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Still waiting for the little red haired girl . . .

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September 28th, 2011

I am feeling the impending doom of my 40th birthday looming over me.  It’s just next Friday.  In a way, I really can’t believe it.  40 seems not old to me but significant.
Somewhere around the age of 30-32, I remember going out to lunch as a performance reward with some of my coworkers to a nice restaurant in West Des Moines.  Next to us, was a long table of about 10-15 women.  It was obvious that they were celebrating a 40th birthday, due to the “four-o’s” on the streamers and balloons.  All of the women were stylishly dressed, and their hair and make-up was nicely done.  One of my coworkers, who was and still is a close friend, said to me, “Look how fashionable they are, Mary.  That’s what you’re going to look like at 40.”  And I remember looking at the ladies again and thinking that they were absolutely fabulous. If that’s what 40 looks like, then it’s going to be OK.   Now that I am on the eve of 40 and withering in the shadow of the Grim Reaper, I’ve decided that I don’t want to turn 40, and I’m not going to.
I think the problem is that because 40 seems significant, I have begun to dwell on what things I have not done with my life, and I need to remind myself of all the time I may have left to do them.  My grandparents retired at around 50 years old, and they had no idea that they would live to be 96 and 105 years old.  It is likely that my life is not even half over at this point.
What I also didn’t realize as a kid is that as adults, we do not always necessarily feel our age.  Some days I do feel like I’m 80, but there are also other days I feel like I am 10 years old.  Most of the time, I feel like I’m in my 20’s, but my 20 year-old self is not staring back at me from the mirror.  Going to my class reunion really put this in perspective.  It isn’t fair to walk into the local bar and try to compare myself most of the inhabitants in their early to mid and even late 20’s. I can’t compete and don’t even try to compete with them.  When I was able to mingle with my female classmates and peers at my class reunion, I realized those bitches were no better looking or younger than I.
What will take away the sting of the 40th birthday is that I’m going on a trip.  So, instead of dwelling on 40, I really am focused on the fact that I will finally have a vacation, which hasn’t happened in at least five years!  Preparing and packing for the trip are totally distracting me.  Viva Las Vegas!

September 20th, 2011

Babies, Babies, Everywhere

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I was recently reading One Day by David Nichols, and a passage really resonated with me:

There are conversations Emma no longer wants to have and they all concern babies.  The first few were novel enough, and yes, there was something intriguing, funny and touching about seeing your friends' features blended and fused in miniature like that.  And of course there is always joy in witnessing the joy of others.

But not that much joy, and this year it seems that every time she leaves the house some new infant is being jammed in her face.  She feels the same dread as when someone produces a brick-sized pile of their holiday snaps: great that you had a nice time, but what's it got to do with me?  To this end, Emma has a fascinated-face that she puts on when a friend tells her about the miseries of labour, what drugs were used, whether they caved and went for the epidural, the agony, the joy.

But there's nothing transferable about the miracle of childbirth, or parenthood in general.

