Baby bird gives mama bird lessons in flying solo

I’ve mentioned in a few posts how my youngest has flown the nest and how this has left me in a bit of a free fall. After spending 24 years actively parenting, it’s a little unsettling when you’re no longer needed except to dispense money and advice on occasion.

Child #3 left for college on Labor Day weekend and has barely looked back. She settled right into the collegiate routine, making friends and getting good grades. As her mom, I’m very happy that the transition was so easy on her, but I found myself missing her tremendously during the fall months.

A picture really does say a thousand words. Her smile in this orphanage photo was a promise of everything that was to come once she joined our family.
A picture really is worth a thousand words. Her smile in this orphanage photo was a promise of everything that was to come.

That’s because she is not only my baby, but from the time that she was very small, she was also my steady companion. Whether I was running errands, cooking dinner, visiting my parents, or doing chores—Blossom (in Stormy fashion, not her real name but a variation of her Chinese name) was always at my side, ready to help. However, during the last couple of years of school, I didn’t see much of her: Between school, work, sports, and volunteering, she simply wasn’t around.

So I was pleasantly surprised to be given an opportunity to spend time with my youngest over her Christmas break. Originally, Blossom had been planning to leave town shortly after Christmas, but her trip fell through and most of her friends had to head back to campus before her, so she found herself home for an extended break without any real plans.

During this time, we hung out a lot. We went shopping together. Despite my daughters’ no-holds-barred fashion critiques, Blossom wanted some pointers on how to evolve her look from high school jock to sophisticated undergrad. I remembered shopping with my mom at the same age (something I used to hate because my mom—having birthed nine kids—was never very happy with what she saw in the dressing room mirror) and was flattered that my daughter actually wanted my help. Being the experienced shopper that I am, I helped her get the most for her dollars and she came home with a bunch of new looks.

She accompanied me to the gym a couple of times, once as my personal trainer—a task she took very seriously. Why was I paying someone else to do this when my little sadist was as effective as any of them?! We also went grocery shopping, cooked together, and she visited me at the office, meeting my coworkers and going out for a “business lunch.”

pantry
Six boxes of lasagna noodles. Are we anticipating a global pasta shortage?

Blossom also helped around the house, taking down all my Christmas ornaments—heck, she even tackled my pantry solo. A daunting task, given I’m an impulsive grocery shopper who loves to cook.

I reflected on how much Blossom had grown up since leaving for college just a few months earlier. And I realized that, in many ways, she was a more functional adult than her older and ostensibly wiser mother.

My youngest is incredibly competent. The family joke is that it’s because she doesn’t share our genes or that it’s the result of “that good Chinese orphanage training.” She just dives in and does things. She doesn’t hem and haw or overthink things or dither around and get sidetracked (as I’m known to do). And it’s impressive to watch. She’s not intimidated by anything and she’s incredibly organized. As an employer, I’d hire her for any job in a heartbeat.

At the same time, she’s incredibly thoughtful and compassionate. When I was staying with my dad who has dementia after my mom’s hip surgery, she offered to go with me because, “I want to get to know Grandpa better and I know this whole thing has been hard on you.” She must have made an impression on him, too, because I was surprised a week later when my dad actually remembered where Blossom was going to college. (Heck, after 7 years, he still can’t remember where I work.) In fact, after one particularly trying day at the office, I came home late and she offered to 1) make me dinner and 2) give me a backrub!

The night before Blossom was to leave, I told my husband how much I was going to miss her. I realized she had temporarily filled a spot that my husband’s Parkinson’s had left vacant in my life. Although I’m an introvert, there are some activities I can tackle better with someone at my side—cajoling, challenging and encouraging. That’s Blossom in a nutshell. I know I can’t rely on my grown kids to fill that gap, however. They have their own lives to live and their own adventures before them. It left me thinking about how to address this on my own, and that’s when I realized my baby bird could teach me some lessons about flying solo.

A fierce competitor...against herself
A fierce competitor…against herself.

I decided I would do well to model a few of her behaviors—the ability to jump into a task without procrastinating, for example, or the genuine interest she shows in everyone from the butcher at the grocery store to her older relatives. As parents, we usually think of ourselves as the one teaching our kids, but as my kids have grown, I realize it’s a bit like horticulture—we’re propagating the strongest features, cultivating the best traits—and so I’ve learned there are many things they can also teach me. I hope that by learning from my kids, I’ll be able to fill my own garden with more blossoms and less weeds.

