Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Gym Virgin gets pumped

I’ll concede that I was born with pretty good genes, but there’s a point in time (and if truth be told, I reached it a few years ago) where some effort is required to maintain the chassis. However, as mentioned in an earlier post, I have an aversion to paying for services that I can do myself for free. And since exercise falls into this category, I just couldn’t bring myself to join a gym.

I tried to remedy the situation on my own–by walking, biking, etc., but I knew my meager efforts weren’t quite cutting it. So last fall when a new fitness center opened very close to my house, I thought: Maybe it’s time. For one thing, the gym was running a Grand Opening special. For another, numerous medical studies have concluded that people with my husband’s condition benefit from regular exercise. So having a convenient place to exercise would not only help me get in shape–it would actually be therapeutic for him. Therefore a gym membership was an easy expense to justify for that reason alone. But would joining a gym translate into actually working out?

photoWe took a tour of the facility and signed up for a membership on the spot. The membership included a free consult with a personal trainer (designed for the purpose of up-selling a fitness package), so we scheduled the consult for a few days later. The training director put me through some basic fitness tests that underscored the fact that I needed some help. While my height/weight/BMI were all within a good range, my flexibility, endurance and strength were not. Faced with the offer of special introductory pricing for a package of personal training sessions, I had to make a shrewd financial decision. We had already joined and would be paying a monthly fee—sunk costs. If we never actually went to the gym, we’d join the millions of Americans who pay a monthly membership that funds nothing but good intentions. I knew I needed some accountability, so I signed up for a year’s worth of training sessions.

My personal trainer is a petite, pretty blonde who is probably underestimated on a regular basis by the men she meets outside the gym. And I pity the man who makes that mistake. 😉 To kick off our first session, she asked me some questions about my fitness routine and experience. I told her I was a gym virgin and didn’t even know how to use most of the machines. In short, I told her: “Assume I know nothing. Assume everything needs work.”

With this liberal direction, Marcia got down to business. She took me over to the free weights and handed me a 40 lb. barbell. “Okay, stomach in, butt out,” she ordered. “Girls out! Shoulders back!” she continued, coaxing me into a posture that my mother had been discouraging in me since puberty. “Stick ’em out! Be shameless! Okay, now bend over slowly… There you go!” The back of the gym is where all the serious iron-pumpers hang out, and I could see their amused smirks as my trainer ordered me about.

And so the Gym Virgin mastered the exaggerated, floozy stance necessary to properly execute a Romanian Deadlift (at least, I think that’s what it’s called).

Marcia alternately encourages and challenges me to try progressively heavier weights (check out those squats). And while I still feel like a weakling when I see what Marcia can do, I’ve found that I actually enjoy my workouts. The slow progress is my own darn fault since my training appointment is the only time I get to the gym some weeks.  This proves my accountability theory correct, but I’m sticking with it—and am starting to develop some pretty buff arms.

photo-2Perhaps as important as the physical benefit is the psychological boost that comes from getting out of the house and being active on a cold winter’s evening. Or realizing that I’m still capable of learning new skills and healthy habits. Or maybe it’s just having an excuse to have fun and act a little shameless in pursuit of a better bod. 🙂

Finding your happy place

For me, there is nothing in the world like being out dancing with girlfriends. I probably should be saying something like “having children,” “watching a beautiful sunset,” or “accomplishing a long-term goal.” But if I am being perfectly honest, my true happy place is out with girls dancing. It is the perfect pairing of two favorite things.

Dancing: My husband and kids know at any time Mom may throw on a playlist of a random genre and start a dance party around the house. It may be pop, glam rock, alternative, heavy metal, hip hop or even country (usually inspired by my last visit to the cabin and the local dance bar). Lately my morning routine has been blasting “Chicken Fried” and singing and dancing for the family. They find me a bit annoying but I’m hoping somewhere … deep down … they secretly find me fun and silly. How else do you break up a morning of crabby kids, a grumbling husband and facing another crazy day at the office? Especially since running away  does not seem to be an option.

Girlfriends: I don’t think I have to do too much explaining on this. Most likely, just seeing the word made you smile. These are those to whom you can say whatever you want to and they just get it. Some are really close and know all your intimate secrets. Others are fabulous neighbors, coworkers, workout partners or a  even random meet-up. They are the honest women who don’t try to tell you life is perfect, but are just there and get it with you. They make life perfect. Okay, I am gushing, but I do recognize when I am blessed.

