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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Suck it up, Buttercup

I'm a big girl now.  I have a husband, a house, offspring, two cars, a job. And there are still things that I do not want to do.  Ok, that I just have dug my heels in refusing to do.  When my van starts to make a weird noise, the first person I call is not my husband. It's my dad. Why? Because I trust his knowledge of automobiles (as he still calls them) implicitly.  I can call him and within minutes has the solution, which is to take my van in himself.  Mechanics make me nervous.
Cleaning windows.  When we bought our 1930's home it had the original windows. Ten years ago we had them replaced, but that doesn't stop me from telling Don I don't know how to clean them.  I also don't know how to use the stupid Xbox remote that controls our netflix.  And guess what? I'm not about to learn.
Many women take pride in not needing a man.  I do. Desperately.   Well, the truth is, I know I could do some things but I think Don and my Dad like to feel needed. At least that is what I keep telling them.
Recently I have had to face some grown up decisions.  I'm still amazed at times that I am a grown up.
Sometimes I will be sitting in my office and wonder how this happened? How did things get so serious all of the sudden?  I loved the time when I could go tell my mom something and she would take care of it.  Now being the mom, I have had to learn to take care of things.  Not only things regarding the kids, but for my well being too.

There are times when you know that standing up for what you feel is right is the right thing to do, even if its not the easiest.  There are times that I just have to tell myself; "suck it up, buttercup"
The first time I heard that phrase was from a travel team soccer coach.  We were at the end of a game and it was 130 degrees outside.   I begged him for a sub, but he knew I had 5 minutes left in me.  I would have argued, but I was so tired and out of breath I didn't have the energy to whine.   I survived, we won, the end, right?
Wrong. Now as an adult, I don't have a coach telling me to suck it up.  In regards to personal issues, it is just up to me.  We face things in our life that, frankly just suck.  Watching my uncle die? Sucked. But my inner voice said "suck it up buttercup".  He would have done it for me.  Putting my beloved pet down when my husband was out of town? Sucked.  Ending a toxic friendship? Getting up the courage to speak up about something that you know is right is equally as hard. But again, you just have to say, suck it up buttercup. Realizing that the office water is depleted and my only option to avoid perishing from dehydration is the drinking fountain? Yep, in this case I have to put e coli aside and suck it up, or die.

There is an inner argument in my head.  My desire to do something vs. My doubt I can do it.
I recently decided to put together a small production called The Mamalogues.  Sure I had doubt, what if nobody wanted to participate, what if nobody wants to come, is this a stupid idea?  One morning I just got up and decided to do it.  Guess what? Everyone I asked to participate said yes, it sold out in a week and in the dress rehearsal I learned that it isn't a stupid idea, it is brilliant.   Brilliant because each of the women have so much to say.
Easily I could have let doubt win, like so many other times. But the world would still be going on, and I would have always wondered what it would have been like.
I would have told myself I didn't have time..but you can always find time to do something you love.
Somethings aren't even that poignant.  Today I didn't feel like going to work. It is hot, I have to park 4000 miles away but I'm not the only person who has to make this voyage so I just tell myself  "suck it up buttercup".

What I realized today is that all this time I have been "sucking it up" I never really knew what I was
(for lack of a better word) sucking up?  Fear.  Doubt. Laziness.  And it has resulted in something I didn't anticipate.  Years of gulping down emotions resulted in bravery, confidence and ambition.

The pain and discomfort I feel in my stomach before I embark on something uncomfortable is fueled with the confidence of doing what is right.  If you know that your intention comes from a good place then it can't be wrong.

Examples of buttercups who sucked it up; Amelia Earhart, her outcome might have been less than perfect, but her legacy taught little girls that she was capable of doing a man's job.  Steve Jobs, if he would have decided to wait until he was rested to create Apple, then it would have been too late.  Betty White.  She could easily hung up the towel and retired but the world would have missed out on how funny she is.  George Takai again, he could have just decided to live off the Star Trek royalties, live a quiet life, but instead, the 76 year old became an advocate for LGBT rights as well as an author, an  internet sensation for his humor and quick wit, which I am grateful for because his posts make me laugh..and I believe laughing makes me feel better even when I think its not possible.

My point is, next time you feel like not trying something, or not speaking up, or tolerating a frenemy, just tell yourself to suck it up. Even if the outcome isn't what you hoped, you at least tried, and you never know who might have a positive impact from your simple act of bravery.

