

Because heaven only knows why - if given the choice - any dog in his right mind would choose to be out here.  Other than the obvious reasons.  And in Riley's case...he doesn't always have a clue what obvious reason of which I speak.  Bless his heart.  Yet, here they are.  Panting, staring at me, and occasionally licking my leg on the way by just so I'll remember they are out here.

The niece and nephew are excellent swimmers...something that I completely credit my little sister for seeing to as well as the fact that my niece, Tara, is part fish.  She knows no fear...she just jumps right in.  They dive to the bottom of the pool - which I can imagine is cool and refreshing...but is probably in reality like a giant lukewarm bathtub...pulling up rings that they toss in there for what appears to be the billionth time.  I just have to remember to hose them down with sunscreen every hour.  Half the time, they request it without my prompting them.

Again, well done, little sister.

I remember the days when Linda and I would go to Florida in the summers on the way to St. Augustine for a family reunion or gathering, and we'd stop at Uncle Jimmy's and Aunt Lorraine's along the way in Lake City.  Uncle Jimmy ran the local Taste-E-Freeze...which later morphed into something else.  They had a pool that our cousins, Ann and Kay had long since "gotten over" but we enjoyed immensely.  We'd spend all day in there...only coming out to eat or to watch "Little House on the Prairie" in its first season on TV.

Yeah, it's been awhile.

I remember trying to do flips when I dared get my ears wet...something that I spent about half of my childhood trying to avoid.  I had so many ear infections that it was just easier to stay above the water.  But some years, I seemed to be fine...and so I just swam to my heart's content in that pool from early in the morning until they dragged us out all waterlogged.  It was probably because of those memories that I insisted that we put a pool in our backyard...although as is typical with people that own pools...nobody uses it as much as they should.  So, I enjoy sitting here watching these two paddle around chirping in high pitched voices and splashing Dixie whenever she comes by the pool.  They aren't being mean, by the way, Dixie loves water...unless she's about to get a bath.  Then?  Not so much.

The breeze out here is just enough to keep it tolerable, and the sky is a beautiful azure blue with white puffy clouds that have gray accents on the bottom.  The kind of clouds that tell you that it is going to rain at least for a little while sometime within the next 24 hours.  An airplane is going by and I can hear it crossing the sky, and instinctively I looked up as if it was going to have a banner behind it advertising 2 for 1 crab claws somewhere.

Which sounds really good, by the way, but whatever.

My two dogs are out here and are checking out the scene and then finding a cool spot somewhere to lie down in case I get all crazy and decide not to let them in.  If Dixie gets enough of the heat, she'll just hop in on the first step and lie down for a bit to cool off her belly and lap up some water.  Because if anyone is in the pool...Dixie is watching like a canine David Hasselhoff.

Without the tan and the abdominal muscles.

In a few minutes, I'll get my temperature up high enough where I'll need to cool my body more than just rolling up my pants legs and hiding under this umbrella can do.  In fact, I'm pretty close to that now.  I think I've lost about five pounds just sitting here "glistening" and drinking water furiously.  Which, honestly, isn't the worst thing that could happen to me today.

Or ever.

In a few minutes, I'll go inside and offer them some sweet tea and turn on the dreaded Disney Channel.  In fact, we'll be watching something called "Teen Beach Movie" tonight at 7:00 because that's all they've been talking about for weeks.  I have it DVR'd in case we accidentally get involved in a fierce game of Yatzhee or something.

Today has been a good day.  Just one where I've sat here and watched the world go by and had a few minutes to do some things that needed to be paying the American Express bill online and finding out what Physics III covers so I can tell Brian.  By the way, the answer is "Quantum Physics" whatever that is.

He'll be taking Biology even though he's already survived Physics I and II.  I see the word "quantum" and automatically think of Scott Bakula.  I didn't know what it meant then...and I don't know what it means now.  Which is just as well, I suppose.

