Wellness, Post Three

Today it has been exactly 3 weeks since I first walked back into the gym. I can't tell you for sure how many times I've visited since that morning on January 6th, but it has to be around 15 or so.

The most amazing thing, so far, is how easy it's been to fit it into my life. Now, instead of killing the couple of hours I have after the kids go to school and before I need to be at work by putzing around on the computer or doing a whole lot of nothing, I go to the gym. This past weekend, when the kids were with Big Daddy, I indulged myself by sitting on my ass and watching the first season of Louie (my newest odd ball crush, by the way) and then surprised the hell out of myself by going to the gym at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday.

I worry a bit about becoming a little too OCD about it, but I figure if you're going to get nutty about anything, it may as well be working out.

My body is adapting. Long gone are the sore T-rex arms that I experienced after the first week or so (when your arms are stuck in a bent position so you walk around like you have tiny useless dinosaur arms) and the thigh muscles that shake when I walk downstairs. That first day back at the gym, my friends told me to do the Elliptical with them. I did it, but hand to God as I was doing it, everything around me disappeared into black and I saw a tunnel ahead with a light at the end of it. Seriously. I remember gripping the heart rate thingies and it said "198". Which I think is the highest it reads before a big red siren starts going off above you and the staff rushes towards you with the portable defibrillator.

Looking back, getting my flabby heart on a machine and trying to keep up with my friends was kind of stupid. But I did it.

The past week or so I've been increasing the weights on the machines I use, the speed and incline on the treadmill and the length of the workouts. I still look like someone just minutes away from Exploding Head Syndrome when I'm done but I have yet to throw in the towel.

As I told my friend at the gym today, "I have never, ever walked out of here and been sorry that I came."

The physical changes are happening too. I bought a sports bra just a few days before launching my new lifestyle, a 38 DD (dear lord). Today it felt too big when I put it on. I'm not quite out of my size 16 jeans, but this afternoon I slipped on a pair that were fresh out of the dryer and they are loose. Loose enough that I have to pull them up a little bit every now and then.

I think one of my chins is gone, too.

If you've ever struggled with girth, and tried to get into better shape, you know there is nothing so motivating as the first time someone notices that you've dropped some pounds. And I think the most frustrating part of losing weight is that YOU know you're shrinking, but to the outside world you still look the same.

To keep myself positive during these first few weeks, I'm employing a technique that Faith, my wellness coach shared with me. When I'm feeling like all of this work is for nothing, and wondering if all of these hours spent sweating are worth it, I visualize.

I visualize myself putting on the size 16 jeans and realizing that they're too big.

I visualize myself hearing that first random "Hey, have you lost weight?".

I visualize myself wearing my beloved summer uniform of a gray fitted t-shirt and my battered army green capris from the Gap (yes of course I saved them).

Mostly, I visualize myself feeling good. Not worrying about how fat my arms are or whether my muffin top looks as hideous as it feels.

I remember something Dear Abby or Ann Landers once wrote...someone had written in, worrying about whether or not they were too old to go back to college. "I'll be in my 50's when I graduate!" they cried. Ann or Abby replied, "Well, you'll be in your 50's anyway, right?" or something like that.

That's how I'm approaching this whole lifestyle change. Yep, it's only been three weeks, and the results are barely visible. But three weeks would have passed anyway. Three weeks would have gone by whether or not I had made the effort to get to the gym. Soon, these three weeks are going to be six, and then ten, and then twenty.

Baby steps. Sweaty baby steps.

Oh, and as far as changing my diet goes, that's been relatively pain-free. I gave up candy on January 1st and haven't had so much as a Skittle since. Candy and me were close. Real close. Ever since I was little, it was always on my mind, and almost as often in my mouth. It wasn't unusual for me to polish off a bag of licorice in a day (and that's not a little bag I'm talking about), or keep a stash of Starburst in my truck for candy on the go. So I'm proud of myself for not indulging.

I haven't darkened the door at Taco Bell yet this year, in fact the only fast food I've had has been a salad from McDonald's when I was starving. It was the Southwest salad or something and I'm sure it's not considered healthy but I can guarantee you it was better than the Quarter Pounder w/cheese and large fries I would have ordered a month or two ago.

Baby steps.

And let me get back to Louie...have you seen it? It's a series on FX or some random channel like that, a series starring brilliant comedian Louis C.K. I watched the first season on Netflix this past weekend and found myself becoming very enamored with the balding ginger Louie. What is it about a guy standing on the stage of a comedy club that makes him hot?? I mean, really, take another one of my odd ball crushes, Jim Gaffigan. If we stood next to each other in line at the bank, nothing. Watching him onstage, talking about Hot Pockets and manatees, schwingg.

