Got Wood?

I can’t remember if I told you all this before, but in the 8th Grade I won the Industrial Arts Award.  Yes, I deserved it.  And yes, I went to a co-ed school.  At my school, the boys and the girls had to take both wood shop and home economics.  I was okay at the home economics stuff (much better at the cooking and baking than I was at the sewing).  But I was really good at the wood shop stuff, both in theory and practical application.  Plus, I really enjoyed the class.  When you pulled my elephant’s trunk, that light came ON!  Every time.

Here is a picture of me receiving the Award for Excellence in Industrial Arts at my 8th grade graduation ceremony.  I am the one dressed like an Amish girl.  What you can not see (or hear, actually) is my dad in the bleachers proudly exclaiming, "That's my SON!" when the award was announced.

Here is a picture of me receiving the Award for Excellence in Industrial Arts at my 8th grade graduation ceremony. I am the one dressed like an Amish girl. What you can not see (or hear, actually) is my dad in the bleachers proudly exclaiming, “That’s my SON!” when the award was announced.

I guess you can say I have had a life-long admiration for quality woodworking and beautiful things created from quality wood.  Maybe it comes from me being born so close to all of those Redwood trees in California.  I find wood to be amazing.  Wood is very pleasing to my senses.  Whether rough or smooth, natural or stained, I love the feel of it.  I love to touch it.  I love the smell of it.  I love it in all forms… raw and freshly cut, finished, or even as sawdust.  The lines and the swirls in the grains of each piece of wood, as unique as snowflakes, are incredibly interesting and I love imagining the stories of how they came to be.  Hard wood, soft wood, dark wood, light wood… it is all good.  Wood is very, very sexy.

But even more amazing to me is someone who has the ability to manipulate wood into something more, something functional.  A person who can take a piece of wood and build something beautiful and strong is a true artist in my mind.

That is one of the reasons why I love everything about the show “This Old House.”  I started watching Norm Abram on “The New Yankee Workshop” back when Sheepdog and I first got married.  I was in awe of what he could do with pieces of wood in that magical barn.  “This Old House” was a companion show for me… it took it up a notch by delving in to building and renovating entire homes, but it also strayed from the actual woodworking and furniture making components that got me hooked in the first place.  Together, these shows and the people on them (Kevin O’Connor, Norm Abram, Rich Trethewey, Tom Silva, and Roger Cook), have helped foster and intensify my love of all things wood.

I have been playing my favorite game of “Million Dollar Listing” again by perusing the local real estate market.  During my birthday week I went with my dad to see an 8.5 acre property that was on the market for $1.875 million, after having been dropped down from $2.3 million (that made it a really good deal in my mind).  It was spectacular for so many reasons… the privacy, the wooded land, the gunite-salt water-infinity pool out back, the gorgeously refinished kitchen and bathrooms, but mainly because of all of the wood inside of the house.  There is no drywall in this home.  All of the walls are made of wood.  It felt like a mountain cabin in Colorado.  It seriously took my breath away and made me all tingly.

Wood.  On.  The.  Walls.  And notice how the inlayed starburst pattern mirrors the beams on the ceiling.  How does this NOT turn everyone on?

Wood. On. The. Walls. And notice how the inlayed starburst pattern on the floor mirrors the beams on the ceiling.  How does this NOT turn everyone on?  P.S.  There is no way I can afford this otherworldly home.

So now you will totally understand just how freaking excited I was when I found out recently that one of my fun college peeps actually knows Kevin O’Connor, the host of “This Old House.”  They went to high school together and are still good friends.  When I told him how cool I thought that was, he was like, “Seriously, you actually watch PBS?  He’s no Ty Pennington.”

Last week a package arrived for me in the mail.  When I opened it, I could not contain myself.  I was giggling and laughing and smiling and could not wait to put on my new t-shirt and read my very own signed copy of The Best Homes from “This Old House.”  I was ecstatic.  I was over the moon.  I was so excited.

I got wood.

