Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Grist for the mill

Well, I got a jumpstart on the Ebay auctions to start bankrolling some moolah for the house renovations.

Went to GW Outlet (my pet name for Goodwill), and cherrypicked a few items that I hope to turn a tidy profit on:

Brand new pair of Dansko leather clogs - still had the little sticky tag inside. Paid $4.90 for them, and I have them listed with an opening bid of $49.00. They retail for $120ish, so we'll see what comes around.

The hoarder in me wanted to keep these precious, teeny tiny Disney Store Cinderella slippers, but I hope that I make some tiny princess deliriously happy (and add to my house fund!) These were $1.90, I believe, and retail for $36.00. Again, fingers crossed!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post-Christmas, Pre-New Years Resolution

Well, we made it.

I think the kids had 4 Christmases. Maybe 5. There were metric tons of wrapping paper, gift cards, boxes, cookies, ribbons, and tissue paper.

I'm ready to pack every last bit of it away right this minute, but I think you are supposed to wait until after New Years. Something about bad luck if you pack it early, beats me.

ANYWAY . . .

I have big plans that will kick off with the packing of the Christmas Crap. Once the Christmas Crap is boxed, it is going up into the attic with the Thanksgiving Crap and the Halloween Crap that has all been camped out in my garage.

Once the Holiday Crap is up and away, Job 1 of the New Year is going to be to clear out the garage, so that nothing remains outside of cars, bikes and tools. Period.

Building on that, the garage will become a staging ground, of sorts, for my furniture as I begin to revitalize the house. I have big plans this year for Chez Rita. I am going to paint the interior of my house. Myself. Both floors, all rooms. I'm also going to rid myself of some old furniture, and acquire some new furniture. I'd also like to fence the backyard this year, and hire someone to build some additional walls in the finished basement to create 2 additional bedrooms.

Because I'm not made of money (unfortunately), I've also decided to challenge myself to finance all or most of the home sprucing with EBay sales of the crap - I mean TREASURE - that has collected in my house over the years. I got a good start over the holidays, selling some collectibles that I thought I couldn't live without (turns out, I can), and was inspired by the windfall that my daughter gleefully accepted from the sale of her American Girl doll clothes and accessories (better than $250).

So, yep. That's the plan. Ditch some of the old stuff, get some new stuff, paint the scuffed stuff, organize and declutter the remaining stuff with money from the stuff I ditch via Ebay (or maybe a well-timed yardsale.)

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's been awful quiet around here the past few months.

Not life. God, no - life has been like a tornado.

I mean this blog. It's been like a ghost town.

I've contemplated shutting her down altogether, but I keep thinking that I'll come back here when things settle down a bit and write like I used to.

I think that about a lot of things, actually.

Truth is, I don't do much of anything like I used to. I don't feel, or think or act like I used to, and in turn, nothing around me feels or acts like it used to. Job. Kids. Family. Life.

The only constant is change, I guess. Despite being surrounded by change, most of it stemming from my own actions, I really struggle to accept it with grace. I constantly tell myself to be thankful for what I have, and not give in to the worry and stress.

By the way, I really suck at not giving in to the worry and stress.

Physically, I feel good. It's been a year and 3 months since my surgery, and I've pretty much leveled out, weight-wise. After the huge nosedive of a loss early on, I seem to chart about 1/2 lb. per month loss these days. I anticipate that will probably stop altogether in the next couple of months, which is fine. The one thing that I don't need any reminder for is being thankful for my improved health. Thank God for that surgery, my surgeon, my job and resulting insurance, and my willingness to subject myself to the procedure.

The kids are excited for the holidays, of course, but it's tempered a bit this year. It's been hard for me to watch the kids go through the holidays post-divorce. I put off decorating the house for weeks because I didn't want to divvy up the tree decorations into "mine", "his", "used to be ours - no longer applicable". It's something I should have done prior to the holidays, but I didn't. I thought about it a few times, and I intended to set aside a day to do it while the kids were in school, but I never did. When we finally got the boxes out, I tried my best to slip his things into other boxes, but kids never miss a trick, so I changed tactics and packaged them carefully, sending them over to the ex with the kids, trying to be as positive as I could and telling the kids that I felt sure their daddy would want to the decorations in time for Christmas. Actually, I've tried to put a positive spin on most things, but I often find that it ends up feeling like more of a bribe than encouragement. For instance, I have found myself telling the kids that they are lucky to be able to have multiple Christmases this year, like that's some kind of consolation prize for the divorce.

I really didn't intend to do that, but I admit I have, just because I couldn't bear letting them ruminate too long on the downside of having their family blown apart.

Which brings me to another thing that I've struggled with - determining what effect all of this has had on the kids, really. I mean, there is a chance that none of this bothers them as much as I think it does. I keep telling myself that kids are adaptable, they spring back. Then I think about all of the times I have heard my friends talk about their parents' divorce, and how bad the holidays sucked from there on out.

I think they call it transference.

Maybe I'm projecting things onto the kids that aren't really there. Maybe when they fight with each other, or sass, they are just being kids, and not reacting to the divorce at all. It's still early days, I guess, but I find myself examining their behaviors for clues about which ones to chalk up to the divorce, and which ones to act upon and correct.

By the way, I really suck at not knowing which behaviors to chalk up to divorce and which ones to act upon and correct.

In the midst of all of this transition, my fiance and I planned and postponed a wedding, which has been both a relief and a disappointment. No one lives in a vacuum, and like everyone else, we were subject to the whims of a bad economy and the constraints of time and budget. We underestimated the amount of time and money needed for a relocation, re-employment, stabilizing finances post-divorce, assumption of premarital debt in the post-divorce monthly budget, allocation of funds for growing children with ever-increasing needs and wants, and the demands of hosting a ceremony that would host friends from near and far and pay the proper respect to us and our families.

