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

Wintry Mix

Tom and I do and will forever have equal and opposite reactions to snow.

I think of snow in terms of aesthetics.  Newborn snow is clean and white.  I like clean and white.    It looks pretty when it’s falling (if I’m not looking at it through a windshield at night).  I love it.  In a cozy, abstract, looking-through-the-window-with-a-cup-of-coffee-in-my-hand kinda way.  I like poetry about snow.  Glossy pictures.  Screen savers.

I also think of snow in terms of carbohydrates and entertainment.  And carbohydrates as entertainment..

Snow + wind = microwave popcorn + chocolate in any form + any movie Meryl Streep was ever in (except She-Devil).

Tom thinks about snow like a Labrador retriever does.  Get out there!  Get INTO it!  Run, jump, tromp, kick, swirl.  Well, maybe not swirl.  But…shake it up…BIG.  Go chop something down or shoot something heavy and drag it a hundred yards.  Pee somewhere.

Tom hears there’s a snowstorm is coming and starts checking his tires.  I hear a snowstorm is coming and start checking my stash of M & M’s, coffee and toilet paper.

When we lived in South Carolina, a blizzard came through and it was predicted that we could get up to 2 inches of snow.  Panic ensued.  Schools and banks and post offices closed.  Even the interstate.  In a matter of minutes, stores ran out of coffee and toilet paper and copies of The National Enquirer.  One poor woman was so frazzled that she forgot her baby (in its car seat) on the roof of her car.  She was drumming her fingers at a stoplight when another panic stricken woman flagged her down, just before Junior took a walk on the wild side.

All this happened BEFORE the first snowflake fell.

True to my southern Missouri roots, I’m always ready/willing/eager to freak out about snow or ice coming.  But even I was a little puzzled about the prediction of 2 inches of snow causing a stampede of terrified citizens to act a whole lot like extras in a Charlton Heston disaster film.

But…I was happy to run with that herd.  Especially since it meant getting off work.  And, since apparently nobody buys sandpaper in the midst of a natural disaster, Tom came home early too.

Normally, this would be a no brainer for us.  Young.  Healthy.  Newlywed.  We could spend hours in bed.  Sometimes we missed Sunday all together.   You get the idea.

I figured that since this might be our last day on earth and all the Chinese buffets were closed, Tom and I had our afternoon and evening pretty much planned.

Then, Tom comes home.

I’m in my honeymoon nightie rummaging through the kitchen cabinets.

“Did you hear?”  He’s out of breath.

“Yeah.  I heard.  We’re going to be snowed in!  Do you know where that box of Little Debbie’s went?”

“It’s crazy out there.  I saw three cars in the ditch, and it hasn’t even started snowing yet.”

“I know.  These southerners are totally wacko.  They even closed Piggly Wiggly.  What’s up with that?  How the heck are we supposed to stock up for a blizzard if there aren’t any grocery stores open?  I’m talking about those chocolate cakes with the cream layer in the middle.  Have you seen them?”

“I need to go gas up the truck before the stations close!”  He’s in a heightened state of excitement beyond anything I’ve ever seen.  And I’ve seen Tom Bell excited a lot.

“What?  We’re not going anywhere.  It’s getting ready to SNOW, Tom.”

“I know!  I’m getting the  truck gassed up so I can go pull all the nuts out of the ditch.”

I stand up and frown at him, distracted…temporarily…from my pursuit of dessert.

“What are you talking about?  We’re going to be snowed IN.”

“Snowed IN??  Are you serious?  It’s 20º out there.  We’re going to get 2 inches of snow…tops…in this whole sorry excuse for winter they have down here. And you think I’m going to miss it by hanging around the house?”

Our eyes lock.

This is confusing the crap out of me.  I think fast and try another tack.

I put my hand on one hip and say, “I think you’re going to want to stay home with me and “relax” for awhile.”  I try to look pouty and come hither.

It’s a little scary to see Tom so conflicted.  Seventeen (or more) expressions fly across his face in a matter of seconds.  His eyes dart from the window to me.  From the bedroom to me.  From the window to the bedroom.  And back to me.  I smile and twitch my eyebrows twice and nod toward the bedroom.

In a flash, he starts walking down the hall.  Yanking off suit and tie.

Yes!

I hurry down the hall.  Walking through the door, I’m greeted by Tom’s behind.  He’s bent over, headfirst in the closet.  It sounds like he’s rummaging through my shoes.

“Do you know what I did with my winter boots?”

“Boots.  You want your boots?”

“Yeah.  I need my boots.  It’s going to snow!”  He stands up and turns around, frowning and studying my face like he does when I’m not wearing makeup.

“And keys…I need the truck keys.  Hey!  You wanna go with?”

I stiffen.  “No, no thanks.  I’ll pass on sliding down icy back roads and freezing to death in 10-foot snowdrifts.”

“Well, your loss,” he says cheerfully.

And, as God as my witness, he means it.

I follow him around for the next 15 minutes, biting my fingernails, as he make-shifts his Snow Hero Rescue Outfit.  Sweatshirt.  Jeans.  Tennis shoes.  Rubber bands and plastic bags for “boots” just in case.  Flashlight.  Jumper cables.  Heavy Rope.

All set.

I walk him to the door.  Give him a peck on the cheek.