So, combine these two fabulous things that make me feel completely free, totally myself,  and always put a huge smile on my face  – mix in with a couple drinks (the cherry on the top) – and I have a moment of selfish bliss. And that moment helps get me through a lot of other kinds of times.

I am hoping there are others out there who would consider volunteering or overcoming a challenge to be their happy place. They help add some balance to this world. (My runner-up happy place is on the couch – quiet with no one else around – with a glass of wine.) But, the important thing is knowing where it is and visiting it as often as you can.

True Confessions II: Freak outs and phobias

Did you think our earlier post was the full extent of our weirdness? Heck no, we’ve got plenty more where that came from…

Let’s talk about fears, aversions and phobias. Heights? Spiders? Nah, after all those are fairly normal–and one of the things I have a fear of? Being normal. 🙂

Stormy: Centipedes. There’s no reason they need so many legs! Millipedes? 10x worse! I once had a dream that I was laying in my bed and looked up to see a centipede above me on the ceiling. Then it dropped into my bed. I screamed, threw back the covers and leapt out of bed, nearly giving my poor husband a heart attack. At that point, I noticed that the room was completely dark, and there was no way that I could have seen a monkey on my ceiling, let alone a centipede. Frankly, I’d prefer a monkey.

Jaws_KitKat: Sharks. Now that seems like a pretty healthy and normal fear. I mean, sharp teeth, that scary fin circling you as it closes in for the attack, the Jaws theme song … scary stuff. But I must admit, my phobia is a bit extreme. Whenever I am in the ocean, I always make sure there are other people in front of me in the water to ensure plenty of other shark bait, allowing me to run as others are gobbled up. I am often harassed about a fear-induced comment I made once about how I need a gun whenever I am in the ocean so I could shoot myself if a shark was going to eat me. And, don’t get me going on my ultimate fear of my plane crashing into the water and surviving until the sharks attack. Thank goodness for airport bars prior to flying.

Stormy: Like Mitt Romney, I’m no fan of Big Bird. I have nothing against educational children’s shows as a whole (although, let’s face it: most of them are drivel). However, I detest the big yellow bird. His voice grates on me, he’s a bit stupid (bird brain?) and worst of all, he’s just plain dull. Dullness is unforgivable in a Muppet. Give me Gonzo anyday… Or better yet, Animal. He’s kinda sexy.

KitKat: Wet bread. Yuck! I do not get dipping toast in egg yolk, grilled cheese in tomato soup or crackers in chili. It turns a perfectly delicious starch into a mushy, baby food consistency. I am gagging a bit as I type. If I pack a sandwich for lunch, the tomatoes and any mayo is packed separately so my bread won’t have any soggy spots when I eat it. Anyone who wants my help doing the dishes will be extra careful to throw all bread items into the garbage and not the sink. The ultimate worst – dirty water soaked bread. If I even see a piece of wet bread stuck to a plate or floating in the sink, I will call it quits and someone else is on dish duty.

Stormy: Belly buttons. They’re like some sort of mystery portal–a connection between the life force that spawned me and my own individual identity. I know that doctors tie the umbilical cord off after childbirth to create the bellybutton, so part of me worries that the darn thing will unravel and all my guts will spew forth. Is that really so irrational? After all, they were invented by man, not God–and we all know, man makes mistakes! This phobia extends to touching my bellybutton: Don’t go there! I’ll take your hand off with a cleaver if you come within a 3 inch radius of it. (Ask my husband, Stumpy. He once rolled over in his sleep and his arm flopped over on my stomach. Now he’s a lefty.) Navel rings? Over my dead body.

KitKat: What freak ever made satin sheets a sexy bedroom item? There is nothing that would have me running from a room faster, no matter who was under those covers. I can’t stand even a hint of satin trim on anything. The feel of it makes me shudder. My sister used to like scratching on it and then watching me cover my ears and go into a fetal position. It is like fingernails down a blackboard for me. Back when women wore suntan nylons, someone scratching their leg was a form of torture for me. If you have an old pair, feel them–very similar to satin.

Stormy: Wool. As people grow older, it’s recommended that you start communicating your wishes on critical end-of-life decisions to your children. Here’s mine: When I’m in the nursing home, DON’T LET THEM PUT WOOL SOCKS ON ME! OR A WOOL BLANKET! In fact, I’ve mentioned this not only to my kids, but to my husband, nieces, nephews and sibs, just to make sure my bases are covered (BUT NOT IN WOOL!) This is not a quirk fear…Somewhere in my early 30s, I developed an acute sensitivity to wool. I can try on a sweater in a store and, within 10 seconds, identify that there’s wool in it. As little as 5% in a blended fabric can start a rash. I can only wear wool skirts if they are lined and my top is tucked into my tights. And if I wear a wool coat, I have to have a turtleneck or scarf wrapped around my neck. As someone who lives in chilly Minnesota, I live in perpetual fear of wool. Thank God for cashmere!

