Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Fat Is Fab"... No Good? It Was Worth A Try.

I want to be thin. Is that so much to ask for? I was once thin and I want to be again but clearly, I was not meant to be. I've many times said that my body would serve me well if I were an Eskimo. I'm excellent at storing fat for the long winters. Apparently, it's winter all the time where I live.

At my thinnest, my diet consisted of seltzer and salad and I was working out at a gym two hours a day, every day. I was also single and didn't have anyone or anything to worry about except myself. Then I met the man who was to be my husband and instead of working out, we were eating out, instead of step class, we took a cooking class, instead of working on me, I started working on we.

I don't blame him - much. It's not his fault I'd rather go to the movies with him than run to the gym. Of course, he could have made going to his gym a priority thus forcing me to do the same but apparently he was waiting for me to do it... boy was that ever a sign of things to come.
Here we are now, nearly 14 years married, fat and comfortable. I wish that sounded better.

Then in late Spring of this year I had a wake-up call. No, not a medical wake-up call - though it might have helped since my doctor has a habit of telling me to lose weight for my health in the same breath as telling me all my blood tests are perfect. I mean, give me something to work with. No my wake-up call came in the form of my new Mac.

Let me side step for a moment to tell you that I am a planner extraordinaire. I live by the motto that "proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance". The calendar, day planner, and to do list are my life lines. Ask me what I'm doing on any day in the next 12 months, I can tell you, in fact, I could probably tell you beyond that. Some would say it's a sickness, but I say there is nothing wrong with it. So with my Mac hooked up I was ready to enter a new realm of organization... I was going to go paperless. I cleared a few hours and downloaded every chore, errand, appointment, event, and possible plan as far into the future as I could stomach. And that's when it hit me... 2010 was littered with photo events.

You know the ones where your photo is taken by who knows how many people and for weeks on end you are untagging your name from Facebook albums. There it was staring back at me from my new 20" flat screen monitor; the events where my photo would be taken from countless unflattering angles and all in less than a year - my husband's 45th birthday (no plans yet, but he wants to take a trip), my daughter's 1st Holy Communion, my youngest sister's bridal shower, and of course, her wedding, my 25th high school reunion, and my 15th wedding anniversary (plans for a cruise are in the works). I started to panic. I mean real panic-attack. After lying down and focusing on my happy place (deserted beach just watching the waves roll in) in an attempt to get my breathing under control, I sat back down at the computer to makes some plans.

First thing to go, no more school committees. All those type A's fighting for the spotlight and a chance to be self-congratulatory made me ill anyway. They had sucked me dry of my time and energy and creativity for years without so much as a thank you. So I was putting my foot down. No more school committees. Wow! That freed up my calendar quite a bit. No excuse not to go to the gym.

Second thing, sign-up for a gym trainer so I'm forced to go to the gym. So, in I walked and asked to set up a meeting with a trainer. It was no surprise that they asked me if I wanted to sign up for the gym first - it's not as if they had seen me in the last 5 months. When I said I was already a member, there was visible surprise on the receptionist's face... please, I can't be the only one who pays their monthly dues but doesn't go. I met with two trainers in two days to create programs for my arms and my abs. I promised each that I'd handle the cardio on my own. With exercise program in hand, I was ready to start. But what about my diet?

Well there is only so much I am willing to do. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't gamble, I don't shop (the way I used to), I've got nothing but eating. I love Pepsi, I love bread, I love cheese; I could sustain myself on those three alone. I was willing to cut back but not cut out. So I started buying those little cans of Pepsi. I said no more rolls, just whole wheat slices, pita, flat breads. And I tried the fat free cheese - I said I tried, so get off my back! I now buy part skim cheeses. I uped my salad intake, downsized desserts to almost nothing. I've done a great deal to my diet. So why is nothing happening?!

I'm not consistent. I have good days and bad. I want so badly for exercise and eating right to become a habit, but it's just not happening. Sometimes I'm so depressed about it, I just want to sit in front of the TV the entire day while my daughter is at school... not eating, just sitting. Sometimes, I work out and I lose steam and can't get through it so I quit. I've called the trainers to cancel more times than I've gone. And all those photo events are getting closer and closer.

I have no excuses. Well, maybe just one... fear of failure. It's been a long time since I was thin, maybe this is who I am and the idea of that scares me. But instead of scaring me into doing something, it's scaring me into hiding in my house, avoiding mirrors, wearing oversized clothes.