Anyhoo. I highly recommend that show if you have a couple hours to blow. Louie has now replaced the Allstate Mayhem guy as my odd ball crush. Mayhem actually looks a little like Big Daddy, anyway (minus the horns, hooves, tail and pitchfork of course) so fantasies about Louie are less psychologically damaging for me.

I'll close with a picture of Louie, remarkably enough he's posing with one of my dopplegangers, Lauren Graham (trust me, when I'm skinny the resemblance is there).

Don't we make a handsome couple?

Now I've just given myself the creeps.

Be well, friends.


A Wee Bit o' Burnout. And props to a heroic mommy.

So I've been scouring my divorce decree to see exactly where it's stated that I'm the Homework Parent. No luck yet.

This past weekend the angels were with Big Daddy. It's very rare that I send along "instructions", rarer still that there are multiple "instructions".

This weekend there were three. Number One: Henry's art teacher called me, asking specifically for 2 assignments he needed to complete and turn in. Their quarter ended on Friday and thankfully the teachers at the junior high cut some slack every once in a while. I don't know if it's Henry's goofy smile or obvious smarts that seem to always soften the teachers, but this art teacher wanted to give him a grace period. So I sent Big Daddy a text, saying that Henry needed to do his art homework.

Number Two: This effing science project of William's. I wanted Big Daddy to take some responsibility with this one, or at the very least, have William conduct his little experiment once while at his house. More specifically, I wanted Big Daddy to have to go to the grocery store and the auto parts store and the human hair store and gather up materials for this oil-soaking experiment. I wanted him to put newspaper down on every surface of his house and let a 10 year old pour out cups of vegetable oil and then put stuff in said oil. So I sent him a text, explaining what needed to be done.

Number Three: Molly's glasses broke. I bought this pair last year at Costco. The insurance that Big Daddy and Secretary have chosen for the kids is laughable...I think the deductible is around $5000.00, which means the person who takes the kids to the doctor or dentist or opthamologist gets to pretty much pay for the entire visit out-of-pocket. I sucked it up a few months ago, took Molly to Costco and got her some new glasses. Last week, she dropped her glasses in the hallway at school and they snapped right at the bridge. So I asked Big Daddy to get replacements. All it would take is a call to Costco.

Can you guess what happened?

Let me fill you in.

No homework was done. Not by Henry, not by William. According to the boys, not a word was mentioned.

And Molly's glasses?

Big Daddy told her to glue them.

Seriously. "Glue them together" he told her.

When they got home, with broken glasses and unfinished homework, I wanted to cry.

Just this once I wanted him to help out with this, the muck of parenting. For a few hours this weekend, I wanted him to be the one to snap them out of their Xbox comas, to be the Bad Cop who turned off the t.v. or said "NO!" to all things fun until the damn homework is done. I wanted so badly for him to have to be the Meanie who declared "no playdates or sleepovers until it's all done".

That's all I wanted. And once again, he disappointed.

And so with a weary sigh I sharpened some pencils and got my kids situated at tables or chairs or desks, calculators and workbooks at the ready. I answered the hundred questions, tried my hardest to act like fractions don't scare the crap out of me and patiently explained the difference between "hue" and "shade".

I didn't tell the kids how mad I was. I didn't tell them that although part of me knew, just KNEW down to my marrow that he wouldn't follow through, the stupid naive hopeful part of me thought maybe he'd come through this one time. Maybe he would actually sit down with them, look through their backpacks, ask them about what they've been learning. Find a nice sharp pencil for them and sit by their sides while they figured out how to reduce fractions and which colors are neutral and what static electricity means (I found out about all of these things today). I wanted him to stand next to our 5th grader while he found out that human hair absorbs more oil than kitty litter (and I really wanted him to have the fun of cleaning up oil).

But...I have to take some of the blame for this one. When he first left, I used to send the kids to him with their backpacks and their homework. Sometimes it got done, sometimes not.

And then, Secretary crawled in from the primordial ooze.

William was in first grade. He had some math homework...they were studying money, and had a worksheet that asked the kids to identify the names of the long dead presidents who graced them.

Secretary helped William with that one. And got most of them wrong.

That was when I decided that unless it was a huge project, most homework could be completed at home. Which was fine, when the kids were in elementary school, and before life became so....complicated.