It may not be popular to admit, but sometimes I really get tired of all the baby talk.  Recently, there seems to be a baby boom.  My coworkers and friends are becoming parents and yes, even grandparents, and while I think it is certainly polite to inquire in general how things are going, I’ve become exhausted with all the gory details: Epidurals, episiotomies, labor, cervixes and uteri, hemorrhoids, etc.  I never feel that I can really take part in these conversations, and I know that people don’t even stop to consider for a moment that they’re excluding others.  I’ve just found myself thinking, “Really? We’re on this topic again?” Everyone gets to chime in with their labor experiences.
Worse yet are the “Just you waits” or “When are you going to starts,” and it quite frankly annoys me that everyone thinks everyone else should be having a baby or at the very least should want a baby.  I met up with a college friend this summer whom had actually become a Christmas card friend.  In other words, we had been pretty much reduced to sending the form letter Christmas card, in exchange for the Christmas card with only a signature inside.  I was wary of seeing her again because she built her house at the corner of marriage/baby street, which is fine, as long as one also accepts that there are other lifestyle options.  She spent our lunch complaining about her kids (while they were sitting at the table with us) the entire time, then proceeded to ask (right in front of the boyfriend) when we were going to have kids, or wouldn’t we like to have kids, or something to that effect.  I forget the specific question, but I suddenly remembered why we had lost contact, and I don’t need to see her again.
I respect the choice to have kids, and I think it’s one of the most joyful and difficult endeavors in life.  Rewarding and neverending, which may also sound negative, but what I mean is that your child, regardless of age, is always your child.  I admire people greatly who make sacrifices to have children, treat them well, and raise them well. Some people assume it’s a given for everyone.  I’m sure I can’t even tap into the pain of people who desperately want children who can’t have them . . .  I’m not even saying never for myself, although I realize time is running out.  I think I just need to vent about the people who act as though there’s an exclusive club I’m not a member of.  I don’t like the implication that my life if much less busy and less important due to lack of children.  I’m tired of listening to the labor horror stories.
Thankfully, my closest friends, and even my family (traditional as they are) are not hounding me about “When are you having kids?” “Don’t you want to have kids?” or “Aren’t your eggs spoiling/past their sell date?”  Those are the people I’ve kept in my life, and thankfully, the people who have kept me in theirs.

August 5th, 2011

Back to School

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I was in my exercise class on Wednesday morning (at 5:20 a.m., no less), and one of my fellow classmates asked the instructor when her son was going to college.  At first, the instructor seemed a bit depressed and sad that her son was going to be moving away for the school year.  And I thought to myself, “Did my parents really miss me when I left for college?”  It seemed hard for me to fathom, since I was the last child of the family to leave home.  Also, since there is a big age gap between my siblings and I, my parents had to wait a long time before they had a child-free home.  In fact, it really wasn’t a child-free home because I lived with parents again in the summertime.
The instructor’s mood seemed to brighten when she talked about the shopping trip she and her son took and how different it was to shop with her son, in comparison to her daughter.  It took her daughter over five trips just to buy a backpack, while her son didn’t think he’d need to buy any laundry detergent because he’d be coming home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve probably revealed too much at this point about someone who is nearly a perfect stranger, but hearing her talk about college reminded me of my college days with fondness.
I packed for UNI in the summer of 1990, and I was actually dragging me feet regarding the whole college experience.  At one point, I told my mother that I was thinking about working for a couple of years before going to college.  My mother’s face turned fierce, and she said, “You’re going!”  In fact, I think I was so reluctant that she actually did most of the packing for me.  I know that she was afraid if I didn’t attend college right after I graduated high school, I would never go, and now that I’m an adult, I realize how much harder it would be to try to work full-time and attend college.  Many people who “put off” college never go.
My first dose of reality was actually purchasing the cleaning supplies, snacks, and toiletries I would need for college.  Perhaps I lived a sheltered life, but I never had to buy my own fabric softener, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, etc. with my own money before.  I nearly fainted at the cash register when my bill reached over $100.  Necessities are expensive!

Unlike a lot of college kids these days, all of my stuff fit into the family car.  I took a radio/tape player and clothes.  That was all I had.  Later, I acquired some carpet, a loft, a chair, and took  my family's "extra" tiny black and white TV, but the first year I didn't have much.  I shudder to remember our dorms were not air conditioned the entire four years I attended college, either, so I did bring a fan, too. 

I was sharing a room with a sophomore, and we exchanged a few letters over the course of the summer, and she seemed cool.  When I moved in (up four flights of stairs with no elevator on a blazing hot day), it was apparent that she had already moved in, but had gone out.  I unpacked the few things I had and then lay down on my bed. 

I really wondered what the fuck I had done.  I had no car and home was about four hours away.  My high school graduating class was around 70 people.  I knew everyone and everyone knew me.  I had moved to a campus of 13,000 to 14,000 people, and I knew absolutely no one.  Not a single person from my graduating class was attending UNI.  I was filled with regret.  I wondered why I didn't just stay home and attend the local community college.  Or why didn't I at least choose a college where I might know someone?  What if I couldn't even pass my classes?  What if my small-school education didn't prepare me for a university?