Yeah, it's been rough.

But, just like with this blog, I'm not giving up. I keep thinking that when everything settles down, I'll be able to revisit the plans with a fresh perspective (and a healthy wallet.)

So here's to 2010. May we all gain a fresh perspective and healthier wallets.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The sins of the fathers

My kid started playing football this season. He's 8.

He wanted to play last year, but I was concerned about him getting hurt, or getting yelled at by overzealous coaches. We have stuck with baseball for the past 3 years, so I was oblivious to the huge differences between little league baseball and pee wee football.

Namely, making weight.

Unfortunately, my kids were saddled with 2 fat parents. Now, there's lots of speculation in the medical community about whether obesity is genetic (i.e. thyroid problem) or environmental (i.e. one too many trips to Stevie B's with your fat parents). Most think it's a little from Column A, and a little from Column B (with three you get eggroll.)

All this to say . . . I had never encountered a weigh-in at the baseball field. Actually, his size was sort of celebrated, since he loves playing catcher and has NO fear of the baseball.

Come to think of it, his size has ALWAYS been celebrated. The day he was born, the nurses cooed and squealed over him at the hospital.

All 10 pounds of him.

From the moment he was big enough to sit upright in a shopping cart and peacefully eat Cheerios while I shopped, grown men have approached me in Target and Walmart on a nearly weekly basis to comment, "You're gonna let that boy play football, aren't you?" followed by a hair tussle and questions about his weight, his height, how tall he might end up ("how big's his daddy?"), whether or not I would consider aiming him toward the Univ. of GA (I've always had my heart set on Ga Tech) and admiring glances at the size of his feet and how much older he looks than he is.

When he was a toddler, we would frequent a chinese buffet (what a shock) where the waitresses would literally whisk him away from me and take him INTO the kitchen to "visit" the cooks and staff there, because they were so enamored of his size, and his blue eyes, and his fair skin and his white blonde hair. "He is VERY lucky! YOU are very lucky!" they would tell me in broken English. Apparently, large boys are just about the best thing you can ever have, where they come from.

No one ever said, "Wow. He's too big," or "Uh oh, that's going to be a problem." Until now.

It was quite the blow to have the football coach lead my littlest giant to a dusty equipment shed and have him step on a rusty old scale and announce, "He's 20 pounds over the weight limit for this team."

What?! What do you mean? Aren't football players SUPPOSED to be big?

There he stood, red and breathless from 2 hours of sweaty practice, being told that he's too big to play. And there I stood, feeling like I had led my kid to this moment, one bite at a time.

Yeah, that turned out to be a pretty rough night all the way around. When you see your frailties and weaknesses visited upon your children, it's impossible not to feel guilty. I played the blame game most of that evening and into the wee hours of the night.

I was fat when I had him. I've raised him to be fat like me. It's my fault.

His dad is fat and wasn't active enough with him. It's his fault.

Our parents allowed us to get fat when we were kids. This is THEIR fault.

Which means if parents are to blame, it's back to being MY fault again.

But in the midst of all the self-abuse, I had such an overwhelming sense of pride for him. He had slogged through the hottest, sweatiest, hardest 2 hours of his life for 3 days before we were told the news, and when we WERE told the news, he said "I want to play."

Just like that. He didn't give up. He wanted to play.

I was adamant that there was NO WAY that my kid was going to drop 20 lbs in time to play football this year, and I was ready to turn in his football equipment until I learned it was possible for him to "play up" to the 9 year old team. Their weight limits were slightly higher.

But he was still 10 lbs. over.

Last week, he slogged through furnace-like temperatures, and walked laps when the others ran, holding his side but never quitting. He dragged himself through the drills, carrying the equivalent of a 20 lb bowling ball while the others sprinted past him, with seeming effortlessness while he struggled.

It's the hardest thing I've ever endured in my life. It was like he was paying penance out on that field for all of my sins.

"The sins of the father will be visited upon the children . . ."

It was all I could do not to break down and cry right there, in front of the parents and the other kids and my fiance and my ex who were all encouraging him to hang in there as he doggedly struggled to do the coach's bidding, over and over and over.

I felt like such a failure, despite the fact that I've now lost over 100 pounds. It's been a source of great pride for me AND my kids. They have been there the whole time for me, waiting at the hospital through my surgery, and worrying about me during my recovery, and watching me through mostly good days and a few really bad days as I struggled to keep food down or regain my strength. Now, it just seems self-indulgent to even celebrate that now, now that I see my kid trying to tread water with the same anvil tied around his neck that I managed to free myself of.

I felt helpless. And guilty. Really guilty. I didn't know what I could do to help him, but I couldn't just sit there and watch him struggle, so I got up, and left the stands and went down to the track to show some solidarity. I vowed to walk the track while he practiced. The first night, I was barely able to make two laps. By the end of last week, I finished 4 laps, and he had finished 5 days of grueling, humiliating, sweaty practice in 90 degree weather.

Not surprisingly, by the end of last week, he was also ready to quit. He was sore, and tired, and his resolve was giving way to the unrelenting temptation to stop moving, that same inertia that held me captive when I was at my heaviest.

Through the weekend, I tried my very best to encourage him to hang in there.

We all did.

I told him how proud I was of him. I told him that I would be right there with him, walking that track and enduring the heat and cheering him on. He managed to suck up his courage and get back out there yesterday to endure another 2 hours of heat and humiliation and hard work.

He's still determined, despite the soreness. He's also lost 4 pounds, which makes me so proud of him and so sad that he has to deal with this at such a young age.

I thought about an episode of "Deadliest Catch" I saw recently, where a greenhorn that had been the sole survivor of a sinking fishing ship was describing what it was like to watch everyone around him freeze to death in the icy water. How seductive the urge to just stop moving was for him, how hard he had to fight to keep moving until he could be saved, and how easy it would have been to just . . . . stop, and allow death to take him, like it had the others.