This is some good SWAG

Now this is some good SWAG.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Don’t Know How To Do ANYTHING!

Kid E came home from school in early October and unloaded his backpack.  Inside his folder was a piece of paper.  He happily announced in my direction, “This is for you.  From my teacher.  I will put it in your bin.”

I was excited that he had already mastered my rules established to conquer school-related entropy (for a quick ENTROPY primer, click here) by unpacking and sorting immediately upon entry.  I like to train them young around here.  Early independence of my kids is always a long-term goal.

So I let him do his jobs… his shoes get put in the shoe basket, his lunchbox gets emptied of any trash and leftovers and put on the kitchen table, important papers go in the bin on my desk.  He is always so proud when he completes these simple tasks.  And then he inevitably asks if he can watch videos.

Meanwhile, this kid has been glued to electronics since birth.  My bad.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not.  I have been such a slacker parent with him.  I always say yes when he asks if he can watch the video/ play the game/ download the app.  I get more done that way.  I mean, he’s my FIFTH kid.  But I think I am wrecking him.  He talks in a language I partly do not understand (“Mom, can you type in ‘skylanders swap force girl and boy super evil chaos?'”) and I partly am super worried about (see previous example).  In the beginning, I would always say things like, “Apple products are truly user-friendly!  Even my baby can use this iMac, and he can’t even sit up!”  I guess we’ll just see how my little experiment turns out.  Here’s hoping for the best.

Anyway, he gave me the paper from his kindergarten teacher and went off to watch YouTube videos of other people playing video games (I know, I know… Mother of the Year over here.  But he knows to turn it off if there are curse words worse than what I drop on the daily).  About a half hour later, I got around to browsing through my in-bin.

Kid E had been given a project.  Dun-dun-dun.  Well, crap.

The October kindergarten project (Man, I really hope this is not setting some sort of precedent for a new project each month, because that would be some bullshit.  It’s kindergarten, not grad school.) was to find a book that you liked, write some things about the main character and a short summary of what they did in the book, and then decorate a small pumpkin to resemble that character.  He had to bring it all in by Monday, October 28th.

OK, we had some time.  And the assignment wasn’t overwhelming or impossible or even that much of a pain in the ass.  So I presented the project to Kid E with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.

“Hey, buddy?  Can you take off the headphones and press pause for a sec (and, yes, I made the universal gesture for taking off headphones).  This paper you said was from your teacher for me… actually, it is a fun project for you!”  I went on to explain the assignment with gusto.  But the kid was not buying it.  He was not excited.  He was not even happy.  He started to cry uncontrollably.

“But, MOM!  It is supposed to be for YOU, not ME!  What am I gonna do?  How am I gonna do it?  I can’t do it.  I don’t know how to do ANYTHING!”

I gave him a big, fat hug and helped him to bring it down a notch.  I explained that he most certainly knew how to do lots of things… like putting his shoes in the bin, and emptying his lunchbox and backpack, and putting important papers on my desk.  I reminded him that he also dressed and undressed himself, put his clothes in the hamper, and put the silverware and napkins on the table for dinner.  I pointed out that he can read now, and his writing was getting really good, and he knew how to do math problems.  Kid D heard the commotion at this point and (helpfully?) added that Kid E also cleaned up his toys, but only when I made him.  He also suggested a book for the project, The Runaway Bunny.  That part was actually pretty helpful.

“Perfect, ” I said.  “You like that book.  You can write about the little bunny and all of his shenanigans when he tries to run away from his mother.  And we could buy a pet-sized bunny costume and glue the ears on your tiny pumpkin!”  I continued to reassure him. “You know how to do lots of things.  Don’t you worry about a thing.  We’ve got this.”  Kid E stopped crying.

Then he asked if he could go back to watching the YouTube.  Of course I let him.  I had stuff to do.

I glued the ears, nose and tail on (yes, I own a glue gun!), and Kid E drew the eyes and mouth.  Plus, he wrote out the book report all on his own (I helped him construct some of the sentences).  He did so well that he's on his own from now on...