I have a daughter - a beautiful, smart, well adjusted, trim and petite daughter - who I can't keep these fears from much longer. She's already noticed the way I won't let her take a picture of me when we're on vacation or how uncomfortable I can get around my extended family (I have 4 sisters all tall and thin - yet another future post). I don't ever want her to look at herself in the mirror and feel the way that I do about myself when I look in the mirror. I "used to be" is all I've got to hang my hat on these days. It's a sad reality (and one, at this moment, that is making me upset).

I've got to end here. I hear my daughter coming up the stairs and I don't want her to see me crying.

Don't Fear The Purge... Unless You're Talking About Lunch

Show of hands, how many of you have a junk drawer? How about a junk closet? Shall we go a bit bigger and say a junk room? Do you have an entire level of your house filled with junk? Or are you, God help you, paying to store your junk someplace else? I can help.

Close to 5 years ago, I got the idea that if I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and still make some money, I was going to have to start my own business. But what? What service could I provide that I could do on my schedule that would make enough money to make this process worthwhile? Then it hit me - Professional Organizer. It was a complete no-brainer, I mean, c'mon, I color code in my sleep. The name hit almost as fast - "Living Arrangements". I set out to copyright the name immediately (which I did, but then I let the license lapse. I'll explain why later.)

There are TV shows devoted to just this sort of service. Plenty of people could use an anal retentive, life-at-right-angles kinda gal like me. So I dipped my toes in to see how the water was. The first thing I did was practice on my family.

My sister-in-law was quick to utilize my services but since she's just a neat-freak with a shopping habit all I did was move a few things around and hand her back what she should return to the store. Give me a challenge. Oh, be careful what you wish for... I then offered my services to be auctioned off at my daughter's preschool. A three room consultation plus a one closet make-over. I estimated the whole job would take me less than 2 hours and I valued the job at $150 dollars. Boy was I way off. The winning bidder paid less than the valued price and once I showed up at their house, I proceeded to spend 7 hours in Hell!

To say the house was filthy would be an insult to grime and the chaos met me at the front porch. I started hyperventilating. It was a good 5 years ago and still it makes my skin crawl. These people didn't need an organizer, they needed a bulldozer (and I needed a hazmat suit). I won't go into detail, because frankly, it's better left swept under the rug (like the chicken bones the dogs they had, had hidden there - not a joke) and for my mental stability, I'd rather forget. I leave you with this one item so you can fully understand why I threw out the clothes I was wearing and showered in scalding water for 45 minutes once I got home - adult toys in the closet I was asked to organize. Seriously, a total stranger is organizing your closet for you and you leave a bin of goodies sitting on the floor next to the dirty laundry hamper. I am not a prude but I have my limitations; it's a biohazard people.

(Breathe in, breathe out).

Now, after that ordeal, I took a huge step back to reconsider what I was actually getting myself into. I continued to do odd jobs for friends and family. I again offered up my services for auction, this time at my daughter's elementary school, for the consultation only. And I've be fortunate enough to have a dear friend who barters with me - my organizing for her teaching my daughter piano lessons. I haven't made a dime (and therefore decided not to renew the copyright on the name) but the experiences and knowledge are priceless.

The skills I still have in surplus and I offer some quick tips to you now free of charge:
  • Divide & Conquer Don't look at a huge project and become disheartened; break the job down into manageable tasks. For example, a closet not a room or even a shelf not a closet. No more than 5 square feet at a time. You'll be amazed how quickly it goes and when you need a break, you have a clear stopping/starting point.
  • Purge Until It Hurts Let's face it, there is so little we actually need to survive. All the rest is just "stuff". Get rid of it. Don't let yourself be convinced that your junk is worth something; I guarantee you the warped 45s you have in a dusty (once under water) box in your basement is indeed garbage. If it was worth something, you would have treated it better. And don't let yourself believe that you "need" any item that you haven't seen or thought about in over five years. If you needed it, you'd be using it.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Reduce we've discussed - free yourself of your clutter, unless it can be reused. Is there a little girl down the street that could use your daughter's old clothes? Do you have a friend trying to get in shape and you have a treadmill you're not using? Do you have some wild, decade-specific fashions that haven't seen the light of day since "Frankie Went To Hollywood"; Halloween is just around the corner. Let these items have a second life... outside of your home. Recycling is the easiest of all; before it becomes trash, consider if it can be recycled. Remember that box from college with the empty bottles of all your first beers that you proudly displayed as art. Now the entire contents plus the box can be recycled - proudly.
And if you've got a project that needs organizing - not cleaning, not repairing, not demoing - let me know. I'm here to help... barters accepted but cash preferred.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Disclaimer

Unless specifically noted by title - my daughter, my husband, my friend with insomnia - all individuals described are composites of many people with those same personalities traits. I have sought, and will continue to do so, to not single out any one person to be the driving force of my emotional rants. Luckily, I know so many people that piss me off on regular basis that it should be easy to find material from a collection of sources.

