Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does this blog make me look fat?

It does, doesn't it? Don't lie.

Yep. Not me.
Sigh. The neverending quest continues. You know the one, Ladies. And when I say "ladies," I don't mean you "naturally skinny" bitches, nor do I mean you completely buff babes who live and breathe Zumba, Insanity, Ripped, Shredded, Sculpted, Trimmed, Toned and Taut workouts and an organic-vegan, gluten-free, fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free, food-free diet. (I don't hate you, I'm just incredibly envious.) YOU Ladies, like me. The ones who don't even like to shower naked. (Like me.) The ones who exercise for an hour only to eat an entire box of Cheez-its in half that time. (Maybe like me.) The ones with menopause breathing down their wrinkly necks.YOU LADIES. LIKE ME.

It's a losing battle. I was a scrawny kid growing up. Long and leggy was my claim to fame; unfortunately from the waist up I was all boy. College confirmed that yes, you do in fact gain the "freshman 15," which I did consistently throughout my four year reign. "Exercise" was running down the dorm hall to let the Domino's pizza guy in.

From there on out it was a seesaw of poundage proportions depending on what was going on in my life. I started taking long walks daily in my early 20's. That, combined with near poverty wages and a grocery list that made a bachelor's fridge look plentiful kept my weight in check. Throughout my 20s I stayed active, and before marriage and kids, worked out with weights, played volleyball and tennis. On my wedding day, I was a size 4.

I gained the recommended 25 - 30 pounds with my first baby, and shed the weight quickly after, even though I found myself almost pleased with my new found curves. Even after kid number two I don't remember weight being an issue. Yeah, I was a little more hippy, but hey, you need some place to balance the kid, right?

I'm not gonna lie. 40 hit me like a lead balloon. I thought I was cruising right along in my size 6 low rise jeans and my tucked in shirts. Yep, that's right. TUCKED IN. WITH A BELT. It never even occurred to me to turn to the side or put my hand on my hip or stand in the back row for pictures.

Somehow, someway, my body hit 40 and my metabolism came to a screeching halt. No more could I park in front of the TV with a bag of chips and "work it off" the next day. Nope. That bag of chips hung around like, well, a bag of effing chips. Half a bag on each thigh. Just hangin' there.

I have a love/hate relationship  with this photo.

It's funny how you see yourself and how you really are. There are days when I actually feel OK, like the day I ran a 5K with a much younger friend of mine. Someone took our picture - triumphant at the finish. I looked at it later and thought, "WAS I MOVING? WHY ARE MY LEGS MOVING???" Nope. They weren't. That was cellulite. Here in my head I thought I was badass when in fact I was really just f&*^ing cottage cheese.

The only time in my 40s I've been at a weight I considered OK was after a major breakup. I couldn't eat at all. The thought of food literally made me sick to my stomach. For WEEKS. I swear I dropped over 10 pounds in 10 days. My clothes hung on me. I looked FANTASTIC. Yet I was miserable. People would even tell me, "Wow - have you lost weight? You look so skinny!" and I'd say, "Thanks," and promptly burst into tears and crawl back under the covers to lament my broken heart.

That doesn't happen anymore. I've had more stress and heartbreak in the past year than I've had in my entire life. Am I repulsed by food? No, dammit. Food is my comfort. Food is my friend. Food is something to do when I'm bored, depressed, lonely, sad, happy ....

Sitting kills. See me? I'm dead.
Oh, AND! AND I sit ALL DAY. All day! Have you seen the reports? Sitting KILLS! Sitting is a DEATH TRAP! And I do it eight hours a day. Every once in awhile I try to take a walk down at the Riverfront at lunch (of course the last time I did that I came upon a lovely couple exiting a port-a-potty looking a little guilty - GROSS.) I could get one of those standing desks, but I'd have to buy it myself, and a guy in my office has one, and they make fun of him. No one likes to be made fun of. Especially when you're fat.

But here's the other thing. I still exercise. Well, I try. But evidently someone like me has to exercise like 17 hours a day to lose one pound or something like that. Because that's what it seems. And the other thing is that my body is slowly going in the shitter, one bone and joint at a time. I tried running, but my knees doth protest too much. My knees also prevent me from doing burpees, those cross-country things, and anything else that requires going quickly from a squatting position to, well, any other position. I gauge how far down I can go on my lunges as to how many times my knee has popped. Usually after four I know I'd better be on the way up.

Lie. It's not 7. It's 21.
I discovered this great 7-minute workout. Even the New York Times wrote about it, so it must be good, right? Who doesn't have seven minutes? So I sweat and swear for seven whole minutes, only to realize that I'm supposed to do it THREE TIMES. Holy &*(&! I can barely do it once! If you wonder why I don't join a gym, come over and take a gander at me during this 21 minute torture test. You'll hear more grunts and groans and see more grimaces than the day your mother birthed you. Not to mention the random sounds that may or may not come out of me during that 30 seconds of "high knees."

