Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflections on Cleaning

I spent the better part of this past weekend cleaning my house.  And I'm going to take a big chance here and be as transparent as possible to let you know that this was quite a feat for me.  I normally clean best if I'm angry, and any angst that I have these days gets extracted from my being at the gym.

Before you make that face (yes, THAT one) about my admission of the missing Susie Homemaker gene (I can trace it back three far), please be aware that there are some areas of the house that stay clean because I'm weird about it...the kitchen...the laundry...and the sheets on the bed.  But everything else just kind of takes care of itself so to speak until I can muster up the enthusiasm to get after it.

If I peer into the toilet and the bowl looks dingy...I clean it.  I'm on no schedule...although I have valiantly tried to do so because I tend to work really well with schedules.

But since all of my spare time lately has been used up trying on clothes, ironing, pulling weeds and dealing with life, it has been a shockingly long time since I mustered up enough enthusiasm to do a good "deep Spring cleaning."  What better time to do that than the first day of Summer, right?

When I used the word "shockingly" I'd like to give you a little bit more insight so that you know where it was.  I don't want your imagination to take you to "OMG Hoarders" shocking or even "Shall We Check Her Mental Facilities?" shocking.  It was more "I Haven't Seen the Top of the Dining Room Table Since Christmas" shocking or "What Exactly IS Piled up in the Laundry Room?" shocking.

You know...we live here.  That kind of shocking.

Unless, of course, you are one of those people who cannot sleep until you've washed the three spoons in the sink and wiped down the counters before you go to bed.  In which probably should stop reading because you probably feel the need to go take a shower about right now.

I started with the master bathroom and Jill helped me by using her little steam mop while I cleaned the tubs and sinks and toilet.  I have small white tiles in there with black dots...a look that I thought was charming in 2001 when we built the house, but now I find somewhere between "impossible to keep clean" and "what in the WORLD was I thinking?"  The shower is in strong need of being redone from the insert that we put in when the house was built with the idea that one day we'd rip that out and tile it up and put a solid door on it instead of the glass and chrome combination that has gaskets that turn the most putrid color of green if you don't stay after it.

Of course, if you want to be all can just consider it "LeSeuer green."  That almost sounds attractive.  But frankly...a shower shouldn't contain anything around it the color of English peas.  Just saying.

I won't even go into the contractor knob in that shower that was the one thing I asked the plumber not to use because that pea color gets all up under that ball and it is impossible to get out.  But he did.  And it's been there for going on 13 years now.  One time Big Dave brought home another knob thingy...but it cost $60 and I think that I can find something on a clearance rack somewhere cheaper than that.  Seriously.

Bottles of this or that were thrown away, and I finally decided to sacrifice three violets that have been on life support for about six months to that great recycling bin in the sky.  They sat around my tub and I watered them every Thursday.  The remaining two look healthy enough.  For now.

I moved into the dust off of surfaces and taking the multiple laundry baskets with clean clothes in them and consolidating them into piles on the bed.  After I changed the sheets, of course, and remade the bed.  Let's just say that Big Dave won't have to buy or quite frankly even wash any tee shirts or socks anytime soon.  I must have put thirty sock balls and the same number of folded shirts on the bed for him to put away.

On his side of the bed, of course.  He always appreciates that little surprise after an hour on the couch snoring to the likes of "Dirty Harry" and all he wants to do is fall into bed.

Due to the consolidation, I now have four laundry baskets...which is honestly too many for the two of us so I tried to cull a few of them.  The broken one that has been retained because the others were full of clothes is now in the trash can.  Finally.   A pink one was relegated to the guest room for towels and the others are in our bedroom waiting on dirty clothes to be deposited into them this week.

Yeah, we'll see how that pans out.  I'm betting that the dark blue one will not contain darks and the white one will not contain whites.  They'll both be full...but sorted?  Hardly.

After moving from the bedroom I went into the laundry room to see if there was anything I could do about the countertop that I haven't seen since 2012 when I spent an entire day in there with a toothbrush and a promise to never let it get that out of control again.  Except I did.  Generally when people were coming in and I needed to stash

But I was determined.  So, the laundry room was cleared of the debris that had been parked there because I had no idea what to do with any of it.  I cleaned out the washing machine (gag-worthy) and dusted the dryer.  Am I the only person who gets dirt and dust from the lint trap everywhere?  Because of this issue...I keep Lysol wipes in there to clean up everything after every load.  Of course, it helps if you actually remember to use them.

I "steam mopped" in there as well and was mortified at how dirty that floor was despite frequent mopping. I would really love to have one of these little cleaners...but then Big Dave might retire and quit mopping.

I love it when Big Dave mops.

Plus, I did find thirty-seven cents in the laundry room...two carpenter's pencils, a couple of bits, and fourteen socks without mates.