Monday, August 26, 2013

High Five a Teacher Today

It is back to school time, which also means that I will not see my husband for another 3 or 4 months.
I love seeing people post pictures of their kids with excited grins, embarking on the first day of school.  I wish I could post a picture of my husband, who is equally as excited, but he was gone before I was awake. I have had the opportunity of witnessing greatness behind the scenes.  It is a gift to watch anyone who is completely aligned with their life's purpose.

We recently had dinner at a friends house and he told us a scary statistic he had read.  The average amount of 1 on 1 time a father spends with his child per week is seven minutes.  Seven minutes.
I don't know the details of the statistic, but it didn't come as a surprise to Don as much as it did me.
Our boys are Don's muses.   I think he sets things up in the house just to see how they react to it.  When he was gone this summer he gave our oldest the job of watering our tomatoes.  At the time they were just little seeds.  Each day he would call in, Parker would report on the progress of the tomatoes.  The sun was scorching them so he had to come up with a solution for that.  When the vines got to high he had to come up with a solution for that. When the chipmunks started eating them, he had to come up with a solution for that. Our small tomato garden looks like a junk yard. With homemade shades and stakes made out of our old wood floor and a chipmunk scarecrow made from his brother's hulk pez dispenser.  Even from across the country Don put in his seven minutes, and the truth is, in the past he probably picked up the slack for many fathers who, some haven't seen their kids in years.

In the weeks before school starts I know I won't see my husband.  He spends hours setting up his classroom, preparing his lessons and trying to get his classroom perfect for each of his students to be inspired to explore and learn. Last night he was at school until midnight, and this morning he was up with the alarm raring to go right back.

People idolize celebrities and view their life of money and the pinnacle of life success.  Once in awhile someone will thank a teacher, but our society is also quick to blame one.
When I hear someone mention how much money (or lack there of) my husband makes it makes me laugh. There are few careers that people openly feel free to discuss the salary.  What people don't realize is that we feel rich.  Some wives would get upset with their husbands spending half of his paycheck at one store but I know its for his "other" kids.

We make it work, we have everything we need.  More importantly I have a husband who is happy.
Between the two of us we have four jobs. But they are each things we really enjoy doing.  If we had careers that made more money, we might not have discovered our different passions.
Our boys want for nothing.  I want for nothing. ( Well, I did, but then I finally got my VitaMix).  When Don taught at a different school he would give some kids shoes ours had outgrown, or jackets in the winter.  He even bought a student a pair of glasses because his were being held together by paperclips and tape. We are grateful to be able to help them.

Another reason we don't want for anything is the generosity that is given back to us.  Parents have been extremely generous.   We have been given gift cards allowing us to eat at restaurants all year long, frequent flyer miles, enough coffee mugs to open a cafe and enough Red Sox t-shirts to open a gift shop.  Not to mention a few extra pounds around the holidays because the gift of chocolate keeps on giving. No wonder the boys want for nothing.

When your child goes back to school, just remember that their teacher may be just as excited as they are.  Don't pity a teacher for their lack of compensation.  The good ones didn't chose this career path because of the monetary value, but more the value of influencing the next generation.

You may hear women say they want to marry a rich CEO or a physician or famous actor. That is fine with me, because I married a teacher and we are doing more than just fine.

But really, the best gift you can give to your child's teacher is respect and confidence that they know what they are doing.  And maybe a high five when you see them. That is teacher language that they are doing a good job.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beast Mode

If you follow my blog you may recall a post I made about why I love Crossfit.  Up until then it was kind of my dark little secret.  Like a super power I only let a certain number of people know about, including my family.   In my life I have gotten excited about a lot of things that have been short lived.  My friend calls it my Step Brother's moment.  In the movie Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly get so excited about making bunk beds "so much room for activities!" and it results in the top bunk falling and "blood everywhere!" In other words, my ideas are short lived and usually come crashing down.  But I have just finished a year of it and I still can't get enough.  When I heard about an all women's competition I decided (with the strong coercion of my new friends) to participate.  I signed up and began worrying about it for the next 6 weeks.

The day arrived and there were 100 women from all over the Midwest.   I envisioned 99 women with huge muscles barreling through the door ready to kick some ass. Although some did have huge muscles, the one thing everyone had in common was strength. Regardless of  age, shape or size all were there to kick some ass, their own.  

Doing something out of your comfort zone requires a bit of fearlessness.  The morning of, I was nervous and excited,. Wondering what I should eat just in case I puke it up in front of everyone.  I looked at everyone around me and was convinced that I was going to finish in the bottom two.  Obviously, I wasn't in it to win it, but I certainly wasn't in it to lose it either.    What is a Crossfit competition like?  This is my take.