Just Breathe

True to form, it is about a month away from the end of the year and I finally decide to check out my progress on accomplishing my vision board. Not exactly true to the philosophy behind it, but that’s exactly the way I work: Procrastinate and then excel in crisis mode.

KitKat's vision for 2013
KitKat’s vision for 2013

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how well I had done … maybe there is something to this envisioning. My board’s subliminal messages seemed to have seeped into my life.  In fact, I didn’t even remember having “Needing Las Vegas” on it and I just booked a girls trip to Vegas. Check!

On the downside, I didn’t quite create the ass and stomach I envisioned. And, even with my talent of getting shit done when the pressure’s on, at age 44 that goal is going to take time and work. If I wanted to be realistic, perhaps it is a vision that might not be attainable past the age of 30. But I refuse to give up on all of my dreams just yet.

Well, back to the board … one thing that seemed like a big miss and easy to do was yoga. I used to be a die hard. I loved how it made me look,  how I felt and what  could do. It’s why I put it on my board, yet 11 months later I still have not reinvested myself.

This I know I could do. And, it is probably the perfect time for it. Between being insanely busy at work, the holidays, and my “hockey mom” role starting up again, I could use some “me time.” Add on having had two cars totaled in the past two months (one just a few days ago and thankfully escaping with only bruises and repeat car shopping torture), I obviously need some focus. Plus with the weather turning cold, the thought of escape to a heated room has its own appeal.

So the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time at yoga. It is addicting. One hour of sweating and contorting into poses I almost forgot my body could do is my new release. I also forgot how wonderful it was to have someone reminding me to breathe. Seems like that should be natural, but for me it’s like I have been holding my breath ’til I walk into that room and then I can finally let go.

Also as a competitive girl, even with myself, I was impressed with how quickly it all came back. My body could contort into ways I had forgotten. My mind is so quiet when I am challenging myself into poses. This may sound simple. Especially if you’re a true yogi, since isn’t yoga about a quiet mind and focus? But for me it doesn’t happen. My racing mind only quiets when my body is pushed into an extreme. And even then just for a moment.  Once I accomplish the challenge my mind starts congratulating myself. Next I start thinking about what else I could do that I haven’t tried and should add to my list … and the race goes on. No I will never become a true yogi. It just is not natural to my nature. As much as I wish it was.

Then there is also the added benefit of focused time at the end of each class to get my list organized in my head. This is supposed to be the time to completely quiet my mind and let all go. My best move during savasana was realizing that’s impossible and to stop fighting it. (The more I am told to relax, the worse it is.) Instead, I embrace the chance to lay in a lovely position with no other demands on me except sorting out the list in my head. I have no problem twisting that into reasoning that I am following the advice given to me each class: It is  your own practice and do what your body feels. Listen to yourself.

By the way, why is breathing so hard? … Or is it just me?

Power of the Clover!

Anyone living in Minnesota has felt a bit unlucky this year. As KitKat and I have mentioned several times, we’ve had unprecedentedly lousy weather this spring/summer. In addition, work has been relentlessly busy. It’s all a bit wearing on the spirit, so in early June—when a brief break in the rain allowed me to get to some long-neglected yardwork—I found this:

Power of the Clover!
Power of the Clover!

We were preparing for my youngest child’s graduation open house and our home really isn’t large enough to host her many family and friends, so when I found the clover, I was excited. I may not believe in gambling for the big jackpot, but finding such a lucky token surely must mean something, right?

Feeling a bit beaten down and daunted by the task of getting my house and yard into tip-top shape for the party, I decided to embrace the power of the clover. No matter what transpired in the coming week, I was going to view it as good fortune. I believe that our outlook is mostly a matter of attitude, so if I used this symbol of good fortune as a reminder of my blessings, it would bring about a change in attitude that would ultimately benefit me. Well, that was my theory at any rate.

I started the week with my attitude adjustment firmly planted. I was lucky! Good things were going to happen at every turn! I just needed to keep my outlook positive and my eyes open. The previous three months may have been a bit—well, sucky—but the tide was a turnin’ now and everything would be going my way!