From there, I moved to the rest of the home...dusted, cleaned, threw out, threw away, and boxed up and now the house looks like a home.  The table is clear, the vincas that I purchased last weekend were finally planted, and everything is as it should be.  Not perfect...but nice.

Except for the ant invasion.  I used to respect ants.  Now I just want to kill them by any means possible.

But we'll leave that alone for now.

I think what happened to me with regard to this current round of lax housekeeping was that I grew okay with things the way that they were.  I ignored the laundry baskets dotting the bedroom floor and the dust that settled on every surface.  I left the sheets from the last visitors on the bed because I didn't go into that room often enough to care and we rarely get guests without some serious advance notice.  In two weeks when we start "Family Visit July"...I'll be changing sheets every week for a month.  I want the rooms to feel welcoming and not dusty or unmade or full of stuff that needs to be put somewhere else at best...or set on fire in a blaze of glory at worst.

Last year, I crammed a ton of c-rap into Jill's old closet because it made sense to do so.  I could shut a door.  I could forget it existed. My niece and nephew (the "little people") went in there anyway to get the ginormous blue bear that Brian won for Jill when he was little for a photography session that kept them entertained for the better part of an hour.  Dixie and Riley were included in the festivities and neither of them appears to have any lasting psychological issues from we're good.

This year, I want to be able to welcome guests to a cheery room with lots of space and not a speck of dust.

Okay, that last one was hilarious...let's go for "a tolerable amount of dust" instead.

Life passes quickly and sometimes we collect items from this decade or that, from this trip or family member or because something was a great price and found its way into our vehicles.  We take these items and bring them into our homes and they become the backdrop of our days of waking and sleeping.  But every once in awhile, we have to realize that it is far better to get rid of that which is just clutter or in the way or just not necessary.

Sometimes we outgrow items and other times we move on to another hobby and the remnants stay around in case we get back to it someday.  Except we rarely do.

I realize that we Americans have so much that we have problems like "decluttering" and "weight loss" that the rest of the world does not struggle with because they have so much less than we do.  And although God has provided me with a beautiful home in which to live my life...I tend to take that for granted until company is on the way and I want to show them my best.

Why not show my best every day?  Why not deal with the little things so that I can truly appreciate and be grateful for the blessing not only of a roof over my head...but for order and peace and joy.  Why not show my thanks to God by being grateful for this gift instead of griping that I have to clean my baseboards.

Which I totally do...but let's not go there.  Yet.

I like order.  And since I have to keep my house in order for a month...I'm hoping that it becomes a new good habit.  At least I know that I won't be mortified to bring people all up in this house.  Which is good.

There are still a lot of things to be taken care returning the chicken wire to Home Depot that sounded like a good idea to protect our strawberries from the birds but only works if you actually take it out of the package.  Like clearing the countertops of items that should be stowed away in the pantry and dusting the living room mantle that I forgot until I saw the dancing dust emanating as the sun hit it this morning.  Washing the outside windows and putting sheets on the queen bed in Brian's soon as the memory foam pillow top thingy arrives from Amazon because he'd rather sleep on my couch than the bed that isn't "comfy enough."  Cleaning the bathrooms again because I like to make doubly sure that I give my guests a spotless tub, sink and toilet because I'd quite frankly appreciate the same.

I don't know what would make housework less like drudgery to me other than looking at it as an act of thankfulness for everything that has been given to me.  Hand-me-down family furniture, the Christmas cactus that refuses to die (bless its heart) even though my watering skills are lacking, and the dishtowels that sweet friends have given me over the years that hang from my oven door.

So. Very. Much.

Instead of grousing about having to clean my house...I want to see it as a privilege.  To feel about it the way that I did in 2001 when we moved in and everything was newly painted and beautiful.  The realization of months of poring over magazines and colors and different styles.  To see it as our home...where my children and their friends laughed and family has gathered.  To see it through the eyes that my sister, parents, niece and nephew do...or my friends who stop by when they can brave being out this far from town.

In two weeks, my son and sweet Brecksyn will be here for the 4th of July...and hopefully we will sit and enjoy fireworks but even if we don't...I know we'll enjoy each other's company.  The next week will bring the celebrate my Mom's birthday and do some fun things that I refuse to tell them about because I like planning a surprise and I can't think of people more deserving of one.  The following week will bring my France-dwelling beautiful little sister and the "little people" as Dixie knows them and the pool will be used nearly constantly and I'll get more hugs and kisses than I deserve but I'll eagerly and greedily take them over three way too-short days.

I can hardly wait.  For all of it.  Every second of that time under this roof.

So, if you have rolled your eyes at all that is before you to do today in the home that you live in...and you need a reason to get yourself motivated to turn off the television and get what needs to get done handled...just do it out of joy.  Thankfulness.  Anticipation.  Expectation.  Love.  And a heart full of appreciation that you have somewhere to lay your head.  Somewhere grand that God has given you.