I glued the ears, nose and tail on (yes, I own a glue gun, smartasses), but Kid E drew the eyes and mouth. Plus, he wrote out the book report all on his own (even though I helped him construct one or two of the sentences).                              He did so well that next time, he’s on his own.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Girl Power – Winning! (Remember That One Time?)

I am sorry that I went MIA for a bit.  I had a long run of consistent posting in September, what with the travel logs and the recounting of all of my recent screw-ups.  But then I guess I burnt out a little.  And then our house got hit with a stupid virus, which even had the nerve to try to take me down for a few days.

Yet, the show must go on.  Not everybody around here was sick, so some people still expected things like clean underpants and dinner.

“Maaaaah-ommmmm,” I would hear through the bathroom door.  “What’s for dinner?  I’m starving.”

“Um… english muffins?”  I hadn’t gone to the store in over a week.

“Again?”

“Leave me alone.  Quit your complaining.  I’m sick.  Make your own dinner if you don’t like it.”

“But I can’t even reach the oven.  I’m six.”

That’s basically how it went for most of last week.  I felt guilty for feeling bad and I felt bad for feeling guilty.

But I womanned-up made it through those icky feelings by remembering times when I was kind of awesome.  Like this one time:

Right after we got back from Europe, Kid A and I got thrown right back into the thick of things.  She had to go back to school.  I had to do whatever the heck it is that I do.  Time zone adjustment?  Get over it.  Travel exhaustion?  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  You miss waking up in a different country each morning and dressing for dinner and having someone else make and serve you three course meals each evening?  We feel so freaking bad for you.  I need a ride to my school project partner’s house.  She lives kind of far from here and we need to stop at the store first to buy $60 of random supplies on the way.

So we adjusted.  It was painful at first, but Kid A and I only complained to each other and that seemed to work pretty well.  Life went on.

It was day two or three post-vacation when Kid A’s car wouldn’t turn over.  It made that ugly click-click-click noise.  We called Sheepdog and he confirmed that it needed a new battery.  And since he was already at work and still in “I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-sob-story-I-was-left-at-home-with-these-kids-by-myself-for-two-weeks” mode, and Kid A needed the car to help me out later that day, solving the problem fell squarely on my shoulders.

So I did what any girl would do.  On my way home from driving the teenagers to school, I drove around the neighborhood to see if any of my friends were having construction projects done.  The last time I had car that wouldn’t start, Sheepdog was out of town and my across-the-street neighbor was getting a dream house update, so I texted her and asked if the big, strong guy with the big, strong truck could come over and give me a jump (minds out of the gutter, dirty birds… it was nothing sexual).  There is not much that scares me more than the red and black jumper cable thingies.  Except varmints in my attic.  But, I digress.

Sadly, I saw no one with an F-150 or saw horses in their driveway.  I was on my own.

So I went to the YouTube.  I found a video called “Using Jumper Cables, the Right Way” and I felt like it was the exact right video for me, especially since it had started raining a little outside and it was also raining in the video!  But I was still really nervous, so I went to fold some laundry for a bit.

“… and the Golden Rule is NEVER touch the clamps together!”  Great.  More stuff for me to worry about.

Then I gave myself a pep talk and I finally decided to go out and jump the stupid dead battery.  I could totally do this!  Unless, of course, I accidentally hooked up a cable to something really wrong and then I blew up both cars or caused battery fluid to leak out and I got horrible chemical burns, that is.  But I could probably totally do this.  Totally.

I pulled my truck up right next to Kid A’s car.  That was easy.  I opened up both hoods.  Not simple, but not rocket science either.  Then I got out the jumper cables.  I held them like they were made of asbestos or penises (TBH, nobody really wants to touch either of those things).  I planned to follow the steps from the video.

The first problem was that the cars I had in front of me looked nothing like the cars in the stupid video.  The bad car didn’t even have a battery, as far as I could tell.  No wonder it wouldn’t turn on!  And that was just step one.