Not to be overly dramatic, but obesity is like that, too. The heavier you get, the stronger the urge is to just stop moving, to just sit very still and allow yourself to be taken. I kept thinking about that guy when I looked at my son. It was like watching him drowning in the water below me while I was safely on deck.

I have to keep encouraging him to move, to keep trying, to hang in there. I can't let him stop. I have to keep him moving, despite the fact that the sea around him is riddled with the bloated corpses of those in our family that allowed themselves to be taken way too soon by the seduction of the inertia.

I'm not going to let that happen to him. I just won't. I'm still thankful every day that I managed to escape from that, but now it's time to save my kids.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


He loves me.

I love him. Madly.

We laugh at the same jokes. Hell, we MAKE the same jokes.

We're from the same hometown.

We have the same lifelong friends.

We went to the same schools.

We're very nearly the same age, yet we've only just now connected in the beginning of the 5th decade of our lives. Better late than never.

It would have been tougher to have been any further from each other and still be in the same country. It was a huge step, but he believed in me and in us enough to change up everything and come back home to build a life with me and the kids.

And the dogs. He STILL maintains that chihuahuas aren't real dogs, though.

We're getting married. On November 14, 2009. In a church with a gown and flowers and weepy relatives and stunned onlookers that swore he never would and that I never would again.

I've been given another chance. With him.

I'm taking it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Final Curtain

So, tomorrow is my court date.

Evidently, I have to show up, take the stand and state that yes, I want a divorce. I guess I have to confirm that I agree with all of the other stuff in all the stacks of papers that have been prepared for the court's consideration. According to the lawyer, all of this will take just a scant few minutes, then I will be dismissed, signed decree in hand. And then it will be over.

All of it.

Which is kind of stunning, really.

It's hard to believe that it can all be distilled down to a stack of paper, but it can. In the end, evidently it comes down to dollars and logistics, and who has the insurance, and which weekends the children will be here or there.

Very cut and dried.

Of course, I know it's more than that. What happens tomorrow morning is a formality. It's not the whole story, but it does mark a moment in time. To the rest of the world, the moment before I take the stand, I will be married, and the minute I leave the stand, I won't be. To the rest of the world, the divorce will be "officially" final tomorrow morning, even though in MY head, the marriage has been over for a much longer time. But, despite my feelings, I am bound by the tangible.

The papers.

The judge's signature.

The date.

Everyone around me is similarly tied to these things. They rely upon them to mark time and put things in order, and make sense of things. I find myself trying to remember that people around me are dealing with news that is seemingly brand new. To them, I will be divorced tomorrow.

They will expect me to mourn. To grieve. To wear sackcloth and ashes, maybe. It's a bit like attending a funeral for someone that has long since passed. While those around me are weeping, there I sit, seemingly unaffected.

Truth is, my mourning happened privately and it happened quite a long time ago.

This admission has brought about a range of reactions from friends and loved ones . . .

"Why didn't you ever tell me?!"
"How could this be? I saw you, and I never noticed anything!? You looked happy . . . "

And they are right. I tried to look happy. It's what I do. I appeared to be happy when I wasn't, and I kept things hidden that they feel I should have shared.

But I didn't.

I had my reasons, of course. I didn't want to hash through what was going on with me with my family or my friends. They all had their OWN problems, and there always seemed to be much larger issues to address that eclipsed my marital problems. There wasn't any room to introduce more problems into the mix. What could they have done except worry?

Maybe if I had, they would understand this more now. Maybe if I had told my family and friends the truth, I would have found out that people would have supported me. Maybe, but maybe not. And when you divulge problems to people, you have to be prepared to DO something, and I wasn't ready to make the changes that I have now made. The heartbreak took time for me to work through, and it took time for me to finally realize that the marriage was over, and mourn that, and heal from it.

More than likely if I had told the truth, the people that loved us as a couple couldn't have continued to love us both. Sides would have been chosen, and that's the last thing I ever wanted.

What I wanted was to part amicably and retain my OWN dignity. And his. And my childrens'. And I wanted to do it in a way that caused the least trauma and heartache for them.

What I'm trying to say is that I think we all do things in our own time. And sometimes, to people on the outside, what you see, and when you see it, and what's tangible isn't the whole story.

I'll be divorced tomorrow.

On paper.

But for me, things didn't happen in a logical order. I didn't follow a linear path to get here. It didn't all happen this month, or even this year.

The tears dried a long time ago and the scar on my heart barely shows now. Today, I have a smile on my face and renewed hope and love with a man that shares my vision of a happy future.

Regrettably, that makes some folks very angry.

I guess that's the price you pay for keeping a secret.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rita's Warm Barley and Tomato Salad

Did you ever play this when you were little? Kind of like London Bridge, where you hold hands and one kid is chosen for the middle then a second partner is chosen and you all act out the words of the song?

Oats, peas, beans and barley grows,
Oats, peas, beans and barley grows,
You nor I nor anyone knows,
Where oats, peas, beans and barley grows.

Thus the farmer sows his seed.
Thus he stands and takes his ease.
He stomps his foot and claps his hand
And turns around to view the land.

I’m waiting for a partner.
I’m waiting for a partner.
So open the ring and choose one in
And kiss her as she enters in.

Now you’re married, you must be kind.
Now you’re married, you must be kind.
Now you’re married, you must be kind
So take your kiss and walk away.

- - - - - - - - - - -

I went to an afternoon party this past Saturday and on a lark, made a warm salad for the table. Wasn't sure if anyone would like it, but apparently they did.

I promised to post the recipe, so here 'tiz!

Enjoy . . .