Just remember if stuff takes too much of your time to have to divorce it.  Pass it on, donate it, or make a conscious decision to just enjoy the time you have to spend to keep it maintained.  Much like I do when I run my hands over furniture that my Gammy ran her hands over to dust a generation or two ago.  It ties me to her and to the knowledge and appreciation of growing up to be just an average kid in a truly remarkable family.

That's what I'll be doing this next week as I finish up this housework.  Being grateful.  Remembering time that has passed and people I have loved that I miss as I prepare a place for those I love who are coming to grace this home with their presence.

When I think about it that way...I can honestly smile as I pick up the dustrag and can of Pledge to handle those places that I've missed or overlook.  I really can.  

Plus, that steam mop is pretty awesome.  Just don't tell Big Dave.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Too Much Time on My Hands...Yeah, Right

One of the wonderful things about being an "empty nester" is that you occasionally have blocks of time that aren't committed.  You aren't driving anyone anywhere...unless, of course, the dog needs grooming or if the stars all of the kids wants to go somewhere.  It's actually pretty nice.

Big Dave and I really only emptied our nest last August...when we dropped our "baby boy" off at his first apartment in Huntsville.  We held him back a year from entering school (June birthday) on the front end and then he stayed at a local college for his first two years on scholarship on the back end.  Having bought nearly three extra years...we were pretty satisfied that we'd manage and would fill the hours doing wonderfully creative things like fixing up the house, becoming uber organized and sticking to a written budget.

Hahahahahahahahahaha...yeah.  No.

What we did was spend three months trying to get our bearings.  It took me that long to quit buying Totino's Party Pizzas that nobody was around to eat and realizing that I was no longer competing for a parking place by the door.  The house was strangely quiet with no microwaving going on at midnight and I could actually go to bed when I wanted because nobody was coming in later on.

Then it was Christmas.

Then I started at the gym.

For the past five months, my life has been super basic.  I get up, get on the computer (do lessons, write, catch up on what is going on in the world), take care of animals, get myself out the door for work, work, go to the gym, come home for an hour and go to bed.  Five days a week.

Every week.

I do laundry on weekends and at least a project or two toward getting my house/yard/car/finances dealt with and do what I can to nurture the friendships that I have.  Most of this is managed with cell phone calls either headed in to work, during lunch, or on my way home at night.

So, now that I have all of this "extra time on my hands" I find that I virtually have none.  And five less vacation days this year.  But I'm just ignore that bitterness.

Actually, I am finding that the more I have to do, the more actually gets done.  I am forced to focus, to plan and execute, and I let stuff I shouldn't be doing anyway go.  There is less time to bemoan the fact that time is flying by and I keep getting older because I'm having entirely too much fun just living the adventure that is my life.

I have plans that get derailed like everyone else...and I have a lot of things that I wish I could get to...but they are having to wait.  That's okay...because if they are still waiting for me to get to them...then they matter.  I have long ago let that which does not...go.

Except, of course, the tendency to want to stock up on things that my son eats when they go on sale at Publix.  When I actually have time to go to Publix.  Which isn't often here lately, I'm afraid.  In fact, I left the penny item - a box of Publix vanilla wafers at the store today because I forgot to stop.  Never mind that I need to have this item in my house like I need another armpit.

I mean, it only cost a penny, right?  Oh, and the $10 worth of groceries that will spiral into $50 if I am not accompanied by an adult (which would be Big Dave with a stopwatch and an attitude).

This point in my life when I have more time on my hands than I have in at least 20 years is when I find that I can't find the time to dust.

Not that I've ever been accused of being an excellent housekeeper.  Or even a good one.  I thought "decent" sufficed for our needs.  Except the kitchen.  I do spend what effort I can muster up cleaning up in there.

I'm not alone in Big Dave put the chairs on the table so he could mop the floor a week ago.  As I write this, there are still three chairs in that position and one of the two barstools.  I'm so not kidding.

The wild thing is...nobody around here gives a rat's behind.  The kitchen is clean, the pool is clean, and we have underwear.  I have a trunk full of clean gym clothes and I have fresh towels for the week.

Nirvana.  Or something like that.

I think that we all spend so much of our lives trying to do everything so well because we just think we should.  I suppose the most beautiful thing about "empty nesting" is that the people we are trying to impress either don't live here anymore or will give us fair warning if they are coming to visit.  If they don't...well, they're on their own.

In a few weeks, I'll have a couple of vacation days that will be filled with the laughter of my sister, Mom, niece and nephew and possibly one or both of my kids if they can work it out.  It will be busy and fly by like it always does...and I will spend most of the next few weekends attempting to whip this house into shape so that they will feel welcome here.  And it will be worth every bit of effort.