If in the course of reading my posts, you feel personally slighted, rest easy in the knowledge that you are not alone.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Karma Baby

I am an idiot. At least that's the impression I've given certain people.

People who as children I imagine where the kind who poked you over and over and over as you ignored them and moved away. They found you and poked you again. It didn't hurt, it was just annoying. These same children grew up to be adults who poked with sarcasm but now, when you ignore them, they not only find you to poke you some more, they think they are wittier and savvier than you because you don't fight back in kind. "Hey, look at that, I not only insulted her, she probably didn't even get it." I'm here to tell you "I got it. Now back off before you get hurt." Because if it's a sarcasm battle you're looking for, get ready.

If your family was getting in the car and it was around dinner time and a neighbor passing by slowed down to say hello but added "Where are you off to? McDonalds?" with a smirk, you'd be offended, right? But instead of saying something equally obnoxious you say "um, no" and get in the car. She moves on thinking, "poor, fat slobs, they thought I was being serious" and you're left wishing you had a thrown a rock at her windshield along with a good comeback.

Now, if I were so inclined to pursue my own mudslinging, I might say something like "Yes. Would you like us to pick up something for you and the kids? I hear your husband is out of town on "business" again. He sure is away a lot..." Granted, my comeback had a bit more bite (and my husband might say, far too subtle) than some fat joke but let me ask you this... after that kid poked you repeatedly every recess for weeks, didn't you want to break his finger?

The high road is unsatisfying. OK is sucks! But the low road puts you on the same level with the jerks. What's the answer? I remind myself about a little thing called karma. What goes around comes around. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen. Oh, and when it does, I'll be hoping I'm there to bear witness to the carnage - uh-oh, my low road is showing ;-)

The Future Storybook Illustrator

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. ~Richard Steele, Tatler, 1710
I definitely need to do more of both.


On a Fall day each year, my husband, daughter, and I spend the day at the National Book Festival in Washington DC. We've done it every year since the event began in 2002.

When my daughter was a toddler and preschooler, it was more about snapping a photo of her with Clifford the Big Red Dog of PBS fame than it was hearing authors discuss their work. It was different this time as we sat down to listen to Charles Santore talk about his work and career.

He has a long and impressive life which, for the purposes of this post, began at the age of 4 with his first art set, many masterpieces on the refrigerator, a full scholarship to art school, a career in advertising and magazine illustration, all before becoming what he is best known for, a storybook illustrator. What was interesting, and incredibly eye opening for me was learning that what he does is more than just painting pictures to go along with someone else's words (though I'm sure there are illustrators that work that way); the artwork tells a story all it's own. His latest work is for the reprinting of L. Frank Baum's book "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" (which we waited in line to buy before waiting in line to have signed), but it was his work on another Baum book "The Wizard of Oz" that was so interesting to me. He said it took three years for him to complete the illustrations for "The Wizard of Oz". Three Years!

The first year, he sketched and "lived" with the characters. The second year he edited, because as he puts it, "by the time I got to the end of the book, the characters had changed from the drawings at the beginning". The third year, he painted and fine-tuned. Three Years for 1 book! And if you haven't seen it, it's beautiful!

My daughter loves to read and she loves to draw. If you asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she would immediately say "an artist". So it was no real surprise to me, that when the question was posed to Mr. Santore "what advice would you give children who love your books" and he replied "Read, Read, Read and Draw, Draw, Draw" that my daughter's face lit up. It was as if a lightbulb clicked on... "I could be a storybook illustrator" was the expression on her face.

Yes sweetie! You absolutely can. And Mommy will be the first one in line to buy your book... make sure it's dedicated to me ;-).

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Clothes Horse Is Born

I love fashion! I wouldn't say I live for it, Hell I can't even wear it (most designers don't make overweight umpa lumpa sized) but I do enjoy it! I follow the collections of my favorite designers, I read the September Vogue cover to cover, and "Project Runway" is my only real appointment television.