Now things are harder, I'm busier and more stressed and frankly, the math is beyond my capabilities. Have you ever had to Google "how to reduce fractions"? I have. It's not cool. I think in all fairness, if Big Daddy isn't going to help pay for the food that they eat or the shoes on their feet or the clothes on their backs, the very least he can do is play Task Master a couple times a month.

But I guess that's asking too much.

On a brighter note: A friend of mine, a former neighbor and fellow school mom, did an amazing thing last week. She donated one of her kidneys to her brother. Her brother was born with smaller-than-average kidneys, and as he aged they became progressively weaker. My brave friend was tested for compatibility. She matched.

This past Friday they went to the Mayo clinic and went under the knife. Both patients are doing great.

My eyes are welling up once again when I think of this altruistic, heroic act performed by a friend. A mommy to four adorable kids who said to her brother, "Here, take my kidney. I've got a spare."

Her act of selflessness and show of love made me realize that the good parts of life aren't in the squabbles and the woes and the wishing that things were different...the good parts are in us (literally, this time). Giving of yourself. Helping someone out.

Whether it's helping by giving a kidney or helping by facing your crippling math anxiety for the hundredth time...in the end all that matters is that you cared enough to give.

So I guess if my friend Lee can sacrifice a kidney, I can deal with homework.


Wellness, Post Two.

So, I met with Faith, my new wellness coach, this past Sunday.

Faith and I attended the same high school, but she was a few grades younger than me so our paths didn't cross too often. We've met up at some events here and there over the past few years but really connected via facebook (can you get over how HUGE of an impact facebook has had on our lives??). She and I have a few things in common (single moms struggling to find a balance is the biggest) and when she reached out to me offering her services as a Wellness Coach I was touched. I was also thrilled, because if you're one of my 10 or so regular readers you know that I'm making some big changes in my life.

Becoming well is one of them.

I have to admit, I was nervous before our meeting. I don't know why...I wondered if I was too far gone as far as becoming healthy goes, or if I was too flighty or too scattered. I also wondered if I'd be able to do this. I'm very good at making grandiose plans for myself, only to see something shiny and get distracted halfway through.

But, no worries. Faith greeted me warmly and made me feel at ease. Our discussion was open and easy. Not once did I feel she was looking at me with any sort of judgment, condemnation or disgust (do you think I have any self esteem issues? Maybe??). We talked about my goals, her expectations, and a million other things.

One thing I was most impressed with was her candor. She shared so much about her life that it made this exposing of my life less traumatic. If you know me, you know I'm pretty much an open book, but sitting in front of a computer pouring my guts out is vastly different compared to sitting across a table from someone and doing it.

So we came up with a few goals for me. The biggest one, by far, is simple:

I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I miss that. It wasn't too long ago that I was swimming at the beach with my kids, feeling fit and healthy and alive. Last summer I think I wore a t-shirt maybe twice. All other times, I kept myself covered in some form of tunic/billowing fat girl get up. I skipped the beach, skipped doing things that would force me to shed clothing for fear of letting the world see how far I had let myself go. I went tubing in capris, for God's sake.

This summer won't be a repeat of that. It most likely won't be a repeat of my skinny summer, the one where I wore a bathing suit that didn't have a skirt attached to it, but it certainly will not be another Summer of the Tunic.

But back to the Wellness. Of course, it isn't all about losing weight. Faith wants her clients to be Well all over...mind, spirit AND body. We talked about other goals I have that fall outside the range of simply losing weight. We discussed the importance of family meals, and I made a goal of making healthy dinners that the kids and I will eat together as often as possible. That happens a few times a week here, but with our schedules being so crazy it's becoming harder and harder to do. There's also the fact that the light fixture over our dinner table is no longer working...we've done the candlelight thing but I think it may be time to get that fixed. Although I will say that candlelight really makes my tired spaghetti look mahvelous.

Another goal of mine is to strengthen my friendships. I'm very lucky to have a pretty huge circle of friends, and this is a gift that needs tending now and then. When times get tough, the urge to go hermit is very strong and I've found myself withdrawing from the people I should actually be running towards. There are a few friendships in particular that I've let wax and wane for too long now, and I want to try and get those back on track.

Oooh yeah, and the gym. Let's not forget about that. I started going back there on January 6th, and I'm proud to say that I've made it there about 10 times since then. I'm LOVING it, and even though I think it's too early for really tangible evidence to show itself, I swear that my paunch has gone from the 5 months pregnant stage to maybe 3 days postpartum. I feel stronger and definitely have more energy. Plus? I'm sleeping better than I have in years. There is no scale here at the House of Poor Body Image but if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say I'm down by about 6-8 lbs. Clothes are starting to feel bigger and when I take my jeans off at the end of the day, the grooves in my skin are lighter, I swear. And I don't groan quite as loud when I bend over. Usually the boobs are the first to go with me, but this time the belly is taking one for the team. Thank God. The goal here is to hit the gym 3-5 days a week.