Eventually, I fell asleep and woke to the sounds of my roommate unpacking.  I'm sure at first she was quiet, but eventually she began closing doors and drawers a little more noisily to wake me up so we could talk. And to be honest, once my roommate and I started talking, I never regretted my decision to go to UNI again.  Ever.  It honestly was the most fun years of my life so far-- Little responsibility and a lot of freedom.  And the best part was that I knew how great it was when I was there and enjoyed it to the fullest.

August 1st, 2011

"During the 'working' day, she labored beside-- not behind-- my father in the fields.  Her day began before sunup, and did not end until late at night.  There was never a moment for her to sit down, undisturbed, to unravel her own private thoughts; never a time free from interruption-- by work or the noisy inquiries of her many children.  And yet, it is to my mother-- and all mothers who were not famous-- that I went in search of the secret of what has fed that muzzled and often mutilated, but vibrant, creative spirit . . ."

July 28th, 2011

Things I Dig Right Now

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Things have been so negative lately. I have been surrounded with negativity, reading negativity, watching negativity, and wallowing in my own negativity.  So, I'm going to try to focus on the positive . . . for a few minutes.

Things I love right now:
1. Air conditioning.  I really couldn’t live without it!  I have had jobs in un-air-conditioned buildings and worked outside in the summer, so I need to remind myself of that when I’m freezing in my office and getting bumped around by penguins and polar bears.
2. Wedges.  I love wedge sandals, and I hope they never go out of style because I can’t seem to stop buying them!  I feel more stable in wedges than in heels, especially high heels.  Sometimes I’m surprised by how tall I am when I wear them.
3. Project Runway.  I am so addicted to this show.  I have plowed through all seven seasons, and I just started season eight, which is the last.  I was very excited to learn that a brand-new season  is starting this week!  For those not familiar with the show, the contestants are fashion designers who are given challenges to create clothes with limited time, money, and materials.  On occasion, the designers have had to create outfits with materials from a party store, a hardware store, and a grocery store, to name a few.  The results are always interesting!
4. Dark chocolate.  Where has it been all my life?  As a child, I was a milk chocolate eater, but I have become a total snob since I’ve been turned on to dark chocolate.
5. Spending all day on the couch reading a really great book.  Bonus points if it’s actually a rainy day, then I don’t feel guilty.
6. Fresh laundry. I love when my laundry is done because I hate doing it, but I love the smell of fresh laundry, and I love crisp jeans.
7. Manicures.  I prefer going to get my nails done, even though I’m perfectly capable of doing them myself, and I’m actually very good at it.  It’s just fun to sit back and relax, and I always have to get a little flower design on one of the nails of each hand.
8. Early outs.  Naturally, I’m not in school anymore and I don’t get any early dismissals, but because I work 8.5 hours each day, I get to leave at 2:30, instead of 5:00 every Friday. 
9. Hungry Girl.  I know I’ve already written a post about her, but I am really enjoying her low-calorie recipes. So far, I have sampled two cocktail recipes, two chicken recipes, and a dessert recipe for Mississippi Mug Pie, which is a chocolate cake baked with chocolate chips, whipped cream, and pudding in a coffee cup in the microwave. Yum!  So far, she’s batting five for five.
10.  Nasty Girls by Inaya Day is my new theme song. My favorite lyrics: “I’m lookin’ for a man to love me like I’ve never been loved before.  I’m lookin’ for a man that’ll do it anywhere, even on a limousine floor.”  It doesn’t get better than that.
11. Minions. I loved the movie Despicable Me, and I’ve been given two inflatable minions that sit on my desk at work.  Nevermind that they do sort of remind me that I am a minion.
12. My “new” Mac.  Mike bought himself a new Mac and let me have his old computer. I haven’t used a Mac since my teaching days, so I’m still getting used to it, but I love how much faster it is than my old one!
13. Punkin’s cat tunnel.  I bought Punkin a cat tunnel at Pet Smart, and it may be the best $20 I’ve ever spent.  Shawshank Kitty never seems to tire of the tunnel, even though she has the attention span of a toddler in general.
14. Sleeping in.  So many mornings, I get up to go to exercise class or go walking/running.  And even more mornings, I intend to get up early to exercise but don’t.  I love being able to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays with no guilt.  I can get extra sleep and still get a work out done at some point in the day.