I hope that everyone reading this has a day when you are greeted by precious children and "Shih-Tzu-pallooza" like I have been today.  The folks have their two shih tzus here along with mine...and the kids spent an hour just taking pictures of them in various poses with my phone.  Yes, I have about 883 photos of dogs to sort through.

Yay me.

On to go back inside before I spontaneously combust.  Or is it comburst?  Whatever.  The A/C is calling me.  As is the watermelon that I know is in that refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Simplicity and Discipline

Every once in awhile I find myself longing for simplicity.  Just living my life with everything in its place, things somewhat mapped out, and with time to be able to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  Lately, I have been all kinds of complicated...with almost area of my life in some kind of disarray.  I don't mean SERIOUS disarray like those who are dealing with life or death issues or where law enforcement is involved.  I mean...just when I think I get something figured out...I apparently press "2" for Spanish and I know not what in the world is going on.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

I don't talk about work much as a general rule...and I'm not going to break that rule now...other than to say that where I work was recently merged with another bank.  There's all sorts of wonderful things about this...such as continued employment...but it takes time to figure out exactly what your new reality is going to look like.  A task that would be far simpler if I could pull it together in at least a few other areas of my life.

I won't delve into a whine-a-thon over what isn't perfect because relatively's all good.  I have (way more than) enough to eat, the bills are paid, and I get to do a lot of things that I want to do on top of having my needs met.  My children are great, my husband is wonderful, and my family is amazing.  I have my dog nearly housebroken (other than an unfortunate incident or three this past weekend which was - naturally - discovered by my mother, bless her heart) and the other one may or not be knocked up.  If she isn't...that's good...and if she is...well, that's fine too.  I'm sure I can find a great home for some shih tzu puppies...and it will give me something to do after Brian blows out of here in three weeks and leaves this nest empty.

Of course, the prospect of having an empty nest right now has its upside.  I mean, our living room has an extra couch and big chair sitting all up in there in addition to the furniture that normally is there.  It looks like the Island of Misfit Furniture, truth be told.  I also have extra furniture in my bedroom taking up space because prior to it we actually had space in there and thought we could bypass the whole storage facility thing.  Yeah, we managed that...but space?  No longer.

I won't even go into detail about the garage...other than to say that it is full of c-rap from various purgings of furniture and what-not from family, friends, and Big Dave's clients, plus what is normally in a garage that also serves as a storage facility for paint cans, brushes, extra pieces of sheetrock, and  the webs of a thousand spiders past and present.  Oh, and the cat.  Occasionally a wayward opossum or bird also joins the menagerie.

One of these days we're going to clear through that and convert that space to something useful like, I don't know...a GARAGE maybe?  Yeah, that would be nice.  But married to a handyman?  I'm not holding my breath.  There's no telling what he'll come home with that was given to him because he thought we might find a place for it and it was about to be hauled out to the curb.

In addition to the washer and dryer from a condo unit that don't work...we also have a fountain in our backyard that is beautiful and actually works, but it is just sitting out there about a foot deep of water (which has now turned a putrid shade of green) after the monsoon rain of the past two weeks.  Why it is out there where it is just hanging out by the pool out kind of in the middle of everything, I have no idea.  On the bright least it isn't in the garage.

We have the driveway undone (and in desperate need of gravel)...but until it is impossible to reach our house because one of the ruts swallows up a car or'll probably ride another six months.

Or six years.

On the money front...we are about as low on funds as we've been in about three years.  Not that Big Dave isn't working a lot...but that we've encountered some expenses and upgrades that were a wee bit unexpected.  That's on top of the expected expenses that Brian will be needing taken care of in three weeks.


Then there's the whole I've gotten out of control with the eating again and I'm afraid I'm going to have to go back to rehab.  I mean, Weight Watchers isn't really that bad...but I just don't know if I can take another stint there.  Maybe I'll try online this time.

Or maybe I'll just try something that I've heard about called "discipline."

