Musings from Home

Fantastic June 7th

Yesterday was Jim’s and my 16th anniversary and it was a fabulous day, made more so by its contrast to one year ago. Last year on June 7th, Jim was in all-day end-of-year meetings and I was up to my eyebrows in packing. Our closing on our Virginia house was just 6 days away and we weren’t even close to being packed up.

This June 7th, yesterday, was also Emerald’s last day of 6th grade and we had big plans for the evening. Em was so excited for both of those reasons that she ran to the car at pickup. She told me that she and her dad were the 4th car in the carpool, but that they were the first car out because she ran out of Band class and all the way to the car.

Part of our evening plan was coincidental to the date. Back in early May, we took a family weekend trip to the mountains of N.C. and while there strolled down Main Street, Blowing Rock. Em and I wandered into a gallery, just to browse. We spotted a painting that spoke to me. Em suggested we should buy it, but I told her we were there to look only. I did note the name of the artist, so I could revisit her work at a later date.

The following week, while I was allowing myself to be distracted from work, I Googled the artist and found her web page. I was still completely grabbed by her work, particularly two themes. I sent Jim the links and asked him to take a look. I was very clear that I wasn’t asking for a painting for Mother’s Day, which was the following weekend, but rather wanted to know if he felt as strongly pulled to her style as I did, so we could keep her in mind for some future time when we wanted to buy a piece of art.

He particularly liked one of the paintings, which was also one of my favorites. We agreed to split the cost and I would count it as my Mother’s Day gift. He contacted the artist and she said that the particular painting was on exhibit until the end of May and she would be at a gallery in our town on June 7th and could bring it with her if we’d like to meet her there. June 7. Our anniversary. It was like fate. So it changed from my Mother’s Day gift to our anniversary gift to each other. We planned the whole evening around going to the gallery show in which the artist had another painting, picking up our painting, and then having a nice family dinner out afterward.

We were all so excited for weeks, as the anticipation of getting our painting built. We hadn’t yet seen this particular one in person. We made reservations for the Melting Pot and waited for the day to get here.

Yesterday evening, after Jim picked Emerald up from school, we all dressed in our finest and headed out to the gallery. We toured around the gallery, met the artist of our newly purchased painting, and accompanied her out to her car to pick it up.

It didn’t disappoint. We are all still in love with it.

May-June 2013 059

After a great dinner, we headed home to find a place to hang it. There is so much detail that the pre-planned spot above the mantel didn’t offer enough opportunity of up-close viewing to fully appreciate it. We have moved another picture and have settled on  a prominent spot in the living room. At least for now.

All in all a perfect celebration of 16 years of marriage. Sunday night, we’re going out just the two of us for a romantic dinner. Such a contrast to last year. It’s so good to be settled.

Another Perspective on Age

Everyone seems to be talking about age lately (or maybe always). When I think about my age, I tend to think about what my best age might have been and if I could go back, which age I would choose to revisit. And that’s where I get stuck.

Like most people, I wouldn’t want to go back to my teenage years, not because they were so bad (because they really weren’t), but because that’s a period of so much figuring out and it’s better traversed only once, in my opinion.

What about my twenties? I greatly enjoyed my twenties, being on my own, with my first full-time job in a city I loved. But here’s the thing: My twenties were a time of planning for the future. Preparing for that next step in life. Getting my career on track. Hoping to meet the right person for me. Thinking about a future family.

If I went back to my twenties, even though I would be young again and could relive all the fun of being young, single, and in the middle of a fantastic city, I would have to do all the getting everything in place stuff all over again, too. Plus, I wouldn’t have Jim, Emerald, and Sapphire.

So let’s see, how about early to mid thirties, after graduate school and after Emerald was born? Still wouldn’t have Sapphire. The rest had settled out pretty well by then.

Forties? Sapphire was born just 6 days after my fortieth birthday. It’s funny, she asked me the other night if I wish she were still really little. I told her that I had been looking at pictures of Emerald and her when they were a lot younger and although that was a fun time, I am really enjoying right now. I love all that we can do together as a family now and I love, love, love seeing who they are and who they are becoming.

To be perfectly honest, I’m in a stage of my life when I am finally living for the most part in the here and now. And I’m loving it. It’s not that I don’t have goals, of course I do, but I don’t feel like the majority of what I do is planning for something else. We are settled in the place we plan to be for a long time. The kids are in fun ages (although they are still growing up too fast for my taste). I like knowing who I am and what my skills are.

So, I’ll take the wrinkles and dark circles (what choice do I have?) to get all the other things that go with them.

Tomorrow (figuratively) I’ll complain about the aches and pains, gray hair (which I color over), and older looking skin.