But in the meantime, I'm just trying to use all of this "extra time" to nourish my soul and take care of my sadly neglected body that is apparently attempting to forgive me by surprising me all of the time.  I'm enjoying time with Big Dave and even the occasional day or so when I feel pressed to the wall with all that I have to do mixed in with what I want to do.

And yes, I even have to drive Riley to the groomer on Saturday to be beautified.  Bless his hairy little heart.  I'll spend the rest of the day making the house habitable for all of the company that we'll be having beginning July 4th weekend and the two after that.

I cannot wait.

I'll remind myself of that last statement as I am cleaning the toilets.

Maybe the truth is that I don't have "too much time on my hands" but that I have exactly enough.  There is time to take care of myself, take care of others, and to have something to look forward to.  Isn't that pretty much what I was hoping for all of those years when I thought that the carpools, cheer gym, spend the night parties, chaperoning, shopping, birthday parties, family get togethers, church activities, school events, ball games, and so on were going on?  When I was grasping for five minutes of alone time so I could catch my breath?

Yes.  Yes it is.

And it is glorious.  About as organized as a train wreck...but glorious.

On Being Mean

I am not a mean person.  I say that meaning that when you weigh the days that I live and breathe and treat everyone with kindness, respect, and overlook weaknesses and foibles (in the manner that I'd like them overlooked for me) versus the days that I body slam people to the ground (figuratively, of course), I feel pretty free to make that judgment.  Granted, I have it in me to be mean, and I have displayed that tendency from time to time via Towanda...and we won't even get into how I went though a certain "hormonal fluctuation period" way off balance.  Because that was downright scary, or so I'm told.  I believe it because, quite frankly, sometimes I even scared myself.

Okay, maybe I am mean.

No, I'm really not on the whole...but like everyone else who is human, sometimes I cross the line when I write about things or something flies out of my mouth before I've had time to replace the filter.  Not often, but often enough to know that it could happen.  Being snarky about something and maybe even calling myself out on something...I unintentionally end up writing (or saying) something that has the capacity to wound someone else.  Even if I don't know the person.  Even if the person will probably never know what I wrote.  Even though there was a good bit of self-deprecating humor also contained in said piece.

I did that last night...and immediately took the post down.  Someone reminded me that this wasn't kind.

I'm human.  It happens.  It will happen again.  Because I'm human.

We go through life and don't realize how we tend to judge things.  We see the outside of someone and don't really know them.  We find it necessary to get through life because nobody has the time to truly know everyone that we come in contact with in any given lifetime.  We just have to do our best to be open to the possibility of friendship, of learning something from that person, and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I should know.

I entered the gym this last time weighing nearly 70 pounds more than I do now.  Nobody blinked.  In fact, people were generous and gracious.  I was encouraged.  It could have easily gone the other way.  I read a book recently by an author that I love (Jen Lancaster) where there was a scene of someone taking a photo of someone who was fat on a treadmill.  They thought it was funny.  When I read that...I thought to myself "could have been me."  If I remember correctly, her character handled that, but it goes to show...someone else could have easily had that opinion of someone like me.

I won't even go into what I'm sure me running on the treadmill looks like since I'm having to re-learn how to run.  (It's been twenty years since I last tried.)  Or how I must look while trying to do certain exercises that are most awkward until you learn how to do them effectively.

What I mean is...who am I to joke on someone because they had a deodorant fail?  Exactly.  It wasn't my intention to be mean.  It was my intention to take a bad situation and have fun writing about it.  Because writing about life and what I encounter is something that makes me happy.

Catch the "me" there?  Exactly.

So, as I go through today, I'll have that strong reminder...again...that some things are better just left in my head rather than coming out through my fingers.  I feel a little like that story in the bible where the king forgives the great debt of one of his subjects...and then catches that same subject shaking down someone else for a debt that is owed him.  How angry the king is that no mercy is shown.  How he punishes the subject even more because he was so hard-hearted and didn't appreciate the gift of mercy that he received.

I'll consider the fact that the scale didn't move at all this morning my punishment for being mean last night.

Maybe you aren't guilty of this type of behavior, and maybe it is atypical of your norm, but the capacity to do this always hovers over us like a cloud.  If we are lucky, someone will point it out.  If we are not, we may unintentionally deflate someone who is doing everything that they can to be their best for no reason other than a cheap laugh.

I know how hard it is to strive to be my best.  I try and fail at it every single day.  And while I am enjoying the conversion from being a horrible warning, I also need to be sure that I'm using the grace that was extended me and sharing that out there to keep it going.

Or at the very least...just stay quiet.  Quiet is not passive.  Sometimes quiet is kind.