For the past several weeks, I've been noticing the kid across the street work in his driveway on footwork, or running around the neighborhood.  When other kids are whining that they are bored...he's outside playing music with some serious bass and doing something remotely productive with his time.  He's a good kid...wears shorts that fit...and I haven't heard any words like "ho" coming out over the music he's playing while he works out.  So, I'm afraid I spend time looking outside to see what he's up to (shades of Mrs. Kravitz not Mrs. me) and being impressed that he's well acquainted with my long lost friend Mr. Discipline.

When you are disciplined, you have your eyes or sights on a goal and you work toward it.  You don't accept "no" for an answer and you certainly don't let anything lame get you down.  You laugh when you're told "it's impossible" and you live for the opportunity to get just a little bit better every day. The odd thing is...about three weeks into becomes comfortable and encouraging and nice.  It gives you more incentive to be a better version of yourself...and so you are.  You move forward and others start to notice that little light in you that is shining called "self confidence."  You inspire others with that light and it ignites some of those who see it and want some of that for themselves.  When you are all lit up like can do more for yourself, for others, for Jesus, for the general good, than you ever can while you are planning but not executing your plan...or eating the brownie bites instead of passing on them and just going to bed.  You'll make your financial goals because nothing is worth losing the feeling of control of your destiny, so to speak, in the ways that you can control...such as how much you spend and what you spend it on.

I need more discipline.

Way more.

I think that everything in my life that is out of control is because I've lost the joy of routine, of planning and executing, and of expecting the best of myself.  Every so often, it is okay to go through a season of serving others, or tuning out of responsibilities, or even of doing exactly what you want to do.  But as a long term strategy?  No.  Just no.

I don't know if I'll be as good as the neighbor kid and will get myself into the gym every day...but I will be trying to get through some of the other things in a more disciplined manner.  I'd like to try to add one thing each day and work through it and then move on to the next.  It may take a month to do some of this...or a year to do others...but if I just start least I'll be on the path.

Because I'm kind of at one of those points in the road of life where one direction takes you where you want to go, but it isn't going to be fun, easy, or even terribly scenic for awhile, but then it will eventually open up to a scene that is so breathtaking that you can hardly believe your good fortune.  The other is fun and laid-back and easy...but it never really gets any better.

I've been walking down the second road...I'm ready to walk the first.

Even if it means that discipline is involved.

Especially since my baby is flying the nest in three short weeks for the wilds of Huntsville.  It's time...but it still makes me realize that I need to be focused on something...and I'm not entirely sure that "something" is going to be a litter of shih tzus.  As awesome as that sounds.

And you never might actually be fun.

Yeah, no.

But I do know is more simple when you are disciplined.  You don't have to waste time thinking about what you'll have for dinner because the answer is "chicken and steamed vegetables" or "salad."  You don't have to wonder what you'll do after work because the answer is "the gym."  You don't have to entertain the thought of a shopping trip for fun because the answer to the budget-conscious is "no."  See?  Easier.

So, perhaps my desire for wanting simplicity is really a desire for a more disciplined life.  The two seem to go hand in hand.  And the God of order who created us left a whisper of that in each of us...even my son who would rather take paper plates off to college so he doesn't have to do dishes.

I'm so serious.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Prancing

Yesterday, I spent about half an hour watching some new (but clearly not really new since it has been around since the 1990s) phenomenon known as "Prancercise."  The lady in the video is clearly in shape...but it almost appears that she is in shape because of other blessings of the existence of a metabolism...and some other choices that she has made (vegetarian).  Watching her, though, sporting her ankle weights and moving in a manner that can only be described as "OMG" - as she was obviously in a public place (with a bad sidewalk...but I digress...) and it made me wonder about her mental stability more than a little bit.  I'm sure in person that she is a lovely person...but somehow that loveliness is drowned out by the more than a hefty dose of cray-cray that screams most urgently.

It made me think, though...who am I to judge?

