Winning the Day Together

Penny at Mom Rants and Comfy Pants:

One of my favorite families showing that nothing, but nothing, can keep them down.

Originally posted on Megan Bugg's Journey:

Before I start on today’s post, I need to apologize for last night’s post.  After I posted, I discovered that none of the pictures could be seen on the post.  I had to go to our friend’s house and use their computer, so I must have messed up something.  A few minutes later, I edited the post to add the pictures, and I think it worked.  Sorry for the confusion :(

It’s Day 173 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer, and we are all still in recovery mode from yesterday’s devastating tornado. As our family continued the cleanup effort, Megan had to continue with her radiation treatments. As I have said before, cancer could really care less what else is going on in your life. In fact, I think it actually takes pleasure in adding stress to an already stressful situation. Cancer is…

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Boys and Their “Manstrual” Cycles

Sugar and spice and everything nice.  That’s what little girls are made of, right?

I have actually heard women tell the mothers of little girls, “oh sure, she’s cute now.  Just wait until she gets her period! You won’t think she so cute then!”  And then the moms panic and begin dreading puberty.

To be honest, I get it.  Girls can be dramatic and grouchy and irrational and all of those things we’ve been raised to believe. I have been ALL of those things on a given day.  It happens.

But before the moms of boys get too smug, I’m here to tell you that those little bundles of testosterone have cycles too. Over the past several months, I’ve been tracking this and it has helped my life immensely.  I like to call it, the Manstruel Cycle.

Here’s how to tell:

1.  Weird Food

My son is almost 16, is almost 6’1″ and weighs 190 lbs.  He is an eating machine.  Nothing pleases him more than a full frig and pantry.  But for about 5 consecutive days every month, he eats weird food combinations.  I don’t mean pizza with Ranch.  That’s a given.  I’m talking about shrimp cocktail with a Kit Kat.  Franks & beans with a bowl of cereal.  My hope is that if his future wife has weird food cravings while pregnant, he’ll be more than accommodating.

2.  Chocolate

Speaking of food, my son’s need for chocolate during this time raises exponentially.

Son:  Mom, do we have chocolate candy bars in the house?

Me:  No.  No chocolate candy bars.

Son:  Chocolate cereal??

Me:  No.  No chocolate cereal.

Son:  Hot chocolate???

The struggle is real.  And then, when I buy chocolate on my next shopping trip, I get this:

Son:  Mom, why did you buy chocolate?

Me:  Because you just asked for it a few days ago.

Son:  Mom!  I’m in training.  I can’t be eating chocolate while I’m training!  Which brings me to………..

3.  Irrational Behavior

During this 5 day, um, period my son will forget things.  He will lose things.  He will say things, but swear he never did.  He will bump into things.  I always pray that he won’t have to take finals during this time or he’s pretty much screwed.

4.  Mood Swings

This kind of goes hand in hand with the irrational behavior, but it’s more about emotions.  LOTS of emotions.

Me:  Are you going to wear a belt?

Son:  What do you mean?  What are you trying to say?

Me:  That I can see the waistband of your boxers.  Your pants aren’t staying up.

Son:  Are you saying I’m faaaaaaat?????

Yep, it happens to boys too.

5.  Skin Issues

It took a whole of cajoling on my part, but my son finally takes his skin care regimen very seriously.  But during this 5-day stint, it doesn’t matter what he eats, how much he washes, or how much product he applies, his skin suffers.  And to hear him tell it, so does his hair.

Luckily, I’m always prepared for his “time of the month” and I’m able to sympathize.  Puberty is serious business and boys have their issues too.  Of course, if he asks me to write him a note to get out of gym class, I might not be so sympathetic.

I would imagine that in a few years, when he is fully grown, many of these aspects of puberty will have subsided.  Hopefully, he will be a sympathetic husband and father, especially if he is the father of a little girl.

Otherwise, karma will get him.  I like to call that……MANOPAUSE!

When Does the Judging STOP?

So I was recently having a conversation, during which a mutual acquaintance was mentioned, and I said how much I like and respect this person. The person I was speaking with said, in a hushed voice, “you do know she is a lesbian, right?” And the kicker is that she thought it was her “Christian duty” to inform me of this.

First of all, I don’t want to hear about ANY of my friends’ sexual encounters, straight or otherwise. Not from the friend who had the crazy one nighter and the walk of shame the next day. Not from the friend who has been married 100+ years. Not from the friend who is into “sexperimentation”. And not because I’m a prude. Because it’s NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

I have taught my teenager that humanity is beautiful and complex and thought provoking and inspiring and worthy of our time and interest. My teenager and I couldn’t care less if you are tall, short, large, small, have piercings or tattoos (or not), or are gay or straight.