To sum things up: This is a good thing. I am psyched to have someone like Faith in my corner and even more psyched to see how this whole thing pans out. The next month or so may get kind of stressful (the bankruptcy stuff will be starting in full force soon) and I am going to have many chances to try and meet my goals. It's very, very comforting to know that I have someone who isn't enmeshed in my life, an outsider, if you will...who is standing on the sidelines, cheering me on.

I don't know anyone who couldn't use an extra cheerleader. Thank you Faith!

Please take a moment and check out Faith's site, just click here. She's also on Facebook, I love her daily posts about all things Well. I am going to be posting a weekly Wellness update, either Tuesdays or Wednesdays...you know how I roll. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement...before and after pics will be shown. I just have to find a before picture that actually shows my body. I'm very good at hiding behind stuff.

Have a great day my friends...be well!


Homework Hell.

Yes, I'm still alive (sorry Big Daddy).

I have recently regained the use of my arms. Two weeks of Body Pump and weight machines had rendered them into immobile, floppy hamhocks attached to my upper torso. But now they work again, and I'm tackling everything that I couldn't do with my feet. Which includes typing, and also working on my William's 5th grade science project.

Oh, yes, THANK YOU to the 5th grade teachers at our school. You know I love you guys, seriously..but why? Why a science project in January? Most of us parents are still reeling from the special circle of hell that is labeled "CULTURE BOX". For the lucky uninformed, the CULTURE BOX is a project that our angels are assigned in 4th grade.

It begins with each student choosing a specific culture to study. They interview a person who is from/has lived in said culture, gather and record pertinent information about said culture and collect artifacts from said culture.

They are all given a standard size cardboard office box, you know the kind that people are given when they're fired, to load up all their personal effects? Yeah, that size. They are instructed to take this box home and "decorate" it in such a way that represents their chosen culture.

First time parents often get the box and look at it not unlike I'm sure most people eyed the first ever microwaves or cell phones..."Great Zeus..what is this item? And how are we supposed to get it to represent our culture?". Something like that.

When Charlie was in 4th grade and got this assignment, I knew nothing. None of my older or wiser friends clued me in as to how far this particular project goes. I had no idea. We he interviewed our neighbor, who hailed from Dublin, got a few souvenir type things from him and then got to work on ourhis box.

Ireland, you say? Well let's just wrap the box in green paper. And maybe we'll fashion a rainbow out of cardboard, and let's get really crazy...let's make a little pot o' gold that the rainbow leads to. Yes, it looked like a 4th grader did it. Which I thought was adequate.

Until we brought it to school.

There our little green wrapped box sat, in between ginormous works of art. Plaster of Paris monstrosities that used to be standard sized office boxes...there were sets of Babushka dolls representing Russia, giant clay pyramids repping Egypt, a huge wooden camel who boasted, in a recorded voice, that he and other camels who hailed from Adu Dhabi could travel for days without so much as swallowing their own spit.

Some of these boxes had obviously been blue printed and labored over by someone with far more dexterity and fine-motor-skills that the average fourth grader possesses. I remember looking at our little box, with it's jagged rainbow on the top, which looked for all the world like a determined yet ADD-riddled 10 year old had created, and felt bad.

I felt bad for Charlie. I remember I pulled his teacher aside and said, "Seriously? Why don't you guys tell the parents how insane this is?". She shrugged and said, "We tell them every year to let the kids handle it, to not go too far...but this is kind of like an unspoken rite of passage here. It's almost like a beauty pageant."

You can bet that I walked out of that Culture Box shitstorm with a grim determination to never, ever let another kid of mine walk into that room with anything less than a masterpiece.

And it worked. Molly was next, and since we had all the artifacts and still had the neighbor, we did Ireland again. Her box was good, but not quite yet to the level of quiet perfection that I desired.

Henry's turn. His 4th grade teacher loathed the Culture Boxes, and instead gave the kids a State Box. Just like the Culture Box, except they were to choose a state from the U.S. to study. We contacted my brother Jon, who is a bartender in Las Vegas. We lived and breathed Nevada for a solid month. Artifacts were procured, we pored over pictures and made a bazillion trips to Michael's to get the right ingredients to replicate the Hoover Dam on our box. And replicate it we did.