15. Fridays when the work day is over.  I can't wait until 2:31 p.m. tomorrow!

July 23rd, 2011

Retail Hell

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I have begun reading Retail Hell by Freeman Hall, and I'm devouring it.  He describes himself as a Retail Slave who was the first male handbag salesperson at The Big Fancy.  In the book, he does not identify the store, but the back cover refers to Nordstrom.  At any rate, I was hooked from the beginning of the book, when he describes a customer attempting to return a $2000 purse that had obviously been used at the end of a very long shift right as the store was closing.  Hall worked on commission, and every return was deducted from his paycheck.  

As he's examining the designer handbag with the customer, he notices several scratches on the front, though the customer insists that it has not been used.  When he views the inside of the purse, he finds make up smeared on the lining, and when he looks through the pockets, he finds crumpled up receipts, tampons, and even a dirty sports bra, which is the "icing on the cake."  He refuses to give her a refund, and then she insists on speaking to a store manager.  The store manager authorizes the return, stating that the customer will just complain to Corporate, who will take the handbag back anyway.  This obviously dismays the author.  He writes:

"I feel like a hooker who just gave a ten-hour blow job and was beat up and robbed by the john, just to have the police officer who witnessed it all say, "Oh well, better luck on the next blow job."

To make matters worse, the $2000 return made his sales a negative number for the day, and it was the last day of the pay period. So far, Retail Hell has been a hilarious read.

July 8th, 2011

"The ancients believe that the moist track left by the snail as it crept was the snail's own essence, depleting its body little by little; the farther the snail toiled, the smaller it became, until it finally rubbed itself out.  That is how perfectionists are.  Say to us Excellence, and we will show you how to use up our substance and wear ourselves away, while scarcely making any progress at all."

July 6th, 2011

Hurrah for Hungry Girl!

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I’ve seen the Hungry Girl cookbooks out for years now, even in such discount stores as K-mart and Target, so I figured they must be popular. I’ve browsed through the recipes, but wasn’t tempted to buy a cookbook until last week. What’s great is that most cookbooks do not cater to the singleton, but most of the Hungry Girl recipes yield one to four servings, many of them one serving.

I happened to stumble upon the Hungry Girl’s show on the Food Network on Sunday morning, and I was tempted because the recipes actually appeared to be doable, unlike a lot of what we see on cooking shows (Hello, Martha, I’m lookin’ at you. And you, Julia, I’m referring to you). So, I stopped by the B and N on Monday and found two of her cookbooks, though she has written more. I was most interested in 300 Under 300 (as in 300 recipe under 300 calories) and 200 Under 200. I settled on the 300 recipes because I was able to find the recipe I had seen HG prepare on her show, Taco-Stuffed Chicken Breasts. The other upside of her recipes is that many of them do not require an entire grocery store full of ingredients. The Nacho-Riffic Stuffed Chicken was made with 5-ounce chicken breasts pounded flat. The filling was refried beans, Laughing Cow cheese, and fat-free shredded cheddar. Each of the four breasts was filled with a quarter of the stuffing mix and rolled up. Then, they were secured with a toothpick, and each was covered with a tablespoon of taco sauce and crushed fat-free taco chips and were baked in the oven. They were splendid! Honestly, I’ve done a lot of experimentation with low-calorie cooking. Often-times, the end result is bland or at best “good enough.” I can truly say the taco chicken breasts were good food, not just “good low-calorie food.”

Online, I found the other recipe HG prepared on the show, margaritas. I recently have become turned on to margaritas because one of my new favorite restaurants, Viva La Bamba, features a drink special for margaritas on Saturday nights. They are literally less than $1.50. Unfortunately, I also know that margaritas are about the worst drink calorie-wise, which is why I have avoided them in the past. The HG recipe is easy and low-calorie. Her solution is that in an alcoholic beverage, the calories should come from the alcohol and not from mixers.