Here’s what we DO care about…are you kind? Thoughtful? Compassionate? Do you use your talents and gifts to help others? Are you respectful to people? Can you be tolerant enough to see past a person’s exterior and find the good that is within?

As far as “Christian duty” I will say this. My teenager and I do attend church and Jesus is very much a part of our lives. We realize that not everybody feels the same way. But I find it distressing when people use Christianity as a “reason” to put down other people because Jesus was NOT that way.

Jesus himself said, the greatest commandment is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Not….love the people who are straight…or love the people who are married…or love the people who are not fighting an addiction…or love the people who have it all together.

These ideas, spouted in the name of Christianity, do not promote love. They promote bigotry. And intolerance. And bullying. And depression. And hate. And violence. And suicide. And it makes my head and my heart hurt.

Finally, Jesus also said “judge NOT, or you will be judged.”

My teenager says “if people used the time they spend judging other people, SERVING other people instead (like Jesus did) just IMAGINE the kind of world we could be living in.”

Finding My Identity After Divorce

The world is full of labels.  They seem to define our identities whether we want them to or not.

Some of the labels are applied to us as early as elementary school and we don’t necessarily want them.  Here are a few of mine:

Dorky girl with glasses.  Spazz.  Bookworm.  Clutz.  Trailer park girl.  Four eyes.  Brace face.  Big butt.  Goody two shoes.

Yeah, middle school and high school were brutal.  I had moved from Pittsburgh to a small town in Illinois two weeks before I started middle school.  I spent the next seven years trying desperately to live down those monikers.

I got contact lenses.  I eventually got my braces off.  I dieted and exercised and took diet pills until I passed out.  I joined athletic teams.  I became the captain of this and the president of that.  All in hopes of living down the labels that hurt so much.  All in hopes of my peers liking me.  Accepting me.  ME.

But these labels became who I was.  I let them define me.

When I graduated high school, I moved onto college thinking that I would now be part of this magical world where everyone’s differences would be celebrated and I would find my people.  But how do you know who your people are if you don’t know who YOU are?

I floundered around in my twenties, suffered some pretty significant heartbreaks, but finally settled into a pretty good routine.  I had a job that I liked well enough, was paying for my own apartment and had my own car.  I depended on nobody.  People at work seemed to respect me and like me.  There was no social life to speak of because all I did was work, or travel for work, and I wanted to save all my money, just in case.  If I wasn’t in my office, I was in my apartment.

I wasn’t living for anyone else.  But I wasn’t “living” either.

And then…..he happened.

He had been a friend of my younger brother for many years.  He had been a popular student and amazing athlete from a neighboring school – the kind of guy that would never have looked in my direction in high school.  But I found out he was also kind and thoughtful and considerate and we became friends.

I knew he had gone through a nasty divorce and had two young children, who were 5 and 3 at the time.  He seemed to be a very attentive father and he opened up to me about everything – his hopes, his failures, his dreams, his mistakes.  Against my better judgment, I became smitten with him and he eventually declared his love for me too.

I dared to think that I could have a full life.  The kind of life I was afraid to even dream about when my dad was drinking, or my mom was crying, or kids were laughing at me and threatening me at school.  But an optimist at heart, I jumped in with both feet.

Ironically, my new husband, his two small children and I settled into a small house in the same town where I grew up.  I decided that if I truly wanted to be happy (finally) I needed to step outside myself and take care of these people.  The focus needed to be on them and, most definitely, not me.  Maybe that had been my problem all along.  Maybe I was too fixated on myself.

So, I made sure that I worked really hard at my job so that I could keep getting promoted and make enough money to help my new family.  My husband and I had a baby and I set out to be the absolute best mother I could be to all three kids.  I joined the PTA.  I got involved in our church.  I was active in our kids’ sports and activities.  I met other parents.  I became the secretary of this and the chairperson of that.

The labels I had acquired as a tween and teen were replaced with:

Wife.  Mother.  Professional.  Volunteer.  Babysitter.  Clean Freak.  Chauffeur.  Woman Who Never Says NO.

I still didn’t have any clue who I was.  Or what I thought about anything.  I was on automatic pilot doing all.the.things.  I was taking care of all.the.people.  I still had no friends.  But that was okay because THESE people needed me and I guess I needed to be needed.