I hope that those of you who are struggling with something find the grace from other people to encourage you on your path.  And those of you who encounter jackwagons along the way will know that sometimes people do say (or write) things that are not aimed at you specifically, although it seems that way.  Sometimes they just need to be reminded...or have that attitude checked by someone who is bold enough to speak the truth.

I hope that you encounter kind people today.  I hope that you are a kind person today.  I know that is what I'm hoping for myself as well.  After all, there are enough jackwagons in the world without unintentionally joining their club...even briefly.

After all, we've all been forgiven great debts.  We've been shown the ultimate mercy.  Shouldn't we at least try to eke out a little of that for people?  I vote yes.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Box

Sometimes God throws you a giant blessing if you'll only listen to what He is trying to get you to pay attention to and act on it.  Yesterday, while trying to find one thing to do that could be could be done quickly so I could consider getting the house a little bit more toward straightened up, I decided to take the clothes in size OMG that I've undergrown and put them aside for someone else who is also on this journey but a few steps behind me.  I figured...this is a manageable project that I can finish in an hour or so because I clean out my closet every season.  Every. Season.

I put on clothes that are considered "summer attire" so to speak only to find that they are well beyond alteration and even tried on some that I was too big for a few months ago and then too small for now without ever really wearing.  Like ever.

I pulled out items that actually do fit but that I've ignored because they require ironing and ironing requires time that I haven't wanted to devote to this task when it is gorgeous outside by the pool so I've just left them in there unworn and somewhat forlorn looking.

As I was trying to battle a comforter that kept slipping, I looked up and saw a box on the top shelf of my closet.  It is tall (three feet high by about one and one half feet wide) and I'm sure put there by Big Dave using a ladder at some point in time because I had to use my old high school baton to push it back from the edge to get it down.  I will not part with my baton.  Even if the dog has chewed on one end and I haven't really twirled it in something like thirty years.

I have no memory of what is inside of this box because it has been up there for several years.  Several as in four or so.  Could be old blankets, papers (although unlikely) or something else but I highly suspected that it held clothes.

About four years ago, three different friends cleaned out their closets and I was present for the evacuation of two of these with the other being so incredibly disciplined that me doing it was just not necessary because she is the Queen of Getting it Done.  I am usually there for closet purgings because I don't mind manual labor of that type, and sometimes you need someone to sit there with you after you've lost weight or have put off the chore for way too long and tell you to put it in the bag and quit procrastinating.  That the piece with the emotional attachment is horribly out of style and unlikely to return to fashion.  Like ever.

I'm fairly good at being honest about those kind of things and take it as a personal mission to either put the castoff to good use or to get it to an individual who needs it desperately but either cannot afford to shop or cannot bring themselves to face the mirrors in the dressing room at the mall.  Everything else is then donated.  Usually, there isn't very much left over.  Which, of course, is good.  I consider it a personal mission to get clothes from point A to point B with maximum blessing capacity and minimum hassle for the recipient on the other end.

Needless to say, historically, I have held on to a few things that I cannot wear any longer because I always do.  Because I have been down the road of lose and gain many times and there's always that chance that I'll be there again.  So, I keep them in the back of the closet like a cosmic safety net.  Which is incredibly stupid in that it just invites me to yo-yo right on back up there instead of ripping that net away so that I have to stay on the wire and perform...or else.

Yesterday, I was in the process of parting with many items (something I don't really have a problem with but some of these were recently acquired as I've lost weight so I feel like I've worn them for 15 minutes.)  Others were suits that I kept because they were nice and I could always wear them again.

Never mind that they were circa 2000.  Yes.  But it is equally true that classic styles never really go out of style.  I have proof.

But back to the box.  I open the flaps and find myself unprepared for the miracle that lies within.

Tons and tons of clothes in the size I currently am right now.  And in the right season.

Clothes that were apparently put aside for a seasonal change many moons ago with the intention of moving them to other people that following summer.  Except that they've been in the box at the top of my closet since then.  Ignored.  Left alone.  In spite of two closet reshufflings and cleaning out everything else around it last year.

I pulled out each item and tried it on...and found out not only what happened to some items that I'd missed but thought were long since given away...but that I could finally wear everything in that box...except about five items.  FIVE.  Out of something like fifty.

Needless to say...I spent several hours yesterday ironing clothes.  And watching the Hallmark Channel, of course.  I will not need to buy many - if any - clothes this summer.

Which totally rocks, by the way.

I refilled the box - and a kitchen garbage bag - with clothes that I can no longer wear.  They are going to bless (or possibly overwhelm) somebody who can use

It feels a little awkward to know that there is really nothing to wear if I go off the rails and gain weight again.  But it feels right.  I cannot look back and I actually look forward to boxing this current cache of clothes up and passing them on because they are too big.