KitKat: Stormy left an aversion out that as mothers we share: The Berenstain Bears. There are a few things playing against them: To begin with the droning preachiness about every and any lesson you care to know and some you don’t. The Little Brute Family There is no humor behind the stories and boring characters. To top it off, the books are really long. Not the book I am looking to read as I am quickly trying to get my kids to sleep and finally enjoy some quiet time. Check out The Little Brut Family. Stormy gave that to me as a recommended family favorite. Reminded me of my family (before they turned polite), sense of humor,  and a quick bedtime read.

The Versatile Blogger Award

A-Christmas-StoryGolly gosh! Only a couple of weeks of sharing our rants, raves, delusions and dreams… and we’ve already received A Major Award!

KitKat and I are proud and humbled to have been chosen by Anna Lea West, author of “Life is Funny(and so is Anna Lea, by the way) to receive The Versatile Blogger award. Equally cool is the fact that this award comes with the responsibility of sharing some info about ourselves, as well as sharing some blog recommendations with our readers. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you.versatile-blogger-2-rg
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the Award image in your post.
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate other Bloggers for the award.
6. When nominating, include a link to their site.
7. Let other bloggers know that you nominated them.

Okay, despite being “instructionally challenged” (it’s a real condition–ask my husband), I’m going to call upon all the sequential thinking I can muster so as to execute my responsibilities with the solemnity this occasion requires. Here goes:

7 Random Facts about KitKat & Stormy…

  1. KitKat and Stormy both work in Marketing and met while working together for a former employer.
  2. KitKat once did a taped trapeze performance, complete with flashy circus-worthy outfit and boots.
  3. Stormy’s extended family includes 8 sibs, 32 sibs-in-law, 40 nieces and nephews and about the same number of great nieces and nephews. The last one arrived just last week. (Welcome Baby Jackson!)
  4. Stormy and KitKat both have daughters who were adopted from Asia.
  5. KitKat was once an avid rock climber.
  6. Stormy was introduced to the word “belligerent” by her 6th grade principal–who was using it to describe Stormy!
  7. KitKat and Stormy have held about 40 different jobs between them, encompassing everything from frying chicken in a gas station deli to selling cars.

Our Versatile Blogger picks–a potpourri of punchy, poignant and provocative posts!

  • Thoughts From Paris (Humor) – As a woman, it’s helpful to get an uncensored look at a guy’s thinking, especially when it confirms what we’ve always suspected: Boys are goofy. We discovered this blog when D.J. became our first Twitter follower, so he’s not only funny, he’s brave.
  • 3 Minus 3 (Prof. networking/project mgmt–with occasional posts about running) – One of Stormy’s best friends, the kind that would post bail. Tom has had a productive and successful career based largely on his ability to connect people.
  • Bombshell Beauty (Beauty tips for plus-size women) – Sara puts together inspiring, accessible outfits with snap and panache, reminding her readers that fashion is for everyone.
  • The Blogess (“Like Mother Teresa, only better”) – Good for a jolt of inspiration. Or just a jolt.
  • Positively Parkinson’s (Inspiration) – A lawyer with Parkinson’s writes about facing illness/adversity with courage and not losing your sense of humor or adventure. Thought-provoking regardless of what your personal obstacles may be.
  • Content Marketing Institute (Marketing) – Is it surprising that two marketers would include an industry blog? Good tips for bloggers as well as marketers.
  • The A to B of Cooking (Cooking) – Two friends alternate recipes based on a common theme or ingredient. This double-the-fun/halve-the-work approach to blogging inspired Stormy to tag-team with KitKat. Plus, who doesn’t like good food?

Where did all my visions go?

Well, this year’s vision board was not as smooth of a process as last time. Perhaps it was a bit of the first-time novelty wearing off. Or, since I threw out to the online world that I would share it, I knew/I felt like everything I selected would be scrutinized by any followers (since there are only a handful of you at this point, this probably was a bit silly, but I have never been one who likes to look like an under performer).

Now don’t get me wrong. The swilling-of-wine and laughing-with-friends part of this project was a blast. But, I could not find the right pictures. Actually, I had no idea what to put on my board. Instead of inspiring, it had turned into a to-do list project. Witnessing others easily pull theirs together did not help matters.