I almost started to cry, but then I just got mad and decided that this effing project was not going to beat me.  I’m a little bit stubborn that way.  I was afraid to put my hand too far into the car at all because it reminded me of Flash Gordon when Prince Barin made him put his hand in the hollow stump and he could have been bitten and infected with deadly poison.  Like Flash, I tensely and very cautiously moved around in there.  Eventually I lifted up some plastic stuff inside the Saab’s front end and found what looked the most battery-ish.  Yay for no poisonous creatures!  Finally, I was on to step two.

Step two was not one bit easier, as the battery in a 2008 GMC Yukon XL is extremely well hidden.  It might as well have been wearing a wig and mustache and been hiding in the Witness Protection Program.  I actually had to get out the owner’s manual from the glove box and read it!  And surprise, surprise… the actual car battery did not look like the one in the picture.  But I figured it out anyway because I was good and cursing-out-loud angry at that point.  And I hooked up those mo-fo clamps.  I wasn’t sure that they were in the right place, but they were hooked, dammit!  Then it was time to start the good car.  I said a quick, “Dear God, please don’t let me lose my eyesight.  Or my right arm.  And thanks again for wine,” and I turned the key in my truck.

Nothing blew up.  I was actually amazed.  I was certainly relieved.  I let it run for a minute.  I eventually started breathing again.

Now it was time to turn on Kid A’s car with the bad battery.  For whatever reason, this step scared me more than all of the other steps combined.  I was convinced that this would be the part where the front yard turned into a cordoned-off post-bomb site, and they would be collecting pieces of me from neighboring lawns for weeks.

But I am stubborn and still determined to do this or die trying.

I went over to the passenger side, reached across the entire car from outside (because I planned to run away faster than the explosion, if at all possible), squinted my eyes, and slowly turned the key in the Saab.

It thrummed to life!

I started doing a weird, spastic dance in the driveway and cursing very odd things at that point, but I was so incredibly proud of myself that I did not care what I looked like to the outside world.  Stubborn beat out scared!  I did it!  And I didn’t blow up the cars or get battery acid all over myself.  It was a good day!  A very good day indeed!  Girl Power!

Then I drove Kid A’s car to the mechanic, where they charged me a ridiculous amount of money to replace the dead battery.  It didn’t matter, though, because I was still high from my automotive triumph.

But then I came home and no one was there.  And likely all of that spaz-dancing or the excitement/ extreme fear had worn me out, so I took a really long nap on the couch.  And then I didn’t make any dinner and I mumbled about serving english muffins or something lame again and everybody got mad at me for not doing a good job.

But I did do a good job, at least that one time, so whatever.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Florence and Rome… The European Charlie Foxtrot (Days Three and Four)

REAL TIME NOTE:  I was at my kids’ elementary school yesterday for a parent/teacher conference and I saw a friend (She is the Queen of the PTA, B and C.  She does so much for that school, including leave me alone when it comes to looking for committee chairpeople.  I love her and her kids.) in the parking lot.  She said, “I thought… ‘That can’t be Stacy!  I just read this morning that she was in France.  But it IS you.  What gives?”

Alas and alack, my globe-trotting adventures came to a halt last Sunday.  It was indeed me doing mundane things like interacting with the people who care for my children for eight hours each weekday.  I clarified to the Queen that I am back home and readjusting to my less European lifestyle (less wine, more housework).

I wrote these entries while I was on a cruise called the Grand Mediterranean for 12 days aboard the Royal Princess cruise ship.  So don’t be confused if you see me running walking about town these days.  I may have some talents, but I have not yet mastered the art of being in two places at once.

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TWO WEEKS AGO:  Let me preface this by saying… I am having a fabulous time on this trip.  I am thoroughly enjoying spending time with Kid A, my sisters, my parents, and the various other friends and relatives who also came along for the ride.  But let me be clear that this whole experience is definitely a ride on the Crazy Train.  Correction: The Super Crazy Train.  There and Back.  With very few stops.  Woot-woot… All Aboard!