I went to the doctor to complain. "Test my thyroid," I said. "Welcome to menopause," she said. I punched her.

You would think that, at 47 years old, I would finally be at peace with my body. That I would be comforted knowing that all those beauties in the magazines were completely photoshopped. That even though I'm single and may have to change my online dating profile body type stat from "slender" to "average," I will somehow attract the attention of someone looking for more than just a kinda pretty, middle-aged face. They just may never get a strip tease. From me, anyway.

I know, I know. "Strong is the new skinny." I don't want to be skinny, necessarily. Strong would be good. "Proportional" would be nice. "Comfortable in my own skin" would be a win.

What do you say we lobby for a worldwide mandatory exercise time between like 12 and 2? Followed by a complimentary salad and a tall glass of ice water.

And maybe a box of Cheez-its.

Monday, September 1, 2014

26 weeks.

It's been six months, Mom.

Half a year. When I go back and look at my pictures, which I cherish, the dates are still measured in weeks. 26 weeks.

Some days it seems like just yesterday; other days it seems years ago. But what doesn't change is how much you're in my thoughts. Some days it's a fleeting moment. Most often when something interesting, accomplished or bumming happens and I think, "I gotta call Mom and tell her..." only to catch myself and realize that I can't. Not anymore. Not like before, anyway.

Other days, it's those signs. I've determined that any time you come into my head, whether it be something I think or something I see, that's your sign. For me, it's seeing or hearing that singular mourning dove who likes to perch on the top of the trampoline. Mourning doves mate for life, and I always see them together. It's been only since you passed that I see one alone. Other times it might be when I see someone who resembles you. Or I catch myself watching one of those commercials for the Carol Burnett video tapes. :)

The other day I went to visit you, and told you I really needed to know that you were there and watching out for the boys. In my heart of hearts I know you are. Sometimes I wonder if that's why you left when you did, because you knew I needed to know that someone was watching over that precocious grandchild of yours. You know which one I'm talking about.

The day you left us we had a snowstorm. Odd for the first of March. It was a Saturday, and we had all done our normal Saturday hospice visiting rotation that had somehow just fallen into place over the past five weeks. I spent the late morning and early afternoon by your bedside, reading. Dad came later, as he usually did, after going to ReStore. He was going to go to church that evening and Chris and I told him not to come back because the roads were getting bad.

I debated making plans that night, but decided to stop back over and see you instead. In true Dad fashion and against his kids' "suggestion" that he stay home, he braved the snowy roads and showed up after church. Logan was at a friend's house but I had decided not to let him spend the night, and around 10:00 he started texting me asking me when I would be there to pick him up.

It was so snowy, but for some reason, Dad and I stayed later than usual. I asked the nurses if we should stay because you were just so unresponsive and they said no, they didn't see any change to warrant it. Funny how your language sidesteps the real question. To this day I still can't ask it.

I knew I had to get Dad home. It was an unspoken rule among us kids that the last one at hospice was to make sure Dad went home. We left there at 10:25, because I remember telling Logan I'd be there by 10:40. Dad kissed you and told you he loved you, just as he had every single night. I told you the same, but instead of my normal, "See you tomorrow," for some reason I said, "Get some sleep." We walked out and I turned to look at you. I'll never forget it, and I'm glad I did. You looked peaceful, with those two battery-operated candles I brought for you flickering against your face as you slept under that fleece Chicago Bears blanket. As we walked down the hall, Dad said, "This is gonna be tough." I linked my arm in his and we walked out into the snow.

I arrived home about 10:50 pm and put my phone in the bedroom to charge. At 11:05, I went in and saw I had a missed call from hospice. My stomach dropped, and I called the number back. There had been a change, the nurse said. "Should I come?" I said. "I'm sorry," she said. "Since we called you last, she has passed." At 11:01 pm.

I never want to have that feeling again, though I know I will. That's all I can say about that.

26 weeks.
Here's what I struggle with. We were there every day. Dad was there every, single day. Yet you passed not 30 minutes after we left your side. You did that on purpose, didn't you? I know you did. You didn't want us to see you pass. You didn't want Dad there then, did you? I have to believe that. I know the nurses were there, and I asked them if they prayed with you and they said they did. But I struggle that we weren't there. Is that my selfishness? Did you do it your way? I have to believe you did. I have to believe that.

I have to believe you see this. I have to believe you are there and seeing my boys grow and protecting them and being their guardian angels. You must. I can't think of anyone better for the job than the Man himself. I know you're watching over Dad when we can't, and I know you are with him as he struggles to live his life without you. He just loves you so very much. But you know that.