It was spectacular. You stood and gazed at the box and you could almost hear the roaring waters of the Colorado River, feel the mist upon your face and smell the tourists. My heart darn near burst with pride as I watched Henry stand at the front of his class and tell them the tale of Nevada.

Oh, then came William. Once again we chose the Emerald Isle, and since this was our very last Culture Box, I was determined to go out with a bang. As we toiled over what was to become my coup de grace in the battle between fourth grade parent vs. Culture Box, I kept picturing Charlie's kelly green box lost amongst the works of tired 40-somethings living vicariously through their children. I had become one of them, and even though I despised myself for taking the bait, I took it. And ran with it.

We produced a charming Irish cottage, with bumpy stuccoed walls, a sweet red front door with a tiny brass knob, shuttered windows and a breathtaking thatched roof that had Irish moss dangling here and there from the eaves.

I will never forget the kids in William's class ooohing and ahhhhing over our cottage, asking him if they could touch it. The teacher, the same one who had looked at me with pity when I helped Charlie carry our taped up, wrapping papered creation into that very same room- asked me how in the world we made the roof. Said it was gorgeous. And it was.

I still have that box, sitting here in the closet of my office. In fact, I can see the thatched roof (which was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen...all it took was a couple of terry cloth towels cut into a hundred thousand strips, glued, painted, shellacked) from here right now.

That box represents just how far parents go to help their kids. To me, it represents that moment in time when you stop watching them and step in to help them. I know that "they" are supposed to be doing the work, "they" are supposed to be learning from whatever project they're given, but at some point you want to jump in and help. And if help means making your kid feel like a winner for a few hours in fourth grade, so be it.

Of course, our amazing little cottage didn't even begin to compete with the Great Wall of China that another parent made...you lifted the top of the Great Wall and inside the box was a complete reproduction of Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta army.

Now that took some elbow grease.

So back to the Science project. This is a new one, implemented for the first time last year. Each 5th grader is to choose a science project, create a hypothesis and test it out a few dozen times at home.

Easy, huh?

William has chosen to test which sorbents best soak up oil. Like when there's an oil spill in the ocean, which materials would work best to contain and absorb the oil.

Easy, huh?

Except not many 5th graders I know have the ability to obtain gallons of vegetable oil on their own. Or straw, sawdust, cotton batting.

Or human hair.

Yes, I drove to a friend's beauty salon and got human hair. I walked around with a ziplock baggie full of hair for a day or two before accidentally pulling it out of my purse while in line at the grocery store.

Have you ever felt at all like a serial killer? I kind of did, at that moment. Like I had accidentally pulled out a bag of my precious mementos. Pretty sure the cashier saw my bag of human hair...she tried not to touch my hand as we exchanged cards and money. I wanted to explain to her that I have a really big science project I'm working on, and I just needed the hair to soak up some vegetable oil, but somehow I think that wouldn't have helped the situation. So I just remained silent, patting the side of my purse.

So if you don't hear from me for a few days, worry not, my fair readers. I am most likely standing in front of a newspaper-covered table, soaking up oil with hair. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Hope you're enjoying this long weekend (if you have one).

Happy Birthday, Martin.


Wellness, Post One.

Ok so I haven't officially met with Faith, my wellness coach, but I've filled out her questionnaire (sending it today, Faith!!) and hopefully we'll meet soon to discuss this whole Wellness thing.

I've also made a decision. I've decided to join the YMCA. I was sitting here one day, bemoaning my broke-ass existence, wishing that the Y here had a cheap single parent rate like the JCC does. Not that I have anything against the JCC, it's just that I had belonged to the Y for years and years before becoming poor. My kids love it there. I have a routine there, even if I haven't dusted off said routine in eons, it's still there. I feel some guilt about choosing the Y over the J, mostly because a friend whom I adore was instrumental in trying to get my butt back to the gym. Sweet friend, I hope you know that the only reason I chose one over the other was the comfort factor, for both me and kids. I ♥ you for inspiring me to do this.

So I was sitting here, feeling sorry for my fat self when I decided to "like" the Y on facebook and ask them why they don't have a membership option for single parents. And within minutes, seriously, I received a reply. They said the blah blah stuff, encouraged me to apply for a scholarship (it's called a Personal Pricing Plan there), etc. I responded that scholarships are awesome, but it's somewhat humiliating to have to ask for one. And besides, I added, if there was a cheaper, single-parent rate, fewer scholarships would have to be awarded.

They acknowledged this fact, and were very respectful in the roundabout way they told me, "Ok, loser, we GET IT." Then a woman from the YMCA branch that I want to join popped on, and asked me to contact her.