Despite my positive outlook, the week was inauspicious. While nothing terrible happened, it wasn’t exactly like Lady Luck was smiling upon me. I was a bit disappointed in my botanical harbinger. Then, at the end of the week, things took a decided turn for the worst. We had a system issue at work. This wouldn’t be terribly catastrophic except that we had just had a similar problem—one that cost our company time and money and our clients considerable disruption—a mere month earlier. We hadn’t experienced such a significant disruption to our business before that, and the thought that this new incident might mirror the earlier one was weighing heavily on our minds as we sought to troubleshoot the situation. “Power of the Clover!” I invoked. Maybe this was the situation for which the luck was intended? Well, the problem was resolved much quicker than previously, but it didn’t feel so much like good luck as just an avoidance of really bad luck.

Disenchanted with my clover, I turned my attention back to other matters. My daughter’s graduation was troubling me and not just because we were hosting a big party and the weather wasn’t cooperative. This was my youngest child’s graduation from high school. I would soon be an “empty nester.” Moreover, my birthday was looming ahead. So, combine bad weather/party stress/empty nest/mid-life crisis/anxiety about getting older and you get a stormy Stormy.

So on my long list of to-dos, was my annual exam. I was telling my nurse practitioner about all of the things going on in my life and she was nodding sympathetically. At the same time, she was telling me that I was in great shape. My blood pressure—great! My lungs sounded good. Pressing on my abdomen, she commented on my muscle tone and said I was in the best shape of anyone she had seen that day. I have to confess, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Maybe turning 48 wasn’t that big of a deal. Then it came time to do my breast exam. “There’s a lump. Feel it?” Sure enough. How did I miss that? (Maybe because I do a half-assed job at breast self-exams when I remember to do them at all?) “When was your last mammogram?” she asked. It had been 2 ½ years. Shit. “You need to get that checked out.” Next was my pelvic exam. “Your ovary is enlarged.” Double shit.And I had made an outrageous statement about cancer being more suited to my temperament than Parkinson’s in an earlier post. How stupid could a person be? I was just asking God for another big slice of humble pie! Even if neither were indications of cancer, it would likely take a while to get the all-clear report and the specter of doom would be hanging over my head all weekend—tainting my daughter’s party, Father’s Day and my birthday. Boo.

Fortunately (luckily?), my doctor’s office was able to line up diagnostic tests quickly: The mammogram would be later that afternoon, and an ultrasound of my ovaries would be done the next day.

Stormy freaking out.
Stormy freaking out.

I have to confess, I freaked out a bit while waiting for the tests—after all, I was facing TWO diagnostic tests for two DIFFERENT kinds of cancer, one of them highly fatal. I wasn’t sure of my odds, but they were doubled, right? It was like a frickin’ BOGO! Suddenly, the status quo looked pretty attractive. Preparing for my daughter’s open house seemed very insignificant. So did turning another year older. After all, it’s a blessing to tear another page off the calendar, right? A lot of people don’t get that privilege. What was wrong with me that I had been so absorbed with such petty matters?

Well, if I ever needed to invoke the Power of the Clover, this was it. And I’m happy to report that my little four-leaf friend came through for me. Both abnormalities were harmless cysts, not malignant tumors. Afterward, I was much more enthusiastic about the fact that I had a wonderful accomplished daughter whose graduation we were celebrating. (After all, this is a good thing, right?) And despite an ominous forecast, it was even sunny for her party. Yay! So lucky! And so what if I was turning another year older—that’s better than the alternative, right? And I was certainly another year wiser as well. Sooooo lucky!

My dad always says, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” And while, I can’t determine who coined that expression, there’s some truth in it. However, the part that’s not explained is that luck isn’t something you “find”—like a clover—it’s all around you, hiding in plain sight. Rather, it’s something you need to RECOGNIZE . In the end, the clover was just a lens through which I gained some much-needed perspective. I don’t expect this realization to last (it never does) but maybe I can come back and read this at a later date and that will help me remember the good fortune that surrounds me. And if it helps you keep a little perspective, too, then it’s all been worth it.

The “Coffee Achiever” evaluates her options … and priorities

As you may recall, I like my morning cup of coffee. Well, a couple of Saturdays ago, I woke up to make my morning cuppa only to find my standard-issue coffee maker had passed on during the night. (It was a good thing it was a Saturday, too. I had just come off of a particularly busy and stressful week at work and–as “A Coffee Achiever”—if it had died the day before, I’m sure I would have curled up into a little ball and cried.)