Sometimes we miss blessings because they come with a warning label that says "CAUTION: TROUBLE AHEAD" - which can loosely be interpreted as "time-consuming" or "a lot of bother."  I could have looked at that box the same way.  Could have left it up unanswered prayer sitting on the top shelf of my closet.  But thankfully, I didn't.  I got it down.  I opened it up.  I dealt with what was within.

Now there's a big blank spot where that huge box used to be.  I kind of like it.

All of us have big boxes of something in our lives.  Sometimes it is a box of grief or a box of pain.  A box of past successes or a box of dreams that died.  It may be a box of unrealized hopes or a box of sheets that you inherited from your grandmother's linen closet.  Yeah, that latter one is still sitting in two laundry baskets in my living room.  Don't ask.

Okay, FINE, I totally need to deal with that.

I suppose what I'm trying to get down to is that sometimes opening the box is a blessing.  We tend to think of opening boxes as some kind of curse.  We think we are modern day Pandoras.  Sometimes, maybe we are.

All I know is that it was joyous to open the boxes and see everything I'm going to need for the next two months sitting there waiting for me to try it on, iron it, and put it away in my closet.  About half of the items were originally mine.  The remainder belonged to various sweet friends who released them to my care because hoarding them because they didn't want to deal with them was really just not an option.

It isn't an option for me either...those clothes I carefully removed from their hangers last night that are now in my car on their way to someone else.

Maybe the moral of the story is to quit fighting the voice that says "do this" by answering "it's too much trouble." or "I don't have time." or "I cannot deal with another thing in my life right now." with "I've got this."

Just open the box.  Deal with the contents.  Bless someone.  Move on.  Repeat if necessary.

I'm certainly glad that I listened to the small, quiet voice that said, "Deal with that box." I really am.

And if you need someone to force you to clean out your closets and you live in Montgomery... I'm available.

It's time.

Friday, June 6, 2014


This has been an interesting week.  I realize that use of the word "interesting" can imply nearly everything imaginable, but I suppose that is my point.  It has been unique in that I'm in a new office some different co-workers, have a new route to work, and I have to pull it together in the morning so that I'm not tragically late.  I have to keep up with a thingy that lets me in the gate to the parking deck, have to have my gym clothes with me so that I can change before I leave so that I won't freak out if traffic is horrendous, and there's a new cafeteria in the basement of the glorious new workspace that serves both breakfast and lunch.

Yeah, that last one is a bit of a challenge for me.  I wandered down the other morning to get a cup of coffee since that is a luxury currently not available on my floor and the the constant 72 degrees in the building was feeling a little more like 52 instead.  I clutched my wallet close to me as I passed a buffet of eggs, grits and every imaginable sausage (I averted my eyes at the bacon) and found my way to the coffee machine.

It took every fiber of my being to stay out of there today.

At lunch there are lovely selections that are either semi-healthy (salad) or anything but (fried catfish).  I can bypass the desserts with my nose in the air, but the chicken salad?  That was tougher.

Needless to say, I have absolutely no business going in that cafeteria unless I'm accompanied by an adult.  An adult that says "NO" a lot.  At the very least...someone who will hold me accountable.


It has been a week of major temptations...I have encountered everything from World's Finest Chocolate (a/k/a "band candy") at a teller window to Great American Cookie Company (Brian's birthday was this week but I left my favorite white chocolate macadamia nut cookies at the store) to bacon AND sausage at church last Sunday.

It's like that you know...when you are focused on not eating certain foods for a period of time.  You'll hit a point where it is possible to delude yourself into thinking that you can have just a bite.  A tablespoon of peanut butter turns into eight tablespoons if you don't watch yourself.  And no, it is not healthy even if you are smearing it on an apple.  Okay, FINE, the apple is healthy.

Part of the problem is the awareness that you've been without for a long time...but the other problem is sabotage.  Anyone who has ever dieted has encountered the emotional issues with eating.  Feeling thinner than you are because you are so grateful to have clothes that are too big for you.  Justifying a little fudging of the eating plan here and there because you work out like a lunatic.

Folks, I am in no position to be sabotaging myself.  But I'm aware that I'm in the danger zone.  Specifically, I am within three pounds of the lowest weight I've been in recent memory and the temptations are coming at me harder and faster than they have for the past four months.

I've thought about it a little bit and wondered what is going on with me...and I think some of it is a feeling of relief that my program works, that I have a wonderful support network, and I feel almost normal again...even at this weight.  I'm stronger in my workouts and I really love improving.  But the majority is the emotional component of what got me here in the first place.

