Monthly Archives: February 2014

Stormy interviews KitKat…

It’s KitKat’s turn to write a blog post, but she’s been felled by a bad cold lately and I suspect her Muse has abandoned her in pursuit of a chaise lounge on some distant beach. Therefore, to jumpstart the writing process–and inspire happier thoughts–I’m going to interview KitKat for this week’s post…

KitKat, what is the biggest splurge you’ve bought for yourself?

Shoes! Shoes … boots, sandals, etc. … have always been my thing. I can’t pick a pair where it was a bigger splurge than others. But anytime I treat myself to something extra special or just can’t resist the temptation, it seems to be in a shoe store. They make me happy.

I have talked myself into a shoe splurge for many reasons: I can rationalize needing them for a special event. Or, though they are expensive, it is a pair I can get lots of use of. I don’t have the exact same color or style. Or, I have a similar color or style and love them, so I need another. I am on a trip and may never see a pair like them again. I deserve a reward for finishing a tough project. I need a pick-me-up when things aren’t going well.

It sounds a little pathetic to admit, but shoes make me feel good. I can spend hours in a nice shoe store. I enjoy the entire experience of browsing, admiring shapes and special touches, and trying them on (even when I don’t make a purchase). Plus, I have never regretted a pair I bought.  There are only a few rare things in life that prove to be such a constant source of joy and passion.

My dream job would be to own a beautiful shoe boutique. It would be shoes that are for a splurge, not a necessity purchase. A place to come and spoil yourself, because we all need and deserve it sometimes.

I feel like shopping – it has been a horrible winter and I need a pick me up!

What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received…and why did it mean so much to you?

That is a tough one. Though I like compliments, I am horrible at getting them. I never feel like I deserve them. But on the flip side, they mean so much to me since I don’t give them to myself.

One I remember distinctly was when I visited my dad and stepmother in Colorado. My son was young, probably two or three. He has always been a handful, and I never felt like a natural at parenting. (I still often feel like I am pretending to be an adult capable of raising children.) During that trip, we visited one of their friends. As we were leaving, they told me that I was a really good mom. I don’t know why it struck me intensely, but I remember it bringing me to tears for the next few days thinking about those kind words from a virtual  stranger. Parenting is such an overwhelming job with so many unknowns. It just felt good to hear I was doing okay at it.

See?, There is an example of my compliment taking – turning “good” into “okay.”

What one thing do you hope to teach your son about how to treat women?

Right now, I am working hard to teach my son about his own self image and liking himself—things I expected to be going through when my daughter hit her teens. I didn’t know boys struggled with many of the same things. And, it’s so much harder for them to express it. It just isn’t as acceptable or talked about.

In respect to how to treat girls, I would love to instill that perfect mix of doing all the gentlemanly polite things but respecting them as equals. I know many people don’t think the two mix. I do. I love being treated like a girl, but knowing my thoughts and ideas are respected and wanted. I can have a door held open for me as I walk into a meeting, yet still argue my point and be heard right along with the “boys” at the same meeting. I would like him to understand that delicate balance.

Looking not quite so far ahead and knowing what teenage girls go though and sometimes do to be liked, I would like to ensure he is sensitive about how girls feel and not take advantage of that. To be responsible and kind. Yikes! It’s a little freaky thinking that he is anywhere near an age where this will become a possible issue.

What one thing do you hope to teach your daughter?

At age six there is plenty of self love and admiration!

At age six there is plenty of self love and admiration!

To love herself. (That is really it for both my kids.) To feel secure and proud in who she is. To take care of herself first. Try new things , take risks and not to limit herself. To feel pretty, but know there is so much more than that to be proud of. To know she doesn’t have to be perfect. It is impossible. To know that she is still loved with any and all imperfections. Forgive herself when needed. Is all of that too much to hope for?

And to surround herself with good friends and to be one. Girlfriends can help you get through anything.

What are you looking forward to in the next month?

After breaking records in cold, snowstorms and school closings, I am looking forward to a Spring Break escape to Arizona. (Followed by a girls trip to Las Vegas the following month.) It makes me smile and I can hold on to some sanity when I think of seeing and feeling the sun again. Knowing that I’ll soon be sitting in my Arizona chair (or throne as I like to call it) is all that is holding me back from going to a tanning bed just to feel some warmth on my skin, no matter what the danger.

 If you could go back in time and give your 20-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
First, I would tell her to start enjoying that 20-year old body! Give her a few insights as to what happens when you double that age. It’s hard to think about all the years I spent picking apart my looks and shape, which were both actually pretty damn good in hindsight.