The energy was palpable, how could it not be with a huge mass of women in one place?  There were different heats of scaled and prescribed workouts. I chose scaled because I felt I was too young to die.   Once it began something crazy happened. The competition became more of a celebration of  strength and sexiness.   Women pushing themselves to do things that previously were inconceivable.
I invited my parents.  They had no idea what to expect.  Up until this point my mom thought it was a gymnastics class. They loved it and I loved having them there.  It's not too often, as an adult, that your parents can cheer you on.  As a kid they sat through endless sporting events and I could always hear my Dad screaming my name.  He stood against the wall as I started my second WOD (workout of the Day).  The total length was only 10 minutes but to give you an idea, this is what those 10 minutes looked like.

10 jumping pullups,
20 burpees,
40 wallballs, 10 lbs.
90 single jump rope,
50 kettlebell 26 lb. swings
2 clean and jerks 65 lb.
At least that was what my 10 minutes looked like.  There were women that did 4x as many clean and jerks as me.

I began strong. I could see my Dad peripherally.  But when I got to my biggest challenge (wall balls) the familiar sound of his voice brought me back to the soccer field in high school and refueled my spirit.  I could hear him screaming my name over the crowd.  Cheering for something he had no idea about, but could tell I was giving it everything I had.  Hearing the familiar howl of my name pushed me through the pain. And the word pain is putting it lightly.
When I turned around I could see him, now, no longer against the wall but standing up on something so he could see me and I could see him.  I will admit there was an element of concern in his face. After all, he is witnessing his 36 year old daughter, the mother of 4 of his grandchildren, lift some crazy amount of weight and veins popping out of her forehead.  It blew his mind. Afterwards I approached him and  his usual delicate hug was now big bear one. He was speechless.
The day continued and I lost my voice because I was cheering for anyone and everyone.  There were several men chosen as judeges and several just there to watch.  Mesmerized by these women, not just for their appearance but for their drive. Busting the myth that sexy girls only come in one size. According to my husband (who volunteered to take pictures of the event) he had never seen so many crazy sexy girls in one place. I agree.  And I know he has been to one or two bachelor parties in Vegas, so I considered that a well educated conclusion.

My mom was able to meet up with my dad for my last workout.  A dead lift ladder. After I assured my Dad it wasn't an actual ladder,  and that there were several doctors in the house, it put his mind at ease. It was 15 barbells increasing in weight. Starting at 65 lbs. to 205 lbs. You had 1 minute to lift each one.  My mom stood at a distance and traveled with me to each station.  Although she used to cheer for me as a kid, she was mute.  When I glanced over at one point she had her hands covering her mouth and the look of terror.  For all she knew I was going to break in half.  Even I don't understand how I could lift something very close to double my weight, but I did.
Afterwards, she gave me a big hug, and held on, thankful that I was still in one piece. Although she is and was as strong as me, her generation of women never displayed it.  Women were considered the weaker sex, both mentally, intellectually and certainly physically. I really don't believe they ever were, they were never given the opportunity to display it. In fact it was considered ugly if they did.

But here I was, the age she was when she had me, being celebrated for things that her generation believed only men should do.
I learned so much that day, when I walked in I thought I was competing against these women and when I walked out I realized we were all in it together.  Competing against conventional stereotypes.
I challenge anyone to watch one of these events and not leave with complete admiration for the participants.
As I was leaving a friend of mine came up and congratulated me.  His said  "Congratulations!, You are a Beast!".  Just a year ago I would have been completely offended by that because I always wanted to be considered the Beauty.

This day made me realize I can take pride in being both.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The comment that saved my life