Long story short, I'm joining the YMCA. My old stomping grounds. Apparently the humiliation of filling out yet another financial aid/need/pauper form has been trumped by my frustration over being two tons of fun.

Can I afford it? Yes and no. The bottom line is, I can't afford NOT to do it. I'm a survivor, a fighter, and I'm very resourceful. If anyone can juggle a budget or try to find a few extra $$$ a month, it's this chick right here.

So I went to the Y with my friend Michelle a couple times last week, and last night went to Body Pump with another good friend. I'm officially signing up on Tuesday so I've been mooching using these lovely ladies' guest passes. And it feels AWESOME.

Once I got over the soul-crushing embarrassment of walking my now ginormous ass into a gym where the trainers used to actually stop me and ask how I lost my weight, it was fabulous. I am beyond pissed at myself for letting my body morph back into it's pre-divorce shape but I guess the pain of looking like the world's fattest ninja (courtesy of my own version of the workout burka...all black, head to toe, everything covered but my head) in front of a gym full of people is punishment enough. Jenny, I forgive you.

I had forgotten how good it feels to exercise. Sure, I've been walking now and then, but that doesn't hold a candle to doing sets on the weights, or going full speed (well, full speed for now) on the treadmill or making it through an hour of Body Pump (which is the class that got me into my kick-ass shape a few years ago).

My arms are killing me, my legs are sore, my back feels like it's been used as a trampoline, but I feel good. After just a few workouts I'm already feeling those awesome endorphins and I swear to all things holy and good I can feel the tiniest bit of difference in my body already.

The fit and happy Jenny who has been buried under two years of Taco Bell, margaritas and sadness is coming out to play....get ready, world.

I'm going to leave you with a video of Body Pump. I cannot recommend this class enough. Every instructor I've had has been encouraging, kind and motivating. If you want to feel fit, feel powerful and feel strong, this is the class you should think about doing:

That's not *my* YMCA, but you get the gist of it. By the way, that move they do with the hoisting of the barbell over the head? That's the clean and press (I think) and when you do that in a room full of people, with kick ass music playing, you can literally feel the Happy Hormones flooding into your brain. That class ROCKS.

One last thing...I had another Handsy experience this weekend. Not with the original Handsy...a new one. Why is it that the only guys on this planet who show any interest at all in me are married? Why??? Is it the "she's divorced, not exactly hot, I bet she'll be grateful for the attention" thing? Whatever it is, I hate it. I despise being put in that position and I resent having to deal with the awkward and uncomfortable feelings I get when this happens. This particular encounter didn't end as quietly as it did with Handsy V.1.0. More later.

Have a good day, friends. Be well!


I'm Switzerland

I dislike conflict of any kind. Even standing behind someone at a checkout and hearing a "that was supposed to be on sale" conversation start brewing makes me twitch. You can imagine how well I handle the big stuff.

It's truly awful to be an active participant in a conflict, be it a disagreement between friends, problems with one of your kid's friends, issues with a co-worker, that do-si-do I like to call divorce...awful. It can weigh heavily on your psyche until it's resolved. If you're like me, it's almost as if you can see the conflict, like a heavy gray cloud trailing just above and slightly behind your every move. It can suck the fun out of everything, if you let it.

Luckily my own personal conflicts are few. I have the big one, of course, the seemingly never-ending struggle with Big Daddy, but I'm so used to that one being there it's become like a piece of furniture you step around without even thinking about it.

But..what about when it's not your conflict, yet you're drawn in? What if there's something hinky happening between two friends?

When that happens in my life, I freak out a tiny little bit. It isn't such a big deal if you're closer to one person than the other, or even better yet, if one is just a casual acquaintance. That way you can keep your distance, be there for your friend and not have to walk on eggshells or pick sides.

And that's what I think is the root of my uneasiness about conflict: picking sides. Maybe it all goes back to when my mom and dad were divorcing, and I'd hear bad things about one, bad things about the other, and in my third grade brain it felt like a game of tug-of-war. Only instead of a rope being tugged, it was me.

I'm a Libra, people. I crave balance. I need things to be equal and harmonious. Don't we all?

So anyways. What happens when said conflict occurs between two people you are equally close with? Do you pick sides, condemn one, support the other? Or try to be all Switzerland and figuratively stand between them, acting like a human buffer?

I suppose it depends on the conflict itself. Something minor, a perceived insult or injury? That's uncomfortable, sure, but usually short-lived. It's relatively easy to sit on the sidelines, waiting for the two parties to hash things out.

How about a major conflict, though? How about one rife with accusations and hurt feelings and insults? How about one so icky that it results in you somehow being dragged into it?