I’d also tell her to keep living life. She was a risk taker. She did some stupid things, but she was full of experiences. I wouldn’t want to stop her from even some of her worst mistakes because she provided me with a lot of unique memories and some important lessons. I will be able to shock my grandchildren some day with stories from my 20-year-old self.

I might even ask her to add a few more crazy experiences to her list.

If your 20-year-old self could visit you now, what would she be impressed by?

My 20-year old self would be glad to know I am still making time for friends,  fun - and slots.

My 20-year old self would be glad to know I am still making time for friends, fun – and slots.

That I am holding down a job and actually pretty successful at it. I don’t think she thought of herself as someone who would climb the corporate ladder. Especially becoming someone who would lead others. Being smart was not how she defined herself. I think she’d be impressed and proud of that trait developing, while still recognizing her quirky self. She’d like realizing others recognize and like the whole package too.

Fit-shaming or fat-shaming… How about neither?

It’s no secret that a large part of the US population has a dysfunctional relationship with both food and exercise. Last year, the US was dethroned as the “Fattest Country in the World” (that title now goes to Mexico), but the need to lose weight is still deeply engrained in our collective psyche. We have an incredible variety of food available to us, but convenience and cost often skew people’s choices toward cheap, overprocessed food. Many people also outsource physical labor and then turn around and pay a gym or Pilates studio to help them burn calories.

"Of course that damn Nellie is getting more attention from Almanzo... She can afford a personal trainer and a private chef!

“Of course that damn Nellie Oleson is getting more attention from Almanzo… She can afford a personal trainer and private chef!”

I sometimes imagine what it would be like to give an 1860s farm family a glimpse of our modern lifestyle. I’m sure they would shake their head in amazement at our excess and foolishness.

The older I get, the more I realize the need for conscious exercise. And yes, I’m occasionally guilty of avoiding a free workout (shoveling snow, for example) in lieu of paying someone to make me sweat.

In my personal quest for better fitness, I’ve also purchased some gadgets that have a mechanism for monitoring weight loss and goals—namely a Wii Fit and a FitBit Flex wristband. As I was setting up both devices, they each required me to set a “weight goal.”

In a country obsessed with weight loss, this is an unpopular admission to make—but I don’t really need to lose weight. My weight bobs up and down within a 5 lb. range at any given point, but it’s all within a healthy BMI. Since I consider my optimal target weight to be on the lower end of that 5 lb. fluctuation, that’s the number I entered into each device. Living in a perpetually frozen state makes exercise inconvenient, so like many Minnesotans I put on a couple of pounds over the holidays and had been hovering at the upper end of my range for a few weeks. I wanted to drop a few pounds and return to my comfort zone.

The new year has been crazy-busy so far, so I had my youngest set up the Wii Fit in her vacated bedroom so it would be more convenient for me to work out. I also started wearing my Flex again to remind me that I needed to be conscious about making time for exercise. While I haven’t been terribly successful at that, the one benefit of my hectic schedule is the ability to cut calories without too much effort (because I’m much more likely to overeat when I’m bored than when I’m stressed).

Consequently, I recently stepped on my Wii Fit and elicited cheers from the little balance board guy: “You’ve reached your goal!” His excitement was short-lived, however, as he immediately ordered me to set a new goal. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “I don’t need a new goal…I’ve reached my target.” I wasn’t sure what to do next. I know there will be days that I creep above my optimal weight again—so I just wanted to leave my goal where it was so I could be reminded of where I needed to be. Unfortunately, this concept seemed completely foreign to my little avatar friend.

Likewise, I was logging my weight on my FitBit dashboard and the same thing happened. It congratulated me and immediately demanded I set a new goal.

FitBit tile

That neither of these devices seems to allow for simply maintaining one’s weight disturbs me because it discourages the concept of accepting one’s body as it is. There’s also a lot of debate in this country about what type of shape is acceptable for a woman. Those who advocate fitness are sometimes accused of “fat-shaming” and the backlash from some in the overweight camp is to demand that the media acknowledge what “real women” look like. I find the latter personally offensive—as if I’m somehow “fake” because I’m at a healthy weight?

