Body. Mind. Spirit. They all need some work.

Working Girl

I like my new job, and I’m pretty sure it likes me back.  There’s a steep learning curve, I’ll give you that…but I like learning.  Learning is good.  There’s a rhythm and pattern to learning that I understand and like.  I take lots of notes…just like college.

Of course…so far I have almost no real responsibility…which makes things nice.  Very, very nice.

I’m still working out the details of my before and after work job…and that’s a who’ ‘notha thang.

Before goes a little like this:

Up at 5.

Stagger into the bathroom, and wake up for 15 minutes.

Take off my pajama pants and jump on the scale…stare down bleary-eyed…and remember that I promised myself I’d cut back on sodium.

Change into my workout “clothes” (usually Tom’s old paint-spattered sweatpants and some tee shirt I dug out of the dirty clothes the night before).

Click on the coffeemaker…then schlep downstairs to hit the treadmill for 20 minutes.

Back upstairs…grab a cup of coffee and head to the shower.

Hair and makeup take a LOT longer than I remember…and can go a LOT of different ways.

Lotion or not?  It makes me look less cracky and old, but it makes me sweat buckets for about 20 minutes.  Big decisions for that early in the morning.

Black or gray slacks and usually something black or blackish on top.  My co-workers probably think I’m channeling Johnny Cash.

Breakfast…high protein…two eggs, piece of light toast…maybe a ½ a grapefruit, if I’m feeling adventurous.  More coffee and one to go.

Make my lunch…whatever’s leftover.  Last week it was mostly white beans and cornbread or spicy chicken and rice soup (Tortilla soup w/out the tortillas or cheese…much healthier and WAY less interesting).  A couple of pieces of Dove Dark, in case I hit any stress points during the day.  A protein bar on Tuesdays and Thursdays…for when I meet Jon-the-Homicidal trainer after work.

Lipstick in my left pocket.  The key to the compartment that holds my work laptop and Top Secret Home Mortgage Files Drawer in my right pocket.

Coat…gloves…lunch…briefcase w/my work notes, 2 unopened WFHM Benefits packages, and a Nora Ephron book I Feel Bad About My Neck…and purse.  I come into work looking a little like a bag lady who recently lost her job as a Wells Fargo employee (she couldn’t get a decent rate on a re-fi).

I kiss and cheek Tom…blow a kiss to Kitty…and say another Thank You to God for hot showers, a house with an attached garage, heated car seats, a job, and family and friends that I love…

And…I’m off.

I crank up Crazy on You by Heart…run a red light or two…and join the world of FICO scores and 1003’s.



Crazy Yoga Guy says that change comes while we’re practicing.

He told me this personally…through the magic of flat screen television…one day when I was practicing sitting on the couch…frowning and tilting my head back and forth…and he was practicing death-defying speed yoga.

Speed yoga is not my yoga.   Obviously.

But…it caught my attention:  Change comes while I’m practicing?

Not before?

Not after?


Aside from an unfortunate 6-month association with a chain-smoking piano teacher, I’ve never given a lot of thought to the merits or challenges of practice.  Practice sounds hard…mostly boring…and more than a little daunting to my gotta-have-it-now-drive-through mentality.  The beginning of almost any practice is more about sucking at something and less about achieving something. Those teensy bits of progress in practice can be hard to appreciate or even notice.

But now…I’m starting to like the concept of practice, because it assumes that I can keep getting better at something – and that it’s ok if I suck at it and don’t look like Hollywood while I’m doing it.

There are few stories I hate worse than some marathoner story that starts with… “I was in horrible shape.   When I started running, I could barely run 2 miles without stopping.  It was humiliating!”

Really?  Because running 2 miles would be a miracle for me…and I’ve been working out pretty regularly for over 4 months and running a mile still sounds…painful…and probably more than a little dangerous.

We’re sort of trained to appreciate the finish line…the goal…the happy ending.  We can’t seem to wrap our mind, body, and spirit around the greater benefit of the process.

To succeed, we may have to be willing to change.  No headline there.  BUT…change…for most of us…may only come during the process…not after…and not before.

So many times I’ve tried to start some new and “healthy” life thing…and I’m so uncomfortable…it’s like I’m holding my breath until I think I’ve achieved something…some number…some date…some something…that will make all the pain worthwhile.  Well, I can’t hold my breath that long.  And, usually when I let the air out…a bag o’ chips comes back in.