To expel the last bit of energy my two youngest had bottled up inside them, I decided to take them to the park.  It was 7:30, their usual bedtime, but since the beginning of the summer, (and in the absence of my husband) bedtime had slipped an hour...or two.  We were the only ones there and the boys were busy running in circles until a woman showed up with her son. Within 3 minutes we were talking and in the entirety of those 3 minutes she expressed so much self hatred.  She mentioned how her toe nails were not painted because she didn't have time.  How her hair fell out after she had her son and it hasn't grown back, and how she was so fat that she doesn't even look in the mirror any more.   What is odd is that we were talking about the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile when all this came out.  It was as if she was pointing out what she thought was obvious before I noticed. Which honestly, I thought she was kind of pretty and wouldn't have noticed her hair, weight and especially toes, if she had not mentioned it.
 I don't think I have ever had a conversation with any woman who didn't put herself down. Granted I don't know many super models, but I'm sure they would have something bad to say about themselves too.  It is normal, accepted and even encouraged when in the company of other woman.  In the ladies room you never hear a woman say to another, "I am really happy with the way my hair turned out" or
"I cannot get over how great my butt looks in these pants". If I did hear those things I would have a  heart attack because I would assume I had walked in the Men's room (again). I don't really know what goes on in the Men's restroom,  although I have found myself in one at a club in Hollywood, but I got kicked out.  That is an entirely different blog post. Moving on.
Poor self image and eating disorders run in my family.  I'm not entirely innocent in the self hatred talk. But most of the time its in my head.
When I was in third grade our school was participating in the Presidential Fitness Awards.  It was something I was really good at, in fact the best. One of the challenges was to see how long you could hold your chin about a bar while the gym teacher timed you.  I could have stayed up there twice as long as I did, but I got bored.  It included jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups.   Part of the challenge was that you had to get your height and weight taken.  I remember sitting in the hallway with all the little girls in my class waiting. I was toward the end of the line and the girls started coming out announcing their weight.  I don't remember what it was but probably around 65 or 70 lbs.   Since all the girls were getting around the same number they started the 65 club and were laughing and talking.
When it was my turn to go in I stepped in the nurses office and got on the scale.  It was a good 10 lbs over what the other girls weighed.
I let out a moan and hung my head.  My teacher asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was fat and ugly.  She got really serious and looked me in the eye and said I was the strongest little girl she knew. She reminded me all the great things my body did over the course of the challenge and  how great I was at soccer.  She said the scale is just a number.
When I went out to the hall and didn't announce my weight the girls snickered. Looking back at pictures, I was a really normal looking girl, but never skinny.  My acceptance to the 65 club was denied and I ate lunch alone.  It's funny what hurts you as a kid.  As I sat alone on the playground I thought about what the gym teacher told me.  Was she right?   Sure I was strong, but who cares?  Boys were suppose to be strong, girls were suppose to be skinny.  I started doing things on the playground just to see if she was right.  I could beat anyone running, and I won almost all the arm wrestling contests. Except with Adam....but that was because I liked him.
I started to realize that she was right.   I was strong.   I carried her statement with me through high school and college.  It not only helped me when I realized that my body wasn't what I saw in magazines, but emotionally when I thought I was weak.  I even surprised myself when I was able to break free from an inebriated guy who pulled me down on his lap when I was a cocktail waitress.  Apparently my strength surprised him too.  Not as much as the bouncer that took him out though.
Kids believe what you tell them. Good or bad.
I repeated my mantra  with me during birth, surgeries and some horrible losses.  I have taken ownership of it and after so many years it is a quality I take pride in.
I'm scared to think about where I would be if my gym teacher would have just let me insult myself.  Brushed it off, as something that all girls say.  Nobody had ever told me I was strong and I would have been so caught up in the things I "wasn't", that I wouldn't have noticed the things I "was".
It took one positive comment in the hay stack of negatives that stuck with me.
I don't know if Ms. Mack knows how her comment changed the course of my life.  Can you imagine if her comment towards me in that situation would have been derogatory? There was a 50/50 chance and I would have believed her either way.
I don't have daughters so I don't know if things have changed in regards to body acceptance but I doubt it. I have a niece who mentioned she needed to lose weight and I made sure to ignore that and mention what a beautiful unique voice she has. And I wasn't just referring to her tone, but in general. She has a voice that needs to be heard.
When I hear my friends put themselves down it makes me wish they had had a Mrs. Mack moment.  As much as I can identify with distain for muffin tops, I try not to indulge because the more you tell yourself something you are only solidifying it into a truth. I would rather talk about what they are good at.
After 20 minutes or so I decided it was time to get the boys home.  Jack ran over and gave both of us a bouquet of bark, grass, mulch and a lily he had picked from the landscape.  I thanked him but while I was  looking for a discreet place to toss it, she had found a paper cup by the trash bin and was putting her bouquet in it. It reminded me that kids not only are listening, but watching.  I decided to put my mulch in the my pocket until we got home. She was so touched that he did that. She may feel like she wasn't  anything to look at, but through the eyes of a 6 year old she certainly was.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I'm not dead!