I hate this kind. These kind tend to grow and fester, like mold on a block of cheese. You want to be a friend to both people, but if you're like me, you worry about alienating one over the other. You want to support both of them, even the one whom you think may have gone off her rocker a little bit, because you know both of them would do it for you.

It's Switzerland's biggest nightmare.

This one that I'm referring to happened over Winter Break. I won't go into the gory details out of respect to all involved, but I will say that somehow I ended up being perceived as a side-picker. One of the conflictees has ceased communication with me...even un-friended me on facebook (if you had told me 2 1/2 years ago that a website such as facebook would end up being a barometer of the quality of my friendships I'd have laughed...and quietly purchased stock).

I'm feeling unsettled about this one. Unsettled, and a little bit angry at being pulled into it (not by both parties...the other party has taken a decidedly mature, sit back and let things decompress attitude towards it, which is very admirable). I have the urge to confront the one who has shut me out, ask her what it was that I did to wrong her. That urge is followed very quickly by the one that wants to just say PFFFFFFFT and let the whole ugly thing sit and stew and hopefully, dissipate.

It reminds me an awful lot of parenting: seeing two of your kids butting heads, both looking to you for a reaction, a solution...or just to see if you're watching. You love them both, you kind of have a feeling one of them started it (because aren't some of us just natural born instigators??) but you don't want to play favorites.

I'm hoping that my friends will act like my kids in this situation: say a few choice names to each other, maybe pout for a little bit, but by day's end be sitting side by side cracking jokes and laughing.

Switzerland...over and out.


So I watched that Drew Barrymore movie this weekend...

You know, the one where she plays the quirky girl caught up in a whirlwind relationship with the slightly goofy guy? The one where they fall in love, break up and then get back together at the end?

Yeah, that one.


Winter Break Wrap Up.

Well, the treadmill is still in pieces. Apparently now that the Manchild and his BFF are both working, mom waving $20 bills under their noses didn't exactly put the get up and go into overdrive.

I may have to borrow a husband for this one.

But we did accomplish the relaxing. It took a few mornings but I was finally able to sleep past 8 a.m. and it was spectacular. The kids enjoyed sleeping in as well...I let Charlie sleep until 2:00 today just because it was the last day of break and just because you're only 16 years old once.

I also kept my New Year's pledge to think about what I shovel into my piehole, and on a few occasions it actually prevented me from going on a mini-binge. Like this afternoon. A few nights ago I made my famous Curry Chicken. It's one of a small handful of things I can actually cook that taste good. The kids love it, and we have it a few times a month.

So I made it last week. And as usual, there was a bunch left over (I make extra for lunches/quick dinners). This afternoon, I was ready for my mid-day feeding and was rummaging through the fridge. There was the curry chicken, its creamy curry delightfulness practically begging me to eat it. And right next to it, the large container of Jasmine rice that makes the perfect bedfellow to my curry chicken.

I took the containers out of the fridge, and told myself, "Hey, I've been good. I've been walking! I haven't had any candy for three days!!" as I gently scooped the curry onto a bed of rice. "I didn't even try a bite of this when I made it, and the kids said it was one of the best ones ever." And then, something stopped me.

I looked at the bowl in front of me, and I stopped spooning the curry out of the container. From out of nowhere, a little voice said, "No. No you don't, fatty. Put that back, right this second. See that big container of mixed greens? Get that out, cut up that cucumber, halve that avocado and dice that sucker up, julienne some of those carrots and mix 'em all up. And just because you've been a good girl, add a small scoop of that cottage cheese on top. Pour a little bit of that delicious Paul Newman dressing on it and inhale. Just put the curry back in the fridge before you do something you'll regret."

And I did it. I made my favorite salad and ate it and felt zero self-loathing. So yay for me.

(P.S...if you want the curry recipe drop me a line. It's the one dinner that Secretary can't copy and I will die before I let her get it. The kids tell me that she tries and tries but it always tastes like [in their words] "dookie". So suck it, Secretary. Keep on trying. YOU'LL NEVER GET IT RIGHT.)

We saw a movie at the Cinema Grill (a fun place that shows second-run movies, and you GET TO EAT while you watch them. Eat like real food..burgers, salads, etc. They even have Surly beer!). We saw "Megamind" and it was actually pretty damn funny.