And then it happened…

In the midst of working long hours, keeping a spotless house, cooking meals and packing lunches, volunteering, helping with homework, teaching and loving and caring for the kids, driving people and their stuff around, sitting at practices and games and recitals and concerts and parent/teacher conferences, he decided he wasn’t happy.

His kids grew up and moved out.  The kids that I raised.  While HE was at work, or playing golf, or working on cars, or doing whatever he was doing when he wasn’t home with us.

The “I’m gonna go have a quick beer” at 8pm turned into him leaving as soon as he walked in the door at 6pm from work. And the “I’m only gonna stay for a couple” turned into closing the bar down.  And going out for breakfast afterward.  The Friday night turned into Friday night AND Saturday night.

Lots of other things happened until the day I came home from work last summer and discovered that I now had a house with no furniture.  And no husband.  Our teenager still had all of his things intact (thank you God) but everything else was GONE.  Just gone.

The last year has been the proverbial roller coaster that one would expect.  I went from a blonde to a brunette.  I lost 40 pounds.  Some days, they make fun of me at work and call me Sister Christian.  Other days, I’m surprised by the filth that comes out of my mouth.  I no longer know what I want.  I no longer know who I am.  Not that I ever really did.

The one constant in all of this has been my son.  And I say “my” on purpose.  But he will be 16 in a few short weeks.

He no longer needs me to help him with his homework.  Which is good because as good a student as I was, his homework is usually waaaaay beyond my capabilities.  He no longer needs me to sit at practices.  I can just go and watch him and enjoy the games.  I still clean the house and I still cook dinner.  But he isn’t home much these days so the house doesn’t get messy and I end up with a LOT of left overs.  And pretty soon, he won’t even need me to drive him around.

I hate feeling sad.  And angry.  And lost.  But I do.  I no longer know who I am because I let those labels define me.  And now, they no longer apply.  It seems like a cruel joke that at almost 50 years old, I am going to be in the exact same place as I was when I was in my late 20’s.  Sitting in my house, or at my desk, or traveling in between.  Alone.  Very alone.

My son, who is extremely observant and intuitive, gave me this advice the other day:

Mom, so what you are almost 50.  It’s not a death sentence.  It’s an opportunity.  In a couple of years, I will be in college and you will know that you raised me and raised me well.  You’ll be alone but you won’t be lonely because you’re going to get out there and start living your life.  For you.  Do you want to go back to school?  Do it.  Do you want a different job?  Get one.  Do you want to move to the beach?  Go.  Don’t sit here and be sad about what was or what might have been.  This is YOUR life.  YOU get to write the rest of the story.  So create an amazing 30 or more years for yourself and I’ll be here to cheer you on.

It just amazes me that a kid who was the same age as the a-holes who were so awful to me in school is the kid who made me realize that it’s okay to live for me.  To give myself permission to be happy.  I still have no idea what direction this life will take me.  But I’m a little excited to find out.

No more labels.  No more roles.  No more trying to fit into someone else’s definition of what my identity should be.  Just me.

You Weigh Your Body. I’ll Weigh My Options.

accessorize

I’m gonna just put it out there – I am NOT a fan of exercise.  There, I said it.

Yes, I know it’s necessary.

It keeps the bad cholesterol down and the good cholesterol up.  You know, so you live longer.  Or something like that.

It produces those “feel good” hormones that make you look better and sleep better and feel better.  Or wait, maybe that’s sex. I can’t remember.

And if you do it long enough, you can wear cuter clothes and not be so embarrassed when people see your skin.

But I still hate it.  It’s not the panting or being out of breath.  Although I could think of better reasons to endure that, but again, I can’t remember.

It’s not even the sweating.  I’m almost 50.  Sweating is a given.

But exercise, for me, is pretty much an invitation for catastrophe.

Let me ‘splain.

I am what most people would refer to as “awkward”.  A clutz.  A walking (barely), talking (always) danger to myself.  And sometimes, others. Always have been.  Always will be.

And in case you didn’t know, exercise and the ability to trip over nothing are not a good mix.

When I was in middle school, I was content to just sit on the sidelines and let the other kids play.  I’m a REALLY good spectator.  But apparently, you have to actually participate in order to get a good grade in P.E. class and so I was forced into games I hated.  Like soccer.  In fact, I once tried to kick a soccer ball (in the wrong direction, mind you).  Do you know what I got for my efforts?  A broken wrist.  Because I fell down and tripped another girl who fell on top of me.

See?  A danger to myself AND others.

In middle school, I joined the basketball team.  Because, you know, that made total sense.  When my team mate passed me the ball, I actually caught it.  With my nose.