I am sitting here horrendously overweight by the world's standards (as well as my own, the medical community, the weight loss industry, people that care about me and pretty much anyone drawing breath) but I prance through life acting like this is no big deal.  And from the perspective of who I am as a isn't a big deal at all.  I tend not to notice the outside as much as I see the inside of a person...and then when I do...I can almost always find something about them that is far more attractive than weight.  Like a beautiful spirit.  Mischievous eyes.  The ability to cook, clean, craft, organize, sing, do something amazing, or minister. A hilarious slant on life.  A joyful heart.  A grateful outlook.  Loving service.  See?  None of that requires that you be anything other than what you are.

I realize that the rest of the world is numbed to see the glitz and glamour of celebrity and want to capture some of that for themselves.  But when you see that those who have survived killing themselves through excess at an early age begin to decline, or slip into realize that it really is an illusion.  We forget that we make them who they are by our attention, our attendance, and our dollars that purchase their products.  I have decided over the past year or so to quit supporting projects of people who are so clearly at odds with my beliefs.  I'll give them a little rope...but dang if I'm going to tolerate Jamie Foxx wearing a Trayvon Martin tee shirt at a recent awards show and then pay money to go see "White House Down."  Even if Channing Tatum is in it.  And that says a lot.

A whole lot.

I have given up on a lot of companies and actors for being ridiculous.  And since they found it necessary to drop Paula Deen and boycott Chick-fil-A...I'm continuing to not vote for these people with my dollars.  I think that some of them are starting to figure it out.  I have no problem with people disagreeing with me politically.  I have a huge problem with them using their celebrity to do so.  Want to use it to bring awareness to autism?  Fine.  But to a manufactured "War on Women?"  Heck to the no.

For years, I had more of a "live and let live" attitude toward those I disagree with...and we'd just avoid certain subjects so we could get along.  But now?  I'm real clear on what I believe.  I am not going to back down from telling the truth just so people will like me anymore.  And if they choose to be exasperated...then that's their choice.

For example, the recent legislation in Texas banning late term abortions makes perfect sense to me in my world view as a conservative Christian.  I have friends who are liberal and others who are somewhere in between.  But this is something that I am not going to just sit by and try to understand.  Because in my opinion, there's nothing TO understand.  You're either for late term abortions or you're not.  Obviously, I'm not.  And I think that there's something seriously wrong with anyone who is.  I really do.

About other marriage (in favor of civil unions, not in favor of calling it marriage), shacking up (not in favor but what you do in your bedroom is none of my business), drinking (moderation is fine...wrecking your family's life is not), drug use (No. Just no.) and immigration (enforce the laws we already have)...I'm not so vehemently opposed.  But late term abortions?  Sorry.  No room to tolerate any discussion on this subject whatsoever.

But enough about my political views on a vacation day in the middle of July.  I have a house to get together, a dog to get to the groomer, and boxes to get into the attic because Big Dave Houdini-ed out of that one.  Again.  And he forgot to take the trash to the street yesterday when we have company this weekend.  *sigh*  Love him anyway...but I seriously need to start pinning notes to his shirt.


Where I am going with all of this, I suppose, is that I think all of us have the capacity to judge something that we don't understand...but on some subjects we are willing to be challenged.  I mean...I don't understand the Prancercise lady's obsession with "prancing" and whatever she is doing with her arms...but I also haven't read her book.  People who see me as an overweight middle-aged woman probably think that I'm completely undisciplined or that I have some serious issues I need to work through...because who can get this big without a few hundred "Danger, Will Robinson!" signs in her life or people who tried to slow it down?  And I answer that by saying that this is a combination of two forces: a love of eating and food as a drug of choice.  Except when food is the drug of choice...there's really no rehab for often as I've called Weight Watchers just that.    I still have to eat to live.  Even while you are trying not to live to eat.