This particular Royal Princess cruise has four total stops in Italy… three days in a row in the beginning, and one at the very end.  We began in the province of Tuscany/ port of Livorno (near Florence), made our way to the port of Civitavecchia (with reasonable access to Rome), and then we would dock in Naples (from whence we would be able to travel to Positano, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Pompeii).

We started off traveling with 13 of the 15 people in our group.  The other two – sister D’s godparents – are very smart and paid for the Princess Tours.  The tours are expensive, but it turns out that they are usually well worth the money.  You actually see the notable things in each port, hear interesting facts while you are touring, learn about local cultures and customs, stop for lunches featuring local cuisine, and – most importantly – YOU DON’T GET LOST.  If you miss the ship’s daily boarding time when are on a Princess tour, the ship will wait for you to return.  If you go out on your own tour and you miss it, they will leave your ass dockside.

So the 13 of us were (granted, much less expensively) touring Florence on Day Three and Rome on Day Four on our own.  Our first Italian Job was simply to not lose anybody.

That is a lot easier said than done.  So is getting back to the ship on time.

We ended up making our way around the Italian countryside, without anyone who really speaks the language, and with no one who is familiar with the cities we are visiting.  When I say, “made our way around,”  I mean that we were either waiting in lines, lost, or shopping.  Instead of seeing, hearing, learning and eating all of the local stuff, we have become the American poster children for a European Charlie Foxtrot.

In Livorno, we took a bus out of the port, and then we walked down below the train tracks, through a long tunnel, and then back up some steps to the main train terminal to purchase our tickets into Florence.  It is easier said than done unless you understood the board and the stops and the stamping process for the tickets (which was all in Italian, capisci?).  Somehow (mostly because of Kid A’s Spanish), we figured it out and made it to Platform 7, boarded our train and we were off to the city of Florence.

Throughout the day, it was much of the same… push through crowds of people, not quite sure where you were going, but believing it would surely be better when you pushed your way free of the bodies.  Somebody in our group had to go to the bathroom.  We waited for them.  The somebody had to get more euros, so we waited again.  We had moved about two blocks from the train station at that point.  It was going to be a very, very long day.

We had purchased tickets online to go to the Uffizi Museum and Gallery as well as the Accademia (Academy of Fine Arts), where the statue of David is on display.  We walked around the perimeter of the Duomo, but opted to not go inside because of the extremely long lines.  There were also very long lines for the museum, but we had already bought tickets.  First we had to wait in line to change the online vouchers over into actual tickets.  Then, we had to get in another line to gain entry.  Next, we waited to go through the x-ray machine.  Lots and lots of queuing.  Keep in mind that it was in the mid- to high- eighties (°F), and oftentimes we waited in lines while under direct sunlight.  I surrendered early on to the fact that it would be a sweaty underpants kind of day.

All 13 of us were still moving through he Uffizi together at one point.  I am not sure about anybody else, but after all of the hurry up and waiting, in especially in conjunction with my underpants sweat, I was not in the mood to appreciate the many, many, many, many stone penises on display.  And don’t get me started on the violence and depiction of the hurting of the babies.  The art may be breathtakingly beautiful, but the Renaissance was not nice.

It made me miss Sheepdog and Kids B, C, D, and E very, very much.

We had a yummy lunch (tomato and mozzarella paninis, with a side of wine) in Florence, and we got to see the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, but we missed seeing the statue of David because were too short on time.  We made it back to the train station and were (not easily) able to decipher which platform/ train to board.  Our group of six made the bus back to the port, but the others got lost/ sidetracked and had to take a cab in order to board the Royal Princess on time.

The next day we were in Civitavecchia.  It was much of the same.  Bus to the port gate.  Walk three or four blocks to the train station.  Decipher Italian train schedule.  The train to Rome took just under an hour.  After debating a bus tour vs. taking the Metro and local city buses (we opted for the “local flavor” option), we somehow managed to get to the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square, and the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (Amazing, yet much smaller than I expected.).  Oh, and we got lost.  More than once.  And it was hot and humid again, so there were more sweaty underpants.  And we barely caught the last train (standing room only) back to the port.  The Charlie Foxtrot continues.