Rita's Warm Barley and Tomato Salad

  • 3 cups prepared barley
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil - dipping quality
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (jarred is best)
  • Kosher salt (2 tsp, more or less)
  • 1 cup green onions, white and green parts, chopped fine (1 bunch).
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves (use mint if you don't like cilantro)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half. (Carrot or cucumber are good additions, too, but optional)
  • 1 tall bottle of capers, drained (substitute a jar of black olives, drained, if you prefer)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the still-warm cooked barley, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt. Mix well, but gently.

Fold in the green onion, capers, tomatoes and cilantro and serve warm. Really nice spooned into pita pockets, too!

Allow refrigerated leftovers to return to room temp for best flavor, and you might also have to drizzle some additional oil.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Editor's Note: When I originally posted this in May, 2004, I had no idea what my own mother would face in the 18 months to follow. In a span of about 12 months, she lost her home, her husband (my father) had a yearlong hospitalization and became wheelchair bound, and she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic breast cancer of the bone.

In July 2005, I left her hospital room and prepared myself to say goodbye to her within 3 months.

In December 2005, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to watch the kids open presents and to celebrate her remission.

Through it all, she has maintained her sweet disposition, and continues to be a source of strength for me.

As she has always told me, "Believe the diagnosis, ignore the prognosis."


I only hope to be half the mom that she is.

I love you, Mama.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Natalie Merchant

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god's own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation . . .

- - - - -

May 2004

I have had the nicest Mother's Day, and it isn't even over yet.

Yesterday, I had a day out with my daughter Rachael. She is 8 this year.

She and I took her baby brother to his grandmother and left for a few hours of shopping. We had some time on the way to talk about Mother's Day. My daughter never tires of hearing about the day she was born, how I decided on her name, and other tidbits of her early days.

She could barely contain her excitement when we parked in front of the strip shopping center. My daughter is just beginning to discover her taste. She adores the occasional trip to the Limited Too , and it tickles me to see her carefully considering purchases and shopping the sales racks (good girl!) She decided to try on a little top and skirt, and carefully approached the dressing room with me in tow. I was fighting the images that were flashing in my mind . . .

As she stretched to hang her choices on the hook in the dressing room and steadied herself with one hand against the mirror, I thought about laying on the delivery table, draped, as a team of doctors and nurses attended her birth.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they're seeing

As she slowly bent down to remove her shoes, slowly pulling her shoes off, I remembered the blinding lights of a little suitcase bed delivered to our house to fight her jaundice, and the little velcro strip she wore across her eyes to protect them from the harsh glare.

Watching her struggle to steady herself as she stepped into a little skirt, I remembered the years of therapy that she had endured to walk, to talk . . .

We were in the dressing room for better than 10 minutes, but it was a proud little girl that looked back at her from the mirror, dressed in a very pretty summer tanktop and matching skirt.

With purchases made, we decided that lunchtime was fast approaching. She opened her little purse to reveal that she had found a Sweet Tomatoes coupon (my favorite) and wanted to take me to lunch. She had a little stack of dollar bills that she had carefully counted earlier, and she was so pleased to be able to invite me.

There were a couple of people that impatiently waited behind us as she pushed her tray along the salad bar, carefully choosing and scooping "salad" (corn, chickpeas, pickles, raisins, sunflower seeds, and broccoli) onto her plate. It took her awhile to get to the end, retrieve silverware, and tell the cashier that she would like to pay for us both. The women behind us that had been silently urging us to hurry stopped in their tracks when they heard her speak . . . her halting speech and trembling hand put them in their place better than my angry, she-tiger look ever could.

People see me
I'm a challenge to your balance
I'm over your heads
How I confound you and astound you

I remembered the meeting with her neurologist years ago, gently breaking the news to me that she might never acquire the life skills she would need to live independently as she was counting the bills and change into the cashier's hand. Her face was beaming, angelic, when the cashier commented on how pretty she looked, and how nice it was that she was taking her mother out for lunch. One of the young men that worked there offered to carry her tray, and I was thankful that it seemed to be a service offered to all, and not something that only she required. She hates being singled out, and generally does everything in her power to complete things herself, but this day, she indulged.

Lunch was such fun . . . we shared muffins and tasted each other's soups ( she wasn't crazy about the vegetable, but particularly liked the chili).

We talked about the gifts she had selected for her grandmothers, those women that had been pillars of strength for me during the dark days when I wasn't sure how I would ever be able to handle all that I had been given with her birth.

Their hopes for her never wavered, even when I would gently report back discouragements from the multitudes of doctor visits and therapy sessions.

O, I believe
Fate smiled at destiny

Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer

Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted

She excused herself from the table to go to the ladies room . . . alone. While I waited for her to return, I decided that today was a day of celebration, that I could look back and remember the early days without feeling the pain and the fear anymore. That I could sit here with her now, her beautiful little face full of hope and promise, and I could share in that with her, without reservation. That I could now look forward to her life, its struggles, its victories. That I could resurrect my expectations of what she could become.

With love, with patience and with faith
She'll make her way
. . .

For alot of people, just another day, but for me, the day surpassed my wildest dreams.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Victory Garden

I righted a longstanding wrong today.

See, there was this eyesore that I tried my best to ignore for years. It was a patch of ground next to my basement patio that spanned the distance between the poured concrete and a retaining wall. It wasn't really wide enough to be considered "the yard" and it wasn't narrow enough to be considered a border.

It's been a challenge to try to come up with a plan for this area since we moved into this house. I had visions of putting sod over it, or maybe turning it into a rock garden, but I never got inspired enough to try either one.

Barren and forlorn, it became a catch-all for broken plastic toys, leaves that blew in and never blew out, and a few stray weeds. Anytime I ventured out onto the basement patio to check on the kids playing in the backyard, I simply chose to ignore it altogether.