In high school, I played softball.  And tripped running to first base.

I also ran track.  Hurdles.  You see where this is going, right?

But one thing I can say is that I tried.  No pain, no gain.  Oh, there was LOTS of pain.  The only true gain was embarrassment and several trips to the ER.

Fast forward and now I’m a mom.  Luckily, all the kids were athletes.  Good athletes.  And I took my rightful spot in the bleachers.  Where. I. Belong.

But something happens after you’ve shot some kids out of your hoo-ha and spent your days cutting the crusts off, and answering questions about why dogs sniff each others’ butts, and picking up socks and sippy cups.  You get a little…soft.

Now, there is only one kid left at home and he’s about to get a driver’s license (cue the tears).  And since his dad left, there’s just me.  And God willing, I’d like to enter this new chapter of my life a little less…soft.

So last year, I started what I call “The Road to 50 and Fabulous”.  I still have until December to turn 50, but I am determined that when I do, I will like what I see in the mirror.

Since last March, I have lost close to 40 lbs.  Most of that was by watching everything I put into my face hole.  But I have incorporated some actual exercise in there as well.

5K

This is me, after having been talked into a 5K last April with my bestie.  See the double chin starting?  See the pudge around the middle?

I haven’t joined a gym because it feels too competitive there.  And there’s an audience.

I don’t do any classes because I’m cheap.  And there’s an audience.

But here’s what I HAVE done:

I bought a treadmill.  Lemme tell you a little something about my treadmill and me.  When I first bought it (only $50 from a co-worker, holla!) I put it in the garage.  One day, while my son was napping on the couch, I decided to go out and do a 20-minute walk.  About 5 minutes in, I got a “low battery” message on my phone and I can’t walk without my music.

So, I left the belt of the treadmill going so I could run in and grab the charger.  I went back into the garage, plugged my phone into the outlet behind the treadmill and attempted to walk around the back of a freakin’ moving treadmill and you can pretty much guess what happened next.

My shoe caught the belt and propelled me forward.  First, all my weight landed on my left knee.  Then, I was launched sideways and hit my left shoulder on the front of the treadmill itself, right before hitting the back of my head on the concrete garage floor.  Luckily, my son heard the commotion and ran out to help me.  Not gonna lie…he had to stifle the laughter because he KNOWS me.  But he did help me and gave me ice for my injuries.  In fact, he recently helped me bring the thing into the house and set it up in the spare bedroom – which is carpeted!

I still ride my bicycle around the neighborhood.  Of course, it only takes a barking dog, a rock or SQUIRREL to distract me and down I go.  But, I get up, dust myself off, swallow my pride, and continue on.

attempt yoga via my fitness and exercise channel.  Turns out that yoga pants are really comfy when doing actual yoga.

I lift weights.  Although, I will tell you…when a weight falls on your pinky toe, it hurts like a mofo!!

The weight is still coming off and I have actually gotten to buy some cute clothes.  The double chin has mostly disappeared and I have found my waistline.  I do actually sleep better and feel better about myself.

penny

This is me TODAY – 40 lbs. down

But I’m still not a “fan” of exercise.  What I AM a fan of is balance.  And me.  That’s right…me.  Because I’ve stuck with it and forged on, in spite of life’s best efforts to throw me off course (quite literally sometimes).  And there’s nothing wrong with being my own biggest fan.

Who knows?  Maybe some day, with my new body and my new outlook, I’ll get to try some of those other activities that make you pant and sweat.  ;0)

With a Little Help From My Friends

I have been a huge Beatles fan ever since I can remember.  In fact, when I was three years old, my mother gave me a music box that was shaped liked a treasure chest.  When I opened it, it played “Let it Be”, which is still one of my all time favorites.  By that time, Lennon and McCartney has just penned “With a Little Help From My Friends”, which Ringo Starr later sang on their Sgt. Pepper album.  Another one of my favorites.

Friendships evolve over a person’s lifetime.  There are the friends made at daycare, at the library lap-sit, or at the park.  There are play dates and friends made on the T-ball diamond or the soccer field.  Kids start to forge friendships with neighborhood kids and classmates.  Very few of them stick in the beginning.  Only after we mature, do we find out who we are as people, and then we can learn what it takes to hold onto to those friendships.

At the beginning of my 21 year relationship with my ex-husband, I had a wide variety of friends.  There were a couple life long friendships I had managed to hold onto from my school days.  There were friends I had made during different jobs I had.  There were the parents of kids that my own kids had developed friendships with.  There were the online friends I made as a mom blogger.  And there were the “friend couples” that my ex-husband and I had together.