By the end of our second day in Italy, we were all hot, tired, sweaty, and a little down.  We all looked like hell.  My thighs were chafed (sexy, I know).  But there was a nun who boarded the train with us and she winked at me.  And for some reason it really made me smile, despite how grouchy I was at that moment.

At dinner that night, after we had showered (I showered twice because I was so dirty, then rubbed Vaseline on my thigh rash) and dressed nicely, my dad spoke to everyone at the table.  We were all kind of defeated by our less than stellar travel days so far, but he decided to put a positive spin on it all.  It’s what he does.

Someone asked how he was doing.  He started off by giving his standard response that comes out anytime we are doing anything together, even though he may be miserable (like anytime we take him shopping, or when he is wandering around a foreign country in unbearable heat with a twisted and swollen ankle, hobbling up and down the gajillion steps of the Vatican Museum).

He said, “I’m good.  I’m with my girls.”  And he really meant it.  But then he added something else.

“I learned two things in Italy.  First, I learned that there are things in this world that are older than me,”  I’m sure his body was feeling every minute of his age at that point; I know mine sure was.

Then he went on, “…and second, I learned that my girls love me very, very much.”

I think he added that part because we were walking behind him all day waiting to catch him if he fell.  And he’s a big guy (6 feet, 4 inches tall), but we totally would have caught him.  We made sure he had enough water and got to rest occasionally, wore his sun hat so his head wouldn’t get burned, and even found an elevator at the very end of the museum tour.  And just maybe the nun saw us watching out for him and that’s why she winked.

Who knows?  I’m delirious at this point.  Somebody please pass the wine.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Strong is the New Skinny

Prepare to be inspired.  I sure was.  I sure am.  Well, technically, I am on a cruise ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, likely drinking by the pool and not working out much, so my inspiration has been temporarily deferred, but you get my point.  I have yet to meet a person (not just a woman) who doesn’t feel like they could be doing better or more when it comes to eating clean and working out dirty.  When you finally get into the head space that you were blessed with this human body, complete with flaws of all sorts but ripe with potential if you just follow the simple instruction manual (more out than in), it is amazing what you can accomplish.  It isn’t about being a size 0.  It isn’t about losing ten pounds for your reunion.  It is about deciding to be strong and then making healthy choices for your body and mind and being comfortable in your own skin(ny).
 
I met Lindsay when I started dating her big brother in the early 1990’s.  She was in middle school.  She was never fat, but neither was she skinny.  She was just regular.  But to a teenage girl, “regular” can easily translate into “fatso,” even for girls with the utmost confidence.  She was rarely comfortable about her body when she was younger, and it just got worse from then on.  As an adult she was anxious, frustrated, scared and apologetic.  Then, she stopped being “regular” and actually got heavy.  We watched it take a toll on her.  We saw her struggling.  She tried to make changes, but they weren’t successful.
 
Then, at the start of this year, something awesome happened.  Lindsay was at the YMCA and she started working out with a group of girls.  At first they intimidated her, but they included her and inspired her and pushed her to try harder every day.  They showed her how to be strong, not skinny, and that has made all the difference on the world.  She is working so hard every day to meet her goals, and it has been absolutely amazing to watch her transform both physically and mentally.  
 
Lindsay – you are a rock star.
 