Waiting in Virtual Line

mailboxI admit to being a science geek, not so much a technology geek. My dear husband is very proud to call himself both. His latest adventure in the techno-geek arena is his excitement over being in line for Mailbox, a new free mail app for Gmail.

Last week he mentioned that he had made a reservation to get the app (which is the only way you can get it) and there were 413, 829 people ahead of him in line (and only 254,495 people behind him). He got a lot of joy in watching the number count down in front of his very eyes and just about as much joy in my scoffing at the whole process and verifying his geekiness. The validation just makes him giddy.🙂

A few minutes ago there were 102,773 people ahead of him and 687,711 behind him.

The app gets 3 1/2 stars with 6,497 reviews. The biggest complaint: having to wait. Ya think?

So tell me, would you get in virtual line for an app and delight in watching as you move closer and closer to the front? Or do you find all this just a bit on the ridiculous side?

[Photo credit: Yahoo images]

Steps

Image credit: Yahoo ImagesEarly last year, I wrote a few posts about monthly goals. Each of those posts had one goal in common: to get healthier. A large part of that goal, although unspoken, was to lose weight. My weight had crept up over the last several years and it was continuing to do so. I was beginning to worry that my various levels (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) were going unhealthily high in parallel. I hadn’t had any of the levels checked, except blood pressure, and although my blood pressure usually came out exactly at 120/80, there were a few readings that were significantly higher. I usually wrote these off as being due to stress, but I did begin to wonder if it was starting to go high for real. And I didn’t even want to think about what the other levels were doing. To be honest, my diet was not great (basically I ate what I wanted and however much I wanted) and my exercise was inconsistent.

Like so many others who resolve to lose weight, I didn’t make much progress. In fact, I gave up on the monthly goals because I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was still trying to lose weight (at least in theory) and be healthier, but I didn’t speak of it, because then I had to admit I wasn’t succeeding in my goal. The problem for me was, there is always tomorrow. I can eat this incredibly calorie-rich meal tonight and do better tomorrow. I can give in to the excuse for not exercising today, and get back to it tomorrow. Well, as we all know, tomorrow never comes. And so it didn’t.

I went on like this month after month. Jim and I made a point to cook healthier, light meals and we felt like we were going a good job, but we’d get bored with our recipes or be too tired to plan/cook a meal and we’d order in or go out. We’d also eat as much as we wanted. Long story short, both of us would lose a few pounds, only to put them back on, over and over again.

Last fall, when we scheduled our trip to Hawaii for this March, I was so excited, but I also remembered how self-conscious I felt taking the kids to the pool last summer. While we’re not planning on lying on the beach the entire trip, many of our plans do involve being in the water and therefore wearing swim suits. I didn’t want to spend this trip that should be so wonderful and so memorable, feeling exposed and insecure. I started to get motivated to make some real changes. I had 5 months to do it before the trip and a lifetime after that to keep it up.

One big challenge for me has always been meal planning and portion control. I always joked that if I had a personal chef, I’d be golden. For someone like me, who doesn’t have the budget for a personal chef, diet plans that include meals may be the closest thing. I had thought about going that route many times over the years, but I had a few reservations that always stopped me. One was due to the fact that prepared foods are laden with preservatives and sodium, but perhaps the biggest one was that I feared that if you didn’t prepare your own foods along the way, you wouldn’t learn how to eat healthily and therefore as soon as you went off the diet foods, you’d go back to your old habits and regain all the weight and be back to your old problem.

I also felt like I should be able to do this on my own. I have many friends who have just decided to make healthy changes and have persevered to success (or ongoing progress, which is my book is success). Shouldn’t I be able to do it, too? Where’s my will power? Was doing a meal plan diet cheating?

And then I “got real” with myself and realized that all these concerns were standing in my way. What I needed to do was chart a course for myself and deal with all these worries if/when they came up. For instance, it didn’t make much sense to worry about putting the weight back on and going back to unhealthy habits until I’d lost the weight in the first place. As for the processed food concerns, I still didn’t like it, but it was just a step along the way to success. I would cut those out once I got on down the road. I began to think of this as just another step to the process. A step I obviously needed to get started.

But I also knew that I needed Jim’s support to make this happen. There was no  way I was going to eat frozen meals for several months while I was either making, or watching him make, tempting meals for the rest of the family. I needed a weight-loss buddy. I knew how Jim felt about processed food diets (he preferred diet plans with menus you make yourself), but I also knew he too wanted to lose weight. And more than that, I knew he is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. So I made my case and I asked him to join me. He agreed.