He smiles down, bear hugs me, heads down the steps.  “I’ll see you sometime tonight.”

“Yeah, right.  Be a real snow hero and see if you can find me a Snickers out there in the great barren waste.”

“At your service!”

I don’t think so.

Merry Christmas, Evelyn

This is from a few years back…2008, I think. But it’s Christmas and I guess I’m feeling nostalgic. Go figure.

——

We have two snow shovels, but they’re still at the other house, and Tom won’t let me buy a new one.  So, he was out trying to clean the ice and snow off our sidewalks last night with a really old metal rake and the backside of a push broom.  I’m not kidding.

Meanwhile, I come outside and slip on invisible driveway ice and fall hard, banging the heck out of my side and scraping my knee.

This was after having an MRI for my back (a strangely syncopated experience like a fusion of Native American drums and the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey) AND having blood drawn, which is no small challenge for me and my crappy veins.

Not my best day.

Then, we decide to return the bar stools to Kmart.

You know.  The ones I said were starting to grow on me?  They didn’t grow on Tom. Not even one tiny little bit.

Evelyn at the service desk is going to help.  I estimate that Evelyn is pushing 70 (or closer to 55 and a really heavy smoker).  Thin. Short-cropped, apricot-colored hair.  Five earrings in her left ear.  Three on the right. Really thick, really long, neon pink fake fingernails.  Yellowed on the underside.  Bad arthritis in her hands.  White turtleneck (blouse, not skin) with 3 or 4 stains on the front, which can drive a customer crazy if they have to wait in line long enough.

You know how I told you about the hours and hours I’ve spent looking for bar stools online?  It took longer than that to return them, because it wasn’t hard to confuse Evelyn.

I know something’s up when one of Evelyn’s co-workers immediately suggests that she get some help from the store manager with this transaction, since they don’t do returns on bar stools from Kmart.com that often.  Evelyn doesn’t want any help.  She wants to do it by herself.

Forty-five minutes later she’s still frowning at the cash register.  A couple of employees are circling in the background.  Furtive sideways glances.  Nobody’s making eye contact.  I’m whispering apologies to the poor woman behind me who just popped in to return a DVD 20 minutes ago.  Tom’s in the van out front in the No Parking section waiting to unload.  Through the door, I see him get out of the car at least twice to put money in the Salvation Army bucket…like it’s a parking meter.

I keep thinking, Settle down, settle down, settle down, Cherie.  This could be you in a few years, if you don’t get a grip.

At last, Evelyn looks up and says, “Oh.  I can’t give you a refund until the merchandise is in the store.”

Yes!  “Well, we need some help bringing them in.  Can you get us some help?”

She pages the first guy.  “Troy?  Can you come and bring some bar stools in? Are you busy?  What are you doing?  Or do you want me to page Mike instead?”

They have a nice little chat, and Troy wants Mike to do it.  Evelyn pages Mike.  “Mike?  What are you doing?”

Mike tells her what he’s doing.

“Oh.  Ok.  Can you bring in a return for a customer?”

Fifteen-year-old Mike comes sauntering up about 5 minutes later.  “You need some help?” he smiles.

We go out to the car.  He sees that the bar stool boxes fill the back of the van.

“Oh, I’m going to need a flatbed for this.”

Another 5 minutes.

In those 10 minutes, Evelyn has managed to almost complete the return for DVD lady. There are now 4 people in line behind her.

We come rolling in with our load.  Evelyn drops what she’s doing mid-transaction and shuffles back to me.  Answers the phone 3 times.

“This is Evelyn at the Clive Kmart.  What can I help you Discover?”

Two more people get in line.

She scans the bar code on one of the boxes; looks surprised when something happens on her computer.  Punches a few buttons.  I swipe my card.  And, in an event no less marvelous than the Christmas miracle, the printer spits out a cash register tape.

BUT…Evelyn can’t find her stapler to staple the receipts together.  I point it out to her at the other register.  Shuffle.  Shuffle.  She tries to staple.  No luck.  Tries again.  Still no luck.  Opens the stapler.  It’s out of staples.  She freezes for a minute.  Closes it up and tries to staple again.  Nope.

“That’s ok. I don’t need them stapled.”

She takes a minute to think over the situation.

Starts moving up and down behind the counter looking in drawers.  Finally locates the staples in the front drawer, the second time she looks.  It takes another minute to remember how to open the stapler again, but she manages to reload…after one more tense minute when it looks like they’re not going to fit in the stapler chute.

I scan the crowd, waiting for someone (most likely that person Evelyn walked away from when we came back in with the flat bed) to open fire with an assault weapon.

Stony silence.  All eyes averted.

Evelyn hands over my receipts.  The amount she has returned to my card is $15 more than I originally paid.  Normal Me immediately points out mistakes like this. Always. Very bad karma to keep money that’s not yours.

I look at the crowd.

I look at Evelyn.

One more time at my receipt.

Sorry, Jesus.

Sorry, God.

Sorrrry, Kmart and Karma.

“Thank you.”  I say.

She looks up for the first time in a very long time and gives me a crooked little smile. “You’re welcome. Thanks for shopping at Kmart.”

Merry Christmas, Evelyn.  

 

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.

Practice

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?

While?

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.

Prayer.

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.

Oh…my…Lord…

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.