Somewhere along the way, the ex hatched an ill-conceived plan to create a "compost pile" there. His rationalization was that it would be educational for the kids, I guess, and it was easy to chuck peels, eggshells, Halloween pumpkins, etc. down into it from the deck above it. I do remember stating my objection to it being so close to the house, but I evidently didn't care enough to put my foot down, so one day, a mass of chicken wire was strung around a circle of landscaping block (left over from an ill-conceived attempt at a koi pond, but I'll have to tell THAT story another time), and the compost pile was established. Except, it never really was a compost pile, it was more like a black hole. Clippings and peelings went in, but nothing ever came out. It was never turned, or tended, and it finally withered away when I finally DID put my foot down and stopped any more "contributions" from being flung into it.

So, fast forward to this month.

Our agreement stipulated that I would remain here in the house with the children, and I have. Since the day I have been the sole adult in the house, I have felt this compulsion to scrub, straighten, revamp and polish every surface of this house. Call it cathartic, call it nervous energy, or renewed interest, but, whatever the case, the black hole began to weigh heavy on my mind a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself thinking about it in my spare moments.

At first, I simply wanted to disassemble the chicken wire and stakes. I didn't really have any grander plan than that. But, I sat on that idea for awhile, and slowly slowly, my mind began to imagine other possibilities.

I began to think that maybe I could rearrange those landscape blocks, or maybe I could scatter some kind of grass seed that would grow in a shady place. That seemed manageable, and I figured that I would be able to accomplish that fairly easily on my own.

And again, I sat on that idea for awhile.

Without really noticing it, I began to have grander ideas for that space. I began to daydream alot about walking out on that patio during my lunch break (I work from home, and my office is in the basement), enjoying some tea while I looked over that little spot of ground. I imagined some flowers there, in vibrant colors, and I saw a little swing on the patio. Every time I took a few minutes to consider that spot, I began to imagine a tranquil place.

It took quite awhile for me to actually get up the nerve to step out there and survey the area with a critical eye. Looking at it in the light of day, I was overwhelmed with the seeming enormity of the project, and I nearly gave up before I started. I saw all of the remnants of the compost project, and the fragments of plastic toys long broken and left there to rot, and the neglect that had turned this corner of my world into a wasteland. I finally faced the fact that before the spot had any hope of being beautiful, it would have to be excavated.

Having no idea what I would encounter, I gingerly stepped into the "pit of despair" and began to tug on the first mud-embedded landscape block. It released the wet, boggy earth underneath itself with a sick sucking sound, revealing a writhing mass of pink, juicy worms squirming through a network of tunnels. Revolted, I dropped the block back onto the offending pile and stepped out again, considering my options.

I could walk back in the house, and forget about every vision I had for the little piece of earth, or I could try to fix it.

Steeling myself, I stepped back into the bog and pried the block up again. I dragged it over to the edge of the patio and placed it along the edge, creating the first of a long border. One by one, I dragged muddy, sticky, slimy blocks to the edge, stacking them into a wall that would (hopefully) corral my beautiful flowerbed. I then dug up the chicken wire, and flung it out and I pulled weeds, and began to turn the compacted earth with a shovel.

Much to my surprise, the earth there was dark and loamy, and alive. The worms were doing their good work, digesting and aerating the ground, and the long-ago castoffs that had been flung in had decomposed back to the soil from which they came, leaving behind fertile ground.

I began to feel more hopeful.

Once the blocks were in place and the fertile ground was turned and prepared, I washed the dirt from my hands and made my way to Pikes. It was a wonderland of beautiful living things, and as I slowly pushed my cart down the rows of living beauty, my vision of my flowergarden began to crystallize. Having very little experience with flowergardens, I allowed my eye to guide me toward the things that appealed to me, and I attempted to pick plants that would enjoy my little sometimes shady, sometimes sunny, out-of-the-way, former pile of rot. I was full of giddy energy as I checked out with a cartful of happy color, and bags of potting soil and I packed it all in my car and hurried back home with my treasures.

Planting the spot was a pleasure . . . I dug hole after hole, carefully transplanting tiny azalea bushes, and hosta plants, and pretty purple groundcover into the little plot. I realized I had never spent that amount of time out there, just me and the little plot of land, and I began to recognize it's innate beauty, and the little lizards and catepillars and creatures that had called it home.

I watered the entire plot, mentally welcoming each little plant as I offered it a root-soaking drink. When the last plant was settled comfortably, I stepped back to admire my work. The arrangement of the plants suited me, and I noticed that they all looked very pretty there, if not slightly uncomfortable from being newly planted, like kids in their brand new clothes on the first day of school. I thought to myself that it wouldn't be long before they settled in and took root in their new home, and I felt sure the entire layout would appear more natural in a few days.

As I was picking up all the cast-off plastic pots and sweeping the patio, I thought about the process of creating the flowerbed, and how similar it was to my own transformation. Taking a look at my life in the light of day was the hardest thing I ever did, and acknowledging my own physical and emotional neglect was heartbreaking for me. But, I was just as amazed to see the life that was still possible within me, just like the vibrant soil that existed just below the tangle of wire and broken toys.

Seeing the evolution of my own thought processes has been amazingly cathartic, too. Initially, I was just content to tear away the offending parts of my physical self, but I have been pleasantly surprised that I ultimately dreamed of something better for myself emotionally. And just like my little flowerbed, I had to tear myself down and dig down through issues that I'd prefer to avoid before I could dream of achieving anything better.

I smile when I look at those pretty, nervous little flowers. They seem almost self-conscious in their new surroundings, just like I feel in this new body and this new phase of my own life. I think we both will settle in nicely, and until then, we are just going to enjoy each other, preferably in the quiet of the afternoon with some nice hot tea for me, and a cool drink for them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Centennial Post (aka What I Can't Live Without)

To commemorate my centennial achievement (100 lbs lost/6 months out - I am right on the cusp), I will list the things that I have relied upon the most during this journey.