In 2007 we purchased our minivan and it was at that point I decided that my ability to be attractive to anyone other than a toddler was over.   Despite millions and millions of minivans being on the road they are invisible.  Except to me. I notice them because I have newer minivan envy. Well actually, more like non-dented minivan envy.  Too many trash bins have jumped out if front of me and it has resulted in several dings.
A few months ago I met an old flame for lunch. He is very very aware that I am in a committed relationship  marriage and have a google of kids.  Yet when it was time to walk to our cars I was resistant to saddle up in my carriage.  It is such a cock block to feeling even remotely vital.  Just a hope that I haven't turned in my desirable card just yet.  Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to pick up anybody,  the last thing I need to check off on my to do list is " have affair" but it would still be nice to know that I am attractive to the opposite sex. Or the same sex,  it doesn't matter, as long as it gives me a temporary reminder that I am not dead or turned into Angela Lansbury overnight.
I have always enjoyed fashion, so I enjoy putting outfits together, even if most of them involve black pants.   I know that when Don reads this he will be upset because he thinks he tells me that I look good, but the truth is, he expects me to hear his thoughts.   When I ask him if he likes a dress I am wearing he will say " yes, I told you that." Um no, he didn't but at least he thought it.   But by that time I don't believe him and I have already changed four times.
Lately I have had some odd exchanges with men and I make it a point to tell Don about it.  The other day I was at the grocery store with a cart full of boys and a side of groceries and a man asked if I would like to go ahead of him.  Which really made no sense to me and apparently my facial expression was along the lines of "WTF?" He explained to me that I looked like I was in a rush. ( well, duh) Except his line wasn't any faster. Anyway, the great exchange continued. He told me that I shouldn't have to buy flowers for myself. He also shared that he can make the best iced coffee ( I was drinking one at the time).  He even walked us to the parking lot.   The boys didn't seem to notice or care that I was in a middle-age scenario of a bad night at the Roxy.  What did he expect me to do? Invite him over between Team Umi-Zoomi and Henry Higglmonster?   His name was Rod and he wore paisley boxers.  I know this because he had his name on his shirt and had a huge rip in his jeans.   I wouldn't have been interested in this guy even if I was single and very desperate, but it didn't stop me from texting Don along with a  very far away picture of the guy telling Don that this guy was hitting on me.  His response? "Perfect! You have always liked ripped jeans" 
No, that was not the reaction I was hoping for.  Once in the car the boys asked if that guy was going to make me coffee.  Apparently they were listening. However, even they didn't sense the oddness of this entire situation.  Sure boys, lets go get iced coffee from Mr. Dateline Craiglist momnapper 
Another incident happened when I was at a bounce house.  Oscar was wearing a " Number 1 Fan of Mommy" shirt.  when we got to the entrance to the bouncy house the guy, who might have been 19 if he was lucky,  leaned down to Oscar and looked at me and said " I think I'm a fan of mommy too".  Super creepy and gross, but it was more ammunition to fire at Don via text.  "A teenager just told me he is a fan of….me."  Don's response, " Are you wearing the Red Sox shirt I sent you?" 
I am screaming at the top of my lungs (over text message) I AM STILL SEXY SEE????  Yet,  he is not biting. 
I think there seems to be a communication break down between people who have been married for at least 10 years.  The majority of my friends and I have talked and the bottom line is,  we want our husbands to still find us attractive. That is it.  Yet I would say the same half of my friends feel the opposite. That our husbands just don't. 
Maybe Don views my desperate attempts to prove that I am not dead in the sexy department more like Lucy trying to convince Ricky that she is French Mademoiselle after she discovered a new wig shop.  He goes along and does not encourage my behavior. 
I love men. I can find something attractive about most (except ripped jeans) but I still hold my man at the very top of my esteem.  The fact that I shop for most of his clothes may be a big part of it. But even if he still wore the hideous shirt he picked out that looks like a man in coffee hour after the 8 a.m. church service, I would still find him sexy.
I used to ask him all the time when he was a bartender in LA if any women ever hit on him. His answer was always no. He credited his loyal following to his ability to make a great Cosmo. Now I don't even ask, he still has loyal following, granted they are 8 year olds and because he has the final say on who gets to feed the classroom pet. 
Despite what every talk show would tell you. Women like knowing their husband or "man" is attractive to the opposite sex. It gives us reassurance that we caught a good one, and he only wants for us.  What Don knew even back then was that if he mentioned anyone hitting on him I would always turn it around to be his fault.  So either, he is completely oblivious and not a single woman has flirted with him in the 14 years we have known each other, or he spares me the details. 
The fact that he makes that much of an effort to preserve my feelings lets me know that driving a minivan didn't kill my attractiveness. That he is affectionate even after seeing me at my worst, (trust me, it was NOT pretty) should be enough to make me feel desirable. 
When I text him about the men..(some may be 95 years old and blind) that pay me a compliment,  it just feeds his ego, more than mine and I must find comfort in knowing that he trusts me implicitly.
That is nice, but next time I go out of my way to wear his favorite dress it would be nice to hear it with my ears rather than telepathically. At least I know I will have another 70 years with him to make that point clear but hopefully at time, I really won't be dead..