Top photo: December 2012 Bottom photo: August 2013

Lindsay and Sheepdog                                                                                                                                               Top photo: December 2012                                                                                                                                 Bottom photo: August 2013

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Guest Post by Lindsay Dunavant

Hi y’all!   I’m Sheepdog’s little sister, Stacy’s favorite (and only) sister-in-law, and aunt to all of the wonderful children those two wild and crazy kids have made.  When Stacy asked if I would guest post, I was flattered and downright scared.  Apparently, after you receive your master’s degree diploma, you rarely write anything of any importance.  At least that was the case for me.  You see, I was an athletic trainer in my previous life.  That means I worked thousands of hours, seven days a week making pennies on the hour having a blast watching collegiate sporting events.  And if someone got hurt, I was the person who ran onto the field/court/pitch/diamond and figured out if they were safe to return to play or what needed to be done to fix them.  So, the extent of my writing came down to something called a SOAP note (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan).  That’s what they are called in the medical field.  I call it a cover you’re a$$ note.  But I digress……

Yes, that is unfortunately a ‘fanny pack’

Yes, that is unfortunately a ‘fanny pack’

Then I got married and then came the baby carriage x 2.  So I became a stay-at-home mom.  And my writing became even more refined in the manner of grocery lists and check writing.  All of this back story is leading to something.  I promise.

So, Stacy asked if I’d guest write.  Why you ask?  Well, I sort of ate my way out of postpartum depression and had reached an inexcusable girth.  And this winter I had an epiphany of sorts and have lost 75 pounds since January.  With diet and exercise.  That’s all.  No bee pollen, no surgery (although I have been asked multiple times how I managed to run so close to having surgery), just old-fashioned, sweat in my eyes, hard work.  So what gives?

I don’t really know what happened to put me in the position to eat and become the lazy, wheezing person that I had become.  I know that I have struggled with my weight since childhood.  In fact, at age 9, I was on my first diet.  Crazy right?  I remember being made fun of at school constantly (mostly by a few people) when looking back on it, I was never obese.  I would round out and then grow 3-4 inches in a summer and be back on track, but in my brain, I was and would always be the fat kid.  I have been dieting for what seems like my whole life.  Then of course I got really skinny and unhealthy during college because, really, that’s what you do in college, right?  You drink all of your calories in beer and eat saltines because that’s what you can afford.  My alma mater is (and has been) on the Princeton Review’s Top Party School list for more years than I can recall.  We had a tradition to uphold!!  Let’s Go……………Mountaineers!!!!!  I then got into a relationship with a very smart, albeit, let’s face it, OCD, crazy fellow who was obsessed with his body building.  That resulted in me losing even more weight.  He wasn’t very nice to me.  So when I finally ditched him, I was kind of a mess.  I met an awesome man and fell head over heels in love with him and felt I could finally be myself.  I was comfortable and happy. We ate, drank, and were merry!  I graduated, went to grad school, got engaged and married, all the while the pounds were kind of creeping up.  Not in a bad way, but definitely on the rise.  I started working that crazy job where finding time to eat healthy and exercise were not options.  The job was incredibly stressful and I didn’t handle it well.  We eventually moved for my husband’s job and decided to start a family and that is when I realized my weight was getting out of control.  We had fertility issues, due to my weight and I lost 40 pounds and got pregnant! Yay!  But that instantly went back on and then some.  Lost a few and got pregnant with our daughter.  That is when the real trouble started.  We had a beautiful baby girl, a healthy two year old boy, and I was absolutely miserable.  I couldn’t do anything to make it better.  So I ate.  And cried. And ate. And baked. And cried some more.  SCREW YOU TOM CRUISE!!!  To quote the fine cinematic triumph that was Austin Power’s, “I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle” Fat Bastard – Austin Power’s The Spy Who Shagged Me.  It seemed my whole world was perfect, yet I was miserable.

I started going to the local YMCA branch because they had babysitting (YAY!)  and thought , “if I exercise regularly, this weight will come right off.”  One year later, I was only 5 pounds lighter.  Feeling very discouraged, I started using an app called C25K (that’s Couch to 5K if you can’t figure it out).  After the 8 weeks, I could sort of run 30 min straight on a treadmill.  I needed to do more.  I asked for a great pair of running shoes and a heart rate monitor for Christmas (who is this girl??).  After receiving these fabulous gifts from my caring family, I headed off back to the Y the day after Christmas.  Lucky for me, a group of moms that I would always see at the gym and be in awe of their abilities, but was always too intimidated and frankly, too embarrassed to approach, happened to be there also working out the typical stressors of the holiday season.  They asked me to join them for a workout.  I laughed and said, “No way.  I can’t keep up with you.” They encouraged me to try, told me that they could modify the workout if I needed, but that it would be fun.  Burpees. Fun. Sure.  (If you don’t know what a burpee is, look it up on YouTube, try it out, and then you’ll understand) I managed 2 burpees that day.  And was ECSTATIC.