Consider this my teary, dramatic Oscars "thank you" speech, except that I'm not wearing a designer dress.

In no particular order, here are The Things I Couldn't Live Without:

Wendy's Chili - Wendy's provides a mainstay for me. Their small chili (with cheese) is the perfect concoction of finely ground meat, kidney beans, vegetables, spice, and broth. There are alot of things that don't agree with tiny new tummies, but Wendy's chili has never failed me.

Taco Bell - Taco Bell was the location of my first post-surgical dining out experience. That first small order of pintos and cheese was like ambrosia after weeks of liquid nutrition. Still a favorite for me 6 months later.

G2 - Gatorade's older and slightly less-sweet sister. Perfect choice for hydration without risking a sugar buzz/swoon.

Tostitos Corn Chips - I keep these handy. I especially like the little Scoops!

Aldi Party (Chex) Mix - A little handful of this keeps me going. I tend to pick out the little bagel bits.

Aldi Diet Fudgesicles - Oh my God . . . these are like crack.

Lipton Tea - When the weather was colder, I couldn't STAND cold drinks, but I had to drink something all day (doctor's orders). Lipton hot tea was a lifesaver this past winter.

Centrum Silver Chewable vitamins - Much better than Flintstones, in my opinion, and higher vitamin levels, too.

EAS Protein Powder - mixes easily with just about anything, and gets you to that daily protein goal.

Freshens Smoothies - Their low carb mango strawberry (extra protein powder) makes my tummy sing!

Starbucks - This is my going out place, since I don't really go out to restaurants anymore. Their London Fog tea, and their Skinny Vanilla lattes are winners.

McDonalds - Actually, their skinny vanilla lattes rival Starbucks, and they are cheaper. I can't claim to have used these all throughout my post-op time, because they just came out. Plus, there's no way to sit and relax at a McDonalds, but if I'm in a hurry, hitting the drivethru for a coffee works great!

Goodwill/America's Thrift, etc.: These places have allowed me to work my way through 3 complete wardrobe/closet turnovers in the last 6 months. I would have needed a trust fund to buy that many clothes at the mall.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coming Clean

So, ok . . . enough of the smoke and mirrors. Enough of the avoidance.

This blog has always been a place where I could come and lay it all down, and I have never failed to receive support and encouragement. It's interesting that I abandoned it when I needed my friends the most.

That's me . . .

It's really difficult for me to say that I am getting divorced. I flinch every time I tell someone. It's hard to see the look of shock on their faces, and its harder to endure the questions. But, that's the nature of the situation, isn't it? People that have grown to care about me and my little family WILL be shocked, and they WILL be upset, and they will be concerned for the kids, and they will wonder why, and they will want some resolution.

That's the hardest part to give them. Resolution.

It's like exposing an open wound, really. Everything in my being wants to cover it up and hide it from the world. I want it to go away as quietly and quickly as possible. I want to spare my kids and my family and my friends all the hurt, and details, and worry.

I can't stand making people worry. I always feel compelled to fix it.

I've faced some of the same discomfort with my gastric bypass surgery, actually. I didn't want to worry anyone, and it seemed that everyone around me ran around screaming when I announced that I was going to have it. I didn't have time to be scared; I was too busy calming everyone else.

When the surgery went well, and the weight started to come off, people around me breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Just in time for this.

It's natural for everyone to assume the surgery and the weight loss caused the divorce.

It didn't.

What it did was give me the strength I needed to face it.

To every person that asks, I can say these things with no reservations:

I tried to make my marriage work for a very, very long time.

I am grateful for the marriage, because I have 2 beautiful children that I treasure.

I am also grateful that I am healthier, and I am employed, and that I have the support of my family and my friends. Thank you all.

Most of all, I am hopeful for my future, and my children's future. At a time when the country and most of its people are facing terrible crises, I feel like I am just hitting my stride.

And I promise to stop hiding.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Surest Things Can Change

Appropriate, considering . . .

The Surest Things Can Change
(lyrics by Gino Vanelli)

I love you now and I never want to change my mind
But love is strange and the surest things can change
We carry love
More than we can stand to lose
But who can say . . .
The things we feel this day are the things we feel in time?

How can I be sure
The sun will rise in days to come
And now that I am yours, the world is still for you and I . . .

We carry dreams like children in the spring of life
But love is pain and the purest things can change

Oh how can I be sure the sun will rise in days to come?
And now that I am yours
The world is still in cloudless sky . . .
But sad as rain . . .

The surest things can change.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fear and Loathing in the US

Trust me. NO ONE enjoys a verbal scrap more than me. I absolutely delight in the written dodge-and-parry, and with each day that passes, FaceBook is proving to be a treasure trove of joust matches.

I'm not sure whether it's a function of the mix of folks that comprise my friends list, or a general trend, but I've noticed that the most hotly contested debates on FaceBook are political. For every Rush Limbaugh fan, there's a Bill O'Reilly hater throwing stones, and for every staunch conservative, there's a bleeding heart liberal ready and willing to go toe to toe on every issue.

Every issue. Every day.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I've never been one to debate politics. There are a few issues that are hot buttons for me, but much like organized religion, big time politics makes me uneasy, and I avoid wading into the cesspool at all costs. Some would argue that it's my civic duty to stay "engaged" in the process and the parties and the issues, but it all feels like watching football on TV to me. No matter how much you yell and cuss and throw popcorn at the screen, the outcome remains unchanged. Despite this, you still have your facepainters, and your tailgaters, and your fans that live and die by the success or failure of the team, oblivious to the fact that they are about as integral to the team's performance as the Astroturf.