I had a brunch date with girlfriends, so I fumbled my way through a shower, pulled on some clothes and navigated my way to the restaurant (a risky maneuver, as I really shouldn’t operate heavy machinery without caffeine in my system). I ordered a cappuccino upon arrival and was then able to think clearly enough to devise a rough game plan:

  • The coffee maker needed to be replaced asap.
  • The death of my coffee maker presented an opportunity to explore new coffee-making options.
  • I could either make a decision quickly or drive to my “cabin” and fetch my coffee maker from there as a temporary substitute until I made a decision.

coffee-32376878468I spent Saturday exploring my options. I wanted something simple, but that would make really good, strong coffee. So I asked for opinions on Facebook about the various one-cup (pod) options. Last fall, while visiting my brother-in-law’s family, I had fallen in love with my sister-in-law’s very expensive “super-automatic” espresso machine. I wasn’t seriously considering spending so much on a replacement, but as I explored other options, I kept coming back to the Saeco espresso machine. As a master of the fine art of rationalization, I could justify it. After all, I drank coffee EVERY DAY. Plus, the super-automatic would make it easy for my husband to make a cup at his convenience throughout the day. But the online reviews pointed to a somewhat temperamental machine and it seemed a bit extravagant for a sensible Midwestern gal like me. So I was more seriously considering a Bonavita coffee maker—very highly rated—but simple to operate.

Sunday morning, after my husband ran out to get our morning coffee, I hit up several stores to consider my options. By afternoon, I was tired of decision-making and headed to the store that carried the Bonavita coffeemaker. But looking at it in the store, I wasn’t 100% convinced and thought about driving up to my cabin-condo to fetch my other coffeemaker until I was ready to make a decision. But walking back to my car, I passed another kitchen store and spontaneously popped in to check out the coffeemaker selection. There it was: The Saeco. In about a minute I decided to buy it. I’m worth it, damn it. And I like my coffee.

Oh, you suave Italian playboy, promising bliss and giving only heartache
Oh, you suave Italian playboy: promising bliss… but giving only heartache

Loading the large box in my car, it looked like the box had been opened and taped shut again. I was a bit concerned that it was a return, but shrugged off my concerns and brought my purchase home. While setting it up I discovered—you guessed it—a piece was broken. Augggh! It was 15 minutes until the store closed so I didn’t have time to exchange it. My darling daughter, taking pity on her mother, offered to run to Starbucks the next morning.

The next day on my lunch hour—fortified by that morning’s latte—I exchanged my Saeco. The only other one they had in the store was the floor model. Again, trepidation, but the floor model was kept on a high shelf and the manager assured me it was neither used nor abused, so I took the exchange.

That night I set up the new machine and… it didn’t work! At this point, I was totally disgusted. Damn Italian design! I spent the rest of the evening Googling various models of coffee makers. While reading reviews from people who laboriously roast their own beans, own $500 coffee grinders, and regard anything other than their personally handcrafted espresso to be undrinkable swill, another realization came upon me: I didn’t want to be associated with these people.

When I thought about the times I really enjoyed a cup of coffee, I thought of sitting on the dock at my sister’s cabin in beautiful northern Minnesota or first thing in the morning after a late night of client dinners at a work conference. I thought about sitting on the balcony of my cabin-condo with my husband or catching up with KitKat at the local coffee shop. I decided that I didn’t want to buy something that by its very superiority would lessen those treasured moments.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not passing judgment on someone who buys an expensive espresso machine. Not. At. All. If you like coffee and can afford it, go for it. I did—or tried to. (And if that darn Saeco had worked, rest assured that I’d be typing this while enjoying a lovely latte.)

Not as sexy, but he’s there for you in the morning.

However, the reverence with which some of the online reviewers idolized their espresso machines was as eye-opening as espresso itself. As I found myself spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to settle my own coffee dilemma, their obsessiveness hit a little too close to home. After all, I’ll give people second chances, maybe even third chances, but I don’t extend the same courtesy to appliances. Why was I spending so much time and energy on this one? 

I decided that reliability is more important to me than Coffee Nirvana, so the next day I returned the Saeco and bought the Bonavita coffee maker instead. It reliably produces a decent cup of coffee, and I’ll just savor those transcendent moments of caffeinated bliss whenever they happen to occur.