So there my board sat empty, except for the smiling girl in the rain brought over from last year. I did find a photo of a kid blowing bubbles forming the word dream. That seemed like an obvious one since I had no big aspirations for 2013 – I might as well prepare for 2014.

“Knock off a few easy ones,” a friend suggested, “don’t just think big.” That got me on a bit of a roll…take better care of my nails, try wearing my hair in different styles, a clock to remind me of stricter time-outs with the kids along with adding a “drop everything to read” ritual to try to get control over my children (spurred by a turn off-the-electronics battle as I left the house).

Other easy ones to add an were photos representing getting into better shape. With finding-the-perfect-stomach-and-butt-photo a common search for everyone, the Yoga and Shape magazines were very popular. And soon a drinking game was created: Toast and drink every time someone calls out a spotting of the “It’s a Yeast Party” advertisement. Yes, I am serious that is an actual ad (and placed enough to create a game out of it).

By the end of the night, I had a board put together.  It was fine. (Anyone who knows me knows fine is not a word I like or aspire to in any aspect of my life.)

This weekend I decided to head up to the cabin to “clean” with a girlfriend (a post later on that). I decided to grab my board, thinking maybe I would be able to add something. I wasn’t quite ready to give up.

Well, flipping through magazines I happened upon a photo of a girl. (Is it more proper to say woman? Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am still in denial about my age and prefer girl.) Now I can’t explain what I liked about the photo. Sure she was attractive, but she also  just seemed put together in an eclectic way. Confident. Interesting. Not perfect. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something clicked. I tore off my last year’s spokesperson and put on the new girl. That was it. I finally looked at my board and felt inspired.

KitKat's vision for 2013

KitKat’s vision for 2013

I didn’t achieve that pure happiness of the blonde in the rain from last year’s board. And, I didn’t feel compelled to achieve it this time. This is a different year and I am different. I still want to settle my mind, teach myself to live in the present, and embrace contentment. But, maybe I want pieces of my weirdness, craziness, longing for more to also stay part of me. Be confident to be me  … temperamental, quirky, goofy, stubborn, spontaneous … the whole mishmash of stuff (naughty and nice) that—as a whole—people hired me, befriended me and married me for. I want to improve me without losing me – the good as well as the not-ideal. In this business of life, marriage, kids, career, I have already given up enough of me.

And I’ll tell you … sounds a bit silly, but a few times when I’ve felt my head judging myself, worrying or over-analyzing, I have focused on that picture, stopped myself and switched gears. (Well, and a few times I went down my crazy rabbit hole – but the girl in the photo I picked would give herself a break for an occasional slip up!)

I won’t bore you with what all the photos and words stand for (I will refer to them here and there in other posts) – but I’d love to hear some things others would put on their board. Remember, don’t just think big. I actually got the nail polish out and did my nails after walking by my board and being reminded. Maybe these things really do work. Heck, even Oprah.com promotes doing one.

Frugality vs. Sanity: The fine art of creative rationalization

I was raised by parents who were children during The Great Depression. This has served me well in many ways… My parents instilled in us kids an appreciation for hard work and frugality that has put me into a relatively comfortable financial situation. However, it’s had an interesting side effect on my psyche and that is a knee-jerk aversion toward paying for services that I can do myself for much cheaper. A prime example: House cleaning. As one of nine kids, you can bet I was taught how to clean. However, once my career started to take off, I hated spending my limited free time cleaning—yet hiring someone else to clean seemed so “elite.” It felt like a slap in the face of my mother and mother-in-law, both of whom maintained large family households without any domestic help (well, except for the help provided by the aforementioned large families–did I mention I know how to clean?).

feather dusterA discussion with a coworker at the time changed my view. She relayed some advice from an executive in the company who had similar concerns over hiring a lawn service. He asked himself whether his limited free time was better spent mowing the lawn or focusing on his career, and he chose the latter, knowing his executive salary would more than offset the cost of the lawn service. This perspective made economic sense, as well as career sense. I had found the perfect rationalization to alleviate any guilt I felt about hiring housecleaners: I wasn’t a lazy slug or spoiled princess–I was a competent working mother making a strategic investment in my career. Bam!

Over the years, I was able to apply a similar rationale to a few other paid services. For example, hiring a plowing service is easy to justify with my husband’s disability and I creatively rationalize my rather expensive hair cuts/color by going to my niece who is a senior stylist at a local salon (because I’m supporting a relative in her career, haha).