Maybe it’s better to relax and breathe in between those growing pains.

So…what are we practicing?

We eat.  We drink.  We sleep.  And, if we’re lucky, we poop.

But…what do we want to improve?

Work?  Exercise?  Sitting on our backsides?

To be a better parent or wife or husband?

I practice writing.

I practice exercise and food control.

I practice breathing when I’m stressed.


Money management.

Organizational stuff.

Lots of practicing going on.

None of this is perfect…or maybe even excellent.

Time zips along…but we can defy the odds…and keep getting better…if we keep practicing.

It’s a fact of nature for those of us of a certain age.  Muscles are either getting stronger or weaker.  Things are either flapping more or tightening up.  Stuff falls.  We pick it up and try to stuff it in somewhere inconspicuous…it falls back out…we stuff it back in.

There comes a point for all of us when there is no status quo for muscles.  We either use them and they get a little stronger or we don’t and they stick out their tongues at us and ask for another Snickers bar.

We think the change comes before – so that some magic day we will wake up and want to exercise.

Not this girl.

For about 90% of us, the deal is that we just have to exercise until (maybe) we want to.

That other 10%?

Pretty sure I’m not writing for them.

Arkansas Gal

I heard a pretty good one the other day.

True story.

I know because I heard it from a friend who heard it from an in-law, who is related to pretty much everybody in Arkansas, which is where this story takes place.


One night, a gal and her husband are out drinking in a bar.  (Names withheld to protect the not so innocent.)  Now, these are not kids.  They’re in their late 40’s, give or take.

After a while, Husband wants to go home.  Gal says she’s not ready.  Husband says he is ready.  Says he’s leaving, whether Gal comes with him or not.

Gal says, “Fine.”  or “Git your hind end on home, then.”  Something like that.

Husband leaves Gal drinking at the bar.

Sometime later, Gal is also ready to go home…so she heads out to the parking lot.  She sees a vehicle, engine running.  It’s a truck.  She and Husband own a truck.  So, she figures this must be her truck.

Climbs in.

Drives home.

Goes to bed.

When she gets up next day, she looks out the window and sees a truck she doesn’t recognize, sitting in front of her house.

She goes out for a closer look, opens the door, and there’s a purse laying on the seat.  There’s also a cell phone, and it’s ringing.

Gal answers:   “Hello?”

Loud Female Voice on the Phone:  “Hello!!  Who is this???”

“Who is THIS?”

Voice (LOUDER): “Somebody stole my truck and my purse.  I’ve been trying all night to find them.  Who are you?  How did you get my phone?”

Without missing a beat, Gal says:  “Lady, I don’t know.  I just looked out my window and saw a strange truck sitting in my driveway.  Your purse is here, too, but if you don’t get over here RIGHT NOW, I’m gonna have this truck towed.”

Voice changes.  “Oh, my God!!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  I’ll be there as fast as I can.  You don’t know how much I appreciate your honesty!”


I forgot to ask if there was a reward.

Eat, Shop, Drink Beer

Guess what I didn’t do yesterday?

Let’s just say that this 40 square foot of 3M literature dump in the living room is still waiting for a glossy page intervention.

Instead of doing what I said I was going to do…I took the whole day off.   Picked up my new friend, Coe (Caleb’s Sara’s mom), did lunch at Buffet City (great Chinese food and sushi but they really, really should change that name) then had a mini shopping trip.

Pier One – looking for anything clearance.  Didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without (for now 😉 ).  Pretty  happy to see  the Spiced Pear candles back – they just smell like Christmas to me.

Penzeys Spices  – LOVE that place!  Vanilla beans from Madagascar, Dundicuts from Pakistan (hot peppers supposed to be good for chili), whole nutmeg from Grenada, juniper berries (going to try them with venison), Turkish seasoning that can be mixed in yogurt and spread on sandwiches, adobo seasoning and powdered horseradish.

Time to declutter my spice cabinet.

JC Penneys Homestore (finally found some new pillows for my couch and love seat – 40% off – oh, yeah – that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout).  I’m resisting the urge to go back and get MORE.

Ended our girl time sitting on the patio and having a beer at TGIFridays.

And?  We only got lost 2 or 3 times.