As little as I like being judged...I am human and I make generalizations quickly.  I notice someone's age, hair color, gender, race, ethnic background, lifestyle choices, political and religious leanings and manner of speaking and I run that through my head as I try to figure out if I have anything in common with someone or not.  There are people that I give a lot of latitude to because I know their heart...and I respect their intelligence and accomplishments.  But there are others that I give a slim margin of error to dance around and as little time as possible because we're going to disagree almost all of the time over everything.

I've found that I learn the most from my response to those that I have very little in common with far more than I do from people who are almost exactly like me.  And yet, the older I get, the more I realize the wisdom of standing my ground and not being swayed or influenced by people with a different belief system than I have in matters of importance.  Like late-term abortions, for example.

I suppose today I'll be back roaming the aisles of Publix and Costco and people will look at me and wonder to themselves if I'm aware that I am overweight.  Wonder if I need what is in my cart or if I have nobody in my life who will tell me the truth about myself.  The answer to those questions is yes, no and yes.  But the people  who love me are hoarse from trying to change my mind...and have finally started seeing me for me and loving me in spite of it.   I'm very grateful for that.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to make another attempt to get back on track and quit making it so incredibly difficult on myself.  Who knows?  I might even take up Prancercise in earnest.  But whatever I do...I know that there are those who see me for who I am and only want the best for me.  Who know that this weight is more than just a love of is a conglomeration of baggage, bad choices, and a protective shell.  It is a spiritual battle as much as a physical or emotional one.  A battle that I've been way too tired to fight alone...and too proud to ask for help.  But one I know that can be won because Philippians 4:13 tells me so.  For me, I know that II Timothy 1:7 is also at work...but that in my case it is all in the timing.

And, of course, apparently the prancing.  But mostly the timing.  And that time is near.

Have a wonderful day and love yourself for who you are.  Might as well, right?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wisdom from Greg the Miracle Worker

After work yesterday, I was sitting in the chair of Greg the Miracle Worker trying to explain to him that I needed my hair to look a little less Tommy Shaw in 1976 but not much shorter when he ran through the standard questions he asks me on my appointment..."How are the kids?  Did Jill get moved?  When are you moving your son?" which amazes me every time I go there since he is generally a man of few words.  He just somehow miraculously remembers certain details in between our visits every six or seven weeks...and I don't think it's because he writes them down.

He prompts me to get me to break the awkward silence that naturally occurs with me between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as I shift gears between work and home.  A silence that I'd grown accustomed to during the 25 minute commute home or the hour doing cardio at the gym.  A time when I quit thinking about what I didn't get done - or even what I did - and start thinking about everything else that needs to be done. I answered him and then asked about his own move...where he was downsizing from the equivalent of a large ranch home to a garden home by choice.  He's just tired of keeping up the yard and found the perfect home in the exact area he wanted and so he went ahead and bought it.  Makes sense to me.

He told me that he was downsizing things and that he'd had some success putting some things in estate sales because he tended not to hold on to things that he didn't use. He loves beautiful things, he said, but he draws the line at giving them a significance more than they deserve.  He looks for comfort and things that make him happy around him...and beyond that he couldn't care less where he got it or how long he's had it.   Even if they were things that he loved or had belonged to someone he loved.  He just believed that items were meant to be used.  Not saved for a rainy day.  Not hoarded.  But moved along if they didn't have a true purpose to employ.  That's Greg's rule #1 by the way.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about my wedding china, some items that are in the attic because I don't know what to do with them, and some family things that really have no significance to me, but were passed down to me when my grandmother's house was closed and sold.  I don't have a storage building...primarily because I live in "Hoarders-ville" right now as we await Brian's departure to Huntsville next month and are still not sure how we'll convert both his and Jill's old rooms once he leaves.  We're in a holding pattern that we're attempting to work around some big pieces that need to either stay or go and we are desperately trying to figure out what will make sense in our new reality.