So . . . . why do people invest so much energy? I was discussing this last night with a very smart new friend, and the discussion ran the gamut from Obama, to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, to Bush lovers to Bush haters to Clinton . . . . you get the idea.

I had a small epiphany while we were talking, and it's probably something that others recognized long ago, but for me, it's sort of a revelation:

Politics feeds off of and breeds fear.

People in the US are scared to death, and have been for years, and the entire country is reacting (and voting) from a place of fear. Political parties continue to pit us against one another, but the underlying "crisis of confidence", I think, stems from the entire country being scared shitless.

I'll try to explain where that came from.

Remember seeing the video clips of the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta? There was this explosion, and milliseconds after the shock, people took off in a dead run, like antelopes when the tigress hits the Sahara.


I remember people being so angry about that, and cries of "Where was the security?!?! Why couldn't they catch Rudolph? Where was the FBI?" echoed. People were in a dead panic for months.

I remember noticing a similar reaction to Katrina. Video of absolute devastation seemed to run 24/7 on every news outlet, and people were so pissed off, and scared, and upset. The outcry was the same: Where was the Core of Engineers? Where was the military? Where was FEMA?

And 9/11 was the worst of all. Images of planes hitting buildings were shown over and over and over until the entire nation saw the carnage in their sleep. Within hours of the shock, people were screaming for blood: How could this have happened? How could a handful of terrorists with a few hours of flight training take down the World Trade Center? Where's the CIA? Where's . . . somebody?

Oklahoma City, the abortion clinic bombings, levees giving way in the Midwest, forest fire destruction on the West coast . . . . all of these tragedies were visited upon us, in full color, with overzealous broadcasters willing to turn up the gore and the fear factor to up the ratings.

People can only handle so much of that kind of thing before the stress starts to show, and it's only a matter of time before people become enraged and start screaming for answers. Someone has to pay, someone has to be responsible, and we all thought that The Government of the United States, the most successful, strongest country in the would, could protect us from all this. It was a mighty blow to discover that it couldn't.

And we had to accept that.

But, you know, it's one thing to shake your hand at the sky and denounce natural disasters, or call for the head of an insane terrorist, but our country also had plenty of OTHER crises that shook us to the core. There might have been sexual scandals that were worse than Jim Baker, or Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Swaggart, but again, they weren't served up on the 6:00 pm news along with the potroast and baked potatoes every damn night. Ditto for the S&L and banking scandals. There might have been bigger crooks than Lay and bigger implosions than WorldCom and ENRON, but none took place in our living rooms like these did.

It happened a little bit at a time, but slowly slowly, all of this eroded our belief in what we all thought were the most trustworthy parts of America: our appointed leaders, and our financial institutions, and those that spoke from the pulpit to the masses. They all started looking like "confidence men", and we became distrustful and bitter. And scared.

And our reactions were real. Fear is real. We might not have ALL lost our retirement savings in the ENRON debacle, but we experienced the anguish and pain firsthand by watching endless interviews and exposes on those that did. We might not have had to swim for safety in New Orleans, but there we sat, begging for someone to rescue the people we saw waving from their rooftops. We might not have been in NYC when it all went down, but we watched as desperate people jumped to their death, and heard the sirens and the screams.

I don't know about you, but once you've been burned by the stove a few times, you learn not to touch the stove, and once you've been battered by scenes via the national media enough times, you resort to placing your confidence elsewhere.

Enter . . . . the internet.

You know, if I were walking down the street in New York City and saw someone standing on the corner with a handmade sign and screaming about conspiracies, I wouldn't be all that impressed. Certainly not impressed enough to stop and listen and put any creedence in what he was screaming. BUT . . . . if you put that same screaming lunatic in front of a computer and gave him a free Blogger account, and he was lucid enough to type all the shit he was screaming, chances are, he would have a legion of followers, believers and those that would expend precious energy arguing over his every point.

Cause, see . . . . the internet is grassroots. We were taught in the 60s that grassroots is good, and grassroots means the truth, cause it's REAL people, not the talking heads from the Establishment.

And when you live in a mentality of fear, and you don't trust the authorities anymore, and you are looking for answers, and you start searching on the web, it feels like you've hit gold when you find a blog that explains it all, like . . . .

9/11 was an inside job.
The government knew Katrina was going to happen.
There ARE aliens, and the damn government just won't tell us.

And when you have ready access to the flood of information on the internet, it's easy to find an explanation that's palatable for you, which is MUCH easier than facing the fact that bad things happen, and they can't always be prevented, and no matter the size of the government, or the man in the office, people die that don't deserve to, and bad people do bad things to good people.

But it FEELS so real when you get a Twitter message from the Obama campaign, cause Twitter is grassroots, man!

And it feels like you are finally getting to the truth when you see the people you know, your friends, your family, when they all take a stab at the TRUTH about what's going on in politics on FaceBook, cause . . . . you can't trust the goddamn politicians, but you can trust your friends and family. And you feel a compulsion to save everyone you know with YOUR truth, the truth you uncovered by talking with the conspiracy theorists, and the rightwing militants and the leftwing liberals. You get to a point where you are saturated with it all, and you filter it all, and you come up with a patchwork of truth that makes perfect sense to you, and you want to make sure everyone you know knows what YOU know.

And you want to surround yourself with likeminded folks, and fight those that see it different with everything you have to throw at them.

But, they're being manipulated by the same thing that YOU are.


And while we are ALL watching the Punch (dem) and Judy (repub) show, no one is looking behind the stage, and addressing the REAL issue.

We are all scared to death.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy 75th Anniversary!

Whee! 75 pounds gone! I've been having a little celebration around here.

I bought myself a neat ring and a pair of Baby Phat jeans (size 16, natch). They were even brand new - not from a thrift store or anything!