Which reminds me of that first time I set off by myself through the dangerous streets of Des Moines, looking for Target and the Homestore.  Everybody was out of town and/or not answering their *&^%-ing cell phones and I had to venture out on my own…which I really, really did not want to do.  I got into a horrible argument with Tom’s GPS.   A fight we BOTH lost.  It’s a miracle of God that I’m not still out circling Waukee because GPS Girl told me to take 16 consecutive right turns.

Anywho.  I forgave her – eventually – which God likes, I know.

Got home just in time to throw together some cornbread muffins with green chilies and head over to Kris and Kate’s for chili and the sad, sad story of Vikings vs Saints.

Lousy, stinking Commie referees.

Aside from that, pretty great day.

The Office

photo by allys.a/Creative Commons

Spent yesterday deconstructing – OH!  I mean organizing – Tom’s office.


There are at least 50 piles of 3M abrasive/adhesive literature in my living room mocking me this morning.  I’d say a good 200 – 250 pounds or so.  And I oughta know, since I  was busting open boxes and hauling it in here all day yesterday.

There is also a really big plastic bag of hunting clothes, two rifles, binoculars, a  camo ball cap, a blaze orange ball cap, an economy-size bottle de-scenting soap,  misc bullets and shotgun shells, 2 boxes of fishing line, hunting boots, at least a dozen arrows, one of those thingies that you can put feathers on arrows with, paper targets and on and on ad infinitum…sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for some manly man to come along and get a clue.

Recycled 30 pounds (probably more) of hunting and fishing magazines I found tucked back in the closet in ratty old Cabela’s bags.

Tom came out of his now-decluttered office and walked through the living room last night…which looks like 3M threw up in it…smiling and clucking about what a fine job I’m doing.  He mentioned that he thinks there might be another few boxes of literature in the garage…somewhere.

When he lost his job last year, I decided that the care and cleaning of Tom’s office wasn’t my responsibility anymore.   Seeing as how he was no longer working, he would have time to clean it up himself.

It occurred to me that since he was now retired – we could job share – you know – the housework.

Funny.  SO funny I forget to laugh.

Up until then, Tom and I had sighed and accepted our old extinct dinosaur of a marriage where he earned a salary and I took care of the house and finances. Understand…I wasn’t trained for this in the 70’s when we were all burning our bras and reading The Feminine Mystique.  I don’t know any other women my age who live like this.  I can hardly write it without wishing for one of those little black rectangles to cover my eyes so you won’t know who I am.

It…this old marriage we have…has evolved into me picking up after Tom.  I’m the Picker Upper.  He’s the Layer Downer.  (don’t ask him about this…he will lie and say it’s the other way around).  I fought being the Picker Upper for a long, LONG time by bitching and sniping at him at every opportunity.  I tried ignoring his stuff…and him.  This did NOT work.  It was sorta like putting a cork in a bottle of soda and giving it a good shake.  It was just a matter of time before I popped that cork.  It took YEARS, but I finally had to admit that here was a battle I could not win.  I had to either leave the stuff where he left it, divorce him, kill him, or pick up his crap.

Tough choice.

Especially because on those rare occasions when he thinks he’s picking up after himself?  Like when he pretends his dirty underwear is a basketball and the hamper is the hoop?  Mostly he misses that easy lay-up (which makes me seriously question all those stories about what a smoking hot high school basketball stud he was).  Then?  He smiles.  Shrugs his shoulders and walks out of the room whistling.  Dirty underwear…on the floor…right next to the hamper.  This, my friends, enrages me in a way that makes me want to scream profanities and stomp my foot through the floor like Rumplestiltskin.

Which is not a good look for me.

There were two areas in particular…hunting crap and tools…left laying around the house at random…that I had pretty much taken to pitching into his office and closing the door.

This was my “Norma Rae” act of defiance to the unfair job I’ve been forced to endure.

Tom never really noticed.

But it has all come back to bite me in the butt bigtime.

Today…I’ll finish organizing the deconstruction…tuck everything neatly away so Tom can find it when he needs it (except the &^%$# hunting stuff…that’s going into the great abyss in the basement we call “Tom’s side”).

So he can make some money.

And I can buy me some bedroom furniture.

Party on.


photo by John Gullo/Creative Commons

There’s something to be said for having all your crap all together all in one place and all at the same time.