When the going gets tough…

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and this is a disease that impacts me daily. About a decade ago, my husband was diagnosed with PD at the age of 44. This hit us out of the blue—there was no family history to foreshadow the condition and we were attributing his symptoms to something very mundane—a pinched nerve, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.

I could write a lot about my husband and how terrifically he copes with the hand he’s been dealt… The man never complains or feels sorry for himself whereas I’m pretty sure that, in his shoes, I’d be the hostess of a 10-year pity party.

There are lots of nuances to his symptoms, but the upshot is this: His day is ruled by his medications and whether or not they are working. We sometimes refer to it as a Jekyll and Hyde existence but that doesn’t seem quite appropriate—while it’s “good” when his meds are “on” and “bad” when his meds are “off,” the whole Jekyll/Hyde analogy makes it sound like he turns evil, when he actually handles his off times with as much grace as any human being could muster.

Recently, he came up with another analogy—when his meds are off, he’s wooden and can’t move and when they are on he becomes “a real boy.” This seems more appropriate, and the transformation of how my husband comes to life when his medication kicks in is not unlike Pinocchio.

But I won’t presume to tell his story and instead will share my own. This is what I’ve learned having Parkinson’s “by proxy”…

1) There isn’t much I can control. I have a control-freak nature. And while having children was my first lesson in learning the limits of what I can control, dealing with my husband’s Parkinson’s is like being in graduate school. I find myself reciting the Serenity Prayer a lot. It’s a good prayer. I’m hoping one of these days it will sink in.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”       –Mother Teresa

2) There’s a method to His madness. While I think the adage, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” has some truth in it, I also think He likes pushing you right up against your limits at times. For example, I’m not the stop-and-smell-the-roses type. For a Midwesterner, I’ve got a rather intense East Coast approach to life and Parkinson’s is a condition that could try the patience of the most easy-going Southerner.

When I would think of my husband or myself dealing with illness, I imagined being struck with a more common condition, like cancer. This is a horrible, awful thing to deal with—no doubt about it. However, in many cases you can “battle” cancer, and if you’re lucky, you can win. Trust me, I’m not wishing my husband had cancer instead of Parkinson’s, but I sometimes think that fighting cancer would be more in line with my temperament. I like to think I would bravely don my armor and be at his side to help slay the dragons. But Parkinson’s isn’t a dragon—it’s the mosquito in the room whose buzzing keeps you up all night and slowly drives you insane.

There’s a David Byrne song with some slightly blasphemous lyrics that captures my perspective on this, “Green grass grows around the backyard shithouse. And that is where the sweetest flowers bloom. We are flowers growin’ in God’s garden, and that is why he spreads the shit around.”

Now, I don’t believe in a spiteful God, but I do think He is aware that my Serenity Garden is a bit overrun with weeds–and that my husband’s illness is part of a larger plan intended to help fertilize the flowers.

3) God provides help where you least expect it. Despite the negative lessons I’ve learned about myself, I’ve also learned that I’m not completely on my own. While testing me big time on the patience front, God has also sent some unlikely angels to support me through this process. People who accept me despite the aforementioned shortcomings. I’m very thankful for these people in my life.

Diamond or basketcase? The jury is still out...
Diamond or basketcase? The jury is still out…

4) We all need to cut each other some slack. There’s one aspect of my lack of patience that I’ll accept, and that is my growing intolerance of hatred and judgment and negativity. Life can be tough. But most of us are doing the best we can, and we all need to remember that. When it comes to disability awareness, I’m probably on the “more enlightened” end of the spectrum having worked for two organizations serving people with disabilities and consequently spending a lot of time around people with various conditions. Despite this experience, I cringe when I think about past incidents where I might have thought someone’s slowness was just disregard for other people’s time or assumed that someone’s lack of balance was the result of too many drinks. I know there are times when my husband’s symptoms are probably misinterpreted and that if others knew the true cause they would be more tolerant and considerate as well.

5) It’s anybody’s guess. Parkinson’s is a very individual disease. While there’s a typical progression to the illness, not everyone experiences their symptoms the same way. Some people’s illness progresses very quickly, others more slowly. I have no idea exactly what’s in store for my future–but then again, does anybody? I also have no idea how well I’ll continue to cope with it all. My only hope is that I continue to recognize the blessings in my life and appreciate those who are helping my husband and me along this journey.

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. 🙂

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?