My freshman year in HS, I attended for just one year a small private girls' school. In the yearbook, I was voted "best dressed" and that was saying something for a place where a good number of girls wore full-length fur coats to school in the winter. I transfered to another school the following year, where at the end of my senior year, I was voted "preppiest" - a title I still strive to uphold. Unfortunately, in my current physical condition, I have trouble finding clothes, designer or discount, that fit, much less are fashionable. What is a clothes horse to do?

Be blessed with a little girl, of course! And better yet, one that couldn't care less about what she wears and lets you pick out all her clothes - I'm going to ride this wave as long as possible.

Today I sent my daughter out into the world wearing a Christian Lacroix dress. The French avant garde haute couture designer would be so proud (though I've always had a suspicion that he just lent his name to the children's line). Truth be told there is nothing avant garde about a denim jumper with a crest embroidered on it, but each time she wears it, it makes me feel happy. "That's the dumbest thing of ever heard" you might say. To which I would have to reply, "Don't you have something in your closet that makes you feels happy?" Granted, I'm the not the one wearing it, but until such a time that I can fit back into standard sizes, I'm living vicariously through my daughter.

Her wardrobe currently takes up two full closets, a dresser, and countless plastic bins... and if you are familiar with my "condition", you already know that they are all catagorized by size, season, and color and are all clean and pressed and ready-to-wear. [That condition of course is OCD/OCPD which I will no doubt discuss at length in many future posts because it is the driving force of my existence... think "Monk" meets "Flipping Out".]

Now, I'll let you in on a little secret. The aforementioned dress cost me $6.95 with shipping off ebay. A dress that easily would have cost me 30x that in a high end children's boutique, instead cost less than the Target brand. Maybe that's why I'm smiling.

When you have an addiction like mine (I'm fairly certain it can be classified an addiction at this point) and don't have the budget of an heiress, you have to be creative and keep your eyes open. Classic children's clothes cost more on average, as do my favorites - Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer. I've given it some thought and I'd say approximately 15% come from department stores (on sale at the end of the season and stored away for the following year), another 15% come from the designer outlets, 10% come from my family (she's the only grandchild/niece on my side of the family), and maybe 10% from lower priced stores like TJMaxx, Target, and Kohl's. But, a full 50% come from (drum roll please)...... the thrift store! My store of choice is Value Village/Unique Thrift (check out the website, there is bound to be one by you.)

It was word of mouth and the desire to purge our own closets that lead me first to Value Village. That, and the idea of reusing usable items - yet another of my causes; more posts later on my passion for the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But shopping at the thrift store turned out to be so much more than finding snow-boots that will get used only once a season. It turned out being a mecca of fashion as I found rows and rows of Lauren, Lacoste, Pulitzer, and kids brands Hartstrings, Talbots, and Gymboree. I was practically salivating. Nothing had a price tag higher than $6.80 and on Mondays it's 25% off everything. I was filling my basket at a fevered pace. The joy of clothes shopping for pennies on the dollar AND all the money goes to charity! I've died and gone to heaven!

That first shopping trip I came home with close to 40 items for $60. That's right, we're talking about clothes in near perfect condition (you know how often your kids wear something before they grow out of it; it's practically new) for $1.50 a piece. My heart races just thinking about it.
It's now my weekly fix. I'm there on Monday mornings (or Thursdays for the same discount with a customer card) almost every week. And I never leave empty handed.

Now, it's only that I've told you my secret that you would ever know my daughter's clothes are second-hand. She always looks a Polo poster child. And even though I may be wearing the uniform of the overweight suburban housewife - t-shirt and yoga pants - I can claim a bit of pride in knowing that without dipping into her college account to fund my habit, my kid looks and feels great ... something to which I aspire to one day feel again.

It Takes One To Know One

I am acutely aware of the attitude I may convey in print. Many times, I will write down what I'm thinking about and then read it back from the point of view of many different readers. Sometimes my one line Facebook posts take up to 15 minutes to create. It's a daunting task but one I feel must be done. You see, I have been accused of being a snob, an elitist, a braggart, of being judgmental, opinionated, and condemning. And while in certain cases those titles are warranted, they don't accurately describe the core of who I am. It is my goal, through extensive editing, that the real me will come through.

Having said that, I find it all too annoying when someone acts like...... a jackass. I cross people on a daily basis that act, as the British would say, "above their station" and it makes me twitch. Who exactly are you trying to impress? My father, being the consummate snob himself, would say that "people try only to impress those they are impressed by". I'm sorry, that's not good enough for me. Don't impress me by telling me what's impressive about yourself, show me through your impressive actions. And not the ones that knock me over either, the ones that are subtle.