The one line that I could not cross—until recently—was paying for a gym. This is most directly related to my upbringing. Thankfully, my Dear Old Dad is still on this planet, but if he weren’t, the thought of me paying a company money for the privilege of sweating would make him roll over in his grave. Actually, exercise for the sake of exercise would confound him when there is a world of productive exercise—in the old days we called them chores—just ripe for the pickin’… (And if the “chore” is weeding the yard, that’s a very literal analogy!)

I figured what my Dad doesn’t know can’t hurt him. And I knew that a lack of exercise could have much more expensive consequences down the line–in the case of my parents, consequences like diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure–things that can be prevented or lessened through exercise. So guess what I decided to do?

I’ll tell you about my fitness adventures in a future post. Meanwhile, they say everything has its price… So I’m curious: What are the jobs that are most worthwhile for you to outsource?

True Confessions…

I know what you’re thinking: “These women represented themselves as ‘more messed up’ than me. So far, they’re pretty average… Trouble juggling work and families, blah, blah, blah, trouble keeping New Year’s Resolutions, YAWN. Bring on the idiosyncrasies!”

Okay, since you put it like that…

IMHO, there are two types of idiosyncrasies. 1) The weird thing that you suspect is actually normal and 2) the weird thing you know is weird. Case in point: There are mornings where I have trouble deciding what to wear. I’ll try something on and it just looks bad or I’m not feeling like wearing a wool skirt or whatever. So, I change clothes several times before settling on an outfit and leaving the house. This is weird, but I suspect it’s pretty common, so I don’t give it much thought.

I remember a conversation with KitKat and another coworker where this idiosyncrasy came up. The other coworker–let’s call her Alissa–maintained that she NEVER did this. She simply woke up, decided on an outfit, got dressed and never looked back. While this may be true (Alissa was/is quite decisive and put together), I will submit that she’s the freak in this scenario. This is just not normal female behavior!

Okay, so that’s my example of the first type of eccentricity. The following would be the second type…

Stormy: I sometimes get dressed, will iron something to wear, put it on, notice I missed a few wrinkles and will try to iron my clothes while wearing them–simply because I can’t be bothered to undress again. This is a bit tricky, as my body is not completely flat (although some parts–unfortunately–nearly resemble an ironing board). Also, the temp of the iron has to be just so: Hot enough to smooth the wrinkles, but not so hot that one has to embarrass oneself explaining an odd assortment of second-degree burns to the ER doc.

KitKat: I have a thing for vampires. This is not just a confession to liking tween books such as Twilight. (Though they weren’t bad.) More like if I made my “free list,” it would be filled with vampire stars. It makes no sense, I understand even if they weren’t pretend they would be killers yet I find them completely sexy and fascinating. I root for them in movies and shows and feel a bit (quite a bit) envious of the lucky girls they turn. Interesting to find your self sounding weird and demented writing about your secret confessions.

Stormy: I drink coffee in the shower. In fact, I had a shelf put in at just the right height for my morning cuppa. It’s on the other end of the shower from the showerhead, so no water gets in the cup to dilute it (I like my coffee quite strong, with a liberal amount of half-and-half and some Ghiradelli ground chocolate). Although to the naked eye (get it, naked, because we’re in the shower?) it would appear to be a shelf for shampoo… Don’t judge me.

KitKat: Though no one has ever defined me as a clean freak, anal, or overly particular … actually I would usually be classified as the opposite of all these terms … I have a strange issue with cushions. If one side of my couch gets sat in all the time, I will purposely make time to even it out. This is the same for sides of pillows or any other cushion-like objects that may get unevenly flattened if ignored. Yes, I even keep track of which way I have laid on the couch to read so the next time I can lay the opposite way. I also watch if guests are over-favoring one side and when they leave I give the other some attention. My husband and sister find this oddity of mine an amusing way to torture me.

Stormy: Sometimes when my kids were little and wearing me out, I’d send them to bed. Often they would protest, “But I’m not tired!” to which I’d respond, “Yes, but I’m tired OF you…” For the record, they’re all pretty decent adults now, so I don’t think it scarred them.

KitKat: Though I truly believe my hair gets better not being washed everyday (yes sometimes the third day is its best), I am insane about shaving. I shave every day and often twice if I have plans at night. It doesn’t matter if anyone will see or touch my legs. I want them smooth. I can spend a lot of time shaving over and over the same area not sure what is hair or goosebumps because I am losing my hot water. This also puts me on a constant quest for the perfect razor. I have tried every recommendation and still have yet to come across THE ONE. I am open to suggestions?