When I take the kids to see a "kid" movie, I walk in with the very lowest of expectations: Entertain my angels, maybe have a grown up joke or two stuck in there for my amusement, and please don't suck. Megamind exceeded these expectations. The only remotely negative thing about it was it reinforced my belief that Jonah Hill isn't a sweet, chubby sidekick, but rather a creepy and slightly ominous being. Oh, and I liked the animated Tina Fey's hair. Yes, I actually thought to myself, "I wonder if I can get a picture of that hair online and bring it in somewhere....". Just one more little nudge that maybe I am operating with a few bricks short of a full load. Whatever a full load may be.

So we had fun doing that. We had sleepovers, playdates, lots of plain old downtime, and it was fabulous.

I only went balls-out apeshit once. And it was for good reason.

The one and only thing William wanted for Christmas this year was a snake. He has wanted one for over two years now and dammit, I'm starting to cave. One of my "elves" asked what he wanted and I suggested some sort of "snake starter" things. And she found him a Snake Starter Kit.

Relax, there is no snake yet. I keep telling him we must research this endeavor, and research it well. Maybe research it for so long that he'll settle for a Hermit crab or small lizard.

But I digress. So in this Kit (which he was ecstatic to open, by the way), there was a spray bottle. Apparently you need to keep the snakes moist. Gaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So there is this innocent, run-of-the-mill spray bottle.

On New Year's Eve day, William decided that it would be fun to fill up the bottle with water and spray his siblings. I was already kind of testy due to the fact that New Year's Eve had been thwarted by an old friend showing her true colors. Nothing worth writing about, but her actions put the kibosh on what sounded like a fun night and I was trying to get things ready for the impromptu gathering I decided to have at my house.

Nothing says, "Don't piss Mom off" like the Pre-Party Warpath. All I ask is that they stay out of my way and don't make the usual frat house messes right after I clean. That's all I ask.

So William takes this spray bottle and starts spraying Henry while Henry is engrossed in one of his video games. (by the way, this may be a good time to mention that I am seriously considering taking the X-box out in the back yard and beating it to death with a baseball bat). Henry is a sweet kid. A funny, smart boy with a face like an angel. But push the wrong button, and Henry will go ballistic. Like truck driver, drunken sailor, UFC fighter-ballistic. My poor friend Gillian was witness to this one magical night...she had dropped Molly off after a babysitting gig and stayed for a bit to gab. Henry had fallen asleep on the couch and I was attempting to wake him up so he'd go to bed and let me and my fat ass occupy the couch. "Henry, honey...wake up! You need to move to your bed.." I cooed to him in my best "aren't I a gentle mom" voice. Suddenly Henry's head spun around and a guttural, evil voice croaked, "LEAVE ME THE F*CK ALONE" . Yes, Gillian. Welcome to my world.

Later on she decided that when they make the Happy Hausfrau movie, Henry will be played by Eric Cartman from South Park..

But anyways. So Henry got sprayed, Henry got angry. William was running full speed through the house, spray bottle clutched in his hot little hands, screaming as Eric Cartman bore down on him.

They ran right into the little buffet table I had set up for the evening's festivities. Knocked a bunch of stuff to the floor, breaking a little serving dish I loved (a cheapie Ikea dish but I loved it!).

Enter Joan "Jenny" Crawford.

I yanked the spray bottle out of William's hand, said a few choice phrases that I'm sure would make Alec Baldwin proud, and proceeded to open up the patio door and throw that spray bottle out into the backyard with all my might.

William, who thankfully didn't get the South Park gene, got red in the face and stomped away. Eric Cartman said, "Nice going Mom", took some of the crackers off of my now off-kilter buffet table and went back to his X-box coma.

I felt shame and regret but you know what? I got over it. I put my boots on, trudged out into the 3 feet of snow and retrieved the offending spray bottle. Life went on.

Winter break 2010/11 was nice. Tomorrow morning the alarm clock will go off at 5:45 again, and once again I'll keep hitting snooze until the last possible second. The angels will (hopefully) get on their bus, I'll go back to work and see my sweet kids at school. The routine of life will start humming again.

Oh...and I should mention this...on New Year's Eve I got a message on facebook from an old friend.

John McCain.

It was just a simple "Happy New Year" message, but I felt a little flutter. He and I haven't spoken in over a year, and I'm sure my sappy, over-active imagination is reading way too much into this, but I fluttered. I wanted to send him a novel in reply, ask him how he's doing, apologize for being such a flighty bitch...but I replied very demurely. Wishing him a Happy New Year.

Is this a new door opening in this brand new year, or just a kind person extending good wishes to someone they once shared some time with? Who knows.

But it was a nice little surprise in the middle of a very relaxing, mellow holiday weekend.

Good luck tomorrow morning, mommies. Good luck and good job.

We survived another Winter Break.
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