This week I actually wore a sleeveless top to the gym.  It showed my arms in their current state.  Nobody shrieked in terror and a lot of people told me that they liked the top.  So, that's good, right?  It was a huge step for me, because I haven't bared my arms for many, many moons.  This was right on the heels of finding two pair of workout pants that actually somewhat fit.  I also did some highly unattractive burpees...but I did them.  Not at the pace of the rest of the class...but faster and better than I'd ever done them.  All of those are really great moves in the right direction.

But that most assuredly not.

So, instead of freaking out and sabotaging myself as I get closer and closer to where I want to be...I am going to breathe, stay with what works and quit trying to deviate from the plan.  After all, I still have 75 pounds left to lose.

At least it isn't 140...which is where I started out.

Maybe we all have something in us that tries to ruin something when it seems to be going too well.  Maybe we feel the need to test it so that we can trust that it is real and not an illusion.  Maybe we all need a break so that we can regroup and hit it harder and more faithfully with an eye on how easy it is to get back into bad habits.

I am not saying that I am in grave danger of messing everything up...I'm just perfectly aware that the possibility exists.  I know myself that well.  I know that the weight is more than about enjoying food.  It is also a stupid but effective way of stuffing down feelings, and making people comfortable being around me.  The more I lose, the more I stand to lose.  The more I fail to recognize the toe in the pond...the more likely it becomes a swan dive into the abyss.

Tomorrow I will get up and go to an aerobics class that I enjoy and I'll celebrate my son being home for the weekend.  I'll want to spoil him a bit and we'll probably end up in a restaurant somewhere.  That's all fine.  What isn't fine is me relaxing my need to nourish my body in a healthy way just because I've managed to lose 65 pounds.

The journey sometimes has parts in it that seem a bit uphill.  Those uphill stretches like plateaus, arms that are getting stronger but still somewhat resemble wings, and seeing the "after" pictures that are a huge sigh of relief (from the "before" ones anyway) but a testament that I still have a long, long way to go.

That's okay.  What I need to be sure to guard myself against as I enter the next phase is the possibility of letting others sabotage my plans...or worse than that...doing it myself.

I'll be praying that I can address the emotional issues surrounding the weight loss and doing the hard work there that I've been doing physically since February.  Sometimes we forget that losing weight is more than just watching our diets and picking up our activity.  We have to address what got us there in the first place...fear...insecurity...pain.

This is the next phase of the journey for me...getting stronger...staying faithful...telling myself the truth.  It will be tough...but so were those burpees in Allyson's class on Thursday...but I did them anyway.  I don't know if the emotional burpees will be any easier...I kind of doubt it...but it is time to do that work.

And it is definitely necessary to stay out of that cafeteria.  Just saying.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Last "Official" Weigh In

Today I weigh for the "official" last time as a student in the first course of the weight management course I've been taking since January.  I still have another eight days remaining, but it has become very clear that I am likely to finish a little short of the goal I had originally set for myself..which was half of the amount that I have to lose.

Half of me wants to go the route that I normally do as a first child/defeated perfectionist/overachieving mass of humanity and the other half of me is going "big'll get there a week late...get over yourself."

I think I like the half that is kinder to myself.  That's something that I've been working on through this, I'm going with that.

Contrary to popular belief, people who struggle with weight issues aren't lazy, sorry, or weak.  No more so than the average bear, anyway.  I mean, there are people who are very ill who are enabled by people who feed their addictions without remorse in the name of "loving them" - but I'm really referring more to people requiring a crane to change the sheets.  We can see that on television pretty much any time we are bored enough to flip through the stations.  Most people just associate very strong feelings with food.  Who doesn't love a good potluck or "dinner on the grounds" at church?  What is the prime point of tailgating (other than the pre-game cocktail)?  How do we get to know our co-workers, neighbors, customers or friends (the grill should be the international symbol of peace)?

Food.  Exactly.

What folks tend to not realize, is that weight management for a lot of us is a chronic condition...and requires diligence...much like diabetics must check their sugar levels and people allergic to shellfish or peanuts need to be keenly aware of what is in that harmless looking hors d'oeuvres.  We can have the occasional bite of this or sliver of that...but for some of us...that's not going to be we have to go with total abstinence as a survival technique sometimes.  Have to say "no, thank you" when we really mean, "yes, please!"  And we have to mean it.

It isn't crossing a finish line to get to goal weight...even though that should be celebrated.  It is the little decisions every day that require us to constantly give up eating exactly what we think we want...because we love ourselves enough to say "no."  We didn't like it when our parents told us "no" and we dang sure don't like it when we tell ourselves that.

So, sometimes we don't.  And we pay for it.  Then in the paying, we just get tired of budgeting it...tired of sitting at the same weight that isn't low enough to suit us...and so we start spending on our credit cards instead.  A weekend of saying "yes, please!" turns into a weight gain that looks insurmountable.  But we've already blown it, so we'll just give up.  Again.  Why bother with this when it is a source of such annoyance and despair?