But, on the other hand, I am very aware that our house tends to be the "Hotel California" of furniture.  Every piece that we have acquired generally ends up staying.  Occasionally, we will purge it by finding a purpose for it.  Sadly, of late, some of that furniture has come home to roost.  So, here's Greg's rule #2...if it is given away and comes back to you...sell it.

I'm looking around right now and I see something I purchased at Williams-Sonoma...a cake stand and a bell shaped glass cover that were sold together on the clearance table...but with further inspection totally do not belong together that has never been used.  I have a pewter dish and a galvanized steel bucket (from a storage building)as well as three cabinets full of items that I use - at most - once a year.  I have pillows from my old comforter set stacked up in a chair that is more in the way than it is anything else.  And I wonder why I can just keep walking by it without throwing it in a bag and driving it over to Goodwill.  It isn't like I don't know the way and like it is inconvenient.  Here in Montgomery, we have a Goodwill drive-thru.  I kid you not.

I think back to simpler times in my life when I had less stuff and more time.  I enjoyed and employed the things I had instead of dusting and rolling my eyes at some of the things that constantly require me to deal with them.  I'm not saying that I want it all to go away...because I know that would be devastating on many levels.  What I'm saying is...Greg's rule #3 makes far more sense to me than anything else.

And that rule is...once you sell it...put the proceeds in your retirement account.


Having been a a part of "The Great House Purge of 2006"...I can tell you that there is something supremely sad about seeing what might have been as a great item is beyond repair or in such poor condition that there is only one option...the dumpster.  Of seeing books that have long outlived their usefulness sit on shelves unread and brittle.  Of wondering where this or that came from...when the answer was probably a dime store half a century ago.

Just saying.

So, this Fall, the project will be to go room by room and find those items that are not living up to the standards.  To give away or sell what I no longer need.  To do it not only for myself...but for my kids. Because there's nothing worse than cleaning out someone's house of minutiae when they are gone.  Except the regret that accompanies realizing that there were items there that you could have been using all along but went out and bought for yourself because you didn't know.

I am not suggesting that you give away things that matter to you or things that you use.  What I'm saying is that if you have items of value that are just taking up space...that maybe now is the time that you rethink that strategy.  Every second of our lives is important.  If you are spending a lot of your time dusting the brass dogs that sit on your bookshelf or moving the same items around in your are wasting time trying to maintain something that needs to move along.

If you aren't using it, why are you dusting it?  If you aren't driving it, why is it in your garage?  If you aren't wearing it, why is it hanging in your closet?  If you don't love it, why is it in your home?  (Teenagers excluded from this for obvious reasons.)

I hope that in eight weeks when I go back to be "reblonded"...I'll be able to tell Greg the Miracle Worker that I've made some progress.  That I've gotten some items cleaned out and moved along.  Granted, I probably will do that anyway...seeing as Brian moves before my next appointment.  But this is a deeper and very important realization to me.  Because I believe that the way I manage what I already have gives God a very good indication of how I'd handle any future blessings.  And in His infinite wisdom...if I am holding on, maintaining and treating what I already have as a burden...why in the world would he want to give me anything more?  Even something that I'd love a whole lot more than I treasure some of what I have.

That whole releasing the fake pearls to get a real string kind of thing.

Today I am trying to get my house ready for people to see it this weekend.  Riley is not helping that he has suddenly decided to NOT be potty trained at the least convenient moment possible.  But I'll work through that and will keep him because he is worth the trouble.  The set of china that I have used exactly ten times since 1985?  Not so much.

I hope that you'll look at your situation and either get busy selling it, yard sale-ing it, or giving it away.  That you'll quit putting off the inevitable because you cannot deal with either letting it go or the effort you'll have to expend to get it out of your life.  I was reminded yesterday of the proper perspective for "things."  They are lovely and make our lives easier...and may even remind us of someone who owned it first...but they are things.  If you are going to spend a lot of time maintaining something...make it your relationships instead.

Just my thoughts.  And of course, Greg the Miracle Worker's.