Impress me by having a beautiful vegetable garden that I know you slave over in order to cutdown on your fresh produce bill at the grocery store. Impress me by having well mannered children who look me in the eye when I ask them a question and answer me with more than a one word response. Impress me by having a career that you enjoy and provides for your family, not one that you hate but that makes you lots of money. And impress me, by just being impressive... smile, carry yourself well, be helpful, be compassionate, be NORMAL!

I have a post in the works that talks about fashion. I readily admit that I drop names of obscure designers and my "thing" for dressing my daughter in labels, but I ask you to please read on until the end before you judge. I promise a "normal" light at the end of the snobbery tunnel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Diary Unlocked

I spoke (via Facebook) with an old friend from college today. He suffers from insomnia and being up in the middle of the night, night after night, he has often thought about creating a blog of his own. But one question plagued him: "Who gives a crap what I think?" [He was quick to add that he was self-analyzing and fully intended to support my endeavor. In fact, he was my first "follower".]

His question is a valid one; one I pondered myself late into the night, last night. How self involved, how indulgent, how inane. Who would read it and why would they? And what would my husband think when I said I was thinking of starting or had started blogging? Well, I can answer that last question, now that the moment has passed... he said "What!" My husband's feelings aside, I have begun the process and so far, I'm enjoying it. [And he and I did have a follow-up conversation about it and he was encouraging and curious the second time around.]

I'm approaching it from this perspective... I'm journaling online instead of writing in a book and because it's a public blog, it's my diary unlocked. I've always tried to live my life honestly so I have no fear or reservation in this forum about what I post or who might see it. I am an open book. Feel free to read me... just please don't dog-ear the pages; that drives me crazy ;-).

Shh! You're In The Library.

Every year, since my daughter started elementary school, I have been volunteering in the school's library once a week when her class goes to check out books. This year it's Thursday between 1pm and 2pm.

I enjoy the library process: books come back, I check them in, I shelve them according to the numbers and letters on the spine, kids choose new books, I check them out, and the process starts all over again. There is a black and white finality to it. Occasionally a book goes missing, but there's a process for that too. In the course of one hour, I have the satisfaction of having completed a task to near perfection.

There is also the satisfaction that comes from watching my daughter in her school environment. I get to observe her with her friends and with her not-quite-friends. I get to see how she negotiates the world of the classroom and library without my intervention. And I get to do this all while giving her some bragging rights. You see, for the time being, she loves having me at school... "This is my Mom. Have you met my Mom? She helps out at school." It's kinda cool to have your kid be proud of you. Additionally, it's kinda cool to see that the other kids are impressed by that. They're almost as excited to see me as she is... "Miss Bonnie, I lost a tooth! Miss Bonnie, I'm getting a new puppy! Miss Bonnie, I got all my spelling words right!" Yes indeed, it's an hour well spent.

I walk home after that hour with a smile on face. That is until I'm confronted with the fact that I now have little more than a hour of "me time" left before school's out. But that's a topic for another day ;-).

And So It Begins

In the back of my mind, I guess I've always wanted to be a writer - poems, short stories, screenplays, novels, children's picture books; you name it, I started it. And therein lies the problem. I'm all good starts that go nowhere.

Will blogging solve this problem? In theory, yes, because there is no real end to the daily musings of life, now is there? Everyday presents us with something new, if only the opportunity to see the old in a new way.

Today is my first day entering the blogosphere. Where will the journey take me? Who's to say, but at the very least, I hope that it makes me a better writer so that I can finally finish one of the aforementioned projects.

Diary of an Oft Times Flawed Mother, Wife, & Woman Seeking Enlightenment, a Bit of Perfection, & the Body She Had In Her Mid-Twenties.

Yesterday, I saw the movie "Julie & Julia" and was struck by the idea of blogging. It not only seemed fun, but an excellent way to vent, purge, grow, learn, and frankly waste a bit of time while avoiding the gym.

Right now, my daughter and I are in the morning rush for school so I'll have to make this short. I just wanted to introduce myself and present my "Diary of an Oft Times Flawed Mother, Wife, & Woman Seeking Enlightenment, a Bit of Perfection, & the Body She Had In Her Mid-Twenties".

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to better myself.
Blogging To A Better Bonnie