Sadly, there’s nothing quite like a divorce to find out which friendships will “stick”.  My experience with friends (and those I thought were my friends) has been a little shocking and a little tricky at times.  But here’s what I’ve learned:

1.  Even though “friend couples” might say they are neutral and will try to assure you that “we are friends with both of you”, that wasn’t the case in my situation.  The couple chose a side and that was that.  In a few situations, I was a bit shocked that I wasn’t the one who was chosen (because I’m the FUN one – duh!!) but I had to let it go.  Friend couples tend to want to hang out with other couples and I was no longer part of one.

2.  Some friends who weren’t necessarily part of a “friend couple” but had a significant other nonetheless, did the ol’ “drop it like it’s hot”.  Except the “it” was me and I certainly didn’t feel “hot”.  It seems that sometimes ladies don’t like the idea that you’re suddenly single (because you’ll go after their man.  Obviously.  Sheesh!)

3.  There will be “friends” (and I use the term loosely) who will try to make you over.  Because let’s face it, the entire reason I got divorced was because I didn’t have the right color hair, or the right clothes, or a tan, or the right figure, etc.  While I’m all about self improvement, the last thing I wanted was to make rash decisions and turn myself into someone else.

4.  Some friends are afraid that divorce is contagious.  Seriously.  Because if it looked on the outside like YOU had everything going for you, and then YOU got divorced, then it could happen to them.  They don’t want to be reminded of the “what if”.  And so buh bye divorcee and best of luck to ya!

5.  And there are friends who just don’t know how to help.  They may feel badly for you and want to reach out in some way, but they just don’t know how.  So they don’t.  And time wears on and you run into them at the grocery store and they a) pretend they didn’t see you; or b) give you the “I am so sorry I haven’t called, but I have been SO busy, and you know how it is, but I really have to go, it was nice to see you, please take care and know I’ll be thinking of you, see ya later…….” in the produce section.

BUT………….there are the keepers.  And I’m proud to say that, although my list isn’t nearly as long as some others, my friendship circle is SOLID.  Here’s why:

BFF

1.  They accept me EXACTLY as I am.  And a lot of times that means with no make up, in my pajamas, and my 3 day unwashed hair pulled back in a pony.

2.  They’re REAL with me.  Which means they’ll be the first to say “dude, take a shower, wash your hair, throw on some clean clothes and for God’s sake, put a little makeup on.  Have you no self respect?”

3.  They aren’t afraid of my divorce disease.  They don’t worry that I’ll rub my divorce cooties all over them.  They will even volunteer their husbands/boyfriends/significant others to look under my hood (of the car – easy now!).

4.  They help me to see what’s good in my life – my son, my family, my job, my home and they help me to see my PROGRESS.

5.  They make me laugh.  They know I’ve come TOO far to wallow in self pity.  A cry every now and again is fine and they will hand out the tissues.  A bitch session is great and they’d take someone down if that person tried to hurt me.  But they don’t let me stay there.  And for that, I’m immensely grateful!

And I’ve learned to be a friend to myself.  Because really, who knows me better than…..me?

I know when I’ve eaten my weight in Oreos and it’s time to get on the treadmill.  I know when Rum Chata is a harmless, little distraction after a long week of work, or a blatant cry for help.  I know when I’m aggravated to the point of needing a padded room and someone needs to talk me down from the ledge.

And so, at those times when my other friends are busy tending to their own lives, I am my own friend.  And the good news is that, no matter what, this friendship will stick.

A Nag, Some Sag and a Brown Paper Bag

Penny at Mom Rants and Comfy Pants:

Some days, I look forward to 50 and fabulous! Other days, I foresee “a nag, some sag and a brown paper bag”.

Originally posted on Mom Rants and Comfy Pants:

I remember the day vividly.  My brother and I had come home from school to find my dad cooking dinner in the kitchen.  This was a completely foreign concept to me because in all of my 10 years on the planet, I had never seen a man (except for Mel on the show Alice) cook before.

mel in alice (2)

There was a chocolate, lopsided cake on the table with one loan pink candle in it that looked like it came straight out of my Easy Bake Oven.  There was a single flower in a large glass that my mom used to drink her iced tea (at least that’s what she told us she was drinking).  And there was a big box wrapped in multi-colored paper that I later found out to be a bathrobe and slippers.  My dad was nothing if not practical.

When my mom arrived home, we all sat down…

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