Together we checked out diet plans online and last November, about a week before Thanksgiving, we settled on Jenny Craig, with the condition that we didn’t have to have a consultant checking on us. For both of us, that was a deal breaker. We were supporting each other; we didn’t want a stranger calling and asking us how well we were doing. The company agreed to send us the materials and the food without having a consultant contact us regularly. We each received an e-mail informing us who our consultant was in case we needed her, but for the most part they let us do our thing.

Of course, we still had to cook for the girls, but their tastes are much simpler than ours (so it was easy to cook healthy things they liked) and we were eating the same meals as each other, so neither of us minded we were eating “diet” foods.

We were surprised at how good most of the foods are. In the beginning, we were overjoyed and surprised at how fast the weight fell off. We added in a little exercise, but at first, we really didn’t change our habits much, just what we were eating. But I’ll tell you the biggest thing we learned was about portions. We thought we knew what a portion looked like, but man, were we wrong. We also learned that our bodies don’t need nearly as much food as we were giving them. We didn’t go hungry at all, but we ate a whole lot less than we had been.

Since we’ve become aware of what our portions should look like and how many calories our meals should contain, we have also learned how to eat out at restaurants and how to indulge in desserts without eating the whole mega-serving.

As of this week, Jim has lost more than 35 pounds and I have lost 21 pounds. Jim also had all of his levels checked recently and they were all great. I still need to do this, but we are confident we are on the right track. We are starting to work our way off the Jenny Craig foods (we still have a lot of food in the freezer, but we  have started substituting a home cooked meal in place of a JC meal each day, for variety) and are  adding in other parts of being healthier, like more consistent exercise.

One of the biggest surprises for me is that I’m now shopping in my own closet. I saved clothes I had outgrown in hopes I’d someday be able to wear them again. Much to my delight I have recently discovered that I now fit into all of them from shorts to tops to beloved dresses, and I feel like I look good in them. I even wore a shirt tucked in yesterday for the first time in about 10 years. Two friends commented on how good I looked, which made my day.

Jim has lost all the weight he needs to. He’s working on keeping it off and adding more exercise. I still have a little more weight to lose (probably about 5 to 10 more pounds), but we’re making progress, taking it all in steps. Hopefully all of these steps will add up to healthier people. My next goal is to be able to run a 5K (whether or not I actually run a race). Just to say I can.🙂

[Image credit: Yahoo Images]

Really?

Last week, a friend of mine wrote a blog post about an article in a paper in her area covering so-called “Mommy Bloggers”. She talked about a certain unnamed, but well-known blogger, who has received many nasty personal attacks because of what she shares on her blog. The point of my friend’s post was that she has never left a mean comment on a post (or a newspaper article, for that matter) and cannot see the point of doing so. I agreed wholeheartedly with her.

The next day,  I was perusing Facebook and noticed that someone had commented on the link to the aforementioned post on the blog’s Facebook page. I generally love reading other people’s comments on this friend’s posts, because they are generally positive and often bring up things that I hadn’t previously considered and that add to the discussion. This comment, however, I was sorry I read.

Although the commenter said that she has never written a mean comment, she went on to say that she is “discouraged by the multitude of moms bantering on about the banal accomplishments of their children online”. She made the point that many women (in the past and still to this day) have had to work hard to be taken seriously in the business world, in the community, and in the government. She said that, in her view, mommy blogs were “self-indulgent and frivolous, confirming the very stereotypes that need to be shattered for women to attain the status and opportunities they deserve.” She concluded that women who write these blogs are creating a condition in the work force in which women have to work harder to be taken seriously.

My first reaction was one of disbelief, followed quickly by, “That is so untrue!” Part of me thought I should let it lie, but I could not. Was she serious that mommy bloggers are hurting the chances of other women to succeed in their chosen careers? While I don’t think of myself as a mommy blogger (I blog about other things other than my children and I don’t go into the details of our daily lives the way many mommy bloggers appear to do), I do certainly write a lot here about my children. The writer of the comment suggested that mommy bloggers blog for their own entertainment and even to make money. While I’m sure this is true for some of them, there are other reasons to blog about your children. So I decided that someone had to reply and give the other side, other reasons for blogging and also to question the validity of the conclusion that mommy bloggers are hurting women who strive to be taken seriously outside of the home. I stated, I hope respectfully, that I blog about my kids for many reasons: We have family and friends who live far away and like to keep up with our activities through my blog. Since we moved last summer, I have had several friends urge me to blog more often because they miss knowing that we’re up to. I also blog about my kids to document their achievements (for them to look back on in the future). They also love it when I share their successes (particularly ones they’ve worked hard for) with our online friends. Unlike some of the bloggers mentioned in the original newspaper article, most of my readers are people we know personally.