Having two daughters with different genetic make-ups has underscored for me the need for a broader definition of “real.” One daughter is tall and willowy, the other is short and strong. The willowy one has bordered on anorexia before, has a pretty appalling diet and doesn’t place a high priority on exercise. When she comes home to visit, I check her weight to make sure she’s getting enough calories and eating something besides burgers and pizza. My other daughter has a very healthy diet, loves sports and is in great physical condition, so I don’t worry about her from a health standpoint at all. But in our house, the focus has always been on health and strength—not what size jeans one wears (in fact, I think they may wear the same size jeans, despite the fact that they have completely different builds). And you know what? They’re both gorgeous in their own unique way and they are both very real. Dove got this right in its Campaign for Real Beauty.

There are many factors that influence obesity: Large portions, unhealthy food, sedentary lifestyles… and there are other factors that can lead to obesity—some that a person can control (usually diet and exercise), but also some that a person can’t control (genetics, physical impairments that affect the ability to exercise, life situations that minimize free time for exercise—e.g., a sick child, demanding work schedule).

Knowing this, I don’t spend time judging others on the root cause of their current weight. As I’ve shown here, I’ve got my hands full trying to work on my own issues even if weight loss isn’t one of them. At the same time, there’s a fine line to walk between contentment and complacency. While self-acceptance is important, it’s not inherently bad to want to improve oneself—whether physically, intellectually or emotionally. That’s why I’m happy to live and let live…while encouraging others to achieve their personal goals, whatever they may be. After all, real women know we’re all in this together and consequently, we should try to lift each other up.

Shake it up

Well, the last time I wrote my blog it was with kids running around on holiday vacation. This time I have an entire hockey team of 10-year-old boys “watching” the Super Bowl at my house. From the noise I hear, I am not sure how much watching is actually going on. But with the reward of a hug and “you’re a cool mom” when I surprised my son with the invite I sent, it is worth it (or so I tell myself at half time).

 team

January has been an interesting month. The last week of the month is the only full week we have had of our normally scheduled life. School has actually been cancelled five days due to cold. (Prior to this, our school hadn’t had a snow day in 15 years.) This has caused a lot of interruption and forced flexibility into my routine. A routine I count on to get everything done.

So instead, I have gotten through the month by stumbling along with a lot of apologies for missed deadlines, cancelled appointments and not being full-time anywhere. I actually wrote a thank you to my boss for putting up with my constant absences. Between holidays, weather and an out-of-town hockey tournament, it was six weeks of barely working. Her response was short and simple, “I was a working mom for 22 years.”  With her youngest just heading to college, she is telling me she actually misses the chaos and balancing act.

You would think I would enjoy some shorter work weeks. But what it really meant was adding full-time job with full-time caretaker. If you are one of the moms in this freezing state with school-age kids, you know how I feel. It doesn’t matter what your job is … at home or at an office … kids who were just off for two weeks for winter break now being given random days off due to cold temps  throws off your schedule. You come to count on those hours when they are in school. Instead six more hours of responsibility is added onto your already overly hectic day.

Every time another closing was announced, kids would cheer and moms would start texting for trades. Kids cooped up too much with no routine and parents running out of vacation days and patience were not a good mix. Add to that, my major winter blahs and work piling up, I wasn’t sure how to dig myself out.

As one girlfriend always says … shake it up.

Well I have been shaken up by recent circumstances (namely weather) and now let’s add a few kids and a party. When a few of the moms said I was nuts for hosting a SuperBowl bash (especially learning that I would be alone with the boys because my husband had his own party plans), I realized it didn’t phase me at all. Totally unplanned and unprepared. And it felt great. I know, it seems silly that a spur-of-the-moment kids party would do it. But underneath all the responsibility and expectations, this is me … or at least used to be me. Those random moments and spontaneous things are what make me light up. Having my routine shaken up just loosened up my tight control, and so what if everything isn’t perfect?

So at this moment, I am enjoying the moment. Instead of tackling all my projects that have piled up, I have the Super Bowl turned on, a glass of wine in my hand and I’m enjoying the sounds of too many boys crammed into my basement. I am even feeling a bit of nostalgia thinking that soon these boys–enjoying “a party,” feeling cool and grown up–are actually getting older. (Yes, Stormy’s last post may have gotten to me a bit, as I often wish my kids would hurry up and grow up.)

As long as there are no more days off, I think I can now look back pleasantly and think about how this past crazy month shook me up again. It gave me the chance to experience some time that I could never have planned for (nor would want to). Although I am looking forward to a February with school intact.

 bus

By the way, a boring Super Bowl makes for a loud home. All attention to the game is lost and has now shifted to a knee hockey tournament. You let me down, Broncos!