Gives such personal meaning to the phrase “getting your crap together.”

I finally have my crap together.

I also have Tom’s crap together.  Which he should be pretty grateful for, if you ask me.

All here.  In the new house.  Me and Tom and all our crap.

Such controversy over whose crap is good and whose isn’t.  That’s a story for a later time.

And…is it at all possible that I could use the word crap any more often and with any less finesse in this my first piece of writing in twelve hundred years?

I don’t think so.

Here’s the good (read:  UNBELIEVABLY GREAT…ranking right up there with the birth of healthy babies #1 and #2) news:

608 5th St. Lowden, IA is Under New Management.

No more fretting about clogged gutters and windstorms or torrential downpours or dorky little vandal wannabes who throw rocks through bay windows or utility companies who turn off your gas in early winter without actually contacting you (if you don’t count the teeny tiny note they attached to the natural gas line mentioning that you might like to call them if you want your gas turned back on.  This was not for lack of payment.  It was for Nobody Knows Why.).

No more paying $80 a month for truly crappy lawn mowing.

No more crazy craigslist emails telling me I was “donb” for listing the house at our price.

No more paying Alliant Energy and City of Lowden utilities.

No more Cedar County property taxes for a place sitting empty.

No more homeowner’s insurance on a second home that I still love but don’t live in.

Just a basement in Waukee full of Where Did All THIS New-Old Crap Come From?


So, I’m thinking about…actually enjoying thinking about…landscaping and room painting in Waukee…w/out my recently retired disclaimer that I can commit to no new thing…because God-only-knows-when-something terrible/awful/horrible/expensive-is-going-to-happen-to-the-Lowden-house which will guarantee that we won’t be able to afford/fix/buy anything for the rest of our lives.

I am finally moving on and moving in.

AND…for the record:

Cherie Bell is officially tipping her For Sale By Owner hat with a flourish.  Leaving behind the murky and marvelous land of real estate selling on a shoestring…

I’m never moving again.

I will be that crazy old woman with the orange hair and 4” gray roots, dragged from her home in a 37-year-old stained pink nightgown kicking and screaming about the unflattering lighting and pukey wall color in nursing homes.

I’m settled.

Really.  Truly.

All my crap is here.

I’m here.

All Tom’s crap is here.

He’s here.

The washer works.

I have TV.

Windows that need washing and walls that need new paint with real color.

A finite number…of walls and windows…unlike the infinite ones we lately had.


Way, WAY better.

And just think…it only took 16 months.

Reinvention is a slow process.

PS  That photo is not my basement.

PPS  Call before stopping by.

Since we’ve had the farm…5 years, give or take…I bet I’ve made the drive down by myself at least 20 times.  It’s not hard.  Especially from Des Moines.  Straight south.  Take an exit and go east.  Then south again.  Left on a gravel with an Amish food stand on the corner, so it’s hard to miss, if you’re paying attention.

It’s pretty safe to say that paying attention is one of my isshoos.

So, the other day I’m supposed drive down to pick Tom up at the farm so he can leave our ‘94 Geo Prism to be worked on by the cheap and good and honest mechanics of Trenton, MO.


Part of the conversation the night before my trip (around 10 p.m.):

Cherie:  “What time do you want me there?”

Tom:  “Oh, not until late afternoon.  I’ve got a lot of stuff to do down here.”

Cherie:  “Ok, I’ll leave around 3.”

Tom:  “Sounds good.”

Which should put me there around 5-ish.  Depending on how many sodas and/or cups of coffee in and out along the way.

Next morning (about 10 a.m.):

Cherie:  “You still want me there around 5?”

Tom:  “No.  Come now.  I’m all done here.  I’ve got nothing to do.”

Cherie:  “I thought you said late afternoon?  I can’t go for a couple of hours.  How about I leave here at 1, get there at 3?”

Tom:  “Is that the best you can do?  I can’t take the tractor out in the fields.  I keep getting stuck…”

Cherie:  “I’ll try to leave sooner.”  (mentally shaking my head Nope)

I’m out the door at 1:15 p.m.  1:20 at the latest.

I know a shortcut to 35.  In fact, it had worked really well when I’d driven down a few weeks before.  I actually kind of figured it out on my own.  I ran the route by Kate…who told me it was a good idea and told me exactly how to backtrack on I-80 (by going east instead of west for about 1 second) to catch 35 South.