We'll talk ourselves right out of every good habit that we've developed for something that is completely avoidable if we'll just stop right there, look ahead and quit dragging ourselves down.  Any of this sound familiar?  Because it pretty much sums up the past twenty five years of my life.

Since I got off of my own back, I have felt a lot of support out there in the community, at @Hogan's Gym, and at the places where I've been where people have been incredibly kind to tell me to keep doing whatever it is I'm doing because it's working.  Some days I see it because my clothes fit weird, and other days I can see that I really have a long way left to go.  But that's okay.

I certainly can't stop now.  How disrespectful to myself and to the others who have encouraged me would that be?

It doesn't make the decisions any easier when we are faced with them every day and others are able to indulge in ways that we cannot without paying a tremendous price.  But the truth most anything else that we succumb to...the pleasure is fleeting and temporary.  It is generally over in fifteen minutes...twenty at most.  Then the flogging of my spirit lasts for a good eight hours or so after that.  I hate that so much that I look for any way that I can to not get to the corner of "Just This Once" and "I'll Work That Off Tonight" and settle for something far less satisfying in the moment than I think whatever is out there is.  An hour later...I don't even know the difference.  Except that there is no flogging.

I like no flogging.  A lot.

I also look for the little things that do last.  Like feeling my legs getting firmer and my arms getting stronger and my endurance picking up to places I haven't been in at least ten years.  That lasts a whole lot longer than the fifteen minutes of giving in.  As weird as this sounds, when I'm tempted, I now take my hand and run it across my arm or leg where there are muscles underneath the layers that are waiting on the fat to melt away and reveal the hard work I've been doing.  It is something good and tangible and a reward for doing that third set of reps when I would honestly rather not.  But I do anyway because that little bit of "punishment" is paying off.

Sometimes it is the little things that keep us motivated.  We must find them and cling to them and not let anyone steal our joy in the whole painful, awful, beautiful process of becoming a better version of ourselves.

I've had people tell me for the past few weeks that they are so angry with themselves for getting out of the habit of eating right and exercising but that they can't just jump back on the horse and ride.  It's too hard.  They are too busy.  There is no motivation.  On this point...I can totally relate.  I can also relate to spending time in the gym but not losing a lot because I wasn't working hard in the right way and hadn't lassoed my diet into submission.  Insanely believing that I could out-exercise my food.  Not being willing to let go of some condiment (like ketchup) or some small pleasure (cream and sugar in the coffee) or something else (Diet Coke) that got me through the day.  Beginning to believe that it is hopeless so I may as well just eat whatever I want.  Wanting to change...but being "stuck" between disgusted and fiercely protective of the bad habits I'd developed.  Waiting on the motivation to change to come from outside because most folks rely on being totally disgusted with themselves before they'll make a change and they haven't quite hit that level yet.  That's my story.

I'd like to suggest another way.

Just for today, drink eight glasses of water, put down the sugar and processed foods, the diet drinks and "healthy" bars, and pray diligently for help.  Reach out to people who are already on the path.  Show up at the gym if you've been slacking, or put on your tennis shoes and walk for 15 minutes.  Start today rather than waiting until next Monday.  Write out what it is that you really want and put it somewhere that you can read it often (the refrigerator door is probably the best place.)  Get on your scale and take out the tape measure and be honest with yourself.  If you cry or hurt your own's okay.  The reality is what it is.  You can fix it.  You really can.

And then do it all again tomorrow.  Just refine it a little more and walk a little longer.  Eat more vegetables and protein.  Keep going.  Don't stop.  Don't look back.  Before you know it, a week will pass...then a month...and then four months.  That's how it has been for me.

In a few weeks, I'll be at the goal I set for myself in January when I was 64 pounds heavier than I am right now.  When I couldn't walk on a treadmill for ten minutes but could ride a bike for 30 I did that instead.  Who was embarrassed to go to some of the classes at the gym because I was so out of shape...but I went anyway.  Who took to heart every kind word...every expression of encouragement...and who was lucky enough to have such wonderful instructors and fellow gym rats to get me over myself.  I left my pride at the door.  I found that it weighed a whole lot more than I thought it I'm glad it is still by the door and not on my rear end.

If I could say one thing to someone who is flailing around this morning with their is something.  Anything.  But be faithful to whatever it is that you choose to do.   It truly has to be a "lifestyle change" or it won't work.  Not long term anyway.

Hopefully, in a few days, I'll post a photo of the goal reached.  That "hopefully" was not that I'd make the goal...because I eventually will...but that it will be sooner than later.  I'm ready to start focusing on the next goal...and the one after that.  I really am.

Maybe your struggle isn't with is your finances, your spending, or kicking the wine or the cigarettes.  Same process...just get yourself started and inch your way along from there.

You've got this.  Trust me.