I never looked back.  I started taking a class that incorporated the same kind of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that those fabulous girls convinced me I would be able to do.  I kept running.  I’m a bit of a gadget person, so I started using the myfitnesspal app to keep track of my food intake.  I also was talked into joining a Biggest Loser competition of sorts in a private group on Facebook.  The final weigh-in was March 27.  I had lost 15.92% of my body weight and finished second  (“If you ain’t first, you’re last!”).  I went to the gym/exercised 6 days a week for about 2 hours a day.  No cheat days on my diet.  I ran my first 5k in March and finished with a time of 42:10.  I ran my second 5k in August and finished in 30:43.  To date, I have lost 75 pounds.  My first long-term goal was to lose 100 lbs, but ultimately, I think 117 is my goal.

I truly believe that I could not have gotten where I am today had it not been for that invitation on the day after Christmas.  My ‘gym girls’ have become some of my closest and most special friends on the planet.  Day after day, they listen to me complain, brag, whine, you name it.  They encourage without judging.  They never give up on me.  And they believed in me long before I ever did. Of course my family has been instrumental in encouraging me with support by watching the kids or dealing with my hunger-driven mood swings.  And many, many others who have suffered through listening to my never-ending chatter about running, mileage, splits, and food decisions.  Especially those who have no desire to ever run.  Many have been so kind as to help me rediscover the joy of shopping, especially since my brain still has me seeing a size 24 when I am now a size 12.

Awesome group of ladies.  Nativa is due any day, but ran with me up until 25 weeks to get my mileage up!!

Awesome group of ladies. Nativa is due any day, but ran with me up until 25 weeks to get my mileage up!! (I’m the other girl in blue)

The fact of the matter is, life gets you down.  But you have to be the one to make changes so that life will improve.  It was my responsibility to take care of myself so I could take care of my family.  I had to stop making excuses and move.  Postpartum depression is real and I don’t have the magic cure or timeline, I just know that it took a very, very long time for me to clear the fog.  Did the exercise help? Did the new friendships help? Was it just time? I don’t know, but I did know that it was time for me to be an active participant in my life.  I decided I wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle and be a positive influence on my children so that my kids didn’t go down the same path I had.  I want them to realize that diet and exercise are so very important, but that it’s a life choice, not a ‘diet.’ I want them to see that hard work and dedication pay off.  That, even though “mommy doesn’t win her races, she doesn’t quit.”   These lessons are already making their mark on my children.  Imagine what they will be able to accomplish!!!

This week starts my ‘official’ training schedule for my first 10K in Washington D.C. on October 27.  My awesome husband and kids will be there cheering for me, just as they have every day since January 1, 2013.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks for caring.  Can’t wait to let ya’ll know when I run my 10K in under an hour or when I hit that 117 pound mark!!!

A Monkey in Pajamas

Apparently, I have always been weird.

 Exhibit "A"

Exhibit “A”

This is the front of a postcard that I sent to Sister C when I was in college and she was in middle school and she was stuck at home with mono.

And to further prove my point, here is what I wrote on the back…

Postcard to Sister C

I am trying to remember if the whole microwave-as-a-clothes-dryer thing actually worked.  College was awesome.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Well, crap.

So I have heard that nobody can watch the first video because of an error on YouTube regarding copyright infringement.  Which sucks because I paid for every single song I used in that video (don’t ever steal music, kids).  So now you can’t see how awesome I am at moviemaking (Shout out: iMovie!).  I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Or maybe this will work (I do not give up easily)…