* ¾ cup Sierra Mist Free (or Diet Sprite, Diet 7-Up or any diet lemon-lime soda)

* 1.5 oz tequila

* 1 packet (two 5-calorie servings) sugar free powdered drink mix lemonade (I used the Crystal Light lemonade mix individual packets that I add to my bottled water)

* 2 tbsp lime juice

Mix all ingredients together and pour over one coup of crushed ice.

Actually, the margaritas taste really great blended, which is how we prepared ours. And get this, they are only 115 calories! The recipe above is for one drink, but it can easily be double, tripled, and so on. I can't believe this is a diet drink.

July 2nd, 2011

"Does he love me? Does he love anyone more than me? Does he love me more than I love him? Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his comapany."

June 28th, 2011

I feel as though I spend my life on or off the wagon. There is no “in between.” I am not referring to alcohol when I use the phrases “on the wagon” and “off the wagon.” I actually mean diet and exercise. Either I am strictly following my diet and exercise regime, or I am skipping exercise entirely and eating whatever the hell I want. Sometimes I have been run over by the wagon. Sometimes I am chasing the wagon, trying to get on. I was recently on a food bender, and I have been trying to rectify the situation the last two weeks.

I have set a “critical mass” weight which I will not allow myself to surpass. I think we’ve all experienced five pounds becoming ten becoming twenty and so on. If I set a limit that I will not exceed, then I should not find myself in the position of having to lose more than five pounds. I am at critical mass, so I’ve decided to grab the reins.

One way in which I am really trying to improve my health is to continue to exercise, even if I do go on a bit of a food bender. It may be futile to try to “exercise away” the thousands of additional calories I’m taking in, but the bigger danger is falling out of the habit of exercising at all. Reading about muscle mass loss after the age of 40 is enough to make me believe that regular exercise is important.

Obviously, I need to find a better way to incorporate the foods I really love into my diet (cheeseburgers and fries, ice cream, and chocolate, to name a few) without trying to follow a strict diet every couple of weeks to get myself “back in line.” Dieting always seems to follow a regular cycle for me:

Day One: I am motivated to begin my diet and eager to lose weight. The first day is not bad, and my enthusiasm helps buoy me.

Day Two: I am still enthusiastic, but I’m beginning to get a little hungry. Solution? Let’s drink more water, or for a nice treat, Crystal Light. Chew sugar-free gum. Distract myself. Not as motivated to exercise, but I can make it happen.

Day Three: I am daydreaming about the vending machine. I may even go look at the selections and press my nose against the glass in front of my favorites. I am obsessively chewing gum. I’m not trying to starve myself here. I’m just trying to break some bad snacking habits. In addition, I’m attempting to avoid soda or at least cut down my intake.

Day Four: Definitely hungry. Considering eating the paper on my desk. Chewing gum and filling up on water is not helping. Getting crabby. Exercise sucks.

Day Five: Drank five diet sodas. Still hungry. Fuck exercise.

Day Six: McDonald's drive-thru or DQ?

You get the picture. I’m really not on a bread and water diet. I just have trouble dealing with cravings. I usually can behave myself quite well during the week and stick to my exercise routine, but the weekend is trouble. Part of the problem is that I’m in the outside world instead of a trapped in an office, and I want to socialize and eat and drink with my family and friends. I have much more free time to think about food. I’m watching TV, and I’m bombarded by food commercials. Weekends are definitely my weakness and I need to work on it to be successful. Usually, whatever success I’ve had losing weight during the week is undone by the weekend, which is maddening. Every Monday, I’m at the same starting point.

On Sunday, I went out to lunch with a friend to Okoboji Grill. I knew that I should probably order the chef salad. I’ve actually had the chef salad there, and I like it. But, knowing my friend was ordering a steak sandwich and Boji fries, I knew I would not want to sit across from her and watch her eat the Boji fries. So, I ordered my own. I know it’s a cop out, but I might have actually tried to wrestle her to floor just to be able to try to steal her plate. And so, this Monday I restarted again.
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