After I posted the reply, I continued to think about the comment that got me going. And I got even more disturbed, because after my initial emotional reaction, the logical part of my brain pondered it, too. And I thought, what if it is true? What does that say about our society? Women who blog about their children and their families could actually make climbing the ladder to success much harder? And we allow this to happen? Shouldn’t we, as women, band together to fight this stereotype and generalization to all women, rather than blaming each other for the road being rockier? This to me seems akin to women whose husbands are having affairs blaming the “other women” rather than telling the cheating bum to “hit the road, Jack”.

And where does it stop? Why aren’t we extending this blame to craft bloggers or cooking bloggers, or laundry bloggers, as all of these activities are traditionally women’s roles, as well. While we’re at it, what does it say for women’s chances to succeed in a man’s world if a woman decides to become a nurse rather than a doctor, since “women are nurses, men are doctors” used to be the common attitude?

The bottom line is this: I still do not believe that anything I write here will hinder the future success of my fellow women, but if it really could, then the answer is to change the mindset of society, not to stop bloggers from using their personal piece of the internet in any way they choose. That’s my two cents. For what it’s worth.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please keep it constructive and kind, though, as my girls do read this blog.

Determination

When I was a little girl, there was a little boy my age who lived on my street, whom I could. not. stand. In second grade, his family moved next door to mine. It was the worst. Not only was he in my class at school, but he now lived right next door. One day, I realized that he was in a higher math group than I was. In my 7-year-old mind, this was completely wrong, because there was no way he was smarter than I was. Better at playground sports, sure. Everyone was better at playground sports, but not smarter. That, I just wouldn’t believe. So one morning, when our teacher called his math group, I went, too. The teacher told me this wasn’t my group and I replied, “I can do it.” That afternoon, she called my mother to talk about it and said that she was inclined to let me stay there and see how I did. I stayed there permanently.

I’m not sure if this is where my girls get their determination or not, but I sure do like seeing it. Sapphire has spent her entire life trying to keep up with her big sister. But given the age difference (5 1/2 years), there are some things that her sister can do that she is okay with not being able to do yet, like riding a 2-wheel bike. Late last fall, Sapphire started asking her dad and me to take the training wheels off her bike, so we brought out the next-size-up bike that used to be Emerald’s and which doesn’t training wheels. We think Sapphire is just about big enough for this one anyway. I would hold onto the seat in the back and Sapphire would pedal and steer. We’d do this for a few runs up and down the cul-de-sac, and then she’d go back to riding her bike with training wheels on her own. She seemed fine to take it slow.

Then, just after Christmas, a new family moved in across the street from us. They have an almost-6-year-old little girl, S, and a 7-year-old little boy. S can ride a 2-wheel bike without training wheels. Sapphire began to ask more to have the training wheels taken off. She didn’t want help with the other bike, she wanted the training wheels off this bike, so Jim took them off. The first day without them, Jim and I took turns holding onto the back of the seat to help her balance. The  second day, as I was starting to go with her, Sapphire said, “That’s okay, Mom. I can do it.” I asked her if she was sure she didn’t want help. She said she could put her feet down if she thought she was going to fall. I backed away and watched.

She used her feet to “walk” the bike around getting the feel for her balance. Then, she’d pedal, start to tip over, and put her feet back down. The weather soon turned too cold to play outside much, but every chance she got, she would ride her bike by herself. After just a few days of this, she started to be able to pedal continuously for a short stretch. Yesterday, she got it completely and she was so proud. I think she’s even more proud because she did it all by herself. We’re proud of her, too!

One of my favorite things about being a parent is seeing these little beings grow and develop their own big personalities, and seeing the joy on their faces when they accomplish a milestone all. by. themselves.

A Nostalgic Look Back

Yesterday morning while driving to Emerald’s school to tutor, I heard the Maroon 5 song, “Pay Phone”.  I didn’t really listen to the song at all, as my mind wandered thinking of all the things that were plentiful, even cool, in my childhood, but that my girls have only seen in old TV shows and movies, if at all.

Photo credit: Yahoo Images

Photo credit: Yahoo Images

I started making a mental, and later, a written, list:

  • Pay phones
  • Turntables
  • Console TVs
  • Rotary dial telephones
  • Typewriters
  • Cassette players (8 track players were already on the way out when I started paying attention, but I could add those, too)
  • Film and film cameras
  • Reel-to-reel movies and projectors
  • Slides and slide projectors
  • Popcorn poppers

And then there are things like the TV movie of the week. Who needs to schedule their Friday or Sunday evening around a TV movie when you can DVR, rent, or purchase pretty much any movie ever made and watch it whenever you want?

What would you add to this list?

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