I didn't feel the need to commemorate or celebrate the 25 lb loss, or even the 50 lb loss. I thought it was a fluke.

Hell, it's only been this past week that I was able to force myself to clean out my closet of all of my favorite clothes. I felt sure I'd need/wear them all again, even though they were in the largest sizes that I wore before the surgery.

I'm still getting used to all this. Standing in the closet looking at all the empty hangers was just about as wierd as getting catcalled at the gas station the other day by a truckload of migrant workers.

Don't get too excited, though. They always like the big ones.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hey Paw! What's fer supper?

Fried chicken, green beans with fatback, and hot cornbread with sweet tea! Sallll-ute!

Yeah, not quite.

More than any other question, the question of "What do/can you eat?" crops up when the subject of my gastric bypass surgery is on the table.

The answer is: not much.

I'm about to celebrate my 5 month surgery anniversary, and unlike other folks I have spoken with, my diet has not advanced very much past what I was eating just a few weeks post surgery.
I keep reading that re-establishing eating is hit or miss, and what you can't tolerate today you might be able to tolerate tomorrow. I am the poster child of that particular little nugget of wisdom.

These days, after many MANY experiments, I pretty much survive on Wendy's small cups of chili, cooked beans, hot tea, coffee, mini ricecakes, and diet fudgesicles.

I have a very VERY long list of foods that just don't work. For instance, I cannot tolerate meat of any sort (with the one exception of ground beef in well-cooked chili.) My old loves, rice and grits, cornbread and, well, ANY bread are a thing of the past.

Strangely, I CAN tolerate corn chips and cheese dip, which seems like the LAST thing that would agree with me. Ditto for mixed nuts, and I have been known to have a few peanut M&Ms with no complications.

The big takeaway from all of my post-surgical appointments is to eat enough protein to meet the daily requirements.

That seemed easy when I first heard it, and it's anything BUT easy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New for 2009

Well, I know I'm a little late, but I finally feel like it's a new year.

This would probably explain why I still had Christmas lights on my bushes up until last week.

I think the inauguration had to occur for me to feel like it was a fresh new year with a chance for a fresh new start. I have to admit that that Aretha's hat completely invigorated me.

I hit two huge milestones just this past week. I charted a 75 pound loss on the scale and I dropped under 200 pounds, ceremoniously entering into the 100s on the scale. This phenomenon is affectionately known in weight loss surgery (WLS) circles as "entering OneDerland."

Along with the adjustments that I've been making to my new habits and changing body, I've also been adjusting to homeschooling and have picked up a few new hobbies. Sweet girl and I have jumped headfirst into scrapbooking. She's much better at it than I am. I've also joined the Yelp community, and received an Elite designation for '09.

One of the good things to come out of the last year is a more reliable energy level. I hope that means that I will be able to write more, and more often. I kind of lost my mojo this past year, but like a loyal pet, the ol' blog was still here waiting for me when I returned from my long absence. I've straightened up the place a bit and added some new "baby" blogs ot my repertoire: My Kid's Krazy Krap and Cheaper than Marriage Counseling. You're welcome to check those out if you'd like using the links on the right.

SO . . . onward and upward, and oh yeah, Happy New Year!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009? Already?!?!

Yeah, it's one of THOSE posts.

You know, full of the usual "where does the time go?" and "here's the best/worst things that happened in '08" and "here's what I'm going to make happen in '09" and all that kind of crap.

When you blog, it's pretty much a requirement that you create a wrap-up post, so . . .here tiz.

In short: 2008 was a doozy. To keep it simple, I think I'm just going to list a few highlights. I'm too tired/uninterested to do much more, but I may elaborate more later.

National stuff:

Collapse of the US financial structure. Michael and I kept our jobs; many others didn't. We kept our home and cars. Again, others weren't so fortunate.

Presidential election: We were all relentlessly hammered with speeches, propaganda, surveys, debates, bigotry, doomsday soothsayers and SNL skits. Frankly, I was glad when it was all over, and by that time, I had very nearly lost interest in who won. Now that we are a month out, I have some flickers of optimism about what will come during this new president's first fledgling months in office.

Olympics: Uhh, I didn't watch it. My bad. I think Michael Phelps won the whole thing, according to the endorsement deals.

Gas crisis: That was a trip. Not that I leave the house all that much, but I was stranded here with NO GAS more than once. Hell, the whole city was. When you COULD find gas, you damn near couldn't afford it.

George Carlin. I'll always remember the 7 words you can't say. Always.
Heath Ledger. Pointless death. I was surprised how angry I was.
Bernie Mac. Damn, that sucked.
Tim Russert. Huge surprise. He would have loved this election.
Isaac Hayes. Even though the whole Chef debacle was stupid, I still thought you were cool.
Paul Newman. One of the greats, and I'm glad he stayed out of the spotlight near the end.

Cool Stuff We Did This Year:

Disney: Man, I could talk all day about Disney. I generally do, but you know, just to myself.

Fall Ball: Once again, I enjoyed the heck out of Little League. Ian had the best coach yet - Coach Ron. Go Scrappers!

GVA: The Georgia Virtual Academy was one of the best things to happen. Miss Rachael and I started our first year of homeschool!

FaceBook: Addictive, but a conduit to deeper friendships with those that shared my past. It's been an amazing experience rediscovering all of the people there.

Concerts: TOOL, Van Halen reunion tour, Plant Krauss. All three worth every penny.

Stuff We Survived:

Hospitals: Between us, there were 3 hospital stays and 2 surgeries. 2008 was the Year of the Doctor Visit. I'm extremely hopeful that 09 will be a healthier one.

The Big Cut: My gastric bypass surgery has changed me, and in turn, the dynamic of our entire family. Hands down, the best decision of the year.
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