It's been six months, Mom. I miss you so. Keep showing up, OK? In my thoughts, in the mourning doves, and wherever else. Remember I told you to promise me? And I know you'll be creative about it. I'll be looking. I promise. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why those pro football players always say, "Hi, Mom!"

What's the deal with boys and their dads? It's a question I've asked myself ever since my oldest was a baby, when even though I incubated him for nine months and birthed him for almost a day, gave his first smile to his daddy, as well as his first word and first laugh.


That kid is 17 now, and he's still responding to his dad the way he did when he razzed his belly on the diaper changing table and made him giggle like, well, a baby.

I'm not gonna lie. This really bugged me. I'm not gonna lie. I was envious. I was working my ass off and the rewards, I believed, were going to dad. What. The. Hell.

Let me just say this. I am so very grateful that my son idolizes his dad. I really am. Everyone should have a hero, and what better person than your own father? I know my dad is my hero, but I'm a girl. Not all sons look up to their dads, and I feel lucky for him, lucky for me, and lucky for his father that's how it's played out. 

But selfishly, in my darkest place, it bugged me. For like 16 years. But over the last six months or so, I've started to get it. And I say that only because of a conversation I had yesterday with a new friend who finally managed to get it through my head and completely change my perspective.

I've had more time with my son than his dad has had. That's just the way it is, and probably the way it is in most families, especially when divorce is involved. I've seen the really good and the really, really bad. I don't get the four days every other week where I'm not working and there's no chores to be done and very few errands to run. My life with them is the same as my life without them. That's just how shit played out.

I remember my son came home one day after middle school and was just being a holy terror. I asked him, "They say you're so good at school. Why do I get to see this side of you???" He replied, "It takes so much out of me to be good at school all day, Mom, that when I get home I just can't do it anymore."

If nothing else, my kid is honest about his feelings. And he was right. He COULD be a holy terror at home, because he knew no matter what, I'd still love him anyway. And I didn't see that for a really, really long time. Even though his dad said to me, "They come to me to wrestle, but if they get hurt, the first person they want is you."

Again, I caution that I'm not saying that my son can't be a holy terror around his dad. He sure as hell can. But the difference, I think, is that my son wants to prove something to his father. He wants him to be proud of him. And even though I know his dad IS proud of him, for some reason this is an elusive and continuing journey for my son.

Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to spend time together on a gorgeous lake in Idaho. My gracious friend with whom we stayed had a jet ski and offered it to all of us. My son's dad took it out first and of course opened it up on the lake. Then it was my son's turn, and he had to make sure he went a little faster than his dad. Back and forth they went, taking turns and doing tricks and pushing the envelope of speed.

Finally my son asked me to try it. I'm a huge sissy with a fear of speed and didn't want to do it. So my son offered to take me. He promised to "go slow," but as soon as we were away from the dock, he punched it. You could hear my screams all the way down the lake, but his laughter was priceless.

He had nothing to prove to me. Except that he could scare the living crap out of his prissy mom (which he did.)

My son and I have had some pretty rough conversations over the past couple of years, and I've painstakingly learned how to listen more and lecture less. This has opened up a whole new aspect of our relationship. I've stopped putting my "mom mind" in the forefront, and just started listening to him as a young man - and yes, bloodying my lip in the process sometimes. Because he wants to talk. He wants to be heard. And he knows that no matter what he says, I'll still love him. Even if I don't agree. Even if I think he's wrong. And yes, even if it scares me.

I didn't realize he knew this until my new friend brought it to my attention. It is by the grace of God that she has been put into my life. We are in similar situations, and she has had more hardship than I, I am sure. In an hour of conversation, she changed how I look at my son and how he feels about his mom and his dad.

Basically, we both have our roles. His dad's role is to lead. To lead by example so that when my son strives to prove himself to his dad, he does, and is yet still challenged to be the role model that his dad should be for him. And maybe that means that dad gets the cool ski trips, and the endless talks about cars and motorcycles. Maybe that's why when things get a little too real, my son clams up or his dad just walks away.

My role is also to lead by example, and I try to, but it's also to sit on the sidelines, quietly taking notes. To observe all that is going on, file away my opinions and "what's best" and only bring those out if asked. My role is to listen and love unconditionally. My role is not to judge, but to let my son know that he can tell me anything, no matter how much it hurts me. That's my role. Why do you think when the cameras turn to all those football players they say, "Hi, Mom!" It's because we're on the sidelines, being the biggest fans of our kids.

And you know what? For the first time, I'm OK with that. I get it now. I have to stop comparing my relationship with my son to his dad's. We both have our place in his life. And like I told my son before, when he used to play his dad and me against each other, "You're lucky you don't have two parents like your dad or two parents like your mom. You got one of each."

I'd say that's a pretty good draw.