Worked like a charm that day.  Piece o’cake.

Fast forward to this day:

I’m sitting at the stoplight at the entrance to I-80:  East or west?  Crap.  Can’t remember.  Seems like I’m supposed to do something wanky like going east when I really want to go west.  But that can’t be right.  How can that be right?

So, I use my highly-prized left brain and go west…

To pass the time, I call my momma on the phone.  Momma and I like to talk when I’m on the road.

Fast forward an hour.

I see 3 of those huge windmill turbine thingies, standing side by side.

Hmm.  Those are new.  Wonder when they put those up?

Wait a minute.

Oh, Lord, where AM I?

Oh, Lord gives me a sign:  OMAHA  70 miles.

Crap.  Crap.  Triple crap.

I look at my trip mileage…I’ve gone 60 miles in the wrong direction.

After THAT sinks in, I think…well…maybe I’ve drifted south as I’ve gone west…maybe there’s a shortcut to the farm instead of going all the freaking way back to Des Moines.

I wake up GPS Girl who promptly shakes her finger at me and says “No Stinking Way.”

I call Tom (not happy) then call Momma back and drive the 60 miles back to Des Moines.  Grab I-35 and head south.  Got it made now, but just to be safe, I set the GPS for Princeton.  I notice that GPS Girl has me cutting over to 65 on a road I don’t usually take.  No biggy.  I’ll take my usual route anyway, and shut her up if I have to.

Fast forward 45 minutes or so.

I miss my normal exit.  (Momma and I are still talking.)

Ok, fine.  I’ll do it GG’s way.  I take the unknown exit and turn onto the road to Hell.  It’s literally the world’s largest paved roller coaster.  Hills and dips and 90º curves…one after another after another.  Have to slow down or throw up.  It’s that bad.

I’m way out of familiar territory…but I still know that I have to hit 65 South sooner or later.  And I have to go east to do that.  That’s exactly how much I know for sure.  Everything else is pretty much a crap shoot.

I call Tom.  “I think I’m going to be later than I told you last time.”

“WHY?  Where are you?”

“Not exactly sure.  I ended up taking some weird exit because I missed the one to Leon.  This road sucks big time.”

So far we’re all okay…me and Tom and Momma and GPS girl.  Until GG tells me my next turn is a right onto a road that’s closed.

Truthfully, at this point I have no idea if I’m in Missouri or Iowa or Nebraska.

Which is not a totally big deal for me…since I’m pretty much used to not knowing exactly where I am so.  I’m not exactly happy…but what the hay?

Since I am so totally disgusted with the road I’ve just driven and I figure ALL roads must eventually lead to 65, I take a left at the closed road instead of a right (it’s a “T” intersection…the only other option was to go back the way I came), thinking I’ll hook back around with a right and a right again at the first opportunity.

45 minutes later I’m still lost on gravel roads.  Intermittent calls to Momma (in and out of phone service – mostly out).  Just enough to keep her anxiety up while I go from gravel to gravel and…as God as my witness…THE WORST paved roads I’ve ever seen in my life.  WAY worse to drive on than the gravels.  Torn up, huge hunks of pavement missing.  Big open wounds of cut up pavement where you’re tires are supposed to go…like some giant concrete eating monster started dining a la carte in double lines down the road where I’m supposed to be driving.  Mile after mile after mile after mile of that.

GG has pretty much stopped speaking to me…except to mumble the occasional “You have entered an area that is uncharted.”  and a few weak suggestions to turn right and proceed with caution onto what can best be described as cow paths through an open field.

I’m not making this up.

Finally, after sitting in the middle of the “road” for 5 minutes looking at a set of Amish cart tracks through a CRP field (GG’s suggestion for my best route) wondering what to do, I suck it up and move forward.  In less than ¼ mile, there’s an actual to God, bona fide paved county road.  I take a right.  Come in the back way to some little town I’ve never heard of…but which…hallelujah, Jesus…connects to 65.

I come rolling into the farm about 5:30.  My 2-hour, 110 mile trip has taken me over 4 hours and 250 miles.

I’m not happy.  Tom’s not happy.  GPS Girl’s not happy.

But I soon as I call her and let her know I’m not lost anymore…Momma?  She’s happy.